The reaction to my recent post about Dave Jones has taught me a lot. Primarily, that if I am going to put forth an argument that is offensive to a lot of people, that I should make sure of my facts. Usually I can get away with a casual impressionistic style, but on this occasion, those people who disagreed with me were ready with pens full of red ink.
I was pulled up, justifiably, on points of blogging etiquette, of semantics, of typos, of chronological confusion, and most annoyingly, the misuse use of the term “reactionary.” It’s unusual for people to dissect a blog so thoroughly, but they were all correct, and it’s a lesson learnt.
Others made good points about Jones’s failures and weaknesses, some of which I concede, others I disagree with, but all valid arguments. It’s a shame that a few resorted to personal abuse and insults, but if you’re going to write a pompous, and opinionated blog, I suppose you can expect some of that.
The one thing which provoked ridicule, outrage and seemingly devalued my position completely, was my contention that Cardiff City were going through an era of success that was unprecedented since the 1920s. That’s the one thing that people thought was plainly wrong, and not just arguable. So I thought I’d have a look at it.
When I wrote that, I didn’t really think too hard about it. I tend to write in one sitting, in a sort of stream-of-consciousness. I don’t get paid for this, I don’t want it to take up my whole life, so sometimes I just convey my impressions rather than look up the facts. And my impression was, that apart from a couple of seasons in the early sixties in Division One, there hadn’t really been much more success. Scoular’s side of the early seventies was comparable to the current era, but Dave Jones got us to an FA Cup Final, which to this old romantic, placed him above Scoular’s near-miss and that Real Madrid victory.
So let’s look at this with a bit more science and a little less romanticism.
The 1930′s began with Hughie Ferguson’s suicide, and that set the tone for the whole decade. (I can’t get away from that romanticism can I?) City played their football in Division 3 (South) until the war was over and the team of 10 Welshmen, built by Cyril Spiers, but managed by Billy McCandless gained promotion to the 2nd Division.
It was this period that I had forgotten. When we think of Cardiff City we tend to skip this era. Everyone knows the great side of the 1920s, and the European heroes of the 1970s, but Cyril Spiers’ team rarely gets the recognition it deserved. He returned to the club after two years at Norwich and that’s when the most success was achieved.
From 1946-1952 Spiers’ team finished 1st, 5th, 4th, 10th, 3rd and 2nd, before finally gaining promotion to Division One in 1952. (I can’t resist wondering if Spiers faced calls for his sacking when they finished 10th).
In 1952-53 City finished 12th in Division One, and played in front of their record crowd of 57,893 in a midweek game versus Arsenal . Clearly this was the most successful post-war period, and I was wrong to suggest that the current side has matched that, even with an FA Cup Final.
But even in that 1952-53 season, the most successful side in post-war history went on a run of 8 successive matches without scoring – their worst ever. (Could you see Dave Jones surviving that statistic?) As it was, City finished 10th in the top league in 1954 and Spiers resigned. Our most successful post-war manager left in a dispute over money, and Trevor Morris took over. City immediately began to struggle against relegation.
The club went down for a few years, until Bill Jones got them a couple of seasons in Division One in 1961-62. You could justifiably argue that even this was a more successful period than the current era, as Bill managed to achieve that which has eluded Dave Jones thus far.
Jimmy Scoular’s arrival in 1964 saw him create the team that would get so close to Promotion in 1971. But it took Scoular a long time to get there. It took him 12 games to get his first win. A modern manager would not be allowed that luxury.
In his first four seasons, City finished 13th, 20th, 20th again, and 13th again. But the club’s patience paid off, and if we hadn’t sold John Toshack in 1970, thus losing the support of every taxi driver in Cardiff, we would probably have gone up. After that close call, Scoular’s teams finished 19th, 20th and 17th, yet he is still remembered as one of the greats.
Under Dave Jones, Cardiff City have finished 16th, 11th, 13th, 12th, 7th, 4th. We are currently 2nd.
So yes, I admit I was wrong. Cyril Spier’s period of 1946-54 was undoubtedly the era of unprecedented and thus far, unmatched success. Bill Jones can also be judged to have had more success than Dave Jones. My claims for the current era were indeed, “errant nonsense” and “emotional twaddle”. And for that I apologise. But it’s not over yet .