So, what did we learn?

 

Sharing my home with a dumb animal has some perks, but listening to insane optimism from an inevitably delusional fan about a failure of a football season is not one of them. So I thought I would put the story straight by offering you selected excerpts of my incisive reportage on the plight of the local colour-conflicted Purple Dragonbirds season in the Premier League. If you like football look away now, and if you don’t… read on. What did we learn, and who really cares?

Tiring day at the office

Manchester City (25/8/13) “A football stadium on match day is really just a bunch of overweight folk sat on their arses telling a bunch of fit blokes how to play the game.” There is nothing like a great start to a season to get the lardy types ramping up expectations, and with a 3-2 win for the home team against the mega-wealth of the opposition you just have to look at the final places at the end of the season to get a sense of perspective (Man City are champions, and Cardiff City finish bottom!).

Everton (1/9/13) With a foul inside the penalty area there are conflicting views of whether there should have been a penalty awarded to Everton. “A true football fan sees what they want to see, not necessarily what really happened.”

Tottenham Hotspur (22/9/13) Many players have now come to believe the hype that they are delicate thoroughbreds who, despite their obscene wealth, still need a week off to rest if they have played two matches a week for successive weeks.” The amount of money in the game is beginning to make Monopoly look like a franchise for paupers.

Newcastle United (5/10/13) “A football crowd often resembles 90 minutes brimful of inane shouting and chanting dressed up as collective banter.” But football has its moments, times when the bizarre attempts to pass itself off for normality, as when the world famous Treorchy Male Voice Choir sing Blaydon Races from the half-time pitchside to the travelling Geordie supporters.

Swansea City (3/11/13) Billed as the first South Wales Premier League derby this match resembled more of The Rest of the World v Spain. “The beautiful game arrives in the form of the ‘lovely ugly town’ to be played out in front of 27,000+ magnificently mindless people who don’t quite get how world-definingly meaningless this event is to all but the supporters of each club.” 

Manchester United (24/11/13) “The new default position is one of: if brushed by a breath of air go immediately to ground as if felled by a sledgehammer.” Since the turn of the century the once revered Newton Health (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) FC have succumbed to European trade descriptions for the game, and are now occasionally known as the Trafford Park Diving Club, noted more for the tuck and pike movements of some of their overpaid individuals, a somewhat balletic and artistically horizontal game plan disparagingly referred to as cheating by opposing fans.

Arsenal (30/11/13) “The visitors have expanded their reputation from one of ‘petit France’ to a more UKIP offending pan-European blend of team, but as with most European institutions the style can tend towards the over-elaborate with an emphasis on process sometimes to the detriment of the end product.” The locals do love a humble returning son, so Aaron Ramsey gets the rare accolade of a standing ovation on his return to his original club, and further applause for scoring against them. Uncharacteristically, their manager, Arsene Wenger, saw that (a football insiders joke).

West Bromwich Albion (14/12/13) “With christmas looming ever closer the ghosts of Premier Past, Premier Present and Premier Future align to offer difficult omens for the local’s hero Malky Mackay, particularly as a Jacob Marley-like image imposes itself over the stadium. Or is it just Vincent Tan preparing to give Malky an internal examination?” 

Southampton (26/12/13) A match mired in off the field on-going disputes between club owner and team manager promises little in the way of christmas spirit. “Ultimately what emerges is nothing more than a megalomaniac-inspired, finance-confused, football knowledge free-zone, pantomime of farcical proportions. The ragged band who make up the local team seem as clear in their style of play as the club and fans do about agreeing on the team’s shirt colour.”

Sunderland (28/12/13) When a team is devoid of confidence they even contrive to throw away a 2-0 lead when they have dominated the opposition. As the cliche goes, ‘the game is not over until the final whistle’. “The Oompa Loompa from Kuala Lumpur might just be the son of satan, but one thing is for sure, football fans have very little sense of perspective when it comes to reflecting on their own team.”

West Ham United (11/1/14) I must admit I fell off my throne laughing when I heard my original local team, West Ham, are moving into the Olympic Stadium soon; a triumph of ambition over ability if I have ever heard of one. Meanwhile, back at the local ranch the new regime replaces the old as Ole takes over from Malky, and it’s the inevitable “kiss the badge time” for several existing players who should have been fighting harder, and new players who find themselves here despite never having any previous ambition to be a Cardiff City player. “Nothing like false claims of loyalty for fooling the mindless horde into accepting you!”

Norwich City (1/2/14) A match between two teams who have completely lost the habit of scoring goals; and in the world of football cliches “it’s goals that win games”, so I am told. “This is a game that promises to ramp up the levels of boredom to new heights, and likely to provide as much excitement as watching a canary choking to death in a coalmine.” It finishes as a 2-1 home win, so that shows you how much I know when it comes to predictions.

Aston Villa (12/2/14) “It’s 7.45pm on a wet Tuesday night in February; welcome to the grim, the battered and the ugly!” Estate Agents would no doubt be hyping up the levels of exaggeration around this being a stormy battle between two teams desperate for three points. The reality is a becalming Basement Flat 0 Underwhelming Villa 0. Seems like Estate Agents might have as much knowledge as this cool cat when it comes to the predictions game.

Hull City (22/2/14) “If you put all of the footballing cliches end-to-end you would still not get anywhere near the land of common sense.” Far from being blessed with the notorious game changing players or moves, this is more the battle of the ‘name-changers’, as respective owners earn nothing but a bucket of bile from their fans for daring to suggest that history be ditched in favour American sports team style names. I am losing count of the number of ways that money trumps any source of common sense in this game.

Fulham (8/3/14) “The Premier League’s two worst teams go head-to-head in a rush for relegation. Football can be a funny game, but whoever came up with that one hasn’t watched cricket!” My prediction was that this would be a roller-coaster of a yawn in which 90 minutes can be a long time when you are sat watching grass grow. “Mesmerising, majestic, out-of-this-world, scintillating… these are all words that belong somewhere else, but surprisingly the home team conjured up a 3-1 win.”

Liverpool (22/3/14) “The Beautiful Game Tour (aka Liverpool FC) rolls into Cardiff City’s home (aka Bleak House). In true Dickensian vernacular the home fans still hold on to Great Expectations, but this is a Tale of Two Cities right out of The Old Curiosity Shop, and the home team will surely find nothing but Hard Times, as they perilously march towards Marshalsea Debtors Prison.” Despite a deserving 1-0 and 2-1 lead the home team succumb to a 6-3 defeat.

Crystal Palace (5/4/14) A battle of two recently promoted teams should present a re-staging of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, but who will win the shoot-out and will the loser have one foot on Boot Hill? When an Eagle tangles with a Bluebird only one result should be expected. Unluckily for the home team that is the way this match also went, with nothing but blue feathers spat out. In the words of the Coen Brothers “If this isn’t a mess it will do until the mess gets here.”

Stoke City(19/4/14) “My human ’emotional roller-coaster’ insists in hanging on to the hopey-changey thing following a fluke away win the previous week, but I unhelpfully suggest this bears no relation to a swallows and summer vibe.” Confiscating the belts and laces might be needed in preparation for suicide watch. At least the one with more money than sense might well be getting an extra four matches for the already purchased season ticket for next year (24 clubs in the division below, as opposed to 20 in the Premier League).

Chelsea(11/5/14) “The Premier League season comes to its closing game, and just as architectural designs disappear to the horizon at their vanishing point, so it is time for my delusional desperado to disappear up their own passageway of dreams.” Unfortunately my very own little dot on the horizon is talking the defeated pugilists talk of instant comebacks. Some people (and most football fans) are just born masochists!

So, that was it… a season in the Premier League in which Cardiff City FC came, they saw, and they were conquered. Early season promise under the guidance of the God-like Malky Mackay only gave way to a flatlining league position for the majority of the second half of the season, under the overall guidance of a clueless megalomaniac with plenty of what counts… money, and nothing of what should count… knowledge of the game and passion for the local team. All this new talk about the excitement of another Championship campaign leaves me ecstatic with delight. So, until we speak again I shall be a thoroughly overwhelmed Juno.

Bleak House

The ‘Beautiful Game Tour‘ (aka Liverpool FC) rolls into Cardiff today for a game at the Cardiff City Stadium, or Bleak House as I am now prone to calling it, as a tease to my long-suffering resident season ticket holder. “What the dickens is going on?” I ask, when the ‘delusional one‘ begins to extol something approaching ‘Great Expectations‘ regarding the fortunes of the home team. “This may well be A Tale of Two Cities I reply, but “if you believe in hope for your team today you must have lost yourself in The Old Curiosity Shop of dreams”. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, particularly for those who ultimately provide the basis of my laid back lifestyle, but… “your lot are falling on Hard Times I mutter under my breath. Local fans should take a lead from Oliver Twist, as the outcome from today is likely to be no more than a bowl of gruel.

In the tale of two cities theme, it is the challenge of the former docklands as the Pierhead Building takes on the Liver Building:

Pierhead Building     V.              

 

But for me, it is yet another lunch teaser… what is it with these football teams and bird mascots? You watch your match, I’m going to dream about a Bluebird starter followed by a roast Liver Bird.

It’s 3.00p.m. on a trepidatious Saturday afternoon for the local desperados…

City v Liverpool [1]

… but wait, some people have clearly not read the script. Rumour has it these days that Liverpool FC use their pace to overwhelm the opposition from the kick-off, then ease back as the match goes on. Eight minutes on the clock and up steps the aptly Dickensian named Jordan Mutch to put Cardiff City into a surprising but deserved 1-0 lead. Only a few pages into the book and the home fans are already sensing a happy ending. However, The Artful Dodger, (Louis Suarez), hits back with an equalising goal on 16 minutes. The home fans remain upbeat, and on 24 minutes are again aptly rewarded by a Dickensian double of Jordan Mutch passing to Frazier Campbell for the second goal.

Scrooge has clearly had no hand in the influencing of either teams defence, as later in the half Martin Skrtel equalises for Liverpool. The home fans turn their joy into a less than warm reception for their hated owner, the Uriah Heep type villain who makes Miss Havisham’s neglect and final destruction of her own home look like a blueprint for his ultimate intentions in CF11. “We’ll always be blue” is repeatedly chanted by the home fans, waving a mass of blue scarves in support of their team playing in red! It could easily have been a song that a young Charles Dickens sang while his father and other family members were incarcerated in Marshalsea Debtors Prison back in the early 19th century.

Half-time brings rapturous applause from all parts of the stadium… 2-2. It is looking like the Bob Cratchett’s and Joe Gargery’s of the world might just be getting some reward for their honest toil. As the second half begins someone in the crowd is making their views known across the pitch to the empty seat where the owner should have been sitting…

City v Liverpool [3]Rumour has it that Bill Sikes is trying out new disguises in order to camouflage his misdemeanours in the locality…

  

The Great Expectations of the first half soon begin to descend into a Bleak House of a second half, as The Artful Dodger (Louis Suarez) and his accomplice Fagin (Daniel Sturridge) pick the pockets of their hosts relentlessly. 2-3 quickly becomes 2-4. At 2-5 it is very clear that Pip, the fresh-faced young Cardiff manager is out of his depth, and his team have found themselves deep in a truly Dickensian workhouse scenario, finding it increasingly difficult to extricate themselves from a perilous position in the relegation places in the Premier LeagueJordan Mutch gets an unlikely third goal to give the largely silent home fans something to get passionate about. But, as the minutes of added on injury time ebb away another pocket is picked by The Artful Dodger. And the final score at ‘the beautiful game’…

     3  v  6   

My ‘perplexed companion‘ is left bewildered, as the home team rarely score 3 goals at home this season… now that they have achieved the feat it comes at the cost of double the number of goals conceded. Life can be strange, but for those that support Cardiff City FC football can be a kick in the teeth (frequently, it would seem). Until we speak again I am  going to be Edwin Drood Juno, walking the streets of Cardiff in search of material for the unfinished story that is this blog.

[With thanks to those who provided google images that helped to illustrate this story].

Great Expectations

Charles Dickens once said “I’m a Bluebird until I die”. That was Charlie ‘whatshisname’ (aka who the dickens is that?) sat somewhere in the Ninian Stand rather than the bard of London, Portsmouth and Rochester. At least that is what my nominated football watcher tells me, in a continuing state of delirium since Malcky’s Army downed the Manchester City juggernaut 3-2 last week. But perhaps the real Charles Dickens has already written the story of this season in the Premier League for the locals; as that most unlikely of results has now given rise to ‘Great Expectations’… if they can beat some of the richest, most overpaid of players, then just bring on the rest!

On the way to the ground for the next instalment, I am reliably informed that a scene reminiscent of the capture of the convict, Abel Magwitch, on the marshes was taking place, as Police vans, cars, horses and constables on foot escorted a relatively small group of the visiting fans to the ground. Greatly outnumbered, they offered nothing more than passive acquiescence. Cardiff City Stadium again provided an atmosphere as cauldron-like as Joe Gargery’s forge, with the locals open to accepting every lucky horseshoe coming their way. After all, this successful Everton team are not going to resemble any fading grandeur of Miss Havisham’s life.

In the book, the lawyer Mr Jaggers is the bringer of news of wealth from an anonymous benefactor. What is it that Phil Jagielka, the Everton captain, is saying to his manager Roberto Martinez, with a couple of days of the transfer window still open? There are other players on this team who may be contemplating Pip’s journey from the Kent marshes to the city of London, by moving away from the safety of their familiar Goodison home to a place in a more glaring spotlight. As for the home team, there would be more than a few hopes that a wealthy benefactor incarcerated in New South Wales would emerge to add to the Malaysian riches already decorating this part of old South Wales.

And so to another Saturday 3.00p.m. and the match kick-off, and one fan seems too overwhelmed by the tension of watching one man kick a ball a few inches to a colleague:

CCFC v Everton [2]

 

3.45p.m. 0-0… 4.05p.m. and it’s time to kick-off the second of this game of two halves. For those of you cats who have no interest in the intriguing story that unfolds as a back-drop to a tense 0-0 draw, but who hold a particular interest in the more colourful elements of life, the reds and the blues in the two pictures have completely turned around (or has my trusty photographer just walked around to the other stand?).

CCFC v Everton [3]

4.53p.m. 0-0… unless you are a supporter of either team that’s the summary of all the main action. The atmosphere generated by these passionate newcomers to the big-boys league was kept to a level of tension equaling that fabled return by the convict Magwitch as he is recaptured on the Thames.

The talking point of the game, as with so many, emerges in the post-match interviews. One side saw a nailed-on penalty and enough evidence that they should have finished with deserved victory; and the other side saw a good tackle and an even game that finished with a fair result. One thing seems very certain in the partisan world of football… a true fan sees what they want to see, not necessarily what really happened!

My nominated eyes on the game may be slightly biased, but they said Cardiff are fully deserving of four points at home against two teams from the top six last season. All of these numbers are doing my under-nourished sensibilities no good. To me the most significant numbers are 0-0… Charles Dickens would have to re-write his ending between Pip and Estella (again) if he was to equal the intensity of the story that had just unfolded on the pitch, according to my personally deluded reporter. Perhaps it is a score like this that cries out to be described in the gilded oratory of Stuart Hall, only without the heinous sex offences. I have been Juno, your Dickensian reminiscence benefactor, hoping to speak with you again soon.