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.