Who Are These Jobbers?
There is always a special place in my heart for a football club that has contributed so much to banter. Once upon a time, Cardiff City were just this normal team. They didn’t really do anything, they bumped around the lower leagues, they had a promotion every now and then, their fans would have a riot here and there and they got to an FA Cup final once. Life was pretty normal.
In 2010, that all changed as an actual James Bond villain decided to invest in the club and, boy howdy, did it start getting incredibly interesting. Vincent Tan took one look at our beautiful game and thought “South Wales is ready for banter” - and his commitment to the cause has been nothing short of magnificent.
Kicking things off ever so brilliantly just two years in, Tan decided to not only change the kit from blue to red, but also alter the badge so that it included a dragon (they’re Welsh divvent yer knaa) in a bid to appeal to foreign markets (lololololol).
Big Vinny wasn’t done there, however, as he employed his son’s 23-year-old mate to be the head of recruitment who subsequently had to leave after an investigation over his visa.
While many may scoff at the T-Man, you can’t deny both his foresight and his dress sense. Oh, how everyone on Soccer Saturday cried into their coffees as proper football man Malkay Mackay was given the ol’heave-ho by VT until they realised that Malkay (and his criminal bald spot) was an absolute wrong’un.
And if you want to talk dress sense, I dare you to find anyone who looks better wearing a replica top over a long-sleeved shirt, tucked into suit pants. No, you can’t, you know you can’t. Vinny T doesn’t take no guff either and knows when he’s being served up total tripe and, like many football fans, booed his side off when conceding a late equaliser to a woeful Sunderland team.
Sadly, Big Vin’s commitment to the cause of banter has been on the (public) wane of late and has begrudgingly changed the club colours back to blue and altered the badge again. He has also appointed the always chipper Neil Warnock to lead Cardiff back to the Premier League. Mercifully, this has been kiboshed in recent weeks and the Bluebirds are slipping back towards mid-table mediocrity.
This is a blessed relief for everyone involved because I don’t want to live in a world where 89-year-old Neil Warnock is getting mediocre teams promoted while still having Paddy Kenny on the books.
How Do I Get There?
Hands up who’s hyped for rising at 4am to drive well over five hours down to South Wales? Don’t rush all at once. Hit that asphalt and get yourself down to junction 35 of the A1 (M) and join the M18 which will merge into the M1. Leave the M1 at junction 23 for the A42 (and subsequently the M42) then follow this until you reach the M5. Then its M50, A449 and M4 from Newport.
Drop off the M4 at junction 33 for the A4232 following signs for ‘Cardiff International Athletics Stadium’. Parking is available near ground at something called the Gol centre, whatever that is.
Solidarity with my brothers and sisters boarding the 0525 rail service - changing at Doncaster, Sheffield and Birmingham New Street - which arrives in Cardiff Central with an hour before kick off (cheers, Sky!). The railway station is around a 25-minute walk away from the stadium or you can hop off at either Ninian Park or Grangetown stations.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at midnight (wait, what?) on Saturday meaning you can have a skinful after work on Friday, make a terrible decision and next thing you know you’re on a bus to Cardiff. Anyway, fares are £45 and can be booked here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Cardiff probably goes strutting around thinking it’s the best awayday in these glorious of glorious of British Isles (how very Newcastle of them). Thinking just because it has an easily accessible train station for the city centre and a wealth of alehouses it could even begin to entertain wearing that crown on its head. It’s not even the best awayday in Wales (Swansea is) but this does not get in the way of letting visitors thoroughly enjoy themselves.
I must warn you that the following recommendations come with a caveat. Fear not dear reader, as this is not a slight on my part but that of British Sky Broadcasting, who have decided that this duel between two woefully poor teams should be played at 12.30pm. As such, many of these pubs don’t actually open until 12pm.
Anyway, by far and away the best pub in Cardiff is The City Arms on Quay Street - a mere stone’s throw from Millennium Stadium (or whatever it’s called now). If you want a drop of the local tipple then head over to the Cardiff Cottage on St Mary’s Street or swing by Tiny Rebel Cardiff on Westgate Street for one of those trendy craft beers.
While these are great shouts for a post-match tipple, if you are looking for a loosener pre-12pm you’ll have to settle for the The Prince of Wales, O’Neill’s or *shudder* Walkabout - all of which are within a short wobble of the station.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
If you didn’t know already (and this is coming from someone who has just realised that he’s boarding a 6-and-a-half-hour Megabus back up north on Sunday) it’s a bloody long way to Cardiff. Unless you’re completely mad/dedicated/mad/skint/mad/bloody love it/mad you should really make this trip a weekender.
Cardiff is a quite brilliant city with a welcoming clientele (well, unless you read the Daily Mail and they just seem to be getting drunk every weekend - especially on freshers week. Imagine being a Daily Mail photographer having to go out and take pictures of drunk students on a night out - who’s that benefiting?) and as such there is plenty to do on a Saturday night.
Hey, do you like tribute bands? What do you mean “no”? Well, The Smyths (who describe themselves as “more than a tribute”) are playing The Globe, so be a charming man and get yourselves down there (IT’S A SMITHS PUN, GEDDIT?!). Alternatively, you can see the colourfully named Godbomber - who I can only assume are a smooth jazz outfit - at The Moon.
However, if none of this takes your fancy then go for a big old walk around Cardiff Castle.
What’s The Ground Like?
Remember that promise you made yer da over the Christmas period when you were two thirds of the way down a bottle of sherry? Yeh, you do. You said you and him would go down to Cardiff together, a “proper bonding session” you called it. You had forgotten about it hadn’t you? Well, anyway the today is the day.
It was all going so well until around the A19 near Billingham when you mentioned to yer da that Cardiff had moved grounds. You’ve done it now, shot yourself in the foot - you utter mug. If you didn’t know already but yer da went to Ninian Park “when it was a rough owld place” back in the ‘80s or summat.
For the next six hours you have a non-stop flow of how football stadiums aren’t what they used to be and how this generation has gone soft. You know that scene in The Simpsons where Homer and Grandpa travel to Lake Flacid to sell sex tonic and he keeps droning on and on about the ills of the modern world - that’s you and yer da on the M4 (without the sex tonic, I presume).
Anyway, Cardiff City Stadium is pretty nice. It’s not too far from the city centre and it’s got a git big concourse to chuck lager around. A couple of years ago they decided to expand for no reason whatsoever so now they have a tier completely decked out in red (big up, Tan Man), which is pretty funny. We’re housed in the corner of the Ninian & Grange stands and due to the combination of distance, stupid kick-off time and being generally rubbish we’ve probably sold about 12 tickets.
Don’t worry though, because yer da is going to tell you every reason why modern football is rubbish on that six-hour journey back.