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Cardiff City FC - reports and rants   Cardiff City 2 Birmingham 0
  Championship, Saturday, 26 August 2006

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Now this is starting to get really interesting.

What a way to kickstart a Bank Holiday. Cardiff had been buzzing all week at the prospect of this juicy top of the table clash, and the predicted sell-out was duly announced as the biggest league crowd at Ninian Park for 26 years (20,109) erupted as the Bluebirds took to the pitch in brilliant sunshine.

Walking to the ground had been like stepping back in time, pubs overflowing with chirpy punters despite the ludicrous early kick-off, and in an altogether less pleasant reminder of days gone by, the sound of sirens and overflying police helicopters serenading the throng as they marched optimistically up Sloper Road.

For once, in front of a mighty crowd on a mightily big occasion, Cardiff City did not disappoint, stepping up to the mark and delivering a complete performance of astonishing pace, passion and composure which simply blew Birmingham's big-time charlies away.

Everything about the team display was flawless today – energy, commitment, creativity and enterprise were all over the park, and Birmingham – chided by odious mercenary Steve Bruce for freezing in front of this electrifying passionate crowd – simply had no answer.

Finally we have a team to match the crowd, the skilful high-tempo football will surely become as intimidating as the Ninian roar as the season progresses.


From the first whistle it was obvious that Cardiff were up for this match in a serious way, tearing into the shell-shocked Brummies with a blistering ferocity – hustling and hunting down the ball with a ravenous desire when possession was lost.

The early breakthrough was no more than they deserved, a neatly worked version of the much maligned short corner leading to the ball being slide ruled back to Joe Ledley who guided his shot into the net with precision and finesse. Cue pandemonium and an early candidate for most un-funky goal celebration of the season from the brilliant young Ledley.

Birmingham attempted to get back into the match with some neat approach play and dangerous darting movement from McSheffrey and DJ Campbell, but as one Bob Bank wag suggested to the new signing from Coventry in reference to Loovens' masterful defensive display – "he done you last week and he's doing you again today..".

Cardiff's central defensive pairing of Loovens and Roger Johnson were titanic, snuffing out danger on all but one occasion, a brilliant header from McSheffrey diverted over the bar by a superb one-handed Alexander save.

It will be very difficult for Purse to reclaim this spot now – his less than commanding recent displays and his tendency to partake of the red mist must be making Dave Jones think twice about the best defensive partnership.


There is no such debate elsewhere in this team – full backs Gilbert and McNaughton have both been outstanding all season, McNaughton, in particular, looks like the bargain (free transfer!) of the century – solid and diligent in the tackle, his marauding raids down the right and left have troubled opposition defenders in every match.

In the middle of the park, Cardiff are blessed with talent and skill, and with Ricky ‘The Enforcer' Scimeca crunchingly destructive in a very cool Claude Makelele type of way, they have dominated matches for long periods.

Stephen McPhail has also been a revelation, his vision and distribution have been excellent, and with his wicked curling left foot, he is also the dead-ball expert the crowd have come to love.

On the flanks Parry and Ledley are consistently fulfilling the potential they showed in patches last season, tormenting full backs with blinding mazy runs.

Up front, Chopra and Thompson are starting to forge a lethal partnership, only a matter of time before the goals reflect the frantic fretful carnage they are causing to visiting defenders.


After the break, the Birmingham fightback briefly sputtered into action, but on the whole Cardiff were equal to it, repelling the forays with a granite-hard defensive shield and a battling resilient midfield.

Cardiff's overall dominance was finally sealed with the second late goal from Parry, an opportunistic finish as the ball ran loose after a Thompson header.

It was absolutely justified, and a fair reflection of the balance of play, Chopra's blasted effort which cannoned off the crossbar in the second half deserved a goal also.

Alexander's performance in goal was peerless, an athletic dive to the right in the second half preventing what looked like a certain goal from a McSheffrey free kick.


The introduction of Cameron Jerome brought the predictable shitstorm of terrace abuse (given how well he played for us last year a tad unfair – the only mistake he made was a youthful indiscretion in dissing his team-mates and club whilst still a Bluebird).

Jerome's eagerness to score caused him to overhit his first touch before his one real chance, the resultant chip spooning past the far post to the delight of the Grange End.

Birmingham's subdued supporters (outsung throughout the match by all four sides of Fortress Ninian, rocking like a mofo towards the end) became increasingly agitated as the three points they coveted went west, ripping up seats and hurling them at stewards and Cardiff fans in an ugly display of 70s Man behaviour not seen at Ninian for years.

Taking the moral high ground and surfing on the adrenaline generated by a fabulous football team, Cardiff fans impressively failed to retaliate, chastening the would-be football factory boys with a loud rendition of "Sit Down and Behave Yourselves".


Dave Jones has once again assembled a redoubtable team of quality players, and crucially they have the battle-hardened psychological crust of winners. Suddenly the dreams of promotion look neither foolhardy nor naively optimistic.

This team is grounded in realism, and the start to the season (statistically the best ever!) will surely be maintained over the coming months. Increased revenues caused by the hugely impressive attendances should give DJ the money he craves to bring in a few more quality signings, a strengthened squad starts to open up tantalising possibilities for the rest of this already exhilarating season.

All we need to do is to hold on to the brilliant alchemical manager Jones and every one of these talented players (there can be no asset stripping of this squad – we are simply too close to the big time to blow it now – something which the suddenly realistic backstage businessmen must surely realise).

As sweet and lyrical as a Sam Cooke vocal and as exciting as a Clash power chord, this is the best Cardiff City team for decades. If you haven't already done so, get your sorry ass down to Ninian Park whilst you can still get tickets.

Premiership? We're not having a laugh…

Paul Davies © 2006


"The simple fact is that we were just not good enough particularly in the first half. You cannot expect to come to a place like Cardiff, play poorly and get something from the game.

spoke to Bryan Robson and he told me that playing Cardiff has been West Brom's toughest game of the season so I knew exactly what to expect...

Ninian Park is a fantastic place to play, there are not many left like it in the league but many of my players are used to the Premiership and World Cups so they should not have been affected by the atmosphere or surroundings.

Steve Bruce, Birmingham manager "

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