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City reports 2001-2002
Cardiff 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0, 11th August 2001
So stop me if you've heard this one before, but the glory days really are coming back to Ninian Park. Forget the shite unseaonal cloudy and rainy weather, forget the desperate clinging on to a 1-0 victory which should have been signed sealed delivered and placed in the bank within twenty five minutes.
Instead take a long hard look at that attendance figure - 17,403 born again Bloobirds (with a few Wycome-ites thrown in) squashed into a ground to witness the beginning of stage two of the Hammam revolution - and realise that this time the trajectory is unmercifully up, this is no short-term revival, but a genuine tilt at the big time.
You may put those Premiership dreams on ice, but not for too much longer.
Hammam may be the font of more ludicrous ideas than Anne Widdecombe, but not only is he better looking, the feller has categorically re-energised this club and planted the seeds of something colossal in the turf at Sloper Road.
There are staging posts to manoeuvre, but the monumental crowd (the largest for an opening day of the season game since 1971, with only Celtic, Notts Forest, Wolves and Man City having better crowds in the whole of the UK) will testify that they will be along for the ride bigtime, and if the team fail to deliver this year then there is something seriously amiss in the Kingdom of Football.
Pre-season form and superlative performances against Coventry and Palace have already proven that this group of players can cut it against the very best that the Nationwide League can throw at them.
A large squad full of quality, flying high on exuberance and confidence will surely hit the heights this season.
The ground itself has been impressively valeted during the Summer, a testament to Sam's stated ambitions of upgrading facilities (and of course maximising revenue from extra bums on seats).
Despite being called the Carling Grange End and being equipped with a strange feng shui pyramid at its centre, the Grange End with a lid on it makes Ninian Park look like a proper football ground once again.
The opening of the scandalously unused-for-years Popular Bank is also a huge boost, with raucous chanting now echoing from all sides of the ground, Ninian Park is once again the noisy intimidating bearpit which should give the Blues a head start for every home game.
Now for the bad news - for 75 minutes against Wycombe this was a tawdry display of scuffling untogether ineptitude which cried out for an organisational shafting which never materialised.
For 15 minutes the Bluebirds were stupendous - ludicrous pre-match expectations and plain daft cricket score forecasts looked like they may just come true, and when Gabbidon lashed home a free ball in the penalty area to send the blue-clad troops into euphoria, the flood gates were deemed officially open.
Alas poor Bluebirds they shrunk into a shell, like years gone by, a 1-0 lead apparently giving them a dose of the screaming heebeegeebies.
An injury to Scott Young, himself filling in for stout fella Spencer Prior, upset the shape of the team, but could not really explain how the zinging full-on attacking football of the first twenty minutes evaporated into a mess of tactical fogginess, positional pratfalls and soggy underachievement.
Josh Low's raiding forays of old were nowhere to be seen, Kavanagh's early bossing of the midfield drifted away and Gavin Gordon and Earnshaw up front were isolated and forlorn.
City's grip on the game was receding fast as the match progressed, an all too familiar choker of an equaliser waiting in the wings.
Thankfully the Blues just held on, soothing fevered brows by mounting their own last-ditch attacks right at the death.
Three points duly collected, the supporters swept home in buoyant mood, hoping that this early-season blip was but an inconvenient pothole on the road to glory.
© Paul Davies 2001