Cardiff City were, for the most part, awful last week and in the second playoff leg at Upton Park it was always going to be a big ask, but The Bluebirds didn’t even look like scoring!
The lack of heart, spirit and passion by players was mystifying and deeply worrying. The return of ‘super Kev’ into the heart of defence, meant there was optimism amongst the Cardiff supporters, that if the team played with anything near the form they had shown in the Carling Cup final against Liverpool, then they were more than capable of overturning things. Cardiff City supporters however, are realists – the club’s history has taught us to be that way – all we really asked was that The Bluebirds turned up and played with passion, pride, commitment and heart, but it wasn’t to be – we didn’t even get that.
That was the original start of this article written on my iPad on the way home from the Upton Park leg of the playoffs, but, along with many drafts since, have been scrapped because of a week that must be the darkest ever in the history of Cardiff City Football Club.
It started for me as it did for many others soon after I got home and discovered a bombshell – one I hoped was a windup. There was a report that Cardiff were to play in red and be known henceforth as the Red Dragons – As news spread we all thought it was a Swansea fan on a wind up.
However, come Tuesday morning and after the deafening silence from the official sources on Twitter, I feared the worst….Then the news broke and my heart with it! The Malaysian owners; lead by Vincent Tan had announced a million pound package of investment, but it all came at a cost – The rebranding of the club, the nickname The Bluebirds was to be outlawed, the home strip would cease to be blue and become red, the badge would be a dragon and the team would now be known as the Red Dragons! This was a crucial part of the package the official statement said and non-negotiable! CRAZY I thought, along with the majority of Cardiff supporters, we took to the social networks en masse and thanks to Twitter had very quickly spread the news to the media.
The hardest thing was trying to explain to others what the reason for the change was, that it was because Cardiff City’s owners believe a new red strip, coupled with the emblem of the dragon, will bring “fusion of cultures” for the club between the Far East and Wales. Red is seen as a strong colour in the Far East associated with vibrancy, good luck and happiness, blue is considered unlucky. They also pointed to the fact that Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have been able to crack the Asian market with the sale of replica shirts, but clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, who play in blue, have not.
All hell broke loose; the proposal would wipe out 100 years of history of Cardiff City playing in blue – which could be stomached, just maybe, but not the loss of the Bluebird on the chest, the Bluebird on the badge itself arose from the clubs nickname which is used to describe both the team and the supporters alike. It is a nickname that is known the world over. I have worked with football supporters from pretty much every UK based team you could name and practically every time I’ve been asked what team I support – on saying Cardiff City, I have gotten the same response – “You’re a Bluebird!” It’s a phenomenon the world over, when I played a gig in aid of breast cancer in New York a bar tender noticing my interest in a live ‘soccer match’ being shown on the television behind him, asked which team I supported, I muttered you won’t of heard of them, it’s my local team I support – Cardiff City, to my astonishment and embarrassment he hushed the bar up and announced to everyone “Hey we’ve got ourselves a little Bluebird.” The BBC even calls the team The Bluebirds! It is that embedded!
Bewilderment ensue, quickly followed by anger – it seemed like 100 years of proud history was going to be discarded like yesterdays newspaper, for little more than superstitious mumbo jumbo. Another problem is that Wales already have three teams which play in red and wear a dragon crest, two of them are already known by the proposed new nickname – the Red Dragons. The first of these teams, Wrexham are a long time rival of Cardiff City and it’s also akin to the kit and nickname of Newport Rugby club. Then there’s the Welsh national side who of course play in red with a Dragon in the badge, ironically only Cardiff City carry the nickname Bluebirds – We couldn’t see why we were less marketable in blue and with our proud and historic name – one under which we have gotten to the Carling Cup final, won the FA Cup, been finalists on two other occasions and have beaten the likes of Real Madrid, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United along the way. It also felt like an insult to the memory of every Cardiff City supporter past, everyone’s Dad, Grandad, Uncle, Son, Daughter and Mum who had proudly worn the colours and badge but no longer stood by our sides on match day – All those miners on whose blood sweat and tears the teams very existence is built.
It was and remains a very raw and emotional issue. A football club is not like other business investments, a football club has an identity, a heart, a soul.
Things got ever more compounded by the day. Research showed the Malaysian national team’s home strip is yellow and the away kit is – Bluebird Blue! The fans started to look for other reasons behind the change maybe it wasn’t the colour but the Bluebird itself? However, much research only confirmed many cultures held beliefs and have myths surrounding the Bluebird – all are positive – the Bluebird is a symbol of new life, happiness, positivity, prosperity and hope.
The whole sorry mess quickly went viral and global – messages of support for The Bluebirds and derision of the owners came from supporters of clubs the world over and from unlikely sources too – footballing legend and Match of the Day presenter Gary Linekar, tweeted to ask if it was true! After discovering it was, he added he wasn’t a traditionalist but the idea was crazy, on the upturning of the decision later he said “See Cardiff fans have won their fight to keep their shirts blue. A rare triumph for common sense!”
Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics, a lifelong Leeds United fan but local boy to the Cardiff area, also voiced his strong disapproval of the plan, via a lengthy and eloquent statement issued by the bands official channels. Members of the Welsh National Assembly became involved, outraged at the proposal -stating that it stripped away a huge chunk of proud Welsh culture for the sake of money, some things shouldn’t be sold.
Then came about a turnaround by the Malaysian owners that – “In the light of the vociferous opposition by a number of the fans to the proposals being considered as expressed directly to our local management and through various media and other outlets, we will not proceed with the proposed change of colour and logo and the team will continue to play in blue at home for the next season with the current badge.”
After the initial exhilaration over the news that Cardiff City will continue to play at home in their traditional blue kit with the current badge with the Bluebird flying proudly prominent, had worn off, reality struck, because the open letter swiftly issued by Chan Tien Ghee, Cardiff City Football Club Chairman was interpreted by some fans as the end of Cardiff City Football Club. It doesn’t say that, however, it does elude to that fact that because supporters, media and the National Assembly of Wales had dared to protest at the rebranding of the club – there was a possibility that no new investment would be forthcoming, but moreover there was the need to – “Reassess in conjunction with the board of the club the future strategy and the further ongoing investment necessary to allow the club to continue to trade. This may include looking for new and additional partners and investors.”
As one fan eloquently put it in the immediate aftermath – “That even with victory, it still feels less like ‘my club’ than it did on Monday. The whole sorry affair has caused a deep rift between the supporters, and it’s difficult to have any faith in anyone including Tan and the board right now, for the first time in my life I am questioning my allegiance to my club and the Football Association as a whole.”
For me I have more questions than ever?
Why there was complete capitulation regarding the ‘essential’ rebranding without an attempt at negotiation or arbitration, I am convinced a compromise could have easily been reached many shirt designs were floated that were both red and blue all retained the Bluebird but had the ‘necessary predominant dragon’ in shadow or silhouette in the shirt fabric its self. Most supporters agreed this was not only palatable but rather stylish! Not to have even attempted a compromise is at best a misreading of the people of Cardiff – at worst, nonsensical business practice!
Why had some of the proposed investment not come earlier in this season? If even a small slice of that investment had been made available in January, when The Bluebirds sat 3rd in the league table and were in dire need of a goal scoring striker and speedy winger, at least some of the draws Cardiff endured would have been victories which would have taken us up automatically, making the team eligible for all the bonuses that come the way of newly promoted sides.
The worse thing of all is how all this has turned fan against supporter – friend against friend, caused rifts amongst families … and now there is bullying of the Blue’s by some of the Red’s who say the colour of the shirt doesn’t matter – Exactly my point in the first place. Whatever did the little Bluebird do… for it cries tonight ashamed and a hunted species.