So it’s been just over two months since I last posted on The Armchair Supporter blog and without making too many excuses, the last two months have probably been the most eventful yet exciting of my life.
When it comes to retail therapy, most women end up treating themselves to new shoes, jewellery or perfume – not my other half, who whilst I was in France ended up buying us a house I’d never seen, at least not in person!
Almost exactly two months later and all the legal work done, we find ourselves with our first very own home although like most house moves we’ve had to make do with absolutely no wifi but today (still wifi-less and clinging on to the hope of a 4G signal), I’ve decided it’s time to post the 4th edition of TASB.
And what better time to start writing again than the day before Wales play Moldova in the World Cup qualifiers?!
I think a lot of people including myself were expecting the blogs to be fairly consistent after the brilliant feedback people gave about The Armchair Supporter Abroad: My week in France but I haven’t actually posted since with another reason being I was probably too hungover especially after that Belgium game.
Whilst I’ve always had a passion for football and in my time have seen some incredible games mainly from a club level perspective, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like the joy and euphoria that game gave to not just football fans but the whole of Wales – the fact my mother even knew who Gareth Bale was, was a huge milestone!
Of course Hal Robson-Kanu was going to take the majority of the plaudits for that goal (and deservedly so), I don’t think I’ve ever been so chuffed for a player to score than when I watched Sam Vokes bury a header into the far corner in the 85th! Vokes has copped a fair bit of stick from fans on social media in the past due to his lack of mobility and the fact he’s never really played as well for Wales as he’s done at Burnley. So to see him send us through to the semi-final of the European Championships was nothing more than the big man deserved!
Since the Euros, understandably it’s been quite depressing especially during the build up to the new season and even since its return there’s been a huge Wales-shaped whole missing from our lives!
Being a Cardiff fan and with new gaffer Paul Trollope part of the Wales set-up during the summer, I was fairly optimistic about City’s chances this season. That of course was before I went to the first home game against QPR where the first shot on target from a Cardiff player was registered in the 95th minute which had followed to late goals from QPR that had brought me back to the reality of club football.
Then after three games we found ourselves a new cult hero in Shane Duffy of Blackburn Rovers who scored not one but two own goals and was later sent off in a bizarre performance which saw us win our first game of the season, still without a City player registering a goal!
3 days later, I found myself making my first ever football away trip as I travelled to southwest London to watch the Bluebirds take on Fulham. I was always intrigued and quite fond of Craven Cottage anyway. I love the old style grounds and I think this is why a lot of people have fallen out of love with football at club level in recent years. In a way it brought back a lot of memories of Ninian Park which I’ve recently started to miss quite badly (although of course the atmosphere at the cottage was nothing like Ninian Park).
Reflecting on the game though, it wasn’t just a first for me. It was also a first for the Cardiff players who finally scored a league goal with Joe Ralls and Anthony Pilkington scoring “screamers” in front of the away end. As Ralls’ strike hit the net, whilst celebrating I fell off the chair I was standing on and on top of a young lad and his dad sat behind us – never letting the moment get to me, honest..
Sadly though, the 3 points remained a myth as Fulham levelled late on with a belter of their own. Despite the late equaliser I didn’t go home too dissatisfied. From a club level point of view, it’s apparent that away games have a completely different atmosphere to home games which saddens me as the Cardiff City I used to love back when I was a younster are now a completely different club to what it is now. I do feel the move to the Cardiff City Stadium, rebrand and managerial merry-go-round has had a massive impact on the support but the fact Cardiff will never be the same club it was 10 years ago does leave you with a lump in your throat.
The way Wales performed in the Euros gave me a bit of hope that the fans would take some of their inspiration and come back to the CCS but if anything, it’s worse than last season.
So to win back the fans what do you do? Well, ideally anything other than sell two fan-favourites on the cheap prior to deadline day! In fairness, £2.5m for Fabio is probably justified although I felt the new formation suited him down to the ground but to sell first choice goalkeeper, prized asset and club legend David Marshall for a fraction of the fee they could’ve got in previous transfer windows is not far short of moronic.
The club have since managed to repair (or at least try) some some of the damage by signing Rickie Lambert from West Brom – which to be fair would’ve been a class signing back in 2009! Hopefully he still knows where the goal is at the age of 34.
Back to Wales and tomorrow night where we take on Moldova and I for one cannot wait to dive in headfirst straight back into the magic of International football – something I could never imagine saying this time 10 years ago in the early Toshack era!
My only recent disappointment from a Welsh perspective is the lack of interest in our players post-Euros. Whilst Ashley Williams managed to sign for a bigger club in Everton, I was surprised that the likes of Joe Allen and James Chester didn’t have bigger clubs come in for them. Chester dropping down to the Championship seems like a kick in the teeth but maybe they’ll bounce straight back up.
Despite all the recent success we’ve had, I’m still expecting a cagey game tomorrow, very similar in fact to the Andorra game at home after we’d qualified for the Euros. A game which was basically a party version of a football game – I see this being no different as our fans are bound to still be on a massive high after the best summer of their lives.
Two notable omissions from the squad are of course Rambo and Joniesta so it’ll be interesting to see just who gets the nod to play in the middle alongside the two Joes. My heart is saying Emyr Huws but my head is telling me it’ll be Andy King. To be fair, Huws hasn’t played much football recently as he regains match fitness although I can see him having a massive future at International level and Chris Coleman has said he’ll be given his chance in the upcoming qualifiers after missing the cut for France.
I’ve seen a few people tweet about whether we’ll change system as teams know how we play with the 5-3-2/3-5-2 but let’s be honest, Moldova are going to play with 10 men behind the ball aiming for the draw regardless of what formation we opt for. Presuming this is the case, I’m predicting a cagey 1-0 for Wales with Sam Vokes grabbing another goal. I can see it being that type of game!
As soon as this is posted, I’ll be getting my Wales shirt, bucket hat and scarf ready for the occasion which will also see Spirit of 58 have their own stage inside the Canton stand with mod-influenced band The Riff and Svengali’s Jonny Owen playing a DJ set before kick-off. On second thoughts, I may leave the bucket hat and bring a parka or cagoule!
Until next time..