Normally, my first game of the season is one of utter excitement and boundless optimism (some would say delusion). Even in the bad old days of Alan Durban I couldn't wait for the footie season to begin and a chance to see my beloved Bluebirds flying again.
    This time almost everything had changed. I missed the opener v. Huddersfield, which we'd won. I had spent the close season thrilled by our plethora of potentially great signings, yet seriously considering a boycott.
   I knew others who had done so ; sent their season tickets back or refused to renew them. I knew they were a very small minority and I'd met others who embraced the changes.
   Interestingly it tended to be the Valleys' ones who rejected the way we'd been treated and Cardiff ones who put the money before anything else. Perhaps there is a difference of culture and environment here, as we live constantly with the effects of history and are always aware how it shapes the present. We cannot easily agree to its obliteration!
   There are exceptions, of course, and I met one man who used to be the 'bucket boy' for a local Boys' Club, where I'd briefly been a trainer.
   At that time we were struggling in the lower reaches and he had supported Merthyr avidly, dismissing the Bluebirds.
   Like many others he became a fan as we became successful, especially with promotion and the FA Cup Final. I don't blame him in any way and we need more like him, but when he expressed his willingness to accept those changes, playing in red with a dragon crest, I wanted to remind him of past allegiances.
   So here I was, Cardiff City v. Wolves and walking to the ground after a summer of contentious debating.
   The Malaysian owners had lied to us and treated us with utter contempt. My son had urged me not to go and I certainly felt guilty.
   Initially they abandoned the re-branding exercise and there were suggestions that they would pull out altogether. They actually apologized to fans who had felt insulted.
   Then it went through anyway and there was no doubt that all those fans supporting it would be pointing out the vast sums ( for us, at least) spent on players over the summer and saying - ' I told you so! This investment is
a result of the re-branding.'
   Of course, this argument is nonsense. Not a penny of the money raised to buy players has come from the change to red shirts and dragon emblems.
   The £10 million plus spent on the likes of Nicky Maynard and Craig Noone (not to mention Bellamy's wages) comes from loans taken out by owner Vincent Tan, who is still charging the club 7% interest on borrowed funds.
   So why the changes? Were they necessary?
   Well, commercially is has been a handicap, as less fans have bought the shirts than usual.
   I was pleasantly heartened by the fact that many in the stadium (especially the Ninian Stand) still wore the blue of the past and not the away shirts.
   The question remains : given my opposition, should I have been attending at all?
   Like the Supporters Trust (which I recently joined) I favour a different approach to a boycott.
   My allegiance is to the team and the club, even if our owners have dictated ludicrous alterations. We, the loyal fans, will be there ( pick and shovels optional) when Tan and his ilk have long gone.
   As my son rightly said, the changes are a massive gamble on reaching the Premiership. I believe that if we fail to do so this season they may well sell the club anyway.
   The only possible way the red shirts could prove commercially viable would be if we were a Premiership club and even then........ would we be able to compete with Liverpool and Man U in terms of shirt sales?I doubt it.
   QPR are owned by a Malaysian and they play in blue and white, so why us? If red is so lucky, why don't they change to it?
   It was difficult being in the ground and seeing all those red shirts, yet the many blue encouraged me.
   We are fans divided and that is contrary to the whole sense of belonging to a club.
   However, when we scored and almost everyone chanted 'Bluebirds! Bluebirds!' it seemed like an act of sheer spontaneity reaching back through the years, rather than one of deliberate defiance.
   The Supporters Trust have been told by the club that no peaceful protests will be tolerated inside the stadium, as it would divide fans. Presumably anyone doing so will be evicted and ,quite possibly, banned.
   This is an absurd policy as our fans have already been divided by the owners!
   At one meeting of the 'Keep Cardiff Blue' campaign, members were threatened by red-shirters, who said they 'would bury them!'
   On the playing field it was hard at times and I did feel I was a neutral watching two strange teams play. It probably didn't help that  many of our team were new signings who I hardly recognized, like Mutch and Connolly.
   Despite this, I still savoured the intense thrill of our goals and joy of victory : Whitts was himself, utterly brilliant. His goal celebrations are unique as well; the essence of anti-celebrations as he shrugs and barely smiles, bombarded by our ecstatic players with outflung limbs.
   My son watched it on Malaysian TV with English commentary and told me they kept referring to us as the 'red dragons'. Nobody in the stadium even muttered such a description.
   I remain in a dilemma, yet cannot abandon the club and team I have followed since returning to Wales at the age of 18.


                                   STILL  A  CLUB

Seemed promising walking towards the pub,the Ninian Park,
blue-shirted fans with Bellers on their backs.

But soon sightings of that dreaded colour :
were we playing Notts Forest, Charlton? No, Wolverhampton Wanderers!

The huge dragon emblems branded on our stadium ;
I thought we'd been taken over by aliens.

Only the Supporters Trust had our bird displyed :
slimmer, more streamlined, almost re-made.

Flags of red and black waved as our team came on
and I was in a state of utter confusion.

Half fans in blue, half in Welsh national dragons :
felt as if I was following two teams, not one.

But every time we scored ( and we got three),
we were chanting 'Bluebirds! Bluebirds! joyfully.

Saw the past and future, ayatollah with my hands,
when we are still a club and not a brand.
 


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09/27/2013 23:15

At that time we were struggling in the lower reaches and he had supported Merthyr avidly, dismissing the Bluebirds.

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