Last Sunday I missed my first south Wales derby since 1998. When Cardiff City’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan changed the colour of the kit to red and killed our beloved Bluebird, I gave up my season ticket and vowed never to return to the club under their current guise.
Of course I couldn’t bring myself to switch to Swansea, a team I’d spent every Saturday since birth singing derogatory songs about. I was in for an uncomfortable afternoon as I simply had to watch the first Welsh derby in the top flight, albeit on television.
Swansea looked more lively with one notable chance in an otherwise cagey first half. A few dirty challenges livened things up but the referee did well to keep the game under control, keeping his cards pocketed on several occasions.
The hosts were brighter after the break, closing down quicker and holding the ball much better. Gary Medel was the key difference, sitting in front of the back four, helping break up the Swansea attacks and masterminding what offensive play Cardiff could muster.
Medel became Cardiff’s most expensive player this summer, but it was the previous record holder Steven Caulker who scored the winner, and that against his former club. His muted celebration was not in keeping with the eruption in the stands but Craig Bellamy, the only local lad to feature, couldn’t contain his emotion as he mobbed Caulker.
Having spent over £30 million since gaining promotion, compared to Swansea’s £9m in their first season, you may think it no surprise that Cardiff took the spoils.
However the visitors were favourites heading into this encounter after impressing in the league and cup last season and Europe this term.
Run by local businessman Huw Jenkins, Swansea posted the healthiest financial results of any Premier League team last season with a £13.5 million profit. With their chants of “We’ll always be white” and “You’re not Welsh anymore,” while pointing to the Malaysian flags adorning the stadium, the “Jack Army” provided plenty in the off-field battle.
Following Cardiff has always been a rollercoaster ride, with Peter Ridsdale and Sam Hammam just two of many controversial owners the club have had in recent times.
Current manager Malky Mackay, a hero in the Welsh capital, appears to be undermined by Tan, who is now running the show.
His recruitment manager Iain Moody was replaced by Tan’s 24-year-old family friend, who has since been removed due to visa problems.
The tension between Mackay and Tan has been evident in recent interviews, with Tan refusing to comment on the manager’s future while Mackay reserved praise for his summer signings — a clear defence of Moody.
Some in Cardiff are angry and a protest against the red kit was held inside the stadium after the game.
But with Tan able to convert his debt to equity, giving him a 95 per cent stake in the club, any protest seems too little too late. The game ended with a red card, in keeping with this fixture’s acrimonious history, as Swansea’s Michel Vorm made a high and late challenge on Frazier Campbell, forcing fullback Angel Rangel between the sticks.
Cardiff may be unrecognisable now as the Bluebirds of old, but this fixture can still provide plenty of drama.