Ron Stitfall: Stalwart of Cardiff City FC
Saturday 19 July 2008
Ron Stitfall belonged to that remarkable group of footballers who pledged their allegiance to one club throughout their career. In the case of Stitfall, he played for his home-town team, Cardiff City, as man and boy and never dreamt of moving anywhere else.
Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes apart, the days of the one-club stalwart seem to be a thing of the past. As Giggs, also born in Cardiff, prepares for his 19th league season at Manchester United, he has just overtaken Stitfall, who spent 17 seasons in the Football League with the Bluebirds, although his link with the club stretched over a quarter of a century.
Marked out for stardom from a young age at Moorland Road School, Splott, Stitfall played for Cardiff Boys and the Welsh Schoolboys in 1939/40. He came from a soccer-mad family and was a regular on the terraces at Ninian Park as a schoolboy, along with his brothers Albert and Rob.
All three eventually made it onto the staff at Cardiff City and Ron and Albert played together in the Football League, although Rob, a goalkeeper, never made the first team. Ron went on to the Cardiff City books at the age of 14 and made his début a year later in a war-time clash with Cardiff's deadly rivals, Swansea Town. In those days he received five shillings tea money for home games and seven shillings and sixpence for away matches. In the 1940/41 season he played in nine different positions.
In 1943, aged 18, he joined the Army and went on to play centre-half for the Combined Services. Once the war was over he returned to Cardiff and signed as a professional at Ninian Park.
Ron Stitfall made his Football League début at Brentford on 18 October 1947, and turned out for the 398th time against Norwich City at Carrow Road on 14 December 1963. When you add in his appearances over that time in the FA and Football League Cups, his grand total reaches 421. At the time, that made him the third Cardiff City player to pass 400 games and even today he stands fourth on the club's all-time appearance list. More than 100 of those appearances came in the First Division, with the remainder in Division Two.
Twice he helped steer Cardiff into the First Division and he also picked up two Welsh Cup-winners' medals, in 1956 and 1959, and was a losing finalist in 1960. He had to battle with the England B full-back Charlie Rutter for his place in the side and eventually formed a regular partnership on the flanks in defence with Alf Sherwood. It was fitting, therefore, that the two should have lined up together for Wales at Wembley when Stitfall won the first of his two international caps.
England ran out winners by 5-2 on his début on 12 November 1952, but Stitfall tasted victory in his second Welsh appearance, against Czechoslovakia at Ninian Park in a World Cup qualifier on 1 May 1957. Wales won 1-0.
When Stitfall's playing contract was ended by Jimmy Scoular in 1964, he coached the club's youth team, a side that at that stage included one of Cardiff's greatest sporting sons, John Toshack. A qualified FA coach, Stitfall became trainer at Newport County in the 1970s, coach to the Wales youth team in the Seventies and, finally, kit man for the Wales senior team.
Ronald Frederick Stitfall, footballer and coach: born Cardiff 14 December 1925; played for Cardiff City 1947-64; capped twice by Wales 1952-57; married (one son, two daughters); died Cardiff 22 June 2008.
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