Cardiff old boy returns to invoke giant-killing days

Tottenham visit the Welsh capital tomorrow, nursing a 30-year-old headache in the shape of Peter Sayer. James Corrigan reports
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Nostalgia and Sky Sports - those two great protectors of FA Cup romance - dictated that Peter Sayer travelled to Ninian Park yesterday for a teary-eyed survey of the scene of his finest moment. While looking around the ground - where 30 years ago to the very week the Cardiff boy scored the winning goal against Spurs - Sayer ventured into the home dressing-room.

"Bloody hell, they're the same tiles that were in here in 1977," he exclaimed. "And that's the same bath!" It is this link through the generations that Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager, will at least attempt to draw some positives from tomorrow when he invites the now bar manager of Preston Golf Club to meet the players before their own third-round date with the north Londoners. A Deepdale team-mate of the winger, Jones appreciates the inspiration of history, but is aware of the indifference of the modern professional.

"They probably won't know who Peter is or what he did and it might not mean an awful lot to them anyway," Jones admitted yesterday. "And to be honest, if these players want to make history they can only do it through the League. Realistically, are we going win the cup this season? No. But what we have got is a chance to get out of this division."

Jones stopped short of declaring this game a high-profile irrelevance, though his captain was not nearly as politic. Darren Purse said: "I would much rather us lose 7-0 on Sunday if it could mean us beating Southend the week after. There's no question of where our priorities lie."

The Bluebirds' flying start to the campaign brought Sam Hammam's long-stated dream of the Premiership into focus, although much has changed since those heady days of mid-October when they were six points clear at the top of the Championship. Hammam has all but gone - acrimoniously, naturally - replaced by some mystery investors, but then so has any semblance of title-winning form, as only seven points have come from the last 30. Jones has cut an increasingly desolate figure.

Labelling the club "Ragged Arse Rovers", Jones has pointed to his threadbare squad and lack of facilities and only recently has there been hope in his voice as money has been made available for transfers while Michael Chopra has shown flashes of his early-season menace. Indeed, Jones deemed this tie "to have all the ingredients", not least the ground where Leeds came unstuck in 2001.

Purse has been watching the tapes of that bitter afternoon when hostility was given a new benchmark. "You can see from that day how intimidating this old place can be," he said. "When it's a full house, when it's dark and miserable, when the atmosphere's at its best, there's not a tougher place to come and play in the whole country. Spurs won't be fancying it. We just might be."

Cup history Cardiff's glorious past

* 1925 First Welsh club to reach the final after beating Blackburn 3-1 in the semis. Cardiff were denied by Sheffield United 1-0.

* 1927 Made up for agonising loss two years before with 1-0 victory over Arsenal. Hughie Ferguson's winner forced the renaming of the then English Cup.

* 1977 Peter Sayer knocked out a Spurs side containing Glenn Hoddle and Pat Jennings.

* 1994 Shock of the fourth round as Second Division Cardiff beat Manchester City of the Premiership with Nathan Blake's curler in the 63rd minute. The Independent reported that "the Welshmen would have troubled Manchester's other team".

* 2001 David O'Leary's Leeds arrived at Ninian Park top of the Premiership but left 2-1 losers thanks to Scott Young's late goal. A pitch invasion marred otherwise joyous scenes.

Comments