Cardiff on verge of promotion to the Premier League: Excitement reaches fever pitch in the Welsh capital

Cardiff need a point tonight to return to top flight after 53 years, Phil Cadden talks to four people at heart of the club

“We can have a row over a game of tiddlywinks,” Lee Johnson yesterday said of his relationship with his father, Gary, though the dynamics of tonight’s League One contest between the two goes beyond anything they have encountered across the kitchen table.

Incredibly, 53 years to the day, Cardiff City secured their last promotion to the top flight – ahead of Liverpool – courtesy of Graham Moore’s winner in the 1-0 victory over Aston Villa in front of a 52,364 crowd at Ninian Park.

After three successive near misses in the Championship play-offs, Malky Mackay’s league leaders finally have the opportunity to become legends in the Welsh capital if they collect at least one point against Charlton tonight and book a spot in the promised land of the Premier League.

View from the legend 

As Cardiff’s current crop prepare for possibly the biggest night of their lives, Danny Malloy knows exactly how Craig Bellamy and company will be feeling. Malloy was captain of Cardiff’s 1960 promotion-winning campaign, leading out the Bluebirds against Villa.

“We had the same never-say-die attitude as the current team back then,” Malloy recalls. “That match [against Villa] was forgettable, but the final whistle sparked complete bedlam with the fans invading the pitch. I had a policeman on each side of me as everybody clamoured to shake my hand. Great memories.”

Times have changed somewhat. While Cardiff are ready to land a  £100m jackpot, with the players receiving multimillion-pound contracts and new-found fame, spare a thought for Malloy and the class of 1960, when the maximum wage was just £20 a week.

But Malloy admitted he would just be happy to see the good times back in the Welsh capital – despite the controversial rebranding of kit colour from blue to red by the club’s Malaysian owner, Vincent Tan, last summer. The Scotsman, 82, added: “City are a Premier League club and I’m thrilled to bits at the prospect of seeing Cardiff taking on the big boys once again.

“The team has been in promising positions over the past few years and always seemed to let it slip towards the end of the season.

“But this time they are grinding out the results while not playing particularly well at times – the sign of a very good side. If they’ve a disappointing result then nine times out of 10 they bounced back.

“Malky has done an exceptional job while the owners seem to have the best interests of the club at heart which is really all you can ask for. The Bluebirds should play in blue but, as long as they’re successful, I suppose that’s all that matters. I wish him [Mackay] and the boys all the very best in their push for the title. It’s the least those fantastic supporters deserve after the near misses of recent seasons.”

View from the board

Director Steve Borley has witnessed all of Cardiff’s so-close-yet-so-far promotion dramas in recent times under previous manager Dave Jones and now Mackay (pictured below).

From the final-day failure to book a top-six spot at Hillsborough in 2009 and the Wembley final defeat against Blackpool a year later, to back-to-back play-off semi-final losses to Reading and then West Ham United, Borley was there.

But the life-long fan, who became involved with the club 16 years ago, insists that he never once thought the dream of Premier League football coming to the Cardiff City Stadium was over.

“I’ve always been an eternal optimist,” Borley says. “Our motto is ‘Dare to dream’ and I believe this is the year we will finally get over the line.

“The manager has signed strong characters, winners and people who want to develop and progress. We have a strong mentality and togetherness in the squad. Despite the near misses, I always believed we would reach the Premier League.

“As a football supporter, you have to believe. I’m an emotional person and one of the happiest days of my  life was when we got promoted [from the old Second Division, now League One] against Queen’s Park Rangers at the Millennium Stadium 10 years ago.

“I was dancing around the pitch like a lunatic – I couldn’t help myself. It was a massive release. You never know if I’ll be on the pitch again.”

View from the manager 

Mackay arrived at Cardiff 20 months ago with just 10 players available on the first day of pre-season.

The Scotsman moulded a team which, in truth, overachieved to reach last season’s play-offs.

With a stable defence, Mackay spent £13m on new attacking recruits in the summer and the 41-year-old, who won promotion as a player with Norwich, West Ham and Watford, has found the right formula once again by adding depth to his squad.

Mackay said: “I’ve been able to freshen up the team by bringing players of equal ability in and out all season. That’s been one of the key things for us to be consistent and push right to the end this season.

“Jordon [Mutch] and Kim Bo-kyung have come into midfield recently after doing well in training and kept our energy levels going. But our target is still on getting promoted.

“We are trying to bring the prize that our city so desires and it will be a great achievement for the players, the staff and me should we do that.

“The fans have also been fantastic. They were tested and asked to back the club through the colour change and I’ve got great admiration for them. I’ll always be for ever grateful for their backing.”

View from the player

Aron Gunnarsson left Iceland as a  19-year-old with the ultimate dream of playing in the Premier League.

A four-year spell at Coventry failed to achieve those lofty ambitions, but after becoming one of Mackay’s earliest signing in July 2011, his childhood hopes can now turn into a reality.

Iceland’s captain said: “We are excited, but it’s not about any of us becoming a legend. It’s about sticking together and winning promotion as a team. We have been top of the league since November and we don’t want to let that slip now.”

Suggested Topics
News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis