Though his pitchside strolls have been curbed, there was never any prospect of the lid being jammed down on Sam Hammam, the Cardiff City chairman, who makes the phrase "raging extrovert" seem modest. Right on cue, 10 minutes before yesterday's kick-off in a match his side lost 2-0 to Peterborough United, he strolled from the players' entrance, took up position alongside the dug-outs and executed a double-armed wave, with the loudspeaker unnecessarily announcing his arrival.
Hammam received a roar of welcome from terraces from which hung banners such as "English Media – Racist Scum" and one directed at three named national newspapers: "No More Lies – We Are Family".
With calming, and decidedly old-fashioned, tunes like "You Are My Sunshine" being given an airing, probably for the first time since the days of Gene Autry, Hammam awarded himself another ovation by standing up in the directors' box just before the teams kicked off. There's no doubt who they love – and support – at Ninian Park, as the regular chants of Hammam's name showed.
Hammam devoted 3,000 words in an eight-page coloured pamphlet to an attack on those, mainly the media, who in his opinion had caused, or exacerbated, the problems at last Sunday's FA Cup tie against Leeds United. The pamphlet, titled Tough Times Never Last – Tough People Do! was handed out as spectators arrived at Ninian Park yesterday.
"In my 25 years in football I have never witnessed such an orchestrated and vicious media campaign as the one Cardiff City is having to face," Hammam claimed. "But I assure you we will use this vile campaign as a stepping stone to rise higher. We will not get bitter – we will get better."
Insisting that his club "should not be worried" about the fact that the FA and the FA of Wales are expected this week to announce what action will be taken over the incidents at the Leeds game, Hammam claimed that the "only fair conclusion would be for the authorities to find there was no case to answer. If we are charged, then I will be disappointed. If we are found guilty, then I will really be annoyed." He went on: "But whatever happens DO NOT WORRY! This club is destined to one day overtake, possibly, all the clubs in the Premier League. We are a Titan of a club representing a whole nation. Getting there is only a question of when."
Conceding that there had been problems caused by a hooligan element in the Ninian Park crowd, Hammam promised to continue his "war" against them. "If we cannot eradicate them, then we have no future. Frankly, we do not need the FA or FAW or the media or anybody else to solve the problem. We must solve it ourselves, otherwise we are dead."
He dismissed the pitch invasion as "celebrations", claiming: "For over 100 years, and for many years to come, fans will come on to the pitch to celebrate major achievements." While admitting the taunting of Leeds supporters was unacceptable and disgraceful, Hammam insisted Cardiff City and the local police had handled the situation "very well". His claim that only four had been arrested was clearly penned before Friday's detention of a further eight people.
As for his habit of standing behind the visitors' goal just before the end of matches, Hammam said: "I pump more adrenaline than any of the players. I do it even when our under-17 team is playing in front of a few people." However, he has agreed to stop his walks. "While my heart and mind tell me I am right, I have to be respectful of the varied bunch of people who thought I was wrong. I feel hurt, but it would have become the main news rather than the game."
Writing of his "deep, eternal anger" about the criticism levelled at him and the club, Hammam advised Cardiff supporters: "Think of all the people who tried to unfairly hurt us as rats. We will stand tall knowing we have been wronged. Right now I feel I can take on the world."
Conquering Peterborough was more than Cardiff could manage yesterday. Excellent goals by Peterborough's Leon McKenzie and Neale Fenn dampened the fervour of the 11,301 crowd, only half last week's attendance.
At least the police and orange-jacketed stewards had nothing more worrying to cope with than a chant of "We Want Sam Hammam Walking Round The Pitch''.
Wisely, Sam stayed put.Reuse content