Stuart Cable: 'If anyone wonders just what today means to us Welsh, I'll tell you. It means everything '

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The Independent Football

"Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They've taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our houses and they only live in them for a fortnight every 12 months. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We've been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English. And that is who you are playing this afternoon."

These were the words of the mighty Phil Bennett in the Cardiff Arms Park dressing room in 1977, a captain's call to the battlefield for the annual Five Nations tussle with the Old Enemy. Benno's words had the desired effect. England were scattered. Again.

The speech also serves as a response for anyone who wonders just what today means for those with the Three Feathers close to their heart. I'll tell you what it means. For 90 minutes it will mean everything. Across the country, the wind will stop howling, the rain will cease pounding and for once the fans of those two indignant cities, Cardiff and Swansea, will bond as one. Because we Welsh are up for this one. Christ, are we up for it.

It has been 20 years since our English overlords have deigned to play us, see. That's despite us being a mere hop, skip and jump down the M4, despite us having the best stadium in all of Europe and despite our impoverished football association being desperate for the pots of money a guaranteed sell-out would bring.

Why has it been so long, why is it that in these three decades India and Pakistan have been able to patch up their differences for long enough to play a game of cricket, but still our dear neighbours have refused to play us? You'll have to ask the FA that.

In this period, England have played more than 100 friendlies against 50 different countries and in this time we've done everything but get down on our knees to beg the FA for one poxy fixture. We like to think they always said "No", because they were scared of us. But we don't really believe that. We Welsh may well be a nation of dreamers but give us some credit.

Perhaps it's the hooligan factor that has convinced the FA to steer clear and that, at least, would be understandable. I pray today goes peacefully, that the passion such an occasion will inevitably whip up will remain just that, "passion", and nothing that spills over into the ugly. The fact that the police look to have these big events sussed nowadays seems to have guarded against that monstrous possibility, as does the fact that we've only been given 6,000 tickets for Old Trafford. As if it won't be hard enough for our boys against Eriksson's multi-millionaires, then being outnumbered in the crowd by more than 10 to one won't do our chances much good at all.

But don't be surprised if you hear Men Of Harlech rising above the Theatre of Silence. We like being the underdogs, we've been perfecting the role for the past 2,000 years. And although Sam Hammam - the Cardiff City chairman whose Premiership vision has stirred the capital - has told me he can't understand why we always underestimate ourselves, it's just part of our psyche, it's what we are. We are the underdog, always have been, always will be. But don't forget - every dog has its day.

We have lived in the shadow of England for so long that it has been difficult to foster anything other than an inferiority complex. We remain a proud nation, however, and even Margaret Thatcher's butchering of our workforce could never change that. But what few victories we as a country can muster against our governing masters can only come on the sporting field nowadays so is there any wonder that so many of us feel such antipathy towards anything with the moniker "England"?

In my lifetime Wales have never qualified for the finals of a major football tournament and every other year I have had to sit in tortured envy as the rest of the world feasts on the drama. We can always support whichever team it is that is playing England I suppose, but over the years I have found this negative pursuit becoming quite tiresome. [And this from a former member of the band which recorded the song As Long As We Beat The English We Don't Care]

So can the Dragonhood expect anything other than anti-climax today? Too bloody right we can. My head tells me a draw would be a great result but my heart is screaming that we will be celebrating a 2-1 victory this evening, just like we did against Italy on that night from the Gods two years ago.

For sure we'll miss the gnarl and the snarl of Robbie Savage, and I admit there is a giant question mark looming over our defence, but if we can somehow stop that little monster called Wayne Rooney then we've got a squeak.

And I tell you what will give us an even louder squeak.

"Look what these bastards have done to Wales..."

Get John Hartson to read that aloud before the boys run out. If any of them are still in any doubt about what today means to their nation, they won't be after Big John's recited Little Phil's sermon.

Stuart Cable is the former drummer of the Stereophonics and now presents "Cable Rocks" on Radio Wales