Boxing. Rugby. Football: Cardiff chasing a 'Triple Crown'

Wales in the rugby and Cleverly in the ring – but they really will be singing in the Valleys if the Bluebirds can beat Liverpool

There will not, almost certainly, be a Welshman in their ranks when they step on to that Wembley turf in the Carling Cup final on Sunday afternoon and when the anthem blares out it will be less "Land of my Fathers" and more "Land of my Professional Contract". But still, the Cardiff City players were happy to go along with the daffodil-adorned hyping yesterday of a weekend of opportunity which has inevitably been billed "The Triple Crown".

In truth, Mark Hudson, the Bluebirds captain, would have been a brave/foolish man not to agree to the photoshoot outside the Vale of Glamorgan hotel. To his immediate right was Nathan Cleverly, the WBO world light- heavyweight champion who defends his title in the capital tomorrow night, and further right was Sam Warburton, who will lead the country against England at Twickenham earlier that evening – maybe not the best duo to snub.

Not that Hudson would have been minded to anyway. The atmosphere has been building in Cardiff this past week and it has been impossible for even a 29-year-old born and raised in Guildford to resist. "I was speaking to Nathan and Sam and we were all saying that this could be a great, great weekend for Wales," said Hudson. "We will definitely be watching both of them and be right behind them. If they can get two wins it will give us a lift and drive us on for the final."

The possibilities are indeed euphoric, but are not considered altogether probable. In fact, Ladbrokes go 15-1 the treble of Wales winning, Cleverly stopping Tommy Karpency and Cardiff finally following up their 1927 FA Cup glory. Seeing as the first two scenarios are rated odds-on chances, it is blindingly, if not insultingly, obvious what the bookmakers do not expect to occur. But then, if Cardiff are to prevail over Liverpool they don't only need to overcome the odds, but also history. In the Premier League era, no club from outside the elite division has won one of the major trophies.

Surely, you might think, the occasion will get to Cardiff, a team riding high in fifth in the Championship but with three defeats in the last four games. That certainly wasn't the tone as they took over the Welsh rugby team hotel yesterday. For starters, they made the point that they have been to the new Wembley three times compared with Liverpool's nought. And then there is the attitude of their manager, Malky Mackay. The Scot is taking his players to experience Wembley today and tomorrow – as he puts it, "to get them over their wow factor". Then he intends to take them back on Sunday with ambition and not wonder burning in their eyes.

"We won't be there as tourists, we'll be going there to win, believing we can win," said Mackay, who celebrated his 40th birthday last Sunday. "Our fans have been to Wembley three times in the last four years so have done all that 'great day out' stuff. There'll be 35,000 of them in the stadium officially and I'm sure 10,000 will find their way in by other means. With the rugby and the boxing – and, go on, throw in St David's Day for fun, too – it could be perfect. Why not? Last year it was Birmingham against Arsenal and nobody gave them a prayer either."

Cardiff will evidently not go short in regards of prayers from the locals. When Mackay joined in the summer he discovered a likeminded crowd populating his home from home. "People ask me what the Welsh are like and I always tell them they are very like the Scots – passionate and drunk," said Mackay, whose contract was extended by three and a half years on Wednesday.

"Outsiders think Cardiff's all about rugby, but you get here, talk to the people and feel the passion for the Bluebirds. We want to be a Premier League club. This is a capital city and within an hour of here there is a catchment of a million people. So why not achieve it?"

It was the dream he sold the Malaysian owners after they watched Dave Jones's own Premier plan come so near after travelling so far. But with the purse-strings being tightened, with the likes of Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Chris Burke and Michael Chopra all departing, this would take a radical rebuild, particularly as the number of senior players was in single digits when he arrived. There were those such as Peter Whittingham who struggled to envisage success. Until, that is, the highly-rated midfielder talked to Mackay.

"The hardest decision I've had here was last summer, seeing Chops, Jay, Burkey and Bellers all leave," said Whittingham, "There were a couple of offers kicking around and I needed to speak to the gaffer. He sat me down and promised that we would go again. And that's what we have done. Seriously, to come in where there were only eight or nine players here and do what he's done since has been frightening."

Whittingham is key to Cardiff's chances of making that achievement positively X-rated. Mackay has transformed the former Aston Villa attacker into a central midfielder, who not only has the sweetest left foot in the division but also the creative instinct to feed Kenny Miller. Whittingham has been with Cardiff for six years and along with Kevin McNaughton and Stephen McPhail holds the distinction in this squad of appearing in all their recent Wembley appearances – the FA Cup semi-final and final of 2008 and the play-off final of 2010.

The most recent of those was the most unbearable. "The Blackpool game was horrible, just horrible," said Whittingham "You lose that game, there is no game for two months or whatever, and you spend the summer thinking about it. Then you see Blackpool playing in the Premier League and you think 'that should be us'. Yeah, it was a horrible feeling at Wembley, but now we want to tap into the feelgood factor of this being a great weekend in Welsh sport."

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice