As I write this, I’m acutely aware that I may get some stick. Yet, I’m still going to write it and send it out for the world to see whilst I wait for the angry mobs to descend on my home. And without further ado; this is my story of becoming a Cardiff City fan.
Like each and every one of you, I was a small child once. As a small child, I wanted to find my place and to do that, I needed friends. I was never going to be the leader of the pack when I was a nipper so naturally, I was one of the sheep and followed the more popular kids. The thing is, this was in the 90s and all of the popular kids supported the best team at the time; Manchester United. So, I also followed Manchester United.
Football being football, I was enchanted as I watched matches. The players that stroked the ball around the field, took on the opposition down the flanks and hit spectacular volleys. It was a game that captured my imagination and my love for United grew as each year went by.
My parents bought the South Wales Echo every day and naturally, the paper always had a good level of Cardiff City coverage. The problem for me was that the rest of the media didn’t. The Premier League is where the money is and that was also the case when I was growing up. So, the news always focused on the big league, as did televised matches and national newspapers. As United were the big boys, they got more coverage than most. And whilst I always kept an eye out for the Cardiff score, United were always my first team.
The other issue I had is that my parents aren’t football fans. Instead, they’re really into their rugby and because of that, I didn’t have any family that could steer me towards my home-town club. It’s a tricky thing growing up with little interest in your own city and it’s not something I’m proud of, no matter how little control I had over it. Is it fair to say that most people under the age of 18 look outwards rather than what they have on their doorstep? That was certainly the case for me and it’s only the last few years that I’ve realised how wonderful a city Cardiff is.
As I went from primary school to secondary school, my love for United grew alongside my teenage moustache and deepening voice. I’d watch their Champions League games on ITV and listen to Premier League games on Radio 5 Live. I still always checked the Cardiff score, but it was more of a passing interest at the time rather something that overly bothered me.
Naturally, getting older meant I got wiser, but that wisdom didn’t really start to arrive until I was in my twenties. Whilst I still supported United, I was going to more Cardiff games. This included games against Swansea as well as the 2009/10 Playoff Final – an experience I’ll never forget. I put this down to my mate Dan – an avid City fan and someone that I could enjoy going to games with. It was no different to what I did as a kid in primary school, but at least this time, it was going in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong, I still supported United first and foremost and 20 plus years is a long time to erase feelings. My blood however was slowly starting to turn blue, even though I didn’t realise it at the time.
As the years passed, keeping an eye on Cardiff results became more than a fleeting interest. It was something that I did more and more and I actually cared how the team did each season. Then came the turning point. I stopped looking outward and away from home and started to realise how amazing my city truly is.
I think it’s a question about priorities. Staying in Cardiff was never a priority for me and I always imagined myself moving away to (what I perceived to be) a bigger and better city. I also started to look at my future in the way of family, houses and careers. When those things became my priority, it dawned on me that I couldn’t get it any better than Cardiff. When I eventually had kids, I wanted them to support their local team and not a team from a different part of the country they’d never go to watch. I wanted them to be proud of their home city in a way that I never was or was never encouraged to be.
So, in 2016/17 I decided to embrace what had been building in me over the previous 10 years – I wished United a fond farewell and gave my all to the Bluebirds.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always have a soft spot for United and whilst I understand why many would call me a ‘plastic’ or a ‘glory supporter’, I don’t think that’s fair. After all, United won the Europa League in 2017, qualify for the Champions League most seasons and have one of the best managers in the game, yet I still stayed with Cardiff.
When I switched to Cardiff at the start of the 2016/17 season we’d just sacked Russell Slade, so in effect we weren’t in great shape. For me, with a new manager coming on board, it was a fresh start for the club and felt like a natural point for me to switch my allegiance – a new beginning for the club and for me. Whilst we looked good in pre-season, Paul Trollope’s reign was pretty dire. So much so that I genuinely feared that we could go down, but Cardiff were my team whether they stayed up or went down and that wasn’t about to change.
As we all know, Trollope’s tenure in charge didn’t last much longer before Neil Warnock came on board and the rest, as they say, is history.
Having supported City completely for the last three years and intermittently before that, I feel prouder of this team than I ever did of United. Working in the city, having connections on Social Media and going to games when I can has given me an absolute and resolute love of the club, it’s ties to the community and every other fan – new or old. It’s a club that’s united all the way through and I’ve never seen a club (in any sport) that’s more typified by its hashtag – City As One.
A question I’m expected to be asked this season is whether I’ll be torn between United or Cardiff when they meet on December 22nd and the answer will always be no. I’m not shying away from the fact that I used to support United but Cardiff are now and will always be my team whoever they play. I am a Bluebird and I am extremely proud to be one no matter how much the rest if the footballing establishment hate us.
Like I said at the start, I know I might get some stick for this, but every fan is different. Each one of us has our story as to why we support the club (or didn’t for a long time), but at the end of the day, we’re all in it together through the good times and the bad.