In 1899, the club known today as Cardiff City was founded. It began after a meeting in the home of local artist Bartley Wilson, at which the members of Riverside Cricket Club decided to create a football team, partly to help keep their players keep fit in the winter months but also as an attempt to cash-in on the ever-increasing popularity of the sport. Throughout their first decade “Riverside AFC” played friendlies and amateur games at their Sophia Gardens ground before finally moving into Ninian Park upon its completion in 1910, where they stayed for almost a century. That same year they turned professional and set about joining the regional Southern League. For the next 10 years they continued to legitimise by hiring managers with pedigree and players with Football League experience. Around this time, they also successfully gained permission to change their name to Cardiff City.
In 1911, the club got their nickname “The Bluebirds” when an unknown supporter started referring to the team by this moniker after being inspired by a play of the same name written by Belgian Nobel-prize winning playwright Maurice Maeterlinck had ran in the city. Cardiff had recently ditched their old chocolate and amber coloured kits in favour of royal blue and white. This theatre-loving fan saw a likeness and the name inexplicably struck.
The Bluebirds’ history really began to take shape in 1920 when they were successful in their application to join the Football League and entered Division Two. Impressively they finished second in their first season and were immediately promoted to the top tier, where they would stay for almost a decade. During that initial period in the First Division, they won many Welsh Cups and even won the FA Cup, when ironically on St George’s Day 1927 they defeated Arsenal at Wembley, with Hughie Ferguson scoring the only goal of the game in the 74th minute. This feat has still never been matched by any other non-English club, including the other big club in Wales, their rivals Swansea City. Unfortunately, football always runs in cycles and in 1929 this particular golden era was over and they began to drop down the divisions ending up in the lowest tier of the pyramid until after World War 2.
In the pre-Premier League/post-World War 2 era “The Bluebirds” had varying success, winning another bucket load of Welsh Cups and runners up medals in various divisions but mostly existing in the second tier, not able to sustain a serious push for top flight football. One fantastic thing about this era was that that Cardiff were still allowed to play in the Welsh Cup, which they regularly won, and this enabled them to qualify for European competition through the Cup Winners’ Cup. This changed in 1995 when they were barred by the Welsh FA along with all other Welsh teams operating within the English pyramid. Prior to that, during the 1960s and 1970s they reached two quarter finals and most notably a semi final in 1968, losing to Hamburg whose starting 11 contained several German internationals. This remains the furthest any Welsh side has gone in European competition.
In 2000, Lebanese businessman Sam Hammam took over the club and through his funding Cardiff became a permanent fixture in the Championship, England’s second tier. In 2006, after some controversy over widely derided changes suggested by Hammam and financial difficulties, he eventually sold the club to a consortium which oversaw their relocation to a brand new stadium and eventual subsequent sale. In 2009, “The Bluebirds” moved into their current home, the Cardiff City Stadium, and the following year their current owner Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan took over.
Vincent Tan’s reign has seen the club finally promoted to the Premier League twice, but sadly both achievements were met with subsequent relegation. His time has not been without controversy, most memorably when he changed the team’s strip from blue to red in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience in Asia. Fortunately for fans, this decision was reversed and they play once again in their historic blue colours. Notable players during this modern era include goalkeeper David Marshall who put in some world class performances in the top flight as part of his 278 appearances for the club and classy left footed midfielder Peter Whittingham, described by many fans as their favourite player.
“The Bluebirds” finished fifth last year in their attempt to immediately bounce back into the top flight and will be hoping this season that manager Neil Harris and talismanic captain Sean Morrison can inspire a return to the Premier League this time around. A second priority will of course be the bragging rights of a victory over their rivals Swansea City, also currently playing in the Championship.