With four meetings between these two sides already since we began the Viva Video feature it is becoming increasingly difficult to find fresh footage which offers a handy link between Doncaster Rovers and Cardiff City. If this were a self-indulgent project then you’d be enduring wall to wall Leo Fortune-West clips, but luckily for you is not, and also my psychologist suggests that using non-Leo footage is a key part in the process of ‘moving on’. As such, I’ve focussed solely on the Bluebirds for episode 121 of this feature and a trip into Europe.
Up until the early 1990s the Welsh Cup not only offered a chance of national silverware for Wales’ exiled Football League clubs, but also an entrance into the sadly now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup. And so Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham, Newport and even non-league Merthyr were given the chance to step away from the rigours of English lower league football and face off against some of Europe’s most famous sides.
Cardiff achieved some notable scalps in their European campaigns. In the 1960s Sporting, NAC Breda and Torpedo Moscow all fell to the Welsh club, and only a 3-2 second leg defeat to Hamburg in 1968 prevented City reaching the final of the competition. In 1970-71 Cardiff would famously defeat Real Madrid 1-0 at Ninian Park in the Quarter Finals, only to fall 2-0 in the Bernabeu in the second leg. However, the match we have chosen to feature is none of these, but instead is Cardiff’s final competitive match on the continent; a first round first leg tie from 1993.
The 1992-93 season had been hugely successful for Cardiff who had achieved a double of sorts – marrying their Division Three (fourth tier) title success with victory over Rhyl in the Welsh Cup Final. That victory at the Arms Park took Cardiff into the Cup Winners Cup and so in September 1993, in between a home defeat to Hull and an away game at Bloomfield Road, the Bluebirds travelled to face Standard Liege.
Away in Belgium for the first leg City went behind in the opening quarter of an hour to a goal from Roberto Bisconti, but a strike from Tony Bird five minutes before the break brought the third tier side level. And then, unbelievably, just after the hour mark Cardiff took the lead; Bird arriving at the far post to volley Nathan Blake’s cross into the roof of the net and send the travelling Bluebirds the very epitome of crazy.
Sadly Cardiff would go on to lose this tie 5-2, as Belgian international Marc Wilmots struck twice to help save the home side from an embarrassing upset. A 3-1 win at Ninian Park in the 2nd leg took Liege through to the second round, where they would go out 10-0 on aggregate to the eventual Cup Winner’s Cup Winners Arsenal. For Cardiff, this trip to Liege was a watershed moment; three years the Welsh Cup was made off-limits to clubs playing outside the Welsh League system, ensuring this would be Cardiff’s last competitive fixture on the continent.
The main reason I chose to feature this video though, is for the Cardiff fans’ reaction to Bird’s second goal, as it is increasingly rare to see a football crowd go quite this mental in celebration. Perhaps it’s because ‘goal music’ hadn’t yet started to drown out fans’ celebrations and force them to clap along with Tom Hark rather than jumping on the stranger in front. Perhaps it’s because football was much less serious then; it’s unlikely anyone left the Stade Maurice Dufrasne muttering that Eddie May had taken the club as far as he could. Or perhaps it’s because the majority of the Welshmen featured had spent a whole day on the Duvel.
Either way the truly mental goal celebration is a waning experience, so do enjoy the inadvertent posterity captured within this clip and feel free to try and recreate it at the Keepmoat tomorrow.