When at the top of his game in the fifties, to many, Jimmy Scoular was the type of hard-bitten Scottish footballer hewed from the toughest of rock north of the border that provided the bedrock of any successful team. He was the sort of player that would consider the likes of more modern-day ‘hard men’ of the north such as Billy Bremner, Graeme Souness or, bringing it up to date perhaps, Scott Brown, as possibly less than fully deserving of the description.
Born in Livingston, ten days after Hogmanay in 1925, he went on to become an engineer working on submarines during the Second World war, before signing as a professional football at the end of hostilities. His work in constructing things that would go into battles in distant places would serve him well when he turned his hand to club management.
Scoular played 247 league games in eight years for Portsmouth, before being signed for Newcastle United in 1953 for a fee of £26,000. At St James Park, he played precisely the same number of league games in one year less. His final move, to Bradford Park Avenue in 1960, saw him appointed as Player-Manager of the club, where he completed the first element of his role description until retirement in February 1964. The sack from the latter element followed a few months later.
What sort of player was Jimmy Scoular? Well, in a career spanning some 19 years, he averaged just a single goal for each twelve months of his playing time, but his inspirational play and dogged work in midfield – a wing-half in the parlance of the day – was certainly not bereft of skill on the ball, and led him to become a leader in each team he played for. It was a style that took Scoular to two league championships with Portsmouth and FA Cup glory as captain of Newcastle United. A month after leaving Bradford, he was appointed manager of Cardiff City.
After seeing him sacked by Bradford Park Avenue, a club languishing in the fourth tier of the league, it’s interesting to ponder on why Cardiff’s directors chose to go for a man who had palpably failed in his only attempt at club management at the time, and put him at the helm of a Division Two club. Whilst perhaps not enjoying the most auspicious of starts in south Wales, the decision to hire Scoular would later be seen to be a sound move.
Although enjoying a less than outstanding domestic record with the Welsh club, runs in Europe, facilitated by regular victories in the Welsh Cup – in nine seasons the Bluebirds lifted the trophy no less than seven times – led Scoular to acquire the sorts of legendary status with the club usually preserved for mangers or players with pocketfuls of medals.
The 1964-65 season was the first in which the winners of the Welsh Cup were invited to take part in European competition, qualifying for the European Cup Winners Cup that had been inaugurated a few years previously. The foray into Europe would prove a useful distraction for Scoular, as his first few weeks in charge at Ninian Park were difficult to say the least.
The Cardiff squad that Scoular inherited contained two of Welsh football’s most famous sons, John Charles and Ivor Allchurch. Charles had just returned from a second period in Italy with Roma. The ‘Gentle Giant’ was by this time into his thirties, but still carried the charisma and ability to be an outstanding player in the second tier of English football. Very much like Charles, Allcuhurch was also into his thirties, with his best days behind him. By now, he was 17 years into his footballing career, with the inevitable wear and tear, plus the accumulation of injuries over time, eating away at his talent. Scoular’s appointment may have initially looked like a fortuitous time for Allchurch, who had played under the new manager’s captaincy at Newcastle United during his time in the north-east. Things didn’t work out that way though.
Allchurch found the robust management style of the Scot less to his liking. Just a few months into the season, he suffered an injury and found it difficult to get back into the side. He therefore missed much of the European campaign, although he was reinstated towards the end of the season when a run of 12 games hoisted the club into the safety of mid-table mediocrity, after a spectacularly bad opening phase. Scoular wanted to shape his team in his own way though, and had an eye for bringing new talent forward and, despite finishing as the club’s top scorer with 19 goals, 15 of which came in the league, by the following year Allchurch would be gone, moving back to first club, Swansea City, to see out the salad days of his career. Charles would leave the year after for the manager’s chair at Hereford United.
Under their new manager, that poor start to the season saw the Bluebirds play a dozen league games – comprising six draws and six defeats – before recording their first win, a 2-1 victory at home to Derby County. With that victory secured though, things began to pick up and, thanks to those last dozen league games of the season producing only three defeats, and including a thumping 5-0 victory over local rivals Swansea City, Cardiff ended up in a comfortable mid-table position. To add to any feelings of relief was a measure of schadenfreude, as bitter rivals Swansea finished at the foot of the table and were relegated. If the league season had been somewhat underwhelming for Scoular’s initial season at Ninian Park though, the club’s initial venture into Europe suggested that there may be better things to come.
European competition was a novel innovation for Cardiff City and their fans, as it was to most of British football at the time, and initially the crowds drawn to the game reflected this. In the midst of their early season run of poor form, Scoular took Cardiff to Denmark to face Esbjerg, returning with creditable 0-0 draw. In the second leg, just as the club were pulling out of their early season tailspin down the table, a single goal by Peter King, saw them through in front of a home crowd numbering just over 8,000. The epitome of a one club man, King had moved to Cardiff from non-league Worcester City in 1960 and would stay at Ninian Park until his retirement in 1974. It was fitting therefore that a player so strongly associated with the club, should secure the Bluebirds’ first European triumph, when the midfielder netted just ahead of the hour mark. Cardiff City were up and running in the Cup Winners Cup.
On 16th December, in the next round rolled, they visited the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon to play Sporting. It was a game the home team would have felt confident of winning fairly comfortably, but by now Scoular had his team playing much improved football and in the first half hour of the game, they gave as good as they got in front of over 15,000 Portuguese fans. It was therefore no great surprise when Scottish midfielder Greg Farrell neatly slotted home, after the ball had been laid back to him on the edge of the area.
Despite increased pressure from the home side, when the next goal came, it would also be for the visitors. Out on the right, Cardiff-born Derek Tapscott ploughed a lonely furrow, taking the ball deep into Sporting’s half. Despite being almost bereft of support, he crossed towards goal. Between the sticks for the home side, Carvalho at first appeared to believe the cross was heading towards the penalty spot. Too late, he realised it was homing in on the near post and in a calamitous error, trying to recover his ground, he merely pushed the ball against the upright, before it rebounded into the goal. Cardiff were now two clear with less than 30 minutes to play.
The thought of taking a two-goal lead back to Wales inspired stout defending at the back by the visitors, but with just under ten minutes to play, neat control and a volley by Figuereido halved the deficit. The last few minutes would surely have dragged for the under-pressure Welsh team, but Scoular’s team hung on, and remarkably had travelled to one of the top clubs in Portugal and returned with a victory. Maybe this Europe thing wasn’t too bad after all.
The fans certainly seemed to be coming to a similar conclusion and when, just two days before Christmas Day, Sporting arrived at Ninian Park for the return leg, the crowd was nearly three times the number that had turned out to watch the game against Esbjerg. It ended in a goalless draw, but the damage had been done in Lisbon and, in their first journey into European competition, Cardiff City marched proudly into the last of eight of the Cup Winners Cup, thinking all things were now possible.
In the new year, the quarter finals saw Cardiff pitched against Spanish club Real Zaragoza, with the first leg again to be played away, at La Romareda in Aragon on 20th January. The Spanish club were the Inter Cities Fairs Cup holders at the time and represented a stern obstacle to progress. When the game got under way, in front of a crowd numbering in excess of 22,000, the pedigree of the home team quickly became clear. Inside a dozen minutes, they were two goals to the good as first Lapetra and then Pais found the back of the Cardiff net. It was enough to knock the stuffing out of any team, let alone one on a maiden voyage into European competition.
Scoular had imbued his team with the sort of determination that had characterised his playing career though, and just past the half-hour mark, Cardiff were level. Gareth Williams – the Hendon born English midfielder with the Welsh name – scored on 16 minutes and then Peter King popped up to notch his second European goal ten minutes ahead of the break. After the frantic first thirty minutes or so, the game then settled down, and despite much pressure from the home side, Cardiff held out for a creditable draw with the increased hope of completing the task back at Ninian Park and progressing into the last four of the competition.
Some 38,500 were people crowded into Cardiff City’s stadium for the return leg. With the away goals rule in force, the home team were already in the box seats but, at the same time, caught in that classic dilemma of potentially falling between two stools; on the one hand, pushing for the goal that would give them breathing space, and on the other, protecting the lead they had. In the end, they were caught out.
With the game still goalless and just 15 minutes remaining, the Brazilian forward Canário – who had previously been part of the legendary and all-conquering Real Madrid side of the early sixties, that included the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano, et al – scored to put the visitors ahead, meaning that Cardiff now needed two more goals to overhaul Zaragoza. It always looked like a task beyond them in the time remaining, and so it proved. Scoular’s team had been eliminated in the cruellest way, just when they were beginning to think they had made the last four. It was a harsh lesson in the realities of European football, and one that the club needed to take heed of. A few years later, it seemed that perhaps it hadn’t been fully taken on board.
The following season saw the club’s fortunes fall back with a finishing position in the league just one place above relegation and elimination from the Cup Winners Cup at the first round stage. Defeats at home and away to Belgium’s Standard Liege quickly dashed any hopes of a repeat of the previous season’s successes. A failure to win the Welsh Cup, not even making the final, as Swansea lifted the trophy hardly helped matters. Things were in transition at the club though.
By now, Allchurch had left, and in his place in the squad came a raw, untried 16 year-old striker who would go on to play more than 160 league games for the club, netting 74 goals in the process, before moving on to even greater success on Merseyside. His name was John Toshack, and on 13th November 1965, Scoular sent him from the substitute’s bench to make a goal-scoring debut against Leyton Orient. At 16 years and 236 days old, he was the youngest player ever to play in a league match for the club. Perhaps Toshack was the symbol of a brighter future but, if that was to be the case, it wouldn’t materialise quickly.
The 1966-67 season proved little better. In fact, in the league, although finishing one place above relegation again, they did so with 33 points, one less than the previous season. There was also no European football this term, thanks to the failure to win the Welsh Cup the previous season. For many it seemed as if Scoular’s days were numbered. The one bright spot was victory in this season’s Welsh Cup, although it proved to be a less than glorious victory. The two-legged final saw them overcome Wrexham 2-1 at Ninian Park, after a 2-2 draw at the Racecourse Ground. Progress on the field had stalled, and then fell into reverse. It did however hold out the prospect of European football for the following season.
Allchurch had left, and by now so had the legendary John Charles. Scoular had been putting his faith in younger players though, and the following season would see him reap his rewards; not necessarily in the league, although there was a marked improvement there, but in the club’s best ever run in Europe. One that Cardiff fans still recall with misty-eyed memories.
The new season began promisingly. The first seven fixtures returned three wins, three draws and just a single defeat, a 3-1 reverse away to Portsmouth. The following half-dozen games though then produced five defeats, with the only glimpse of light, a 1-1 draw away to Shamrock Rovers in the Cup Winners Cup. The draw was secured thanks to another goal by Peter King early in the second-half, after being a goal down from the fifteenth minute. Even that however, was probably a below par performance and result. The second leg should be negotiated safely enough at home, but it hardly seemed to offer up much promise of progress.
The return leg took place in Wales on 4th October 1968. By now, the young Toshack had elbowed his way into the starting eleven, and it was his goal on the half hour mark that put Scoular’s team ahead on the night and aggregate. Even then, it remained a struggle against the limited but committed Shamrock Rovers team, and it wasn’t until the last quarter-hour of the game that a Bobby Brown penalty made the game safe, and took Cardiff, stumbling somewhat, into the next round.
Brown was interesting character and, but for an unexpected heart condition that befell an Italian club manager, could have been plying his trade in Serie A, rather than the second tier of the English league structure. Born in Streatham, between 1959 and 1961, he had played for the England amateur team, scoring an impressive 12 goals in just 14 games. He also scored twice in the 1959 Amateur Cup Final. It was an achievement that brought his name to the attention of Norman Creek, who was set to manage the Great Britain football team that competed in the Rome Olympics of 1960, and this is where the Serie A connection arose.
Brown scored in all three of the team’s games in the group stage at the Olympic Games, including both strikes in the opening game, as the team lost 2-3 to Brazil. It was the game against Italy though that nearly took the amateur to a professional life in Lombardy. Giuseppe Viani was manager of AC Milan at the time and after watching Brown score against the Azzurri, decided to offer him a contract with the Rossoneri. Brown however had already committed to take part in an FA Eleven tour of New Zealand, and so delayed any decision. Although the tour went well, with Brown netting a couple of hat-tricks, upon returning to England to consider the Milan offer, he heard that Viani had suffered a heart attack, compelling him to step down as manager and the chance to play in Serie A disappeared with him.
In 1961, Brown turned professional with Fulham, then moved on to Watford and Northampton Town, scoring regularly wherever he went, before joining Cardiff in 1966. He would go on to score two dozen goals in half a century of league games for the club, before suffering a catastrophic knee injury against Aston Villa in December in 1968, that forced an early retirement at the tender age of just 27. It would happen less than a month after he hit Cardiff’s first goal against Breda in the next round of the Cup Winners Cup. At that point though, no-one knew what was to come, but Cardiff fans were grateful that the forward had ended up in Wales, rather than Italy.
There was just over a month before Cardiff faced Dutch club, NAC Breda, in the next round, allowing time for five league fixtures to be completed. Initially, it seemed that the dogged defeat of the Irish team had perhaps installed a little confidence in Scoular’s men. Successive draws against Ipswich Town and Bristol City, were followed by a thumping 3-0 home win over Middlesbrough, and then an away victory at Hull City. A 3-1 reverse at Blackpool punctured the inflated confidence a little, but at least there had been a realistic improvement in form as Scoular’s team travelled to the Netherlands. That form would be rubber-stamped in Breda, when another second-half goal by King cancelled out an early strike by Jacques Visschers for the home side, and Cardiff took another 1-1 draw back to Wales.
A couple of weeks later, perhaps expecting another difficult and turgid game, of the type experienced against Shamrock Rovers, just less than 16,500 fans turned out as Cardiff sought to progress. It was a pale shadow of the figure attracted to watch the ultimately unsuccessful encounter against Zaragoza three years earlier, but those who did turn up were treated to the club’s best performance of the season so far.
The situation was similar to the one Scoular’s players had faced a few seasons earlier against Zaragoza. An excellent away draw had put Cardiff in the box seats for the home leg, but the Bluebirds agin faced the dilemma that the situation offered up. Go for goals to make the game safe, or sit back and protect. Against the Spanish side, either by design or necessity, they had erred towards the latter, and paid the price. This time there seemed to be a determination to avoid such an outcome. Less than three minutes had elapsed when Bobby Brown scored to put the home side ahead.
Then, on 19 minutes, Swansea-born Barrie Jones, who Scoular had brought in from Plymouth Argyle, netted the second. Cardiff were 3-1 up on aggregate and seemed to be coasting into the next round. The ‘away goals’ rule that operates in European competition has a unique quality though. It can turn a comfortable position into one of peril with just a single goal being scored; and so it proved in this game. Frie Nouwens, who had joined Breda the year before from Willem II, netted against the run of play just before the half-hour mark, suggesting a change of momentum in the tie. From being in a position of apparent dominance, two goals clear at home, the strike now meant that, at 3-2 on aggregate, a further goal for the Dutch team would put them ahead having scored more away goals. Cardiff’s comfort zone was now seen to be ultra-thin.
Although still the better team, there was now a nervousness about the home side that spoke of the concern should they concede again without scoring. In two short minutes though, midway through the second period, all such fears were put to rest. First Malcolm Clarke, and then Toshack netted to put the score at 4-1. The game was up for the Dutch team, and Cardiff City coasted into the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners Cup, where they would meet Torpedo Moscow.
The Russian club had struggled through a first-round tie against little-known German club, FSV Zwickau, only progressing with a late goal in the away leg after drawing 0-0 at home. In the second round, a greatly improved performance saw them defeating Czechoslovakian side, Spartak TAZ Trnava, both home and away to accumulate a 6-1 aggregate advantage. This round would be a step up on the challenge offered by Breda, and any victory would inevitably be a closely run affair.
And that’s how it transpired, with the same being the case in the other games too. Bayern Munich defeated Valencia 1-0 at home to qualify after a 1-1 draw in Spain. The other ties, pitting Hamburger SV against Olympique Lyon, and AC Milan against Standard Liège, both went to play-off games after tied aggregates. In both cases, the former won through. Cardiff’s tie against the Russian cup winners would be just as tightly contested.
The next round didn’t take place until February of the following year, and any momentum gained from the victory over the Dutch team had dissipated when the date rolled around. Going into the tie on 6th March 1968, Cardiff had lost their previous two league games, 4-2 away to Ipswich Town and 0-1 at home to Bristol City. Unusually for the Welsh team, this time the draw meant that the first leg would be played in Wales, and a strike by Barrie Jones, just before the break gave the Bluebirds a lead to take to Russia. With the Russian winter still in control of things at the time though, the second leg was moved to Tashkent, now the capital of Uzbekistan, but at time, still part of the Soviet Union. Almost mirroring the first leg, again the home side netted just ahead of the break as Mikhail Gershkovich’s strike brought the aggregate score level, and even a period of extra-time could not decide the issue. The tie became the third of the four quarter-finals to go to a play-off.
The game took place in the German city of Augsberg in front of almost 28,500 fans, and again it would be a late first-half goal that decided the issue. Norman Dean had scored 11 league goals in just 18 games across a four-year career for Southampton, when Scoular took him to Wales in 1967. It turned out not to be a great move for either player or club – at least domestically anyway – and Dean only stayed at Ninian Park for a single season in which his 21 league games brought just three league goals, before a move to Barnsley reinvigorated his goal-scoring touch. In the vital game in Augsberg though, it was his 42nd minute goal that saw Cardiff City through to the last four of the 1968 Cup Winners Cup, where they would meet Hamburger SV.
Domestically, it had been a poor period for Cardiff. The defeat in Moscow was the first of a six-game run that brought five defeats. The only victory being the game in Augsberg. From 13th April however, things began to improve with a run of three games without conceding a goal. An away draw to Birmingham City was followed by two 1-0 home wins over QPR and then Carlisle United. Unlike the games running into the first leg game against the Russians, at least Scoular’s team had some established form behind them. It was probably as well given the German team’s pedigree. As well as stars from the 1966 World Cup two years earlier in West German skipper Uwe Seeler and Willi Schulz, although the former would miss the first leg game. No-one knew it at the time of course, but the victory over Carlisle would be Cardiff’s last win of the season.
On 24th April, Scoular’s team took the field in the Volksparkstadion. It was an intimidating atmosphere, with over 64,000 fans packed into the stadium. Nevertheless, Cardiff once again demonstrated their ability to deflate the ambitions of supposed better teams by netting an early goal. And once again, it was Norman Dean who belied his domestic form to put the Bluebirds ahead after just five minutes. Despite concerted home pressure, driven on by the fans, the Welsh team held out until the break, and also well into the second period. It was a heroic rear-guard action, not quite akin to their countrymen’s stand at Rourke’s Drift, but gallant enough, as injuries at times reduced their numbers to nine. In particular, Bob Wilson produced some outstanding stops in goal.
Such efforts however can only take you so far and, midway through the second period, defender Helmut Sandmann plundered an equaliser to deflate Cardiff’s aspirations. Despite that setback though, they still managed to hold out until full-time for a deserved draw. A 1-1 away result was becoming Cardiff’s speciality in this competition over the years, but now they had to complete the job at home.
There was just a week’s gap between the two legs and a 1-1 draw away to Blackburn Rovers was a decent enough result, but as the denouement of the tie on the first day of May drew nearer, Cardiff were once again faced with the prospect of beginning a home leg with the tie slightly balanced in their favour thanks to the away goals rule.
Seeler was back for the game, and would have a significant influence, but early on it was that man Dean scoring again, for his third goal in three consecutive European games, who put Cardiff ahead just inside a dozen minutes into the game. A ball played in to him on the edge of the Hamburg area by Malcolm Clarke was lashed in left-footed past a despairing dive by Özcan Arkoç. The lead – both in terms of the game and on away rules – was short-lived though. Just four minutes later, a mishit shot from Charly Dörfel, cutting in from the left, found its way to Franz-Josef Hönig, inside the area, who fired home. Everything now was all square, with all to play for.
The remainder of the first-half was a tense affair as each team sought to push forward on a pitch that resembled a ploughed field compared to the snooker table smooth surfaces of today. Just over 43,000 fans packed Ninan Park to cheer on their favourites and Dean nearly put the home side back in front with a header, but Arkoç tipped over the bar. The forward had been a constant threat throughout the first half, but the break came with the scores and aggregate for the tie still level. It wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Just twelve minutes after the break Seeler displayed the talent that would bring him over 400 goals in his Hamburger career. There seemed little danger as the ball was played into him on the edge of the Cardiff box with defenders around him. Either by instinct or design however, the wily striker flicked the ball up and then hooked it left-footed across goal, over Bob Wilson and into the far corner. It was a strike of rare genius, and it put Cardiff onto the back foot. Having now conceded two away goals, they would need to score twice themselves to avoid elimination.
Unsurprisingly, the pressure mounted on the Germans, with Cardiff were roared on by their fans, in pursuit of a goal that would at least offer a chance of salvation. Chances, at best half-chances to be fair, came and went, but with twelve minutes remaining, the visitors conceded a free-kick out by the right-hand corner flag. Leslie Lea – another of Scoular’s signings, this time from Blackpool – stood over the ball, looking towards a crowded penalty area. As the ball was flighted in though, he found the head of Brian Harris who nodded powerfully home inside the far post. It was the Cardiff skipper’s first goal for the club after 88 appearances.
The goal provoked a mini pitch invasion, mainly by over-enthusiastic youngsters, but the delay in restarting the game may well have given the visitors a little extra time to settle themselves down and regain composure for the onslaught that was bound to follow. At 2-2, but with the Germans ahead on away goals, as the saying goes, it was ‘game on.’
Home pressure grew, but too often it was mainly long balls into the area that were confidently dealt with by the German backline. Still Cardiff seemed on the edge of a breakthrough, if only by sheer will of spirit. As time ticked away towards the end of the game though, the goal didn’t come. It would take until 90 seconds after the regulation 90 minutes before the deciding blow landed. It would be for the visitors though.
As tiring legs poured forward once more in search of the vital goal, the ball broke to Hönig, midway inside his own half. Demonstrating a presence of mind that transcended the pressures of the moment, instead of hoofing the ball clear, he controlled and ran forwards into the Cardiff half, keeping possession. Team-mates streamed after him calling for the ball as tired Cardiff legs struggled against lactic acid to funnel back to cover in front of Wilson. Eschewing opportunities to lay the ball off, perhaps losing a little composure, Hönig fired in a shot from 20 yards or so. It was hardly the cleanest hit of the night, but as Wilson plunged to his left to block, the ball appeared to deceive the goalkeeper, squirming past him before resuming its flight goalwards. It struck the far post, and then rebounded almost apologetically into the net. There was barely time to restart the game before Dutch referee Laurens van Ravens called time and ended Cardiff City’s glorious but improbable run in the Cup Winners Cup.
Many Cardiff City fans will look back on the moment that Hönig’s shot unexpectedly escaped Wilson as the defining tragic moment of the game. Truth be told though, with barely a few seconds remaining when the shot was fired in, the game was all but up anyway, with insufficient time to launch another attack, even if the goalkeeper had collected the shot. The real turning point was probably Seeler’s goal. After that, Cardiff were always in a chase that – despite their valiant efforts to the contrary – looked a forlorn venture, against an experienced and talented team. It mattered little to Cardiff that Hamburger would lose in the final to AC Milan – the team that Bobby Brown, who had by now been forced into retirement, could have been playing for if a different set of circumstances had applied.
The following season, Cardiff’s domestic form picked up considerably, and they finished fifth in the league. It was their best performance for a number of seasons. A little like those weather features though where when one man pops out and the other hides indoors, their next venture into Europe ended in the first round as they were eliminated by Porto. The following season saw them finish seventh, but again they fell well short in Europe. After spanking Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF 12-1 on aggregate, a 3-0 away defeat to Göztepe A.Ş. of Turkey, was too much to turn around in the home leg.
The 1970-71 season saw Scoular take Cardiff near to promotion. They finished third, just behind the promoted clubs, Leicester City and Sheffield United, and a mere three points astray of the latter. Unusually, when the domestic scene was positive, they also prospered somewhat in Europe. Seeing off the Cypriots of Pezoporikos Larnaca by eight goals on aggregate seemed easy enough, but in the next round they also accounted for the French club, Nantes, with a 5-1 home victory doing all of the damage. In the quarter-finals though, they ran into Real Madrid, and despite a Brian Clarke goal giving the Bluebirds a 1-0 home victory over Los Blancos, and holding the Spanish aristocrats to 0-0 at half-time in the Bernabeu, two second half goals eliminated them.
Despite this encouraging end to the season, the following term saw a sharp decline in fortunes, with the club finishing just a single point from relegation. A sound start to the following season was required if the manager was to turn things around. It didn’t happen, and Jimmy Scoular, engineer and navigator of voyages into battles in distant places was shown the Ninian Park door.
Some may argue that Cardiff’s adventures into the latter stages of the Cup Winners Cup in the sixties had much to do with the tournament being undervalued by the bigger clubs of Europe who had their eyes on the more glamorous prize of the European Cup. There may be some merit in the argument, but when considering the clubs that Cardiff contested ties against, and who they could have played – Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Hamburger SV, Porto, etc, it may give some measure of lie to any such theory.
As with all things there’s a balance to this. Yes, the competition was very much seen as the poor relation to the European Cup, but as with the Europa League of today, no matter the size of the club, if you’re in it, you want to win it, and Cardiff’s efforts should not be diminished by any kind of arrogant disregard. That Jimmy Scoular managed to drive what was, for most of his time there, a mid-ranking second tier club into the latter stages of European competition, and mix it with some of the biggest clubs on the continent, is surely worthy of respect.
(This All Blue Daze article wax originally produced for the ‘These Football Times’ website).