Besides the obvious, the word “folly” has another meaning – it is the term used to describe architectural works of a certain type. I’ve not looked up any dictionary definitions, but I would describe an architectural folly as a building or structure which serves no practical purpose and was, most likely, built on a rich man or woman’s whim.
I daresay Cardiff’s most famous folly is situated no more than a five minute drive from my home. Castell.Coch (the red castle) overlooks Tongwynlais and Taffs Well – it can’t be missed by anyone driving out of Cardiff along the A470.
Castell Coch was designed by William Burges, who was employed on a money no object basis by the third Marquess of Bute to come up with a building in the Gothic revival style that was very popular in the mid nineteenth century.
Apparently, the original intention was for the castle to be a summer home for the Marquess and his family, but it was very rarely used in that fashion and so it, essentially became a, very attractive in my view, decoration on Cardiff’s North Western landscape.
In these days of austerity, you aren’t going to get too many modern follies being built, but a few miles south of Castell Coch is another structure, which also has a connection to the colour red, that I maintain is a modern day folly.
Cardiff City’s Ninian Stand extension was built last year and was certainly not intended to serve no practical purpose, but, in the main, this is what has happened to it. Confirmation of this came this week when the club announced that the stand would not be used during the 2015/16 season and the few supporters who had bought season tickets for that part of the stadium would be offered seats elsewhere.
It was in 2012 I believe that the Ninian Stand extension became something more than the sort of vague notion of stadium extension often referred to by the likes of Sam Hammam and Peter Ridsdale when the new ground was still at the planning stage. However, the original idea had the rider that any rebuilding work would be conditional on the club surviving its first season in the Premier League if and when it got there.
This seemed a sensible qualification to me, but, somewhere along the line, all of that changed and during the summer of 2013, it was announced that building work would commence early in the new year as our first Premier League season was approaching it’s climax – actually, that should read anti climax as relegation was confirmed.
So, City started the current season back in the Championship and lumbered with a stadium that’s capacity was 6,000 more than when we were hosting the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool a few months earlier.
Even so, there have still been times when the red seated Ninian Stand extension defied its folly status and it will do again in the future, it’s just that Cardiff City has not and will not be involved when it does.
If Real Madrid are in town, then the new part of the ground stops being a pointless add on and the feelgood factor currently surrounding Welsh international football (well done to Tommy O’Sullivan and Josh Yorwerth by the way for sharing the goals between them as Wales Under 21s kicked off their latest Euro qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win over Bulgaria on Tuesday) was confirmed yesterday when it was announced that June’s game with Belgium was already a sell out.
With 30,000 in Cardiff City Stadium for the visit of Bosnia back in October and not far short of that present for the visit of Cyprus a few days later, a capacity crowd, especially after the win in Israel which made the dream of a first participation in the finals of a major tournament seem closer to being realised than ever, was always on the cards for the visit of the group favourites, but the speed at which the tickets went was very impressive.
All of this, as well as the capacity crowds seen at the Millennium Stadium when the national football team played there, proves that there is the potential to attract crowds of 33,000 to football matches in South East Wales.
Therefore, on one hand, Cardiff City’s decision to plough ahead with raising the capacity of their ground to that level is justified and I can understand Vincent Tan thinking that there’s no reason to believe that a club that can fill a 27,000 capacity stadium while winning the Championship shouldn’t be able to do the same when there’s room for another 6,000 for Premier League games.
However there is another side to the story – we have only had one league game in the last half a century when the attendance reached the current capacity of Cardiff City Stadium.
I strongly believe this should have been a consideration when the decision was taken to proceed with the ground extension at a time when there was, presumably, no formal evidence to justify it in terms of demand for tickets for City matches.
Vincent Tan couldn’t be expected to have much knowledge of crowd levels at the club over the last half a century, but you would like to think there were those at the club who did and you would have hoped they would have been arguing for a continuation of the original plan to see what things looked like if and when a second season in the Premier League had been secured – I can’t help thinking that those who say Vincent Tan has been badly advised at Cardiff may have a point.
Unfortunately, the relative boom period the national team is enjoying only serves to accentuate the problems the side representing the nation’s capital are facing. While Wales tickets sell out in less than a week, two months of “early bird” season ticket sales at reduced prices ended on Tuesday with a, reportedly, very poor take up.
All the indications are that attendances are going to be well down next season. In contrast to last year when the early bird sales took place while there was still the chance of another year in the top flight, this time around, promotion was never a realistic option, whereas a second consecutive relegation was a possibility, albeit a remote one, for at least a portion of the two months of reduced prices.
It’s been pretty obvious that a lot of this year’s season ticket holders have just not been turning up to games – it’s as if they gambled on us staying up when they bought their tickets and have only been making the occasional visits to matches because we didn’t.
Therefore, the poor season ticket sales must solely be down to the “glory hunters” deserting the club? Well, I’m not so sure about that – Lindsay Davies*, a City supporter for fifty nine years, contacted the Trust a couple of days ago to say he would not be renewing his season ticket. Among Lindsay’s comments were;-
“And now they’re ‘closing’ that lovely (if red-seated) new Stand – God, it’s
all so shabby and low-grade”
“Incidentally, I’ve just turned 67 – fifty-nine years of barely reciprocated
love and support!
But, all part of Life – until now.
Now, I can hardly bear even to read about them.”
I know of some other long term fans who feel much like Lindsay does and I can’t help thinking that there are many others who also know other “veterans” who have had enough. It would appear that even what are known as diehards are deserting as well, people who love Cardiff City, who stayed with the club through the bad times and I daresay didn’t even contemplate not attending games until fairly recently, are joining the glory hunters in saying “no more”.
The Ninian stand extension will be a folly in all meanings of the word next season – a pointless structure that lacks the charm of some of the local competition and a reminder of the spend, spend, spend thinking which has blighted so much of the last fifteen years at Cardiff City.
There are those who argue that the current vogue for cost cutting at the club is a sign that it is on the road to recovery and, while it is difficult to see a way that debt levels could disappear entirely if the current policies went on indefinitely, I can certainly understand any decision our owner has taken on reducing his level of investment. However, if there really are a lot more out there with the same attitude as Lindsay Davies, it’s going to take an awful lot more than a round of cost cutting, no matter how severe it may be, to get us out of the downward spiral we are in.
*Lindsay has given his permission to use his comments.
by The other Bob Wilson with 5 comments
I’ve been trying to think of better away results in competitive matches for Wales than last night’s 3-0 win in Haifa over Israel and I must admit I’m struggling to come up with many.
In the past, good Welsh qualifying campaigns have been founded on home performances – giants of European football such Spain, Germany and Italy have all come a cropper in this country and, going back a bit further, I can remember the Polish team which went on to finish third in the 1974 World Cup being beaten 2-0 in Cardiff and the 1976 European Champions Czechoslovakia being hammered 3-0 in Wrexham.
However, even in those qualifying groups when we almost made it to the Finals, it’s tended to be worthy away draws to back up some of those excellent home victories that have helped take us close – away wins of any type, let alone against higher ranked teams, have been thin on the ground.
Thinking back, there was a marvellous 5-2 win in Slovakia in a meaningless qualifier for Euro 2008, a good 2-1 victory over Scotland in 2013 and our closest miss in recent years (Euro 2004) was founded on a 2-0 win in Helsinki over one of the better Finland sides, but I’d say you’d have to go back thirty years to come up with a game that may rival last night’s.
In early 1985, a superb Ian Rush goal earned Wales what was thought to be very important away win. Once again, the victims were Scotland and what made this match different from the others I mentioned, with the possible exception of the Finland match, was that it involved two teams with realistic hopes of making it through the qualifying phase.
Of course, in the return match on the night Jock Stein passed away, another dodgy penalty for the Scots ensured that the 1986 World Cup became yet another tournament that was not graced by a Welsh team, but, after last night, you have to start thinking that there might, just might, be a different outcome this time.
It’s hard to put into words as to why, but I was always pretty optimistic about the outcome of the game. Pre match reports about the relaxed attitude of the squad and management was encouraging and then the was the matter of the national anthem.
Now, I’ve got admit to being a complete hypocrite here, because, speaking as someone who sometimes bridles at things like the increasingly nationalistic coverage by the BBC in major sporting events like the Olympics and the importance given to medal tables, my attitude changes completely when Wales, and not the united Kingdom, are involved!
For example, Welsh gold medals in the Commonwealth Games are celebrated far more than British one’s are in the Olympics and, my occasional moans at the playing of National Anthems at sporting events change to that feeling where the hairs on the back of your neck stand up if it happens to be the Welsh anthem that is being played.
Therefore, I took the fact that, for the first time in ages as far as I’m aware, all eleven members of the team were singing the anthem as a positive sign and also, with no sleight meant to Ashley Williams and Hal Robson-Kanu, I must admit that it was good to see nine Welsh born players in the starting line up.
I must add here mind, that the feeling of optimism I’ve talked about only really extended to a belief that we could get a draw, which would maintain our solid, but not really inspiring, start to the qualifying campaign, it never stretched to thoughts that we might get a win with style which must surely have left followers of one of our main rivals feeling pretty devastated.
The opening minutes saw Wales showing that the pre match confidence was not just an act as they looked to take the game to their opponents, while this was happening though, I was waiting for the inevitable Israeli response.
While Israel are, historically, hardly a footballing powerhouse, their first three games strongly suggested that this was one of their most powerful teams. Having started with a win in Cyprus (no mean feat at all) and then coped with Andorra’s awful artificial pitch far better than we did, a 3-0 win over the Bosnia side we were pretty happy to draw with in Cardiff was a surely a sign that we were in for an examination almost as hard as the one we had faced in Belgium.
I waited and waited, but there was no stepping up of pace or pressure from Israel – to be fair, they will point to the fact that they had to play more than a third of the match with ten men and to the injury that forced their top scorer Omer Damari off just before half time, but the truth is that the writing was well and truly on the wall for them before then.
That was the real surprise about last night’s events for me – although I wasn’t expecting a win, I could envisage that we may get one, but it never ever occurred to me that we would do so with such comfort.
3-0 really didn’t flatter Wales – there were more goals there for them if they had needed them and I believe that last night offered evidence that if our “big three” are all fit and firing we can give any team in this tournament a serious test.
The identity of two of that big three I talked about will come as a surprise to no one, but maybe the inclusion of Joe Allen will do. However, Joe Allen playing as well as he has been doing in recent weeks for Liverpool is a good quality Premier League player and that’s what he looked yesterday as he tidied up defensively and kept things ticking over in midfield – I thought he was our best player overall.
Aaron Ramsey showed some classy touches (his goal was another example of what a good all round footballer he is – heading wouldn’t be seen as a forte of his, but it was a lovely finish that couldn’t have been bettered by a Toshack or a Rush).
It was Gareth Bale who the Israelis really struggled to cope with though – he made Eylan Tibi’s life a misery and it was almost a merciful release for the defender when he was shown a red card by the very good Serbian ref Milorad Masic for a second cautionable offence against the world’s most expensive player.
Rather than jeering him, Real Madrid fans (who make City fans look like amateurs when it comes to being fickle!) should maybe be demanding to know why he takes so few free kicks from outside the area for them. Yesterday’s effort was from a position that the pros regard as being difficult to score from because there is so little room to get the ball up over the wall and down under the crossbar, but Bale managed it comfortably – perhaps he should start giving lessons to Cristiano Ronaldo who is going through a Whittingham like drought when it comes to scoring from free kicks!
Ramsey and Bale combined well for the third goal, but, especially in the latter’s case, you feel there is more to come from them in this qualifying phase. There was some evidence that Bale’s confidence has been affected to some extent by the stick he has being received from “fans” of his club, but this still didn’t stop him from being the most dangerous attacking player on the pitch by a distance.
It would be wrong to think that Wales were so good solely because of their “big three” mind. With just two goals conceded in five matches, Wayne Hennessey, Williams and co are, obviously, doing their jobs very well and Robson-Kanu has ensured that Sam Vokes (who made his first Welsh appearance in a year when he came on, and almost scored, for the last twenty minutes last nigh) was not missed as much as he could have been, while there is a maturity to Joe Ledley’s play these days which I believe has come through playing regular Premier League football.
It would be wrong not to mention Chris Coleman as well – in one way, he is a lucky man to be in charge of this group of players, but I liked his more attacking approach last night and, for me, he’s got our tactics spot on in our last two games.
Wales now top the group with eleven points, but with Israel taking on Belgium in Jerusalem on Tuesday in what will be real indicator of how much this loss has affected the home team, only a draw in that match will keep us in that position. The Belgian’s 5-0 home win over Cyprus and Bosnia’s 3-0 win in Andorra following our game means that the two favourites to qualify automatically originally are still in the hunt with the first named still the favourites to finish up winners in my book.
However, Wales now have a great chance of getting through automatically as well – with half of the matches played, it’s all in their hands. For the first time, I can see a chance of a win against Belgium in our next match, but I’d still make it the least likely of the three outcomes, Cyprus away will be awkward and I won’t be taking a win for granted, but, the nature of their defeat yesterday will make it tough for Israel when they come here. Bosnia away will be a stern test and I’d take a point now if it was offered, while Andorra at home is as close as you’ll get a guaranteed three points in this tournament.
Even taking a pessimistic outlook, I can see us getting seven points from those games which would put us on eighteen points and leave Bosnia (who have to go to Belgium) and Israel (who travel to Bosnia, Belgium and Wales in their final six matches) needing to play very well to overhaul us.
* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/by The other Bob Wilson with no comments yet