Cardiff City do not have many celebrity supporters and we have one less now following the death last week of poet Dannie Abse at the age of 91 – many City fans will be aware of this poem, published in 1959;-
Follow the crowds to where the turnstiles click.
The terraces fill. Hoompa, blares the brassy band.
Saturday afternoon has come to Ninian Park
and, beyond the goalposts, in the Canton Stand
between black spaces, a hundred matches spark.
Waiting, we recall records, legendary scores:
Fred Keenor, Hardy, in a royal blue shirt.
The very names, sad as the old songs, open doors
before our time where someone else was hurt.
Now like an injured beast, the great crowd roars.
The coin is spun. Here all is simplified
and we are partisan who cheer the Good,
hiss at passing Evil. Was Lucifer offside?
A wing falls down when cherubs howl for blood.
Demons have agents: the Referee is bribed.
The white ball smacked the crossbar. Satan rose
higher than the others in the smoked brown gloom
to sink on grass in a ballet dancer’s pose.
Again, it seems, we hear a familiar tune
not quite identifiable. A distant whistle blows.
Memory of faded games, the discarded years;
talk of Aston Villa, Orient and the Swans.
Half-time, the band played the same military airs
as when The Bluebirds once were champions.
Round touchlines the same cripples in their chairs.
Mephistopheles had his joke. The honest team
dribbles ineffectually, no one can be blamed.
Infernal backs tackle, inside forwards scheme,
and if they foul us need we be ashamed?
Heads up! Oh for a Ted Drake, a Dixie Dean.
‘Saved’ or else, discontents, we are transferred
long decades back, like Faust must pay the fee.
The Night is early. Great phantoms in us stir
as coloured jerseys hover, move diagonally
on the damp turf, and our eidetic visions blur.
God sign our souls! Because the obscure Staff of
Hell rule this world, jugular fans have guessed
the result half way through the second half
and those who know the score just seem depressed.
Small boys swarm the field for an autograph.
Silent the Stadium. The crowds have all filed out.
Only the pigeons beneath the roofs remain.
The clean programmes are trampled underfoot
and natural the dark, appropriate the rain
Whilst, under lampposts, threatening newsboys shout.
I never met Dannie, so I’ll leave it to someone who did to deliver a, fitting, tribute – here is regular correspondent Dai Woosnam’s take on the man he calls “the finest writer to ever call himself a Cardiff City fan”;-
“Dannie Abse was a fine poet and a lovely man.
I recall meeting him one evening in Caerphilly Library circa 1989, where he had come to do a reading and a Q&A. Afterwards, he did not seem in a hurry to get home to Ogmore-by-Sea, and was happy to chat to anyone who was interested.
I had asked him two questions on literary matters in his official presentation, so now with most of the 20 strong audience exited into the night, we were able to talk Cardiff City.
And I was delighted that he had the same Cardiff hero that I had: Danny Malloy. I think (from my slightly hazy memory) that he said that only Alf Sherwood had a greater place in his affections.
A lovely man, so sorely missed.
Particularly sad that his last decade would be so terribly blighted by that tragic car accident which claimed his wife Joan on the M4 near Pyle in 2005: a crash which he survived. Ironically he was returning home to Ogmore-By-Sea from another similar poetry reading.
It was no consolation to him that he was deemed blameless, and the other driver involved got heavily fined for careless driving and banned for a year.
He was not a vindictive man.
Pity he should have gone with City at such a low ebb. I loved the man and his gentle way of speaking.”