South Wales had a pretty heavy snowfall a few days after Christmas 1969 and a couple of postponements had meant that City were in danger of losing the momentum built up by five successive league wins which had seen them climb from ninth to fourth in the old Second Division table. There was a home local derby with Bristol City scheduled for 29 December, but there was little expectation that the game would take place – indeed, I can remember having a pretty farcical kick about on the afternoon of the game with a mate on a rock hard, snowy pitch where, even at that age where you are usually never willing to admit such things, we earnestly conceded that there was no chance of the match going ahead.
What needs to be said here is that back in the late 60’s it was almost impossible to keep abreast of up to the minute news about Cardiff City or pretty much anything else really! The advent of the widespread availability of the Internet was nearly a quarter of a century away and with only BBC 1, 2 and HTV to watch on the telly, the days of dedicated sports channels were even further away. Thinking back, we didn’t even have a phone in those days, so, apart from that morning’s Echo, there was no way of knowing what was happening with regard to that’s night’s match.
Night matches used to kick off at 7.30 in those days and I can remember that I was not giving the game much thought when my friend knocked at our door with about twenty minutes to go to kick off to say that his father had been told that the match was still on. My parents were sceptical about this, but I kept on at them and it was clear my persistence was wearing them down until my mum said that I couldn’t go anyway because it was too late to get a bus that would get us there for the start of the game – she was right, but my mate immediately said “that’s okay, my uncle Derek has said he’ll give us a lift to the ground in his car”. With that, my parents gave up their protests and we sped around to his house where I soon discovered that his uncle owned a Mini (I’ve had virtually no interest in cars all of my life, but even I knew that a Mini was a pretty cool car to own in those days).
Uncle Derek was hardly like my uncles either – he was about ten years older than me and dressed very fashionably, but, apart from that, I didn’t pay much attention to him until my friend then introduced him more formally and said that I probably knew him as Blue Weaver. Now, perhaps my use of “rock superstar” in the title piece is ever so slightly over the top, but Blue Weaver is still well enough known to merit his own page on Wikipedia and, less than a year earlier the local band he belonged to, Amen Corner, were at number one in the charts with their single “(If Paradise) is Half as Nice”, so he was quite a celebrity back then and I certainly knew about him.
To be honest though, although I liked the idea of a Cardiff band doing so well, I wasn’t much of a fan of Amen Corner – singer Andy Fairweather Low’s voice was always something of an acquired taste for me. This might have been one of the reasons why there was hardly any music talk during the journey. As I remember it, most of the talk was about football and in particular, Cardiff City where Uncle Derek revealed himself to be fairly typical of so many locals at that time (it’s just as true today actually) in that he was interested in how we were doing, but once you scratched below the surface a bit, it was pretty clear that his knowledge of the players and team was pretty sketchy.
Anyway, whatever I thought of Uncle Derek’s music and his football knowledge, I was very grateful to him for getting us to the game on time and it was soon clear that there had been a bit of a thaw, which had probably saved the game, because although still snow covered for the most part, there were spots of green and brown everywhere where the combination of grass and mud (mostly mud!) which the pitch consisted of in those days was peeping through. Truth be told, even with City’s fine form, I don’t think I would have been as keen to make this game if it hadn’t represented my first chance to see a professional match played on a real snowy pitch. The idea of football in the snow still appeals to me to this day and I think that this is because I soon discovered as a kid that snowy, or more accurately, hard, frosty conditions helped me become a better player because my low centre of gravity (or shortarsedness if you want to put it another way!) meant I was a more effective player than taller, more naturally talented, players, who were unable to keep their balance as well as I could.
With temperatures falling away quickly and the ground hardening, it should have been that the smaller, more nippy players would prosper, but, if they did, I can’t remember it. In fact all I can remember about the match itself now is the goal which decided the game. With the score 0-0 going into injury time, we, along with many of the frozen crowd, had made our way to the exit at the corner of the Bob Bank and Canton Stand to watch the last City attacks at that end of the ground before making a quick getaway for a nice, warm bus. All of a sudden a cross came in from someone (God know’s who) and John Toshack was there unmarked on the far post to head in from no more than five yards out.
So, in conditions, which I would guess made him resemble Bambi on ice most of the time, City’s most saleable asset had ensured that their winning run stretched to six matches and when they extended it further by beating promotion rivals Sheffield United 3-0 at Ninian Park in a game, ironically, played in monsoon conditions, we went to the top of the league. However, from then on, City gradually faded away as the goals dried up completely for Toshack who, after scoring three in the four league matches following the Bristol game, failed to net again after 31 January as the team finished tailed off in seventh position.
29 December 1969
Cardiff City 1 Bristol City 0
City Davies; Carver, Murray, Harris, Bell; King, Sutton, Woodruff, Bird; Clark, Toshack (1) sub (not used) Derrett
Gibson; Jacobs, Connor, Parr, Drysdale; Tainton, Skirton, Bush, Bartley; Garland, Sharpe