Enjoying any real success in the FA Cup had certainly been a long time coming for Cardiff City, prior to reaching the final in 2008. The last time the club had achieved any level of success in the competition was back in the mid to late 1920s, in the midst of eight top-flight seasons.
After losing out by a single Sheffield United goal in 1925, the famous trophy was hoisted aloft by the Bluebirds at the original Wembley Stadium in the 1927 final, after a single goal by Hughie Ferguson was enough to beat Arsenal. The popular Scotsman also scored the equaliser when his team went on to beat Corinthians 2-1 in the FA Charity Shield just a few months later.
This season a push for promotion from the Championship is perhaps the key priority, and whether it is seen as a distraction or an opportunity by the fans, FA Cup betting for Cardiff has them rated as 100/1 outsiders to go one step further than in 2008 and lift ‘ol big ears’ for the second time.
After the success of the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression of the 1930s saw the decline of Cardiff as over the ensuing decades they bounced around the second-tier and even as low as the third and fourth-tier by the back end of the century. Winning the Welsh Cup and embarking on European adventures became a regular occurrence, but the FA Cup rarely provided any hopes beyond the occasional 5th round appearance.
The new millennium brought foreign ownership in the shape of Sam Hammam and although that came with controversy and heavy investment which lead to spiralling debts, on the pitch the club was on the rise again. The arrival of Peter Ridsdale, legal battles with the former owner and efforts to get plans for a new stadium beyond the drawing board all followed. However, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, so did the first major Final in over eighty years.
Despite finances being tight for squad improvements, Cardiff had made several high-profile signings at the start of the 2007-08 campaign including veteran strikers Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Robbie Fowler, so when the team was hovering around the relegation zone early in the season, manager Dave Jones faced the dreaded vote of confidence from the board by November.
However, December brought a good spell of results and Cardiff began to steadily rise up the table and in January, they faced non-league Chasetown in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. When Kevin McNaughton turned the ball into the back of his own net, fans wondered whether it was going to be another disappointing year in the cup, but goals from Peter Whittingham, breakthrough talent Aaron Ramsey and Paul Parry secured a 3-1 win.
Hereford United were dispatched with a 2-1 away win in the fourth round, then Cardiff comfortably pushed aside the challenge of Wolves with a 2-0 victory in the 5th round, earning a place amongst the last eight and the quarter-finals, where they would face then Premier League opponents Middlesbrough. At the Riverside Whittingham got the Bluebirds off to a flying start before his free-kick supplied Roger Johnson with the second.
Cardiff overcame mixed league form and were climbing towards a push to finish amongst the promotion play-off positions. Meanwhile, fans headed to Wembley for the semi-final against Barnsley and a Joe Ledley volley was enough to decide the game. Cardiff were in the final and fans were planning another trip to the iconic stadium, dreaming of what might turn out to be a very special season.
The push for promotion ultimately ran out of steam, but there was still the chance of a glorious end to the season. A lively start to the final against Portsmouth filled Cardiff fans with plenty of hope, but when Nwankwo Kanu edged the favourites into the lead in the 37th minute it began to look a tall order. Cardiff continued to battle and a Glenn Loovens equaliser was ruled out when the referee spotted a handball by the Dutchman before his finish.
Cardiff continued to pressure Portsmouth, but just couldn’t find the goal they needed. Dave Jones shuffled his pack, but neither the efforts of a 17-year-old Ramsey nor Steve Thompson could get the elusive goal, with Loovens also heading just over late in the game. The risks were taken, but ultimately the reward didn’t come.
A decade later and for many, those trips to Wembley still remain fresh in the mind. Even though the Championship and a push for promotion to the Premier League will always be the primary objective this season, another good run in the FA Cup will always be welcome.