The worst thrashing I’ve seen us take.

Although we conceded seven in losing to Cambridge United in 1994, the biggest thrashing I have ever seen us take has to be the 6-1 defeat at Ninian Park against Sheffield United on 3 December 1977 – I can clearly remember being completely stunned by the result mainly because there was nothing beforehand to indicate that anything like it was going to happen.

The 1977/78 season was an odd one even by Cardiff City standards. As usual, we were skint and, as was normal at that time, we ended up struggling against relegation from the old Second Division, but it was the very strict interpretation of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act by the local Council which created most of the early season headlines. In April 1976 35,000 had packed into Ninian Park to watch us beat Hereford United and the following month 30,000 had watched the infamous Wales v Yugoslavia European Championship Quarter Final. The capacity of Ninian Park was quoted as 46,000 in Rothmans Football Yearbook for 1876/77, but, fifteen months or so after those two 30,000 plus crowds, City were told that the capacity for the ground had to be cut to 10,000 with the fire trap that was the very atmospheric old Grange End closed down (it was eventually demolished and replaced by the uncovered concrete terrace that stayed in place until a roof was added for the 2001/02 season) and, last but by no means least, the floodlights could not be used during games.

This led to all sorts of weird and wonderful kick off times on a Saturday afternoon (from memory, half past one was the earliest one) and I can also recall rushing from work at five o’clock to get to an early season League Cup match with Torquay which kicked off half an hour later. Hardly surprisingly, gates suffered – there were just 1,711 there for that Torquay game, less than 9,000 turned up for the very attractive game with Spurs early in early September and generally they fell within the six to eight thousand range that season.

However, the strange circumstances and, relative lack of atmosphere seemed to have more of an effect on visiting sides than it did on the City – if you were someone who only went to home matches at that time, you must have been baffled as to why a team which a record of won four and drawn two at Ninian Park against that year’s top six were down in the bottom four for virtually all of the season.

So it was, that City went into that match with Sheffield United surely confident that they could add to an impressive home record which had seen them beaten just the once at Ninian Park (by 4-1 against Luton – when we did lose at home that year, we certainly lost big!) in eleven matches in all competitions so far that season. After all, although they had recovered from an awful start by losing just one of their last ten matches, Sheffield United still hadn’t won away in the league and City had won their last three at home – surely nothing could go wrong?

Well it soon did as, after a start which gave no hint of the carnage to come, the visitors discovered that a City defence which, that Luton defeat apart, had been very solid at home was having what could politely be described as an off day. Sadly there was no polite way to describe keeper Bill Irwin’s performance – he was having a mare! Once left back Cliff Calvert had put Sheffield ahead after City had failed to clear a routine cross, the goals came at regular intervals with Northern Ireland international striker Bobby Campbell and midfielder Tony Kenworthy scoring to send them in 3-0 up at the break.

Often when a team has a big lead at half time, the second half sees them ease off content that their job is done, but, with City looking so jittery, a Sheffield United team which, judging by it’s record that season, was a pretty ordinary one, didn’t have to do too much to get the chance to add more goals as one of the few remaining links with the far better Blades team which had denied us promotion in 1970/71 began to take control. Alan Woodward was a stylish right sided player who made over 500 appearances for Sheffield United in a fifteen year career with them and those old enough to remember him will surely recall his tremendous long range shooting from free kicks and open play which, for me, rivalled that of Peter Lorimer of Leeds. Woodward, aided a little by the hapless Irwin, scored a typical goal that afternoon to put Sheffield United 5-0 up and the crowd, many of whom by now had gone past the getting angry stage to one of taking the piss out of their team responded by applauding the grey haired veteran who must have come very close to getting an England cap a few years earlier.

City caved in twice more either side of Woodward’s goal to allow Chico Hamilton and Campbell again to take the score to 6-0 and I can remember watching from the corner of the Bob Bank and Grange End as I made my way out when John Buchanan scored to ironic cheers from the home support in the dying minutes. As I mentioned earlier, there was nothing to indicate that such a trouncing was coming – the City team were missing a few players who might have been in the starting eleven (e.g. Ron Healey and Tony Evans), but they were out with long term injuries and the team responded to this home humiliation by winning six and drawing two of their next eight league games at Ninian Park.

By now, you don’t need to be a genius to work out that we must have been pretty awful on our travels in 1977/78 and the week after the Sheffield United nightmare, City had to face league leaders and eventual Champions Bolton Wanderers at Burnden Park- with just two draws to show from their eight away games, it was fair to say team and supporters travelled north with a sense of trepidation and sure enough, although City competed well to score three themselves, they shipped another six goals in what turned out to be Robin Friday’s last game in professional football.

Although it didn’t happen immediately after us conceding twelve in two games, a decision by Jimmy Andrews to move centre half Paul Went up front and bring in Keith Pontin at the back, together with the recovery from injury of Ron Healey, helped shore things up a bit defensively. The trend of good results at home and shocking ones on our travels continued though and by the time they went into their final away match, City were still looking for their first win after losing fourteen of their twenty games on the road. However, a last minute goal by Tony Evans helped secure a priceless win which meant that one more victory from our final two matches would keep us up and when goals from Buchanan and Went enabled us to turn around a 1-0 half time deficit against Notts County, supporters were able to celebrate another late escape from the drop before seeing out the campaign with a notorious and somewhat dodgy (allegedly!) 1-0 defeat by Orient which kept the London team up at Blackpool’s expense – oh and guess who we beat in that last away game, yes, Sheffield United!

3 December 1977

Cardiff City 1 Sheffield United 6

City Irwin; Attley, Thomas, Went, Pethard; Giles, Campbell, Dwyer, Buchanan (1); Robson, Sayer sub. Bishop

Sheffield United Brown; Cutbush, Colquhoun, Flynn, Calvert (1); Woodward (1), Kenworthy (1), Hamson, Hamilton (1); Campbell (2), Stainrod

HT 0-3

Att. 6,409

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13 Responses to The worst thrashing I’ve seen us take.

  1. Rob marples says:

    I was a blades fan there that day and it’s still my biggest away win I seem to remember most of the goals were from close range but I also remember Woody cracking one onto bar which would have been the 7th We were shouting give em nowt give em nowt as you attacked us late on and when Buchanan scored either there was no time for kick off or we didn’t see it as a lot of Cardiff fans had gathered behind us and the police got us out sharpish On coach going back up motorway we still weren’t sure if the ref blew before goal and if we won 6-0 or 6-1 until the football results came on and as soon as it said Cardiff City 1 we all shouted bastard In the return fixture your late goal also I think by Buchanan who I rated caused a riot and match was abandoned a few mins from the end but the 1-0 result stood The next season at Ninian Park you won 4-0 and Buchanan got a hat trick Sweet revenge and I’m pleased I gave that one a miss

  2. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Nice to hear from you Rob. There weren’t too many times when I went to a Cardiff game in the late 70s confident of a win, but it did happen a few times that season and that game was one I couldn’t see us losing, but we did!
    John Buchanan’s long range shooting was in the Alan Woodward class and I can remember his hat trick in the 4-0 game as if it happened yesterday – a penalty and two shots from distance, one with typical power and the other an unusual one from him in that it was a placed curler into the top corner. We were on a great run going into that match and you were on your way to what was a very surprising relegation for me – I seem to remember you’d spent a fair bit of money in the summer of 1978 bringing in Alex Sabella (a lovely player who looked a class act even in a well beaten side that day) and former Cardiff loanee Steve Finnieston among others (I thought you were going to be promotion challengers that season).

  3. Rob Marples says:

    Hi Bob yes Sabella was a nice player but with little end product and few goals Finnieston was a decent forward but unfortunately was often injured and so had little impact and sadly had to retire in his mid 20’s Hopes were high at the start of the season but the expensive at that time gamble failed and by the end we were playing a lot of youngsters After you hammered us we lost 6-2 at Sunderland a few days later and we never got out of the bottom 3 after that The game that sealed our fate was when we lost to 10 man already relegated Blackburn at home I remember their goal scorer Paul Round saying welcome to division 3 So we went down to the 3rd for the 1st time in our history It took 6 years to get back and we went via the scenic route of division 4 The Bluebirds (I’m glad you back in the blue shirts) and the Blades have shared in some high scoring games 5-3,4-3,3-3 but the game I will never forget was 27th April 1971 a Tuesday night promotion decider We were 2 up then just before half time Steve Derrett’s deflected shot went in The game could have slipped away from us as Cardiff showed why they were just behind us in 3rd position until we won a corner and Tony Currie fisted in our 3rd after that we took control and won 5-1 We beat Watford in our final game to go up to the top flight with champions Leicester and you just missed out I remember the following season Cardiff beat us 3-1 in the FA Cup 3rd rd at Bramall Lane and though disappointed I didnt begrudge you that thinking we won the one that mattered Good luck at Hillsboro tomoz against the Wendy’s hope Eoin Doyle adds to his impressive goals tally I was hoping he’d sign for us as we’ve lacked a goal scorer since Ched Evans was taken from us just 3 games from the end of the 2011-2012 season allowing our neighbours to pip us at the post and Doyle would have given us a better chance of getting out of this league

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    I was 15 when you beat us 5-1 Rob and one of my main memories of that game now was how different it was back then to how it is now in terms of finding out how your team was doing. Matches were not even covered on local radio back then and when we played at Middlesbrough a fortnight earlier, there was a number given out by the club you could ring to get the half time and final scores – we didn’t have a phone in those days and I made a real nuisance of myself as I was knocking on my neighbours front door every five minutes to get the final score – it must have been gone ten before he finally got through and found out that we had drawn 1-1. With the stakes so high for the Sheffield United match, I wasn’t going to be kept waiting like that again and this time I ended playing five a side football for a couple of hours while the match was being played solely because someone who was playing had said they had a relative who worked for a paper who could give him regular updates by phone. It worked well for a while, we heard we were 2-0 down, then we’d got it back to 2-1 and then nothing – the line was just engaged all of the time. With my neighbour having gone out (he’d probably decided he didn’t want another night like the one he’d had a fortnight earlier!), I finally got to hear the result on the local TV news after News at Ten had finished – it must have been about 10.40.
    That FA Cup win is most memorable for me because it featured goals by both Don Murray and Dave Carver – such an occurence was rarer than an appearance by Haley’s Comet!
    I bet John Brayford is really grateful to be back with you – it’s not saying much, but he has probably been City’s most consistent performer this season. As for Eoin Doyle, one or two people who have seen a lot more of Chesterfield than me have expressed doubts as to whether he will be able to cut it in the Championship, but with all of those goals and a price of under £1 million, I think his signing is a gamble worth taking.
    I can see you winning at Gillingham today, as for us, I’ve no faith in this manager or group of players and can see us losing by the odd goal – Wednesday don’t score many at home, so I’ll go for 1-0.

  5. Rob marples says:

    I was 16 at that time and when we were away and I didn’t go,to find out how the team was doing I went to the reserve match at the Lane where someone would manually update the score every 15 mins by hanging metal plates on the appropriate hooks I often wondered what would they would do if we got double figures as there were only 2 hooks But as the only time I’ve seen us score that many was a 14-1 win at Baslow in a pre season kick about that was never going to happen I can still feel the excitement/apprehension as the man went to change the score and we all wondered which hook it would go on ours or theirs As for today I think the only way we will get out of league 1 is when a new Sponsor takes over and changes it’s name and as much as I’m a fan of Brayford I wouldn’t have spent all that money on a full back as forwards get you promoted not defenders I agree with you about the strange appointment of Russell Slade as manager Personally I think Malcy Mackay got a raw deal from that ridiculous Tan

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Yes, I miss those old metal plates Rob, they gave you a reason to buy a match programme!
    Fair point about Brayford and I agree that forwards get you promoted (particularly in Leagues One and Two).
    In the summer of 2013 after we had won the Championship, I rated Malky Mackay as the best Cardiff manager I’d seen. He’s had a lot of bad publicity since then, seems unable to turn Wigan around and he did make some dodgy buys with the fortune (by our standards at least) he was given to spend. We were also in a relegation scrap when he got sacked, but, even with all of that, I still regard him very highly compared to most others I’ve seen in charge at the club – we were a team who were all pulling in the same direction under Malky and I’ve seen very little sign of that since he left.

  7. Rob marples says:

    Hi Bob it’s been a good few days for the Blades with the 4 goals against Colchester then the St Valentine’s Day Massacre of leaders Bristol yet the only significant change to the team that played in the debacle at Gillingham was the introduction of new striker Matt Done who scored 3 of the 7 goals and had another harshly disallowed What a difference to have a proper goalscorer that has pace works the defence holds the ball up and can finish who expects rather than hopes to score and whose presence has a knock on effect to the whole team when they know that all the hard work they put in to create chances is likely to be rewarded rather than end in frustration How you could do with a Rob Earnshaw or a Brian Clarke I’ve not seen an away match for a while but ive already got my tkt for Rochdale and will go down to Crawley if my loyalty points are enough to get me a tkt These are the only 2 grounds in league 1 that I’ve not yet visited and although I may never get to join the 92 club Id like to get as close as I can though ive got a lot of places to visit again as they now play in at new grounds including the Cardiff City Stadium

  8. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning Rob, if we lose tonight (we’re home to Blackburn), then I’ll start thinking that the only way you’ll get to see your team play at Cardiff City Stadium next season is if you don’t go up (I’d say you have as good a chance as any one in the Play Offs). We are in a terrible run of results which our manager is trying to tell us is a transition phase, but there is some end or purpose to a transition and there should be the occasional performance that offers hope for the future. Not at Cardiff there isn’t, in fact I’d say performances have been even worse than results, our points tally flatters us. I’ve said all along that this has the “feel” of a relegation season, but I thought we’d got sufficient points in the bag during the first three months of the season to ensure it wouldn’t become a serious issue, I don’t think that way any more -if and when this lot drop into the bottom three, they won’t have the character to fight their way out of it.

  9. Rob marples says:

    Hi Bob its been a while since we spoke Cardiff are having a better season with a chance of making the play offs Wished I could say something similar about us but we are piss poor at the moment

  10. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Good to hear from you again Rob – must admit I thought your lot would be much nearer the top of the league than you are, but I wouldn’t rule the Play Offs out quite yet. How’s Brayford doing and also, we were linked with Che Adams in the summer, but the consensus seemed to be that he was out of our price range – I saw him play, and score, for your Development team down here early in the season (you stuffed us 4-0!) and was impressed by him.

  11. Rob marples says:

    Brayford has not been quite the same since his injury and is a better wing back than full back but still one of our better players Che Adams has power pace and can finish but his first touch needs to improve you’d be buying potential mabe a risk worth taking but don’t pay too much for him With the players we have the play offs should have been the least of our expectations but home form has let us down badly Main reasons we’ve under performed is lack of creativity in the middle and lack of pace in defence and a lot of players are out of contract and know they won’t be here next season and can’t be arsed Sorry for the manager he comes across as a decent bloke and I’d like him to do well for us but our lot need more of a Warnock type to give em a kick up arse The owners McCabe and Co recon to have put 8 million in this season but I’m sure they could have got us to mid table league 1 for much less

  12. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Unless we sell a player like Marshall this summer, I wouldn’t see us having the finances to buy someone like Adams in the coming months Rob even if we were still interested in him. Yes, if you finish up in your current position then, from this distance, it would seem that you have wasted much of that £8 million. Didn’t you have a good run in the Youth Cup a few years back – from memory, Maguire and Long were in that side, but when a team does as well as they did, you’d like to think a few more of them would make it into the seniors.

  13. Rob marples says:

    Blades Academy has produced a lot of good players including Harry Mguire who I watched make his debut in a 2-0 loss to a good Cardiff side including Craig Bellamy and Jay Bothroyd We had a few academy and ex acadamy on pitch today Sharp,Long,Reed,Calvert-Lewin,Whiteman and we played well tho it always helps when you go 2 up early in game and its never too late to win 3-0 even when it is A good win for you today against Ipwich after i read you were a bit unlucky midweek to lose to Leeds Che Adams not impressive as he jumped into opponent when challenging for headers without really looking at ball and he kept giving ball away as he didn’t lift his head when passing as I say he’s a work in progress

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