There is a famous photograph of Charlie Adam’s goal for Blackpool in the play-off final against Cardiff that is almost a point of view shot, taken from behind him. You can see that the ball is heading in and I can see me in the crowd. My head is just above the crossbar in the shot and I had a great view of it. I also get to relive it over and over again whenever the picture does the rounds.
To me, it kind of sums up what following Cardiff often feels like. A regular boot in the swingers. Of course, I appreciate that, in the grand scheme of things, these are the good times. Compared to how shit Cardiff used to be, we’ve been spoilt in the last couple of decades. Four trips to Wembley is remarkable, but three defeats hurt to differing degrees. Blackpool was the worst though. Comfortably.
There is nothing quite like a play-off final. I was philosophical about the outcome of the two cup finals, but the Blackpool game was agony. I would have taken going a goal down rather than lose Jay Bothroyd so early on. To lead twice and still trail at half time felt like the writing on the wall.
I remember clearly at half time feeling like the game was already over, and I never feel resigned to defeat during a match. I can’t even remember the second half. I just reasoned that fate felt like it was against us, that a cobbled together Blackpool side were not going to let this opportunity slide.
They were also managed by Ian Holloway, who was in charge of the opposition when Cardiff had defeated QPR to get in to the second tier. He was so noble in defeat that day, applauding Cardiff as they lifted the trophy, that I didn’t even begrudge him his revenge.
It was just a massive opportunity missed. The chance to see Cardiff in the Premier League with Bothroyd and Michael Chopra up front, Peter Whittingham at the peak of his powers and Joe Ledley. Dave Jones with a few bob to spend. A sliding doors moment, as it almost always is for the losers in the single most lucrative football match to be found.
Over the years, I’ve spoken to a few of those involved that day in various pieces for View From the Ninian. Chopra, who was always a big game player and phenomenal on the day, admitted that he still thinks about the game on an almost daily basis. Bothroyd still has to justify the extent of the injury that forced him to withdraw. I quizzed Jones on his decision to bring on Kelvin Ethuhu over Ross McCormack.
It is a game that still lives with you. It made supporters more susceptible to a rebrand and even more desperate to taste life in the top tier. It was the crest of a wave for Blackpool, who are now in League One after a lengthy battle with strange owners. Now they haven’t got a pot to piss in and Gary Madine.
It was probably the making of Cardiff in some respects, with Vincent Tan an interested onlooker in the stands that day. They have been competitive ever since and that is both no mean feat and something worth celebrating. If someone could just airbrush me out of that photo, I would be ever so grateful.