Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 19:29 UK

Steam trains, salt baths for Cup

By Steve Duffy
BBC News

Cardiff City players in 1927 took salt water baths during their pre-match break

Salt baths for the team by the seaside, and a military operation to get 20,000 fans on trains to Wembley.

So how did Cardiff City and their fans prepare for their big day out back in April 1927?

Tickets cost five shillings and 10 shillings (equivalent to 10 or 20 in today's money), but some things in football don't change.

There were claims of profiteering in the run-up to the Final, although FA secretary FJ Wall said he "could not imagine for a moment" that theatrical and other ticket agencies, who had bought large blocks of tickets, were selling for more than their usual commission.

"Wanted" adverts were carried in the newspapers for supporters looking for a ticket. Fans would still go to great lengths and one supporter outside the ground was willing to pay 20 for entry to Wembley.

The team took itself off to the Lancashire coastal town of Southport on the Tuesday before the final. Staying at the Palace Hotel in the resort they kept training to a minimum after a busy Easter programme, indulging in relaxation, massage, games of bowls and plenty of salt baths.

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As their opponents Arsenal trained on their own pitch, the Cardiff players were reported to be "enjoying a peaceful holiday and living the lives of gentlemen." On the Friday they travelled to their pre-match hotel, the Kings Head at Harrow-on-the-Hill.

Travelling with them all this time was Trixie, City's lucky black cat mascot, who was wearing a blue and white ribbon, and "enjoying herself as any other member of the party".

Win or lose, the team would be treated to a dinner at their Bloomsbury hotel and then a trip to Windsor, Eton and Hampton Court Palace on the Sunday. A parade had been organised on Monday, with the decorations left up in Cathays Park from the King and Queen's visit days before to open the new National Museum.

Great Western Railways put on 50 special trains for 20,000 supporters, half from Cardiff, others from other parts of south Wales. But there were excursions which started from as far afield as Birmingham, Birkenhead and Penzance.

"Elaborate arrangements" were made by Metropolitan Railways in London to deal with the influx of Welsh fans, with a service every two minutes from Baker Street to Wembley Park from 11am to deal with 30,000 fans an hour.

Fans started travelling on the Friday evening, with a steady stream of steam trains leaving Cardiff from 1.40am on the Saturday. The rail company had appealed for fans to buy their 14 shilling colour-coded tickets in advance and only to turn up at the station 15 minutes before their scheduled service.

Cardiff v Arsenal in 1927
Action from the 1927 Final, which Cardiff won 1-0

The South Wales Echo reported that the "Welsh tongue was heard in all areas but a remarkable feature was the number of women who had accompanied their husbands and sweethearts. Many mothers carried babies and confessed they had brought them to see the Cup tie."

Fans played cards, took part in community singing and "other diversions" during the three hour journey. They also left hundreds of cases of beer in a makeshift brewery in the cloakroom at Paddington for the return trip.

'Good humour'

A sweet manufacturer had ordered a hundred gross of two penny bars because "Cup tie crowds are great chocolate eaters."

A year after the General Strike and cuts in the coalfield, one story illustrated how the Final had lifted the gloom a little during hard times. A six-year-old miner's daughter, who had been sent to relatives in London because her father had been unable to look after her, was reunited on the platform. Her father had been able to take advantage of the cheap excursion ticket to London to see his little girl for the first time in five months.

Some fans on organised trips got on coaches to be taken to breakfast, while others congregated outside St Paul's Cathedral, singing Land Of My Fathers.

There was also a special ceremony, attended by hundreds of supporters at the Cenotaph, with a tribute to the Great War dead from the club laid in the presence of Welsh veterans.

The day-out brought plenty of colour. Many fans wore leeks in their lapels or carried them in bouquets; one lady "of ample proportions" was dressed in Welsh national costume. Hawkers sold souvenirs outside Wembley, while 370 police and 425 stewards were on duty to see order when the gates opened at 11.30am.

One group refused to go in after their leader lost his ticket - but "good humour stretched a point" and the stewards allowed him in.

The only trouble came 25 minutes after kick off when 400 people rushed a gate, but they were quickly ejected. The whole day - and night - saw only 10 arrests in London, all for drunken misbehaviour. One woman, a domestic servant, was kept in a cell for her own safety.

Back home, there were celebrations too. You could follow the final for the first time with a running commentary on the radio, using a complicated grid system for the pitch. Or read all about it in the late editions.

And a few years before John Motson, it had been arranged for the film of the final to be flown back to Cardiff to be shown at the Capitol that evening. Buster Keaton and Ivor Novello were for another night.

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