Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 14:45 UK
Fans bid farewell to Ninian Park
Cardiff City fans outside Ninian Park
Ninian Park will close its gates at the end of the season after 99 years

Writer and football fan Dennis Morgan says the memories of big games at Cardiff City's famous ground will live on long after the final whistle.

Farewell to Ninian Park is his book paying tribute to the stadium which closes one year short of its centenary.

The ageing ground is being replaced by a new 30,000-seater stadium shared with the Cardiff Blues rugby team.

Ipswich Town were the final visitors on April 25 as the Bluebirds failed to reach the Championship playoffs.

Ninian Park was built in 1910 by ambitious amateur club Riverside FC who turned professional and joined the Southern League as Cardiff City.


The ground was named after Lord Ninian Stuart of the Bute family who agreed to be a guarantor for the club - proving that the practice of naming stadia after sponsors is nothing new.

Reigning Football League champions Aston Villa were the first visitors in September 1910, but the newly christened club gave a good account of themselves in narrowly losing 2-1.

Scott Young scores for Cardiff v Leeds 2002
Scott Young scores the winner in City's FA Cup defeat of Leeds United in 2002

The former council rubbish dump on Sloper Road initially posed a hazard to players - in the early years they would be paid extra for turning up on the morning of a match to clear the pitch of broken glass and other objects.

Even so, there were still casualties, including Scottish international Peter McWilliam who gashed his leg on a piece of glass and never played again.

Dennis told Roy Noble, of BBC Radio Wales, he'd seen some wonderful games at Ninian Park, with victories over Real Madrid in the European Cup-Winners Cup and Tottenham Hotspur in the old First Division among his highlights.

Ninian Park has also been the scene of many memorable international matches, including a Welsh victory over Israel in 1958.

The result saw Wales qualify for their first - and so far only - World Cup finals.

The new Cardiff City stadium
The new Cardiff City stadium is taking shape just across Sloper Road

But Dennis admits that Ninian Park hasn't worn well over the years, and hopes the new Cardiff City stadium will inspire the club to Premiership glory.

The 30,000 capacity venue stands opposite the old ground on the former site of the Leckwith athletics stadium.

The Bluebirds will share it with the Cardiff Blues rugby region.

They will be leaving their present home at Cardiff Arms Park in the city centre, although in recent years many of their bigger games have been switched to the neighbouring Millennium Stadium.

Meanwhile former footballer Derek Chamberlain has written and recorded a tribute song to the Bluebirds' famous home.

Derek Chamberlain
Derek Chamberlain has been a Bluebirds fan for half a century

Rhondda-born Chamberlain, 60, of Coed Ely, hopes that Farewell Ninian Park will emulate the success of James Fox's FA Cup Final anthem Bluebirds Flying High.

"I love Cardiff City; my old man would take me down the Bob Bank when I was 10 years old and I have some great memories," said Chamberlain, who played for Newport County, Ton Pentre and Barry Town.

"I wanted to make the single as a farewell to the ground. As an ex-player and a singer, I thought it was a good idea," he added.

"I'm giving some of the money to Ty Hafan. I'm not in it for the money, I just wanted to do something special to say farewell."

What are your memories of Ninian Park? Send them by email to wales.southeast@bbc.co.uk

Brian David
My first trip to Ninian Park was as an 11 year old with my father to watch Wales vs England in October 1961. It was reported in the Sunday paper that there was 65,000 people there that day. Stood on the wall at the back between the Grange end and the Bob Bank, I can remember shouting "come on Wales" most off the match but for one dreadful moment when I slipped up and shouted "come on England" and about 1,000 faces turned around ,my father reckoned that my face was as red as my scarf and rosette. Then there was the relegation battle years in the 1963/64/65. I remember Greg Farrell going down the wing and playing his socks off against Middlesbrough to keep us in the old 2nd Division. Then there was the magic of Europe watching Real Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, Zaragosa, and Hamburg. Good and bad memories.

Gerry Rose
My uncle used to take me to many of the postwar matches. I remember the Dai-capped, silk-scarved men in steel studded boots, each itching to score a goal, knocking sparks off Sloper Road. I remember the thousands who used to pour off Ninian Park halt, as I did in later years. I remember regular crowds of forty plus thousand fans and quite often 50,000 plus. I remember games when Stanley Matthews did not turn up to face Alf Sherwood. I remember in the forties, Newcastle (or was it Sunderland?) turning up in front of a huge disappointed crowd because Trevor Ford was not playing. So many memories. I'm sad to see Ninian Park go but let's hope for a bright future in the new stadium at Leckwith park. Wales needs a premiere side - Go City!!

John Wilce, Malaga, Spain
My first visit to Ninian Park was in the 1950s when Cardiff City were promoted back to the First Division. My Dad (who had played with Fred Keenor as a kid) took me to "watch" Cardiff v Arsenal. The score was 0-0; the Gate was a record 58,000. I didn't see much, but will never forget the Ninian Park Roar, described by the great English striker Nat Lofthouse as the greatest cheer in soccer!

As a schoolboy in the 1950s, I saw the best British football team I have ever seen demolish Cardiff City 9-1 in a First Division match at Ninian Park. Billy Wright's Wolves were magic! I believe that Gerry Hitchens scored the 10th and last goal of that match for Cardiff? So, all 10 goals were scored by England internationals!

I well remember the best goal I have ever seen scored by Wales, some 50 years ago against Northern Ireland at Ninian Park. I was standing in the "boys enclosure" immediately behind the Irish goal, when "The Gentle Giant", playing at centre half, won the ball in his own penalty area. John Charles ran straight down the middle of the pitch, from penalty spot to penalty spot, with Irishmen bouncing-off him, like something out of a boys own comic! "Big John" stopped at the Irish penalty spot, as their goalkeeper advanced, and gently tapped the ball to his left, where Roy Clarke scored into an empty net! At Ninian Park I saw Sir Stanley Mathews, Sir Tom Finney, Sir Alf Ramsey, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst, but Mr John Charles was the greatest player of them all!

Bob Styles, Cardiff
I will always remember as a 13 year old from 1960 going to watch City home games and seeing the large 'Fly Cambrian Airways' advert that was painted across the Canton Stand roof. This work had been done by my father Frank Styles & Ted Totterdale of Styles Signs of 70, Bridge Street, Cardiff on behalf of Cambrian. Also in that season I was lucky enough to have purchased a 'lucky' programme which entitled me to buy a FA Cup final ticket to Wembley at the end of the game.




SEE ALSO
Audio: Farewell to Ninian Park
01 Apr 09 |  People & Places
Farewell Ninian Park
20 Apr 09 |  Cardiff
Artist's farewell to old stadium
16 Jan 09 |  South east
Turf cut at new Cardiff stadium
02 Nov 07 |  Wales
Cardiff City Travel Tips
22 Sep 11 |  People & Places

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