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Page last updated at 18:31 GMT, Saturday, 22 May 2010 19:31 UK

Cardiff City's history littered with near-misses

Joe Ledley consoled at the end of Cardiff City's 3-2 playoff final loss to Blackpool
Joe Ledley put Cardiff ahead but there is now speculation about his future

By Peter Shuttleworth, BBC Wales
Wembley Stadium

Cardiff City arrived at Wembley with a swagger and expectation - and departed in disbelief that their rollercoaster rise to the brink of the Premier League ended at the precipice.

As Blackpool completed an against-the-odds rise into Premier League dreamland, Cardiff themselves head into uncertainty of a different kind.

The folk of the resort famed for its tower watched proudly as their team of unknowns and journeymen rode the thrills and spills of the Championship play-off final ride to strike riches by earning a £90m bonanza that clubs collect when they enter English football's top-flight treasure island.

What shape Ian Holloway's squad will take when they make their Premier League bow is filled with almost as many uncertainties as the question as to what team Cardiff will field in August for another year in the second tier.

Blackpool need not worry about next season for the time being, but the Bluebirds, who landed at Wembley with so much hope, are now left trying to make sense of what happens next to their debt-ridden club.

Fans go in to Wembley
The sun was out, but it was not Cardiff City's day at Wembley

Yet thoughts of High Court cases, winding-up orders, £1.9m debts to taxmen and uncertainty about future owners were a world away an hour before kick-off as Wembley was awash with oceans of royal blue while the other end looked as though they had been tangoed.

And who could deny both sets of long-suffering fans a carnival in the sunshine as Blackpool have kicked around outside the top-flight since 1971 while Cardiff have endured a 48-year exile from the big league.

And it was another hot May day a dozen years ago that puts Cardiff's rise in perspective.

It was the last day of a long season under the scorching sun - but the only queue was for the one toilet behind the old Bob Bank.

Yet Cardiff's final day Division Four (now League Two) 0-0 draw with Darlington in 1998 could not have been further from the 40,000-odd Bluebirds inside Wembley in arguably their biggest - and potentially most lucrative - game since forming in 1899.

Just over 2,500 diehards turned up to watch Darlo 12 years ago.

The swathes of empty spaces around the tumbledown Ninian Park were not surprising as the Welshmen had not won in six - losing to Hartlepool, Colchester and Macclesfield among others.

Cardiff had regularly flirted with non-league obscurity but finishing just places off the bottom was a little too close for comfort.

Fast forward a dozen years, Cardiff's transformation is Roy of the Rovers stuff of dreams for a club that thought their best days had been and gone.

The Bluebirds were potentially 90 minutes from the big boys in the Premier League starring in a Championship play-off final that seemed a world away during the dark days when all that mattered was tribal pride.


So the hope and colour made industrial north-west London seem like the ideal place to be on a summer's afternoon - even for those Seasiders who sacrificed a day at the beach to be inside the 106 degree Fahrenheit Wembley melting pot.

As it turned out, Ollie's army are glad they gave a day on the deckchair a miss.

But for Cardiff, it was the kind of glorious failure that City fans have become all-too familiar with over recent generations.

Yet the band of Bluebirds continue to travel in expectation that one day this old club may just enjoy another day in the sun. Well, the sun was out - but it was not their day.

The pre-match feeling among Cardiff fans was unusually positive for such a monumental game in their history. Optimism was high, the odds were low but Cardiff again failed to live up the hype.

The Welsh club had shown great mettle, resilience and character this season to continue to recover from disappointment after disappointment to qualify for the play-offs and raise the expectation levels higher than Blackpool's iconic tower.

But when it really mattered, Cardiff wilted - their history littered with 'so nears yet so fars.'

Starting from losing the 1924 Football League title on the final day to Huddersfield by the narrowest margin in history, then remember the last-minute heartbreaker against Hamburg in the 1968 Cup Winners Cup semi-final, Stoke's extra-time soul-destroyer in the 2002 League One play-off semi-final and not forgetting last season's final day play-off disappointment at Sheffield Wednesday.

This was not just a day out for the Cardiff faithful unlike the 2008 FA Cup final defeat to Portsmouth and the recent cup visits to Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.

Those defeats did not really matter, but this one really, really cut deep.

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see also
Cardiff hope on Far Eastern Promise
23 May 10 |  Cardiff
New Cardiff backer's plea to fans
22 May 10 |  Cardiff
Cardiff cash must flow - McPhail
23 May 10 |  Cardiff
Blackpool 3-2 Cardiff
22 May 10 |  Championship
Blackpool v Cardiff photos
22 May 10 |  Football
Blackpool set for boom - Holloway
23 May 10 |  Championship
Bothroyd injury cost us - Hudson
22 May 10 |  Cardiff
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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