SO, we left Cardiff City in part one going in to 1952-53 and having just regained their 1st Division status.
Fans celebrate promotion in 1952
The main stand at Ninian Park had been extended in 1947 and improvements would continue throughout the 1950s. In 1953 City set a new record attendance figure when 57,893 were at a league match against Arsenal. They had sold over 60,000 tickets for a match against Swansea in 1949 but only 57,510 fans turned up.
That promotion came thanks to a runners-up spot and a superior goal average to Birmingham who had finished level on points. And a big part of that superiority was the goals of the speedy Wilf Grant and a late run of form from Ken Chisholm.
Manager Cyril Spiers had signed Grant from Southampton in 1950 in a straight swap for inside forward Ernie Stevenson. His new boss switched him from the left-wing to centre-forward and the results were immediate and excellent.
The 1951-52 team
In his first season at Ninian Park, Grant scored 14 times as the Bluebirds just missed out on promotion. In year two he found the net 26 times earning a call-up to the England ‘B’ team.
Grant would spend two more seasons in Wales before being sold to Ipswich Town for £7,500 having scored 67 in 159 games. He later returned to the club as a coach for four years in the early 1960s.
Former fighter pilot Chisholm provided a late flourish with 8 goals in the last 11 games to help push the Welsh club over the line and back into the top flight.
The reason Grant had been allowed to leave was the arrival, in December 1953 of Welsh star Trevor Ford.
The burly Ford was at Sunderland where had been Britain’s record transfer buy, but when he fell out with fellow front man Len Shackleton, the Roker Park club reluctantly agreed to his transfer request.
Spiers decided Ford was the man to spearhead the City attack and went to meet with the Sunderland board in an attempt to negotiate a deal. The Wearsiders wouldn’t budge from their £30,000 valuation and, on getting the message from his own board to pay whatever was demanded, Spiers agreed the fee.
The Bluebirds had already fallen short with bids for John Charles and Tommy Taylor in attempts to bolster their attack and this time they got their man.
Ford struck 10 times before the end of the season, his goals lifting the team to 10th in the table and the following year he top-scored with 24 in all competitions but the club barely avoided relegation finishing one place above the drop zone.
There was a managerial change before the start of the 1954-55 season when Cyril Spiers ended his second spell with the club, moving on to manage Crystal Palace. His replacement was Trevor Morris who had been assistant-secretary and was now promoted to manager-secretary.
Fans on their way to a match in the 1950s
Morris had served in Bomber Command during the 2nd World War where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He would later be awarded an OBE for services to Welsh football and is also remembered for being one of the leading lights in the fight to allow footballers to play for the country of their parents’ birth.
Ford left the club after he was banned from football in 1956 for revelations in his book ‘I Lead The Attack’ but luckily for the Bluebirds there was a ready-made replacement available in Gerry Hitchens who they had signed in 1955 for £1,500 from Kidderminster Harriers.
Hitchens opened his account within three minutes of his debut for the club and he topped the scoring charts for two seasons. But he received little support and in 1956-57 Cardiff finished 21st of 22 and found themselves back in the Second Division.
Undaunted the club continued making improvements at Ninian Park with a roof being added over the Popular Enclosure and two years later, floodlights were installed.
The new floodlights
Early the following season Hitchens was sold to Aston Villa for £22,500 leaving the chief goalscoring responsibilities to journeyman Ron Hewitt. The club finished a disappointing 15th in their first campaign back at the lower level.
Things were slightly better in Cardiff’s 2nd season in Division Two. They finished 9th and captured the Welsh Cup and also made an important addition with the £10,000 signing of Derek Tapscott from Arsenal as well as giving a debut to future Welsh international Graham Moore.
Tapscott would go on to score over a century of goals for the club and formed an impressive pairing with another former Arsenal star, Brian Walsh.
By this time Bill Jones had replaced Trevor Morris as manager and in the 1959-60 season more homegrown talent came through with Alan Durban and Barrie Hole starting to make their mark. Both would go on to represent their country.
At this time Ninian Park was and had been for some time, hosting Wales’ home matches and in October 1959 a record crowd crammed into the ground to see Wales take on England. Reports on the attendance vary but the official figure of 62,634 was a ground record and they saw local hero Moore score in the 89th minute to cancel out Jimmy Greaves’s goal for the visitors in a 1-1 draw.
Durban, a gifted midfield man, made a good start with the club but was sold to Derby County for £10,000 in 1963. The arrival of Brian Clough at the Baseball Ground transformed him and he was a key part of the team that won the Second Division title in 1968-69 and then the First Division crown in 1971-72
Capped 27 times for his country, he would go on to have a fine managerial career with Shrewsbury Town, Stoke City and Sunderland before returning to Ninian Park for a two-year stint at the helm in 1984.
Swansea-born Hole was from a footballing family. His father and two brothers had played for his hometown team but Barrie bucked the trend, joining Cardiff. He would spend seven years at the club and broke into the Wales team while at Ninian Park, going on to win 30 caps for his country.
Hole was sold to Blackburn Rovers for £40,000 in 1966 and then moved to Aston Villa before playing the last two years of his career at Swansea.
The 1959-60 season started with a 3-2 win over Liverpool where South African Steve Mokone scored one of the goals on one of only three starts he would make for City before moving to Barcelona. Mokone, nicknamed ‘The Black Meteor’ was quickly loaned out from Barcelona to Marseille as the Spanish club were over their quota of foreign-born players.
Graham Moore fires in the goal against Aston Villa that clinched promotion
The team, fired by a 20-goal haul from Tapscott would finish the season as runners-up to a Hitchens-led Aston Villa and were once again back in the top flight. Moore scored the goal, against Villa, which clinched the return to the highest level.
The following season, back at the highest level, Tapscott went one better scoring 21 times and the team finished in a relatively comfortable 15th place.
1961-62 didn’t go so well. Dai Ward usurped Tapscott at the top of the scoring charts and the defence, despite the introduction of another promising youngster in Peter Rodrigues, was poor and they finished the season with only Chelsea below them and on their way back to the Second Division.
That demotion led to a long period in the lower divisions, despite the signing of former greats such as Ivor Allchurch and John Charles. The signing of these players who had reached the twilight of their careers earned the club plenty of criticism but there was still lots of excitement at Ninian Park, mostly brought about by some stirring European runs.
Winning the Welsh Cup, or even finishing runners-up if an England-based club won it earned entry into the European Cup Winners Cup.
After winning their 10th Cup in 1964 by beating Bangor City in a play-off the Bluebirds qualified for their first crack at Europe. They sneaked past the Danes of Esbjerg with a 1-0 aggregate win in the first round, Peter King scoring the only goal at Ninian Park
The second round saw a fine 2-1 win at Sporting Lisbon, Greg Farrell and Tapscott providing the goals and then a goalless draw in the home leg was enough to see them through to a quarter-final clash with Real Zaragoza.
Peter King heads for goal against Real Zaragoza
City battled to a stirring 2-2 draw in Spain with Gareth Williams and King again providing the goals. A crowd of 38,458 crammed into Ninian Park for the second leg but it was to prove a disappointing night as the home team fell to a 1-0 defeat despite having numerous chances.
After another Welsh Cup win, this time over Wrexham, the Bluebirds were back in Europe for the following season although this time they failed to progress beyond the first round where Standard Liège knocked them out. They also made it through to the last four of the League Cup where they suffered an embarrassing 10-3 aggregate lost to West Ham United.
In 1966-67, with wily Scot Jimmy Scoular at the helm having taken charge in 1964, they again got the better of Wrexham in the Welsh Cup final setting up another Cup Winners Cup quest in the 1967-68 season. And this time they almost made it all the way.
By this time the likes of Allchurch and Charles had retired whilst Durban, Hole and Rodrigues had all moved on. But the Bluebirds had a new star striker in John Toshack and he, along with another rising star Leighton Phillips were to lead the team forward.
In Europe, Cardiff overcame Shamrock Rovers in the first round and then saw off Dutch Cup winners NAC Breda to set up a quarter-final clash with Torpedo Moscow who had ‘The Russian Pele’ Eduard Streltsov in their side.
Torpedo were the archetypal ‘Crack’ Easter European side, featuring seven Russian internationals. They were technically gifted and, in Streltsov, had a real difference-maker. But Cardiff were no respecters of reputations. A Barrie Jones goal earned a 1-0 home win which most felt wouldn’t be enough. Some dogged defending meant they then lost by the same score in Russia to set-up a neutral ground play-off.
So the teams squared off in the unlikely setting of Augsburg in Germany. For European ties non-Welsh players were classed as foreigners and teams were, at this time, restricted in the number that could play. Cardiff were also weakened for the playoff by the absence through injury of stalwart centre-half Don Murray which meant a first-team debut for Richie Morgan.
Torpedo brought back star midfielder Valery Voronin, who had recently been suspended for drunkenness, for the match but the Russians were outbattled by their plucky rivals. In front of 25,000 fans nothing exemplified Cardiff’s performance more than Morgan’s shackling of the supremely gifted but unpredictable Streltsov.
City took the lead in the 43rd minute with Norman Dean’s first goal of the season and then the defence, with keeper Bob Wilson in outstanding form, held firm for a famous victory.
The win set up a semi-final against German powerhouses Hamburg. Dean struck again to give Cardiff the lead in Germany but Hamburg hit back to level and the game finished all square.
In the Ninian return, in front of over 43,000, Dean against scored to give City the lead and fuel hopes. Franz-Josef Hönig equalised but with just 12 minutes remaining veteran Brian Harris put the Welsh side 2-1 up, 3-2 on aggregate. Sadly, Hönig again and then Uwe Seeler turned it around inside the last 10 minutes and Hamburg went on to the final (where they lost to Milan).
All of the stirring European runs came while City were sitting in mid-table in the 2nd Division and, as ore-television Cup Winners Cup runs didn’t equal financial success, the club continued having to sell their best players. The club received £100,000 from Liverpool for the transfer of Toshack in November 1970 and the following season brought a flirtation with the top flight when the Bluebirds finished 3rd, three points behind runners-up Sheffield United.
1970-71 also saw another great European adventure. Wins over Larnaca of Cyprus and Nantes of France set up a quarter final against the mighty Real Madrid. Toshack had played a big part in the first two wins but was at Anfield by the time of the Real encounter.
Brian Clark heads the winner against Real Madrid
Cardiff produced another stirring home performance, beating Real 1-0 thanks to a Brian Clark goal in front of 47,500 fans but they lost 2-0 at the Bernabéu and this ended the club’s last brush with European glory.
Part three of our look at the history of Ninian Park is coming soon and will look at the final years of the ground, as well as the non-football events including appearances by Winston Churchill, Meadowlark Lemon, Bob Marley and Pope John Paul!