They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and rarely can that have been truer than after Blackpool’s win over Cardiff in the championship play-off final at Wembley. Forget all the hype about the “richest club match in the world” and those yawnsome displays of over-egged celebration/grief, what was really interesting was something that went entirely unreported in the mass media: Blackpool’s righting of a wrong done to them by Cardiff City more than three decades previously.
On May 3rd 1978 Orient beat Cardiff 1-0 at Ninian Park in the last match of the division 2 (today’s championship) season. It was a match Orient had to win to escape the 3rd relegation place and send Blackpool, who had already completed their fixtures, down instead. On a warm spring evening Peter Kitchen’s 34th minute goal, a scrambled effort after City’s defenders proved strangely reluctant to clear the ball, was enough to take the points. The remaining hour was played out like a gentle warm-up, Cardiff making no effort to enter the Orient half, let alone equalise. So blatant was the fix that the home supporters in the crowd of just over 8,000 barracked, slow-handclapped and heckled their own team throughout the 2nd half and reports in the following day’s South Wales Echo and Western Mail expressed disgust and outrage at the mockery. For the first time in their history Blackpool were relegated to England’s third tier – and it would take 29 years and many financial crises for the club to regain level 2 status.
Something very dodgy had taken place, and everyone knew it. In those far-off days before wall-to-wall TV coverage of every ball kicked in the English leagues there could be no proof of corruption. Cardiff and Orient players and officials made no comment, Blackpool’s protests fell on deaf ears and the English FA, true to form, took no action. In the long run the rules were changed so that all clubs finished their season simultaneously, but the damage had been done – not only to Blackpool FC but also to the reputation of Cardiff City.
Now Blackpool have leap-frogged Cardiff in England’s pecking order, and snatched the £90 million premier league bonanza from their clutches in the process. Cardiff City, the one capital city football club in the world that boycotts its own national league (Wales doesn’t pay enough), have been wounded in the only language the club understands – the language of money. They will have to keep prostituting themselves to sugar-daddies to keep their indebted English operation going; the latest in a long line of saviours being a Malaysian “property developer”.