Ninian Park. What a strange name. What a strangely alluring place. Its shabby terraces, corrugated iron and wooden seats had been my home-from-home for the past 20 years or so. My dad had first taken me down the City (as we call following the local association football team here) for a promotion party game against Crewe Alexandra in May 1988.
And from the moment I sat in the grandstand that day until the final whistle when grown men with bad 80s perms and tight stonewash jeans invaded a little piece of grass and danced around and hugged each and just looked so bloody happy, I was hooked. I wanted to be that happy. Every Saturday please. No more BMX rides around Splott or shopping trips to town with my mum for me. No way. I was going to the happiness factory to dance around, have a bit of a laugh and forget about my biology homework.
Turns out we didn’t get promoted every Saturday. Most Saturdays we lost and it rained and there was no dancing and very little hugging. I can only blame my father. Taking me to a promotion party for my first ever game was the equivalent of taking a girl to Paris on a first date. ‘Yes darling, I’m always this romantic’ you’d say as she gazed into your eyes at an intimate Michelin-starred restaurant on the banks of the Seine while a waiter brought over oysters and champagne and the band struck up Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, knowing full well next week she’d be lucky to get half a cider out of you at the Labour Club and she’d better keep quiet as there was a good singer from the Valleys on.
And then last year, after two decades of bad dates, the old place was no more. Knocked down flat to have houses built on it, while the City moved to a brand new state-of-the art piece of Meccano across the road in Leckwith. Like most Bluebirds fans, I had mixed feelings about the move. It was painfully obvious the club needed to move with the times and have a place to call home that was attractive to people other than sadistic football fans and which could ring the tills seven days a week through hosting everything from business breakfasts to Bar Mitzvahs.
But Ninian Park was home. Having moved around a hell of lot over the past ten years (student accommodation in Liverpool to shared house to failed house purchases with girlfriends to sofas) and with neither of my parents living in my childhood home, it was the place I felt most comfortable on Earth. And it was being taken away too.
Ninian Park saw some sights in its time. Crowds of 60,000. Pope John Paul II. Bob Marley. And me.
Dan Tyte is a PR Director at Working Word. He loves debut albums, tea and, as you probably guessed from the above, Cardiff City FC. He’s on Twitter @dantyte, writes a column about man stuff for the Western Mail, blogs for Wales Online Your Cardiff, wrote about music for the dearly departed Kruger Magazine and other stuff for other national mags. He’s currently writing his debut novel, which you’ll all be reading on Eastern European city breaks in 2015.
Dan was photographed at Ninian Park by Ffion Matthews
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