Our links with Middlesbrough go back to the days before we were a professional club. Back in 1909/10 when the amateur Cardiff City club were looking at becoming a professional organisation, Club Secretary Bartley Wilson arranged three exhibition matches against established professional sides to see what kind of support a professional club in Cardiff could attract. Southern League Crystal Palace and First Division Bristol City were played at the original Cardiff Arms Park, the third and final match was against First Division Middlesbrough at The Harlequins Athletic Ground off Newport Road.
It was a representative Cardiff City Eleven consisting of leading amateurs from various local clubs, while Middlesbrough included their famous England International centre-forward Steve Bloomer. They had to change in the Royal Oak pub and walk the short distance to the ground where they lost 2-1 to City’s amateurs. It was this match and the support that was attracted, that finally persuaded the amateur Cardiff City to take the plunge into professionalism and accept an invitation to join the Second Division of the Southern League.
Ten years later, City and ‘Boro were meeting in the First Division of the Football League and in September 1921 ‘Boro came to Ninian Park as League leaders to face a City side bottom of the table with six defeats from their first six matches. 35,000 were there to see City win 3-1 and begin a recovery that would see them finish fourth in the division.
The clubs met a number of times in the 1920s though ‘Boro were in the Second Division from 1924 to 1927, and following City’s relegation in 1929, their paths did not cross again until August 1952 when City were back at top level. ‘Boro’s visit to Ninian Park on September 3rd 1952 attracted a 51,502 attendance for a 1-1 draw. In December 1953, ‘Boro’s visit saw Welsh International centre-forward Trevor Ford making his home debut for City after his League transfer of £30,000 from Sunderland. Ford duly obliged with the only goal of the match which attracted 31,996 – over 10,000 up on the previous home match, such was Ford’s star billing.
‘Boro went down that season and the two clubs then met over three seasons in the old Second Division (1957-60). The January 1958 meeting at Ayresome Park saw City lose 4-1 to a Middlesbrough side that included locally-born prolific scorer Brian Clough. He riled City defender Danny Malloy so much with his “verbals” that when play had moved to the ‘Boro end of the pitch, Danny laid out Cloughie with an uppercut to the jaw. The crowd saw it, but not the referee and linesmen!
It was in May 1966 that City and ‘Boro met at Ninian Park in a vital Second Division match. Victory for City would ensure our Second Division safety and would condemn ‘Boro to relegation to the lower divisions for the first time in their history. Central defender Dickie Rooks scored a hat-trick for them (a header from a corner, a penalty, a free-kick) but we won 5-3 with a brilliant performance from our Scottish winger Greg Farrell.
One of the most sensational meetings came in October 1970 at Ninian Park. ‘Boro took the lead through John Hickton, but we went into a 3-1 lead with goals from Brian Clark, Bobby Woodruff and Peter King. Our former Crystal palace goalkeeper Frank Parsons then saved a penalty and we looked on our way to victory. But then Parsons let slip through his hands goals from Willie Maddren and Chris Laidlaw, and could do nothing about a late winner headed in by Hughie McIlmoyle. As a result Parsons lost his place to Jim Eadie who then remained our regular choice.
It was a memorable game for us at the Riverside Stadium in March 2008 when we went there for an F.A. Cup Sixth Round match. They were near the relegation zone in the Premier League, we were a well-established Championship club. There were 32,896 for the match, which we won 2-0 with goals from Peter Whittingham and Roger Johnson. The win took us to Wembley for a semi-final victory against Barnsley, and we returned there in mid-May for the F.A. Cup Final against Portsmouth.
League meetings reconvened in 2009, with ‘City enjoying a double the first year, with ‘Boro returning the compliment the following season. Last year the spoils went to the away side on both occasions.
The next match between ‘City and ‘Boro on Saturday is certainly one to look forward to.Get your tickets now. Call 0845 345 1400