We remember a time before the international break, as a City squad down to the bare bones secured an unlikely Division One result against Sheffield United.
International breaks are the norm for the higher divisions, and have been now for several decades. Before that, if Clubs had two or more players selected for their national sides, they could apply to the Football League for their League fixture to be postponed.
However, going back further, even that wasn’t the case. Up until the 1960s Clubs had to fulfil their scheduled fixture no matter how many of their players were absent with their respective countries. Cardiff City were often affected in their First and Second Division days of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, as City were forced to compete without their numerous Welsh internationals.
One of the most remarkable days in City’s history, however, was on April 14th 1923 in the old First Division as we played host to Sheffield United at Ninian Park.
(from left): George Latham (Trainer), Jimmy Gill, Herbie Evans & Billy Hardy - pictured in September 192Bluebirds Stalwards3.
The problem for City was that Home International Championship fixtures were taking place on the same weekend, with Scotland playing England at Hampden Park, and Wales meeting Ireland in Wrexham. While the Welsh FA had first call on their internationals, City’s directors also had a policy of never refusing permission for their Irish and Scottish players to represent their countries.
That meant that no fewer than six of the Bluebirds’ regular first team were on International duty for the Celtic nations. While Len Davies, Jack Evans and Fred Keenor (then playing for City at inside-forward) were required for Wales, their opponents Ireland called up Bluebirds ‘keeper Tom Farquharson and defender Bert Smith. City were also set to be missing their full-back and skipper Jimmy Blair, who was selected for Scotland.
All six of these players were in City’s regular First Division line-up, meaning it would be a makeshift side that would take on Sheffield United.
PREPARING FOR THE BLADES
Just three days before that match, City named their strongest line-up in a Welsh Senior Cup Semi-Final against Swansea Town – beating them 3-2 in front of a 12,000 Ninian Park attendance. But they knew that it would be even tougher with their stars missing against the Blades.
While Jack Page came into the centre of defence for the match, Jack Kneeshaw and Syd Evans made their first appearances of the season and Fred Mason, Jimmy Jones and Billy Taylor all made their first team débuts!
The most remarkable story was that of Taylor, who had been signed from non-league Redditch some weeks earlier, but had been allowed to stay on loan with them before being called up for the game. That meant that he only met his teammates on the morning of the match, without ever training with them.
While Sheffield United were eighth in the table, the Bluebirds were on a good run – over the previous ten League and Welsh Cup matches, they had gained seven wins and two draws, and suffered just one defeat. What, then, could this makeshift City side do against a full-strength Sheffield United?
AN UNLIKELY VICTORY
City in fact won the game 1-0 through a 57th-minute goal from inside-forward Joe Clennell in front of 15,000 delighted fans who could only have foreseen a defeat. Meanwhile the City players on International duty had mixed fortunes – Scotland and England drew 2-2, while Wales lost 3-0 to Ireland.
As for the six City reserves, it was back to Welsh League action at home to Caerau the following week. Their moment of glory had been brief, but they had played their part in a memorable victory.
Cardiff City (v. Sheffield United): Jack Kneeshaw, Jimmy Nelson, Fred Mason, Herbie Evans, Jack Page, Billy Hardy, Syd Evans, Billy Grimshaw, Jimmy Jones, Joe Clennell, Billy Taylor.
perceived City's style of play as they went on to sit top of Division One during the 1923/24 season. The campaign was City's best-ever - they only lost out on the Division One title by 0.024 of a goal to Huddersfield Town (on goal average)!Tom Webster(Above) A depiction of how Daily Mail sports cartoonist
Read more Bluebirds history in 'The Bluebird' - the Official Cardiff City Match-Day Programme!