Can Cardiff City reach the Premier League?

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Can Cardiff City reach the Premier League?

Remember the widespread mocking and ridicule that followed Richard Scudamore’s plan to play Premier League matches outside of England? People may soon have to change their tune.

It was February 2008, and Premier League chief executive Scudamore floated the idea of a “39th game” to take place during the campaign in the likes of Asia, America or Australia. He was at pains to point out that it was in no way a money making scheme, but no-one believed him and the plan was quickly shelved. Unbeknownst to him, the prospect of Premier League games on non-English soil would soon rear its head again.

Admittedly, South Wales probably wasn’t the exotic destination Scudamore had in mind.

Last night’s penalty shootout victory over Leicester City at the Cardiff City Stadium has put the club from the Welsh capital one game away from becoming the first team from outside of England to play in the Premier League. A victory over Blackpool at Wembley a week on Saturday means that the country’s top division will, for a season at least, be populated by only 19 English teams. For Scudamore and company, it could soon be a case of Enter the Dragons.

Not since Swansea City’s rapid rise reached its apex in 1982 has a Welsh team been in the top division in England.

Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham have all been mainstays in English league football – at least until the latter’s relegation to the Blue Square Premier in 2008. All three have provided memorable moments, such as Swansea’s astonishing ascent from the fourth division to the first under John Toshack between 1978 and 1982, Cardiff’s famous 1927 FA Cup final win over Arsenal, and Wrexham’s giant-killing victory over the same opponents in 1992. They were bottom of the fourth division at the time, Arsenal were top of the first.

Newport County even made the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1981, but should Cardiff win at Wembley then a new achievement could be added to the list, and it will probably be the best of the lot.

Cardiff might need to achieve it too. Still facing the threat of a winding up order, the £1.9million they owe the tax man will be the first item on the “to do list” should they earn the multi-millions that come with Premier League promotion.

That will be easier said than done of course, as standing in their way will be a talented Blackpool side who have just as romantic a back story and a determined boss in Ian Holloway.

But Dave Jones has seen and done it all before. The Cardiff manager has overseen both Southampton and Wolves in the Premier League, and after being suspended by the former while he defended entirely false allegations of child abuse, his 2004 relegation with the latter has left a hunger and desire to prove himself in the top division.

He’s got plenty of players who will be thinking like that too. Peter Whittingham – the Championship’s top goalscorer – was let go by Aston Villa, Michael Chopra has failed to transfer his goalscoring form from the second tier to the top tier, Joe Ledley – a sometime Wales captain – could flourish in the Premier League, while Stephen McPhail, Mark Kennedy and Jay Bothroyd are all experienced performers.

They’ll be backed by a vociferous support too. The Cardiff City Stadium was full to its’ 26,000 capacity last night, and it would be full for each and every Premier League game too.

But if the top division is to be graced by a team from a second capital city, then Blackpool will have to be beaten first.

If that happens, then England will be braced for the Welsh Dragon’s roar.



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