Cardiff City relegation: Fans left singing the blues

image copyrightReuters
image captionCardiff City fans have had little to shout about in the Premier League

BBC reporter and long-time Cardiff City fan Kevin Leonard takes a personal look back at his team's season in the top flight.

It wasn't meant to end like this.

Cardiff City's relegation from the Premier League has been confirmed with defeat to Newcastle and the team rock bottom after just a single season.

Little over 12 months ago thousands of Cardiff fans celebrated on the pitch of the Cardiff City Stadium after a wait of over half a century to reach English football's top division.

Tears of joy were shed as fans old enough to know better had finally put behind them decades of under achievement and embarrassing defeats in the nether regions of the football league.

At last we could look forward with optimism as we supped at the top table with world famous teams and players, watched by an admiring global audience in love with English football.

image captionGlamour football trips were not all they were cracked up to be for BBC reporter and Cardiff fan Kevin Leonard

It was time to wave goodbye once and for all to the mythical Tuesday night trips to Rochdale and Crewe - or at least, for the past few years, Barnsley - and hello to the glamorous star drenched footballing utopias of Old Trafford and Anfield.

We should have known better.

There were already clouds on the horizon. Promotion had been tainted for many supporters including myself by owner Vincent Tan's controversial rebranding of the club's 100-year-old colours from blue to red that season.

There were many who decided it was a price not worth paying and stopped going despite following the club through two decades of near total failure in much of the 1980s and 90s.

I hated the rebrand - and would not dream of buying any club merchandise in the "wrong colour" - but, call me a glory seeker, I was not willing to stop going because of it. I still looked forward to the excitement to the Premier League.

image copyrightReuters
image captionCardiff chalked up two victories over Fulham in a season where wins were hard to come by

And there have been some memorable moments.

The win over moneybags Manchester City and their team of world superstars in our first home game of the season on a sunny August afternoon will live long in the memory.

The last gasp win at Fulham secured by a Jordon Mutch thunderbolt in front of 3,500 travelling Bluebirds at Fulham on 28 September actually put us above Manchester United in the league.

It seems a long time ago.

There was also a home win over Swansea, a late goal to secure a draw against Manchester United, the recent win at Southampton and the ridiculously late equaliser at West Brom that retain a golden glow.

But there have been too many humiliating moments on and off the field to remember this season with any real fondness.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe owner's rebranding of the club colours to red is still a huge issue for many Cardiff fans
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionSeveral protests were held during the season

Home thrashings by Southampton, Hull and Crystal Palace brought back memories of failures more closely associated with the sometimes painful days I spent watching the club in the old third and fourth divisions. Anyone remember the 0-5 against Maidstone? Of course you do.

And it seemed fitting somehow that the most important game of the season at the end of April - at Sunderland who were then bottom of the league - ended in a 4-0 thrashing.

That was particularly painful as the 700-mile round trip involved rising from my slumbers at 03:15 to make the noon kick off.

I've travelled about 3,500 miles watching just over half of Cardiff's away games this season and all the home games - just over the distance to New York - and there are plenty of fans who have travelled much further than that.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCardiff's 4-0 defeat at Sunderland saw City fans leaving for the noon kick off in the early hours

The football has often been poor but that goes with life as a supporter and you take it on the chin - the real pain has been some of the off-the-field shenanigans played out to a disbelieving media around the world.

The club's handling of the sacking of popular manager Malky Mackay, the man who finally took Cardiff back to the top division after so long, was widely derided.

Despite his inability to sign a decent goalscorer with the millions of pounds at his disposal and his spectacular falling out with Tan, surely he deserved better treatment than the email which he said warned him to resign or be sacked?

Most infamously, after Mackay's head of recruitment Iain Moody was sacked, an unknown 23-year-old who was formerly on work experience was employed in his place.

The chaos brought protests in support of Mackay which, since his eventual sacking in December, have turned into protests calling for the return of the club colours to blue.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionClub owner Vincent Tan's handling of the sacking of manager Malky Mackay upset many fans

It has now got to the stage that after 19 minutes and 27 seconds of every game home and away - 1927 being the year that Cardiff won the FA Cup - a large number of fans hold up their scarves singing "we'll always be blue".

Even many of those who went along with the rebrand originally have decided enough is enough and want the traditional colours restored.

Perhaps that would not have been the case if the team had been successful in the Premier League but compromise is difficult when faced with a first relegation in 14 years.

Fans such as my son have only ever known relative success with regular trips to Wembley and every season spent near the top of the division - the Championship rather than the Premier League admittedly but it is far better than I ever knew watching City as a child.

Whoever is to blame for the relegation - Tan, Mackay, new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or the players - the drop has felt inevitable for a while now.

So as the sun sets on an eventful single season in the "Prem" we now have trips to Bournemouth, Brentford and Bolton to look forward to.

Am I looking forward to it? You bet.

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