Ahead of Cardiff City’s final league game, I made it clear to my lady that it would be the last time [for three months] that I would have to run off to watch something football-related during time that I could be with her and the family. And, I meant it. But then we got promoted, and our club decided to throw a massive party in the city centre only a week later, leaving me in quite the pickle. As you can imagine, I wasn’t missing this bus parade, so a lot of grovelling took place, and I’m reasonably sure I have to buy the lady a new dress now too.
I wasn’t able to see the bus leave the stadium (nor did I seriously consider planning to, either), so my plan was to get to Cardiff Castle nice and early, so that I could get a good view of the speeches that the club staff and players were scheduled to make. Despite some significant train delays (what else is new?), I was able to get into Cardiff’s city centre an hour before the bus was expected to arrive at the castle. I headed straight through Queen Street, not messing around.
The sun was out, and town was getting busier. There was a large splattering of blue Cardiff City shirts, but nothing like what it had been a week earlier ahead of our make-or-break final game with Reading (nor was it ever going to be). This day was more about celebration, than wearing the club colours (although I was in our 2016/2017 home shirt).
The crowd outside the castle was already forming, and incredibly loud given the bus carrying our players and staff was nowhere near. I soaked it in, then headed straight into Elevens, the S.A. Brain/Gareth Bale bar that sits opposite Cardiff Castle.
This was actually my first time in Elevens, despite my desire to go there on numerous occasions previously. The bar was busy, with three Premier League games on the screens, but the two bartenders were serving people quick, and I had a £3.60 pint of Carling in my hand in relatively quick order. It says something about today’s world that I’m now surprised at how “cheap” a pint is, when it’s still a whopping £3.60! This was the first time I’d ever seen those funky new pint pourers in use, where they fill from the bottom of the glass to a pre-set amount. Until now, I’d only ever seen the technology in Facebook videos, and had no idea that it was here in the United Kingdom, let alone Wales.
I knocked back that pint rather swiftly, and enjoyed a good laugh when the bar’s volume reached deafening levels following Stoke City’s [winning] second goal being announced. Lots of anti-Swansea City songs started, all in good taste, but helping to enhance an already feel-good atmosphere for our club and its fans.
When the bus finally approached the castle, I was just starting my second beer. There was a rush of people heading out to the street, and I quickly joined them after pouring my drink into a plastic cup. The reception for the bus was incredible, and many a song was sung.
I eventually managed to grab a good spot by the railings, although my view of the stage became largely obstructed once people started putting other people on their shoulders. Not that I minded, of course; I was mostly there just for the atmosphere, and to be a part of history.
When the speeches finally did come, they were celebratory and in good fun. Neil Warnock had the most to say, and it was his words that really hit home how big an achievement promotion was for our club. The media have picked up a lot of his comments, and they really are worth listening to if you haven’t already. I certainly enjoyed hearing that he’s setting his sights on qualifying for Europe!
It was nice to hear from some of the players, though, even if they were largely just thanking the fans for their support. But getting a hint of Sol Bamba’s love for the club, and Sean Morrison’s heartwarming message for Aron Gunnarsson, who heads off to the World Cup very shortly. It was all just very nice, and finally put some closure on our season.
In many ways, with the sun out again and the party atmosphere very similar to last weeks, it didn’t feel as though we were seven days on from that historic day. It felt very much like a continuation of that same day, and I never wanted it to end.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I thought Sunday’s celebrations were a wonderful finale to our 2017/2018 season. It was another opportunity to applaud our team, and another day for our fans to come together and show how unified we are now.
Many moments from our season will stick with me for life, and this past Sunday will be no different. Next season will be a different beast for us entirely, with many more losses than wins (although, let’s hope for better!), so it was lovely to sign off a fantastic season in style.
Hopefully, we’ll have other reasons to enjoy celebrations like this again in the future!