The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

CARDIFF le­gend Phil Dwyer says Tues­day’s cel­e­bra­tions brought back mem­o­ries of his own glory days with the Blue­birds.

Lo­cal boy Dwyer, 59, spent his en­tire ca­reer with Cardiff, mak­ing a club record 573 ap­pear­ances be­tween 1971 and 1985.

Renowned for his no-non­sense at­ti­tude and bru­tal tack­ling, Dwyer re­mains a reg­u­lar at matches and was in the stands as Malky Mackay’s men fi­nally re­turned to the top flight af­ter 51 years away.

“It was won­der­ful,” says Dwyer, who re­tired in 1985 to join the po­lice force.“And see­ing all those sup­port­ers on the pitch brought back great mem­o­ries.

“We won pro­mo­tion from the third di­vi­sion, away at Bury in 1983.When it hap­pened to us, there were so many peo­ple that I had to crawl off the pitch on my hands and knees.We’ve al­ways had great sup­port, home and away.

“When you get pro­moted, the dress­ing room is a spe­cial place. Ev­ery­body’s talk­ing, ev­ery­one’s ex­cited.There’s loads of beer about. I think I was drunk be­fore I got out of the bath when we went up!

“It’s great for the play­ers, but it’s for the sup­port­ers really.They are the ones who pay the play­ers’ wages and it’s great to see them get re­warded.

“I still see peo­ple who used to go through the gate when I played.They must’ve been there for the last 25 years so for them to get a top di­vi­sion club is tremen­dous.”

Nor was Dwyer the only former star in the stands – as he him­self dis­cov­ered.“I was sat next to a guy and I was think­ing:‘I’m sure I know you’,” he says.

“It turned out it was Ray Bishop, an old team-mate of mine. I hadn’t seen him for about 15 years.

“Un­be­knownst to me, he’d ac­tu­ally left a mes­sage on my phone say­ing:‘I’m go­ing to the game, if you’re there then let’s meet up’. I only found it that night.

“But as luck would have it, he sat right next to me. He trav­elled all the way from Torquay to see us go up and it was great af­ter the game to be able to shake hands with peo­ple like him.”

Cardiff’s success has not been with­out con­tro­versy. Owner Vin­cent Tan forced the club to change their shirt from the tra­di­tional blue to red – a lucky colour in his na­tive Malaysia and a move to boost shirt sales – in ex­change for in­vest­ment.

The badge has also been re­designed and there has even been talk of a name change to Cardiff Dragons.This has up­set many fans, but Dwyer isn’t com­plain­ing.

“Peo­ple talk about chang­ing the shirts and things like that but you have to move with the times,” he said.“Foot­ball is big busi­ness now and if you want to go up to the Premier­ship and mix with the big boys, you need to have money be­hind you. Peo­ple moaned about the sta­dium at first, but with­out it they prob­a­bly wouldn’t be here to­day.”

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