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Six of the Best: Cardiff City

Cardiff City, a club that has pressed for promotion from English football’s second tier for the past few seasons, is one rich in history and famous past players.

They are the only Welsh team to win the FA Cup, triumphing against Arsenal in 1927 and more recently, reached the final of the world’s oldest knockout competition in 2008 and took Liverpool to a penalty shoot-out in the Carling Cup final this season.

However, with a dip in league form leaving the side outside the play-off places and the fans wondering what’s gone wrong at Cardiff City, here are six great players, past and present, who have pulled on the blue shirt.

 

John Charles (1963 – 1966)

Cardiff may have signed Charles when he was coming towards the end of his career but since he was rated by many as the nation’s greatest all-round footballer, he had to be included in this list.

Swansea-born Charles, as comfortable in attack as he was in defence and player who was never booked or sent off during his career, enjoyed prolific spells at both Leeds United and Juventus and played and scored for Wales during the 1958 World Cup.

Charles switched to Ninian Park in 1963 and scored 18 goals in 69 league appearances before enjoying a lengthy and more prolific spell as player-manager at Hereford United.

 

Brian Clark (1968 – 1972, 1975 – 1976)

After a prolific start to his football career at Bristol City, Clark had an ill-fated spell at Huddersfield Town, which prompted City manager Jimmy Scoular to sign him for the princely sum of £8,000 in 1968.

Clark took to life at Ninian Park immediately, scoring twice on his debut against Derby County and formed a lethal partnership alongside John Toshack. He scored five goals in a single Welsh Cup game against Barmouth & Dyffryn United but it was the 1970-71 season that saw Clark go down in history.

He headed in the winning goal against Real Madrid in the quarter final first leg of the European Cup Winners Cup but after three seasons as the club’s top scorer, netting 75 goals in 182 league appearances, he was surprisingly sold to Bournemouth with Ian Gibson for a combined £100,000.

He re-joined Cardiff for a final season in 1975 where he scored one goal in 21 appearances.

 

Phil Dwyer (1972 – 1985)

Aside from a short loan spell at Rochdale at the tail-end of his career, Dwyer played all his football for Cardiff City. He holds the club’s all-time appearance record, which stands at 531 appearances and 45 goals (471 league appearances and 41 goals).

Dwyer went on to win the Welsh Cup three times with City during the early 1970s but his City career was almost cut short in 1975. During a league encounter against Gillingham, he received a blow from an opposition player’s knee to the back of his head. The impact knocked him unconscious and he swallowed his tongue. His life was saved by Cardiff physio Ron Durham who managed to clear his airway.

Dwyer, the battling centre back that he was, resumed playing for City just seven days later. He went on to win ten caps for Wales between 1978 and 1979, scoring against Iran and then England during a 3-1 British Home Championship defeat.

 

Robert Earnshaw (1998 –2004, 2011 to Present)

The only player on this list currently still playing for Cardiff, goal scorer extraordinaire Earnshaw is the only player to have scored a hat-trick in all four tiers of English football, the FA Cup, League Cup and also at international level.

He scored the winning goal against Germany on his international debut for Wales in May 2002 and the 2002-03 season saw him score 35 goals in all competitions. He hit 31 in the league that campaign which broke a 56-year-old club record set by Stan Richards. Unsurprisingly he was named Cardiff City Player of the Year in 2003.

Despite being linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, spells at West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Derby County and Nottingham Forest followed before Earnshaw returned to Wales during the summer of 2011.

 

Fred Keenor (1912 – 1931)

Cardiff-born defender Keenor appeared in the first ever schoolboy meeting between Wales and England in 1907, fought in the Battle of the Somme during World War I and captained Cardiff City to their FA Cup win in 1927.

Keenor could have missed out on City’s famous 1-0 victory against Arsenal, having struggled to hold down a place in the team due to injury. A proposed move to Bristol Rovers failed to materialise and the rest, as they say, is history.

The hard-tackling defender made 414 appearances in all competitions for City, scoring 14 goals (371 league appearances) and will be immortalised with a statue at the new Cardiff City Stadium.

 

John Toshack (1965 – 1970)

Striker Toshack was the youngest ever footballer to play in a league match for City when he made a goalscoring debut as a substitute during a 3-1 victory against Leyton Orient in November 1965 – he was 16 years and 236 days old. The record stood for 41 years until it was broken in 2007 by Aaron Ramsey.

Toshack formed one of Cardiff’s most lethal strike partnerships with Brian Clark and scored his first hat-trick in 1968 during an 8-0 rout against Ebbw Vale in the Welsh Cup. Toshack scored 87 goals in 193 matches in all competitions with 74 goals in 162 league appearances.

The striker had a long-standing affiliation with Wales, winning 40 international caps, playing for and managing Swansea City and also having two spells in charge of the Wales national side. He infamously quit as Wales manager in 1994 after just 41 days in charge but was appointed for a second time a decade later.

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