We’ll be coming, we’ll be……

14 11 2009
Wales 3 Scotland 0
Friendly

We saw our first Tartan Army members at Flint, just after they’d boarded the luxury 2 carriage cattle train to Cardiff. He was quiet but his tartan trousers weren’t. We’d heard a few rumours about the number of Scots travelling down and this confirmed it, they were even getting on in north Wales! We spent the journey cursing the inaccuracy of the BBC weather forecasting service. It told us “Sunny spells” yesterday, it pissed it down instead.

When we got to Cardiff the rain was absent. Were they actually right? The Tartan Army flooded the streets. By the time we’d been in a taxi for 3 minutes we must have seen 50 kilt-wearers. Just after we’d thrown our bags  into our luxury 1 star hotel the rain began to fall. Luckily I was wearing the thinner jacket of the two I’d packed so I had nothing to fear from the prospect of constant rain. As we waited at the bus stop a football genius informed his mate; “I wish I’d put £30 on Wales to lose today, Scotland are better” He obviously wasn’t going to the match. He must have been keeping his shirt safe for when we’re good again.

We found the Owain Glyndwr pub full, to the rafters, with the Tartan Army. They were very jovial and a complete contrast to the last time I’d seen this many away fans in Cardiff; “THE ENGLISH”. Consequently there was no invading swagger, no Stone Island and none of the post-imperial masculine identity issues, just a lot of drinks flowing.

After about half an hour you could see that the Tartan Army was an apt name; everybody seemed to be wearing a kilt and a Glengarry cap with a feather in it. You could discern ranks in the army too. The ordinary foot soldiers just wore a replica shirt with their kilt, the NCOs wore a Retro shirt (with or without a retro tracksuit jacket). Officers wore a traditional Piper’s Jacket. They had decorations too; badges of countries that they’d seen. The longer your service the more badges you had. The Tartan Army is also an inclusive institution, women feature prominently and they have their own uniform; a tartan skirt and boots. We left after a Scotsman told us we were going to lose 2-0 with hand gestures.

Just as we were queuing for our train tickets they arrived. “WE’LL BE COMING, WE’LL BE COMING!!!” they thundered. Who’d have thought that Station entrance hall had such good acoustics. It was impressive and slightly annoying at the same time. We got on the train with some Scots and it was very entertaining listening to them. Some people may look on them as a cliché but they seemed too much like football fans to be a cliché, although there were a few people wearing rugby shirts. Their presence turned the day into the most enjoyable one that I’d had in Cardiff for ages.

With the match taking place across the road from Ninian Park we saw it’s demolition at close quarters. Areas like  these have a history that expresses itself through the ground. In the name of progress this history is obliterated, it changes from a monument to the shared experiences of thousands to a shell of twisted girders and rubble. When you think about it  it is always very sad to see historic grounds in such a state. The new ground looks good although in the daylight it looks a bit indentikit. When the sun sets the ground takes on a more spectacular look. The outside is covered in panels that look ordinary in the daylight, they scream “cut-price covering darling!”. However, when the lights are on the panels are illuminated. They add an interesting and slightly haunting detail to the ground. It’s not quite the Allianz Arena but then it’s definitely not the Riverside either.

The match was good, all Wales. Take that bloke at the bus stop!!! After finding their feet the Welsh team went through the Scots team with ease. Ramsey was the hub and a joy to watch. Mind you it was all a joy to watch. A volley from Edwards, a header from Church and a dribble from Ramsey were the goalscoring methods. We should have had a penalty but the ref must have taken pity on the Scots. It was a great first half and left me excited for the goal feast in the second.

We moved seats so that the wind would feel less cutting, Wales friendlies are great for choosing seats. The goal feast didn’t happen but Wales tried, Earnshaw had a few shots that were narrowly wide. I can find matches like this to be a little frustrating, they promise a record-worrying score but it doesn’t happen. Then you’re left to think about other things; “Why the wind is blowing your flags when you can’t feel the wind?”; “Where are the fans?”; “Oooooh, I’ve always wanted one of those 1970s scarves, will I see one on the way out?”; “Why are the Cardiff fans still booing Swansea players?”; “Why can’t the Welsh Fans sing songs like the Tartan Army instead of “You’re so shit it’s unbelievable” and “Easy, Easy, Easy” with added claps?”; “Why don’t we have songs like the Tartan Army anyway?”; “Do I go to friendlies so I can tick grounds off?”; “Is going to football a reasonable activity for a person to do so often?”; “How long does corduroy take to dry in South Wales?” etc etc etc.

The evening felt strangely warm when we left the ground. I found that scarf I’d been after for like, forever. A charming night in Cardiff followed, except for the bloody students in Wetherspoons. Not content with taking 5 minutes to give their full drinks order (pissing off all and sundry at the same time), they had the cheek to indulge in a singing contest with some Tartan Army members. Worse still, they chose to sing England songs in that bloody accent that students use to communicate. It was all liiike soooooo, liiike annoying. I don’t remember Students being soooo like annoying in my day. Luckily we left shortly afterwards.

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