I was at a 0-0 draw this week. No – not that one. It was Arsenal against Everton. And the only pitch invasion was by the mascot dressed as a dinosaur trying desperately to high five the tired players.
As Aaron Ramsey and co left the pitch after a bruising battle – word came through that another game had finished goalless. Ramsey’s former club had done it. Cardiff had clinched promotion to the top flight for the first time in over 50 years.
It didn’t register with many around the ground – they’re always far too preoccupied with the dramatic dash to the avoid the crazy queue for the tube.
It didn’t really register with me either – even after seeing the pictures of the pitch invasion once the phone reception kicked back in somewhere around Hammersmith.
But then something started to stir as I crossed the bridge and passed the ‘Welcome to Wales’ sign.
It finally hit me as I passed another sign after turning off the M4 – Welcome to Cardiff. I’m sure someone has already added ‘and welcome to The Premier League’ by now.
I’d only been gone for 10 hours but everything had changed. It somehow felt different. The roar of delight that greeted the final whistle at The Cardiff City Stadium wasn’t quite heard all the way in North London – but you could sense the collective sigh of relief that was now floating over the city in the early hours.
It had started to seem as if it was never going to happen – but it’s job done. Relax. Try and enjoy it even!
Except you can’t really relax with Cardiff. Some can’t even watch anymore.
In the middle of the euphoria – surveying his kingdom – stood Vincent Tan. The Malaysian owner looked resplendent in red and was beaming having delivered his Premier League promise.
He may look like a Bond villain that’s just walked out of Madame Tussauds – but he’s no dummy. The Asian market is massive and continues to grow – Tan knows the power of the Premier. Every time experts predict that the football bubble will burst it just surprises everybody and keeps soaring higher.
New television deals in China and the USA will see the world wide reach of the league go up yet another level. Cardiff City are now part of this global brand.
But at what price?
The re-branding to red hurt a lot of fans. Some simply couldn’t accept the changes and weren’t there to celebrate the success. It’s so sad that fans that have been loyal throughout the years of struggle can’t share this glory.
I don’t know how I’d react if it was my club.
The thought of even changing a badge horrifies football fans – and I’d like to think that I’d fight to the bitter end to protect the shirt. Marching along on the moral high ground.
But if it’s a choice of ‘Red or Dead’ as the argument was dubbed – then I suspect I’d reluctantly go along with it.
Not happy of course – but just like the thousands on the pitch – willing to put up with it for a glimpse of the good times.
To those dancing with delight – enjoy the ride – it’s been a long old journey.
To those that have turned their back – I salute you.