It was my first visit to CARDIFF CITY STADIUM, next door to the former NINIAN PARK, which brings back tragic memories. I was there for a 1986 World Cup decider as Wales hosted Scotland on September 10th, 1985 and a Dutch referee who screwed up...as they often do... and Scotland advanced. However there was a real tragedy when JOCK STEIN the Scottish manager collapsed and died about 10 seats in front of me. His young assistant Alex Ferguson took his team to Mexico '86.
Since then I have watched Wales play in a less than half empty Millenium Stadium a few times until a recent switch to Cardiff City's brand new home, which is just the right size. 30,700 passionate fans were on hand for the visit of BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, who I watched play Argentina in Rio this June at the FIFA World Cup.
It was gridlock in the city and on the way to the match for the 7.45pm kick off. I arrived early at 6.00 pm after an ARRIVA WALES train from Manchester and got off the city bus with other fans half a mile from our destination to walk the rest of the way. Outside I chatted with The Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Margaret Jones and husband, splendid in their regalia.
I am a big fan of the visiting manager SAFET SUSIC who played 54 times for Yugoslavia between 1977 and 1990. I had friends in high places at Paris St Germain and enjoyed watching him from the posh seats at Parc des Princes in Ligue 1. Prestigious 'France Football' named him as PSG's all time great. He coached in Turkey and in Saudi Arabia before his native job. They lost at home to Cyprus 2-1 while Wales won by a similar score in Andorra. Not since 1958 have the Welsh played in a big finals- at Sweden 1958,and losing 1-0 to Brazil in the quarter finals with star player John Charles injured.
The Red Dragons were without 10 injured players including captain Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen and were up against stars such as Edin Dzeco. The first half was tense and lacked fluency, but the Bosnian's were ruthless tacklers and it was fortunate that they didn't inflict any broken bones, with the Russian referee reaching for his yellow card and vanishing spray frequently. Both goalies had a big say in the match with Wayne Hennessey 6'7" and only Crystal Palace's No. 2, in superb form and rightly named 'Man of the Match'.
There must have been a couple of thousand visiting fans adding to a great atmosphere. Gareth Bale was well marked by Everton's Muhamed Besic and was quiet until a very late wonderful left footed swerving free kick tipped round the post by Asmir Begovic, after Ashley Williams missed the best chance of the match, heading Bale's free kick wide. At the other end Hennessey was in inspiring form.
A goal free match was a fair result and with Cyprus the visitors to the Welsh capital on Monday night, Chris Coleman is hoping to stay on top of the table with favourites Belgium, who they visit in mid November
Cardiff is a great tourist destination with its castle in the city centre, as is Millenium Stadium. Less than a mile away is Cardiff Bay, Europe's biggest and best waterfront development with Mermaid Quay and its board walks and eclectic range of restaurants and pubs. We chose SALT with comfy seats, great service with a smile and a view from the upper terrace. Eggs Benedict with salmon and prosciutto, washed down with pear cider and Brain's dark beer the national beer of Wales. "Every beer has a head, but only one has brains."