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The Cardiff and Swansea Derby

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BBC Wales History BBC Wales History | 08:33 UK time, Friday, 5 November 2010

Derby matches in all sports - rugby, football, cricket, whatever - are always keenly contested. There is nothing better or sweeter than beating your near-neighbours in a hard-fought and emotional contest that brings fame and success to one side, the bitter taste of defeat to the other.

That statement is certainly true when you apply it to the long-standing rivalry between the football clubs of Cardiff and Swansea. On Sunday 7 November this year that rivalry will resume. Only this time it has a particular significance as both sides are hovering at or near the top of the Championship table and promotion to the Premiership for one, or both, is a real possibility.

The rivalry between the two clubs is one of the fiercest in British football. And it has been that way since the earliest games between the clubs. Those early matches took place before World War One and from the beginning the games, either at Cardiff's Ninian Park or at Swansea's Vetch Field, were always well supported.

Partisanship was to be expected and neither side appeared to be unduly affected by sitting smack in the middle of the country's rugby dominated industrial heartland. A sport loving Welsh populace would as happily stand on the terraces to watch Cardiff and Swansea battle it out as they would trek to the Arms Park or Rodney Parade to watch Cardiff and Newport contest the bragging rights in their rugby version of "the local derby."

Since the first match between Cardiff City and, as they then were, Swansea Town in 1912 the clubs have contested league points, the FA Cup and the Welsh Cup on a regular basis. By the end of the 2009/2010 season the record stood at 75 victories for Cardiff, 43 for Swansea, with 37 matches ending in a draw.

Records are one thing but memories of famous matches are another. Cardiff, as most people know, won the FA Cup back in the 1920s but Swansea, under the managership of John Toshack, did manage to top what was then the old First Division for a while in the 1980s. But it's matches between the two sides that really cause the adrenalin to rush and power through the blood stream.

The games have always been popular. A pre-season friendly - if you can have such a thing between Cardiff and Swansea - in 1938 saw a crowd of over 10,000 pushing through the entry gates.

A few years later, on 26 October 1940, Cardiff demolished their rivals 8-0, the Bluebirds Blitzkrieg as it was known in those early war years. Swansea extracted their revenge at the end of the war, winning 4-1 on a snow covered pitch that, these days, would have insurers quickly reaching for their cheque books - or at least their heart tablets!

Strange as it may seem when you consider the fierceness of the rivalry, there are several renowned footballers who have played for both teams. Among them are Ivor Allchurch and Mel Charles, perhaps two of the most famous of all Welsh footballers, while Cardiff's favourite son John Toshack went on to manage the Swans during a very successful period in their history.

Sadly the rivalry between the two sides has, on occasions, degenerated into violence and football hooliganism. After a particularly bad incident in December 1993 - shown on national television - the Football Association of Wales even banned away fans for several years.

Hopefully such mindless violence now lies in the past. Both Cardiff and Swansea are currently in positions of strength in the League and nobody could deny them the chance - the very real chance - of realising their true potential. They have a genuine opportunity to give Welsh soccer fans what they have desired for years - football at the highest possible level.

The rivalry, of course, will remain, whatever happens this year. A local derby is something to be savoured, whichever side you support.

You can catch the match on Sunday 7 November, 1pm on BBC One. Find out more about the coverage.

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