By Declan Taylor
Anyone doubting the ‘magic’ of the FA Cup need look no further than Sunday’s Fourth-Round opponents.
Last season Championship club Cardiff City reached their first FA Cup Final for 81 years dispatching Premier League Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium along the way.
However, it wasn’t to be in May’s showpiece against Portsmouth with the Bluebirds losing out to a solitary strike from ex-Arsenal favourite Kanu at Wembley.
The South-Wales outfit are back on the warpath in 2009 and, after sweeping aside high-flying Reading in the Third Round, Cardiff are looking to add some more notable scalps to the Ninian Park collection during the last season at their famous home.
Ahead of Arsenal’s trip across the River Severn, we spoke to Steve Tucker of the Western Mail about Cardiff’s dangermen, Aaron Ramsey’s home-coming and potentially Ninian Park’s final FA Cup fixture.
THE STORY SO FAR
“I think it’s a great start to the season and people would have taken that early on. The only thing that is slightly disappointing has been the amount of dropped points recently. They were leading at Birmingham last weekend but gave away a goal four minutes into injury time. The same thing happened on Boxing Day at Reading so there have been points shed. The general feeling among the players is that they should be that little bit higher. In sixth place at the moment with a game in hand so people are generally happy with that. We go into this game 10 games unbeaten so you can’t really ask for much more than that.”
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
“Ninian Park is always known as a tough place to come and this season has been no different. It has become a bit of a fortress and of course the game on Sunday is a complete sell-out and it should be an absolutely fantastic atmosphere. Rather intimidating which is what Cardiff fans pride themselves on. Hopefully Cardiff can maybe unsettle Arsenal. I think it’s the sort of factor which can play in their favour.
“There’s added poignancy to this game because of course next season Cardiff move to a new stadium so potentially this could be the last FA Cup game to be played at Ninian Park, so there is that added edge.”
THE ONE TO WATCH
“Joe Ledley is really one of the jewels in the crown down here; a local lad who used to watch Cardiff on the terraces. Incredible player who only turned 22 this week but he already has 25 senior caps for Wales and the Birmingham game was his 200th appearance for Cardiff. He is loved down here, he is a real talisman, and he has been playing very well of late. Dave Jones has moved him in from the left into the centre of midfield and he’s thriving in the centre seeing a lot of the ball.
“They fended off a £6million bid from Stoke in the summer, West Ham have been interested and he has even been linked with Arsenal at one point. It is going to be difficult to keep hold of him. I know Joe quite well and I know that he’s desperate to play in the Premier League after seeing the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Chris Gunter go up there. He has been loyal to the club but obviously there is a lot of ambition there.
"He is a busy guy who isn’t afraid to put a foot in. he is comfortable on the ball and can beat a man. He likes to forage forward and gets goals. He’s captain at 21, perhaps Cardiff’s youngest ever.”
THE MAN IN CHARGE
“Dave Jones went through a very sticky period last year, during November, when he was close to getting the push. Results were terrible and it was reported that he was given a couple of games to turn it around and he did that. The rest is history.
“He got the team to Wembley and he’ll go down in the club’s history books for that. He is not loved by everyone, he is a prickly character and always has been. He can be a bit of a grumbler and moaner and doesn’t always have the best relationships with the press. He has turned things around for Cardiff though and he is respected for what he has done. Every season he is forced to sell his best players to bring the money in. he is then forced to bring someone else in for cheaper.
“Jones is excellent at finding that rough diamond, he has had misses of course, but he has had a lot of hits as well. I would say he is doing a good job at the moment but top six is what everyone is looking for.”
MAN OF THE MOMENT
“Aaron Ramsey is a class act with a lot of promise and there will be a lot of pressure put on his shoulders, particularly down here as a Welsh international. He got his first senior cap last year and down here he is expected to be the anchor of the Welsh international midfield for years to come.
“We’re just hoping he plays on Sunday, we would love to have him back down here. He is really well liked and he is a great kid with brilliant temperament. He certainly made the right choice going to Arsenal I think. If he develops as he can do I think he will be a great British player, he has got everything.
“There’s even a certain section of Cardiff fans that think if Ramsey had started last season’s FA Cup Final at Wembley, Cardiff would be the cup holders now, it’s still a talking point in the pub. He will definitely have a fabulous welcome and Arsenal have got themselves a diamond there.”
“They have been defending very well of late and they’re not letting in a lot of goals, late ones aside. They have been very stingy. Jones always goes 4-4-2 and I think they’ll approach it just like any other game. they won’t be too expansive because they know it’s Arsenal but I can’t see them sitting back.
“There’s a lot on Ross McCormack and Bothroyd up front. It will be one of those games when if Cardiff get an early chance, they will have to take it. They can’t be wasteful and if they can go ahead maybe Arsenal might get a little bit twitchy or panicky maybe.”Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source