Former Cardiff City manager Dave Jones, has left Hartlepool United. Pic: Getty Images.

Terry's Tales On Tour – An Insider View of Cardiff City Pre-Season Trips Over 20 years

On tour with the Bluebirds. Terry Phillips has travelled with Cardiff City  on pre-season trips over the last 20 years – he is based in Cornwall this week and will be watching all matches. 

Here are Terry’s tales from the tours as he looks back at some pre-season memories – and the managers he knew.

1 Frank Burrows 1998. Keele University:

This was the week defender Graham Mitchell joined the Bluebirds on trial, arriving at the University training ground and staying for the season.

The players used student accommodation, while Frank, his coaching staff and I were based on campus nearby.

I would sit with the manager each evening as he worked his way through a bottle of sauvignon blanc wine, buying it on the first night and finishing it on the night before the trip ended.

Frank Burrows. Pic: Getty Images.

2 Billy Ayre, 2000. Ireland:

The late Billy Ayre was manager and Cardiff were at a local park pitch to play Longford Town. Sam Hammam was about to take over the club and he sent Bobby Gould on a spying mission.

Gould was standing close to bushes at the ground, trying to watch without being spotted.

Unfortunately, he was seen early on and fans were walking past saying: “Hello Bobby.”

Shortly after the trip he was appointed Cardiff manager.

Are had been Burrows’ assistant manager and the pair worked well together.

Billy Ayre. Pic: Getty Images.

3 Lennie Lawrence, 2002. Scotland.

This was the summer of Kavanagh’s challenge. Cardiff were staying at MacDonald’s Hotel in Scotland when, on a midweek day off from training, ‘Kav’ asked me to play tennis.

The courts were at the back of City’s team hotel and when we walked out, having collected rackets and balls from reception, virtually every player was hanging out of windows ready for the crunch clash.

Captain ‘Kav’ powered to a 6-4, 6-3 victory and the guys cheered him every step of the way, while I was the target for some ‘hostile’ banter.

4 Lennie Lawrence, 2003. Scandinavia – Sweden and Denmark:

The Bluebirds were based in Malmo and also played one match in Copenhagen, which was a short coach journey away across a main bridge between Sweden and Denmark.

I travelled with the players and was on the team coach when it left our hotel. Unfortunately, Spencer Prior was late and when he emerged the coach had gone.

Centre-half Prior, who now lives in Australia, jumped in a taxi and arrived at the game in time to play, but the player committee took a stern view of the incident.

Prior was a member of the committee, but had to miss the meeting, chaired by captain Graham Kavanagh, and he was issued with a fine. The money, of course, went towards the team Christmas fund.

There was no doubt Prior was fed up having already splashed out on the taxi to Denmark.

Imagine his glee, then, when Cardiff City’s tour group boarded their flight from Malmo to head home. Departure was delayed because one person was missing – Kav!

He had been reading a book in the departures lounge and missed calls for the flight. Kavanagh was soon safely on board, greeted by catcalls and jeers from team-mates.

Prior immediately called a meeting of the player committee – and Kavanagh, too, made a donation to the Christmas party.

Cardiff lost 2-0 against BK Frem on that trip, a match refereed by Kim Milton Nielsen, who had sent off England’s David Beckham during a World Cup match against Argentina in 1998.

Lennie Lawrence. Pic: Getty Images.

5 Dave Jones, 2005. Scotland:

Portugal was DJ’s favourite venue for pre-season tours, when the trip to Scotland had already been arranged when he was appointed manager.

The squad stopped en route to Scotland and played Accrington Stanley. Italian striker Andrea Ferretti joined the club for that trip, while future Bluebirds captain Darren Purse arrived to watch.

He didn’t play, but was clearly impressed enough to sign for Cardiff soon after.

6 Dave Jones, 2006. Canada and USA:

The tour song adopted by the Bluebirds was ‘Burning Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash and it blared out during training sessions.

It was also played during the warm-up before Cardiff’s Vancouver Nations Cup semi-final against China’s Under-20 team.

Fitness coach Alex Armstrong led the warm-up and arranged to have the song played over the loudspeakers.

That was the night manager Jones revealed a hidden talent – he can speak Cantonese and chatted fluently to Zheng Xiang, head coach of the Chinese. He learned the language while playing for Seiko in Hong Kong.

Jones also went scuba diving between the match against China’s under-20 team and the tournament final.

He is proficient in the sport, saying: “I’ve been diving in the sea near islands in Thailand.”

Whitecaps officials arranged a scuba diving trip for Jones. The venue was near an old ship wreck in waters between Vancouver and Whistler.

It was a four-match trip to North America and Cardiff played a local team before drawing 1-1 against Seattle Sounders in front of more than 4,000 spectators at Qwestfield.

In the Vancouver tournament the Bluebirds won 5-0 against China and then drew 0-0 against hosts Whitecaps in the final. Cardiff, though, lost 3-1 in a penalty shootout. Kevin McNaughton scored from the spot, but Darren Purse, Steve Thompson and Michael Chopra failed.

Dave Jones even selected me for one game – a morning match against the local university where Cardiff had been training.

He wasn’t keen to send out his senior players and through me a shirt. I said no because of my advancing years, but he made me a sub and let me keep the shirt anyway.

Dave Jones. Pic: Getty Images.

7 Dave Jones, 2007. Portugal: 

This was the summer of Chopra’s revenge. The players were relaxing at the team hotel on a hot afternoon and I decided to go for a stroll. Mistake, big mistake!

Chopra, along with a few friends, borrowed a key to my room from reception and totally trashed it. To be fair, ‘Chops’ did a brilliant job.

The room was in a terrible state when I returned with the bed upside down and furniture all over the place, but there wasn’t any damage.

None, that is, apart from my toothbrush. Chops had cut all the bristles off and then wrote, in toothpaste, on the bathroom mirror.

His message was: “Guess who?”

Within hours Chopra was leaving the pre-season tour and completing his £5m transfer to Sunderland. Of course, he already knew that was happening.

Chopra’s departure opened the way for Robbie Fowler to sign.

8 Malky Mackay, 2011. Spain.

The trip top Spain had already been organised by ex-manager Dave Jones when Mackay took charge.

City played one match, winning 1-0 against Charlton Athletic at Estadio Guadalquivir del Coria in Seville.

The game was played in baking heat and French striker Rudy Gested, a 22-year-old who linked up with Cardiff on trial, scored the only goal.

The hot conditions ensured Mackay would take his Bluebirds to a far different location a year later.

Malky Mackay. Pic: Getty Images.

9 Malky Mackay, 2012. Switzerland. 

This was the only pre-season tour I went on when Cardiff City didn’t play any fixtures. Mackay ordered double training sessions every day – and the players cooled off in Lake Geneva which was at the bottom of the hotel gardens.

The Bluebirds rubbed shoulders with European football’s top brass after Mackay called on contacts in high places to arrange City’s week-long stay at Uefa headquarters in Nyon, near Geneva.

Fellow Scot David Taylor is chief executive of Uefa Events and has helped Mackay with arrangements for the trip.

Mackay also sent Richard Collinge, Cardiff’s head of performance, on a fact-finding mission to Nyon with the Uefa campus situated on the shores of Lake Geneva.

10 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 2014. Austria. 

It was back to baking temperatures when OGS took his team to the Tyrol region of Austria.

Cardiff trained at around the same altitude of Brecon Beacons landmark Penyfan, the highest point in south Wales at 886m (2,907ft).

Solskjaer had signed Javi Guerra, Guido Burgstaller, Adam Le Fondre, Federico Macheda and Kagisho Dikgacoi.

Having flown into Munich Airport, Cardiff’s squad travelled for an hour and a half, crossing the border into Austria to set up their base in the picture postcard village of Walchsee.

That is an all year round tourist hot spot. Sun seekers who love the scenic views of the forested Alpine peaks and the calm of nearby Lake Walchsee were out in force..

Ski enthusiasts take over during the winter to make use of the surroundings slopes. There are 40km of winter walking paths, 25km of ski runs and 140km of cross-country skiing tracks.

Fellow residents at the Bluebirds’ base are intrigued by the sight of professional footballers going through their paces nearby as they lounge around the hotel pool.

The hotel complex is divided by a main highway through the valley. There is an underground passageway to the players’ living quarters.

The walls of the tunnel are festooned with pictures of sporting organisations and other football clubs who have stayed here.

The stays of Werder Bremen, Hearts, Steaua Bucharest, the Ukraine national team and Russian side Kuban Krasnodar are among those celebrated.

Facilities were excellent, while pitch side hoses allowed ice baths to be on hand for the players to do recovery work after sessions.

“We could have gone to Malaysia,” said Solskjaer, “but these are better preparations.”

I was able to fly with the team, landing at Munich Airport before travelling on into Austria, and sat next to Norwegian Mats Daehli, whose father is a journalist, on the flight home.

Solskjaer also gave the go-ahead for BBC journalist Rob Phillips and I to eat all meals with the team.

It was an education watching and listening to Solskjaer’s inter-action with his players. There were jokes and banter, but also moments when he became more serious.

When Macheda took several spoons of sugar in his tea, Solskjaer watched him and said, sternly, but quietly, “That could be the difference for you in becoming a top quality player or missing out.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Pic: Getty Images.

11 Neil Warnock, 2017. Cornwall and Devon.

Now the Bluebirds are in Cornwall, staying close to where NW lives.

They started their pre-season fixtures at Taff’s Well on Friday, winning 1-0, and are now in the South West. Tavistock are first opponents on Monday.

Warnock stood with supporters before the match against Welsh League Wellman and even had a burger from the van in a corner of the ground.

“They charged me £4, but I went back for another one after the final whistle,” he said. “Thanks to all the fans because it was a super night and we raised a lot of money for charities.”

Warnock has arranged three first team friendlies in the South West, but says: “We’ll still be training every day without fail. I shocked the players last Friday when they were in for training before we went to Taff’s Well.”

Neil Warnock. Pic; Getty Images.

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