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Guest blog: Tribute to a Cardiff hero; the Fred Keenor statue appeal

The Fred Keenor Statue Appeal hopes to raise £80,000 to build a monument honouring the 1927 Cardiff City FA cup winning captain.

Road sign commemorating Fred Keenor outside the Cardiff City Stadium, Leckwith (Photo: This is Canton)

This is Canton blogger Will Bain looks at Keenor’s legacy and the campaign to commemorate him at the new Cardiff City stadium.

By Will Bain

Fred Keenor is unique in British sporting history. The only captain ever to take the FA cup out of England after his Cardiff City side beat Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley to win the 1927 final.

Keenor was a no nonsense centre-half, likened by James Leighton, author ofFred Keenor: The man who never gave up, as a proto-type  Tony Adams or John Terry (although his treatment of Chelsea legend Dixie Dean is a little more Andoni “Butcher of Bilbao” Goikoetxea), a truly British centre-half: full of heart, passion a splash of agression and perhaps most significantly a man others would follow anywhere.

This is no surprise, Keenor was a truly inspirational man. Injured at the battle of the Somme while serving in the “footballers regiment”, there were serious question marks over whether he would ever play the game again post-war.

As it was he went on to play for City 371 times as well as captaining Wales during his 32 caps for his country.

He won three home nation championships with Wales, scoring two goals in his international career (both against England!).

So inspirational was Keenor for his country that an international against Scotland in 1930 was dubbed “Keenor and 10 others aginst Scotland”.

Fred was part  of a Cardiff side that not only climbed the divisions, but became a main stay of Division one football, coming within a whisker of the title in 1924 when they missed out on the title to the great Herbert Chapman’s Huddersfield Town on goal difference.

A year later city were beaten in their first of two FA cup finals that decade, 1-0 against Sheffield United.

Two years later it was a different story as Hughie Ferguson somehow got the ball through Arsenal’s Welsh international goalkeeper Dan Lewis and City brought the cup home for the club’s first, and to this day, only FA cup triumph.

However it wasn’t just Keenor’s leadership on the field which fuelled his adulation amongst supporters. Jonny Owen, Cardiff City fan and front man of The Stand, told me Keenor’s significance was much greater than that.

“Fred Keenor holds a place in the hearts of Welsh people almost un-paralled among sportsmen. At a time when Wales was shattered by war he gave us the greatest thing of all, hope,” he said.

“He was a Cardiff boy, Adamsdown, born and bred and lived among the fans who supported him earning roughly the same as they did. He played for love of the game above all else.

“You have to remember the 1927 cup win came on the back of the General and miners strikes and Fred was a working class guy. Many of the crowd were war veterans just like him, for these reasons the crowd identified with him, so he became synonymous with the win, almost the personification of it,” he said.

David Craig, a member of the Cardiff City Supporters Trust said:

“Of great importance to us was the fact he was born in Cardiff, went to school in Cardiff and after his playing career finished he worked in Cardiff and eventually died and was buried in the Cardiff. He was a true son of the city.”

Mark Bloom a local journalist covering Cardiff City for 15 years illuminated further:

“Their are iconic pictures in sport and Fred Keenor with the FA cup in his hands and a cigarette in his mouth is right up there.

“Fans could relate to him. There were not as many pictures taken of the games back then and TV was less universal than it is now so that was one of the few pictures ordinary fans saw.

“That’s why he became synonymous with the final above say Hughie Ferguson( the goal scorer) or Fred Stewart (the manager),”.

The Cardiff City Supporters Trust now hope to build a statue in their former captain’s honour. The proposed site will be on a patch of land outside the new Cardiff City Stadium where the Grandstand meets the Canton Stand. Roger Andrews, a sculptor from Llantwit Major, has been commissioned to create the statue.

David Craig is the statue project manager for the Trust; “It is 83 years since Keenor and Cardiff City’s success and no-one either individual or representative of the Welsh government has seen the need to commemrate his exploits,” he said.

“Cardiff is better at commemorating rugby sportsmen, witness the Gareth Edwards statue in the St David’s Centre, this is an attempt to redress the imbalance. In spite of attempts (many succesful) to portray it to the contrary, Cardiff is primarily a soccer city.”

“More people in Wales play  football than rugby and we as a paper feel a need to support the community in this project,” added Mark Bloom.

The trust need to raise around £80,000 to complete the project and are about half way there. Jonny Owen’s band The Stand recorded a version of the City anthem I’ll be there with proceeds going towards the appeal.

The Trust hope to next run a campaign offering season ticket holders the chance to add an extra few pounds towards their payments in support of the appeal.

If you are interested in getting involved you can contact the Supporters Trust at help@ccfctrust.org

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