‘He was Mr Cardiff City’ – biographer’s tribute to Phil Dwyer
As a life long Cardiff City fan I was thrilled to be asked to work with Phil on his autobiography in the summer of 2010.
I couldn’t believe my luck. This was the man who was a true Cardiff City legend, the club’s record appearance holder, who had made 575 appearances between 1972-1985, while playing in almost every position, and twice winning promotion.
People often say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but Phil was a very special man. We’d often meet in Wetherspoons, where he always greeted me with a smile on his face and genuinely loved talking of the old days. Often a fellow fan would come to our table to chat with the man we all knew as ‘Joe’. He never turned anyone away. He was so down to earth and just loved talking about football.
While Phil’s heralded appearance record was well known, what I didn’t know was just how often he played through the pain barrier. A full hearted player, who often put his body on the line, he paid a heavy price for his commitment. On the morning of games he often couldn’t walk but he would always declare himself fit.
In 1982 a serious knee injury almost saw his time at the club, and as a player, come to an end. His manager, Len Ashurst, told me most players would have called it a day. And yet Phil not only continued to play, winning promotion in 82/83, but he also played in every game the following season, often in serious pain.
Cardiff City fans loved his whole hearted commitment, not to mention his willingness to play anywhere on the pitch. Yet perhaps it was Phil’s personality they loved most. There are countless stories of Phil cracking jokes with fans during games, often caked in mud after delivering another shuddering challenge. He would be happy to chat after games in the pub, while he also played baseball on the parks when the season ended. He was always so accessible, genuine and down to earth.
While he cherished playing for Cardiff it was perhaps receiving international recognition which truly made him proud. His finest moment came in 1978 when he scored against England, at Ninian Park of all places. The only time I ever saw him close to tears was remembering the roar of his home crowd when that goal went in.
When it came to deciding on the title for Phil’s book the publisher was keen on ‘Mr Cardiff City.’ Phil was far too modest and initially rejected it. It was only after I told him that if anyone had the right to call himself ‘Mr Cardiff City’ it was him, a boy from Grangetown who played more times for the club than anyone in history.
Like many, I’m going to miss Phil. I’d still see him at games, even as recently as two weeks ago, and he’d always welcome you with a beaming smile and a hug. But while we mourn the loss of one of our greatest players, his achievements will never diminish. The record books will tell you he made 575 appearances, yet our memories tell us he was the heart and soul of Cardiff City Football Club.
Rest in peace Phil, you won’t be forgotten.
Mr Cardiff City by Phil Dwyer and James Leighton is available from Amazon
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