by Richard DJJ Bowdery.
Nearly 50,000 fans crammed into Ninian Park on Wednesday 10 March 1971 and witnessed club history being made. That night Second Division Cardiff City stunned Real Madrid when they beat the Spanish giants by a solitary goal. And one man in particular wrote himself into City’s folklore. His name? Brian Clark.
It was Clark who scored the game’s only goal in the first leg of that season’s European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final. In the 31st minute teenager Nigel Rees sent over a cross which was perfectly met by Clark’s forehead. That moment of ecstasy engulfed every Welshman in the ground and had the six-time European champions holding their collective heads in disbelief. What’s more, Cardiff could have added to their tally.
For many of Cardiff’s older fans it brought back memories of another triumph against the odds: the 1927 Cup Final at Wembley where City beat Arsenal, again by the only goal of the game. The scorer for Cardiff in that match was Hughie Ferguson who became a club legend. Forty-four years later Brian Clark joined that illustrious club in the minds of those Bluebirds fans.
The South Wales Echo wrote after the match: “Whatever happens in Madrid, nobody can take anything away from the players for their wonderful show.” Yes the minnows from English football’s second tier had humbled one of the best teams in the world!
In the return leg 14 days later at Real’s Bernabéu stadium the Welshmen could not repeat their Ninian Park heroics and were beaten 2-0, but they were certainly not disgraced.
As for Clark, a Bristolian by birth and a Welshman by choice, he went on to score 91 goals in 240 appearances across two spells at Cardiff City and finished his playing days at Newport County.
Sadly he died in 2010 at only 67 years of age – he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s. But his name will live on whenever Cardiff City fans recall that memorable night when the lowly Welsh dragon slayed one of the world’s most invincible teams.