Byline: Michael Ward
The fans who followed Birmingham City to the Leyland Daf Cup and Auto Windscreens Shield finals in 1991 and 1995 are about to find out why the Millennium Stadium is a world apart from the Wembley they knew.
For the Stade de France, chest-thumping pride of Paris, read the heartbeat of Cardiff. Where the Millennium Dome and the Millennium Bridge failed miserably, expensively and embarrassingly, the Welsh have built the supreme monument to the 21st century.
Where Wembley was soulless, cheerless and dishevelled, the Millennium Stadium is a shining symbol of all that is good about British engineering, planning and forethought; a stadium fit for the Queen, no less, to watch the Rugby World Cup final in 1999.
A stadium fit for Martin Johnson's England to rise majestically to their surroundings and play their finest rugby in the Six Nations Championship earlier this month.
A stadium fit to restore some of the self-esteem Welsh folk have lost through the economic ravages of the last two decades, during which the steel closures at Llanwern and Ebbw Vale alone have cost 2,000 jobs and devastated whole communities.
At least the citizens of Cardiff have something tangible, towering above the water, with which to identify.
A pity about the Six Nations result, though. No wonder the Welsh were aghast at the dreadful sacrilege of the English, of all enemies, invading their stronghold and treating the place as if they owned it.
If Blues are destined to succumb to the Premiership might of Liverpool, supporters will at least be able to say that they were there. It might not happen again and for many, it will go down as a trip of a lifetime.
Ah, but let us not forget the small matter of promotion to the Premiership through the back door.
Blues fans could conceivably find themselves visiting the principal feature of the Principality twice in the space of three months.
Like it or not, the odds of Trevor Francis taking his team to Cardiff for the lottery of a First Division play-off final on May are significantly greater than their chances of automatic promotion.
And yet, given the choice of a second wing-and-prayer trip to the Millennium Stadium or direct elevation to the top flight, Blue Noses would gladly forsake the lottery. …