My Bluebirds were slicker than Lennie's class of 2003

Last updated : 13 January 2003 By Michael Morris

FORMER Bluebirds' wing Dave Bennett last night compared Cardiff City's promotion chasers with his 1982-83 side and declared: "We were better than them."

And while the ex-wideman can't make up his mind about which one of his old clubs to support in the FA Cup third-round replay at Coventry's Highfield Road on Wednesday night, he's definite about one thing.

"I think the Cardiff side I played in had more character about it than the current one," said Bennett, even though he was at Ninian Park to watch the Bluebirds battle back from the dead to snatch a dramatic 2-2 draw against the Midlands team last Saturday.

"I'm glad I played for that one and not the current team.

"That's not to mean any dis-respect, it's just the way I feel.

"My Cardiff days were some of the happiest in my career.

"Although Lennie Lawrence's team has bags of talent - with people like Rob Earnshaw, Graham Kavanagh and Peter Thorne - we had some players who I think were worth a hell of a lot as well."

While Cardiff would obviously love to progress on Wednesday against Gary McAllister's outfit, promotion to Division One remains the Holy Grail for Hammam's men.

Mind you, Bennett has already achieved that at Ninian Park.

He was part of the Jeff Hemmerman-inspired City team that were promoted from the old Division Three to Two 20 years ago - the equivalent of going from the current Division Two to One these days.

"We had players like Phil Dwyer, Bob Hatton, John Lewis, Roger Gibbins and Lyndon Jones," said Bennett, an FA Cup winner with the Sky Blues in 1987 - and a losing finalist with Manchester City in 1981.

"And, of course, Hemmerman, who had one phenomenal year of banging in the goals.

"They were players who would all roll their sleeves up and put themselves about a bit.

"I was only at the club a couple of seasons but they provided me with some great memories.

"Having been back there last weekend, it's good to see Cardiff City looking ready to explode again.

"I just hope they keep together a team the fans deserve.

"If they don't then they'll go back to the bad old days when the best they could hope for was to be a yo-yo club."

Bennett went back to the top flight with Coventry after Cardiff went up in May 1983.

The Bluebirds then suffered successive relegations and some of the darkest days in their history.

It's so different to the optimistic times of today, and Bennett says while it will be no surprise if the Sky Blues go through on their own patch on Wednesday, it is the Welsh club that is potentially by far the bigger of the two.

"Cardiff will always have the potential to be bigger than Coventry because of the catchment area they have," he said.

"There's Newport, the Valleys and as far west as places near Swansea - it's massive.

"Coventry are up against so many other big clubs like Birmingham, Aston Villa and West Brom.

"But I think you have to make

Coventry favourites to win the replay.

"But Cardiff always have a chance with in their team.

"When someone scores 25 goals in a season the big clubs must sit up and take notice."

These days Bennett, now 43, still plays Sunday League football.

His professional career ended after he broke his leg FOUR times in five years and clubs eventually decided they could not take a risk on him.

"I had to accept it, although I'm glad I broke my leg doing something like playing football rather than being in an accident," he said.

"At least I can play now on a Sunday and in Masters tournaments.

"I play in testimonials, do charity work and I enjoy life."