Wales International Tom Lockyer has spoken about his time with Cardiff City, revealing that leaving the Bluebirds was “the best thing that ever happened to me”.
Lockyer grew up in Cardiff, first playing for Grangetown then moving to Radyr Rangers, before being spotted by Cardiff City as a youngster. He joined the Bluebirds at the age of 11, but was released when he was 16 for not being “big enough or strong enough”.
Speaking to The Central Club podcast, Lockyer says getting away from the Cardiff and securing regular men’s football after the disappointment of being released was the making of him.
“One of the dad’s lads was running a team down in Grangetown. I ended up playing a few games for Grangetown, I was 6 or 7 playing at under nines. After that, I moved to Radyr and signed for Radyr Rangers.
After a while for them, I was spotted by the Cardiff City Academy. I was there until I was 15, when they started offering scholarships out. I didn’t get one of them unfortunately.
At the time, I wasn’t big – I didn’t grow until I was about 16 or 17. I was playing right back all the way through until somebody got injured, I ended up playing centre half for the last six months before the decision. I ended up doing really well there at centre back, but I was tiny
“They just said to ‘you’re not big enough, you’re not strong enough. We love you as a footballer, as a lad – work ethic and all that – but you’re not big enough and not strong enough’.
While Lockyer was devastated at leaving his hometown side – he had a season ticket for them for many years, and even travelled to Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup Final in 2008 – he admitted that being released and signing for Bristol Rovers was “the best thing that ever happened” to him.
“In a way it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Lockyer said of his release. “Looking back now, it was a great age group we had. I remember one of the coaches who had done (Chris) Gunter and (Aaron) Ramsey said your age group is by far the best we’ve had in years. It was. We would win everything.
“There were loads of talented lads, a lot more talented than me. A lot bigger as well, which is what they were after. But a lot of them just went on to fizzle out. Me getting released and having to go to Bristol Rovers and end up playing men’s football was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“I had a season ticket for five or six years,” he added. “It’s weird, they say you should never play for the team you support because you obviously end up despising them and that’s what happened, it was as simple as that. It broke my heart. Cardiff was my team, it was Cardiff and Wales. There was nothing else.”
Lockyer currently plays for Luton Town in the Premier League. He had an injury scare in the 2023 Championship play-off final, suffering a atrial fibrillation of the heart, which required. He won Luton’s Player of the Season award that year, as well as being named captain of the side.
You can watch the full interview with Tom Lockyer here.
Lockyer previously discussed his Cardiff City exit in a 2019 interview, where he claimed that “a lot of the players” he played alongside in the academy were better than him.
Despite that, only Declan John out of the group played Premier League football, with very few of them playing professional football at all.
“It was a blessing at the time, because out of the boys who did stay it is only Declan John who has made a career out of it. The rest have fizzled away and, I’ll be honest, a lot of those players were better than me at that time.
“Getting released was the best thing for me.”