Weekly review 28/5/17.

We’re still at that stage where there is nothing much to talk about really other than transfer speculation, but there has been a feeling this week that one or two of the rumours regarding new players for Cardiff City may have something more substantial to them.

For example, after first being linked with us in January, Callum Paterson’s name has come up again and what sets this speculation apart from most of the other stuff we tend to hear at this time of year is that it’s been reported that he has already visited Cardiff for a meeting with Neil Warnock as his contract at Hearts winds down.

There is a general acceptance that the twenty two year old right back and occasional striker, who has won five Scottish caps, will be leaving the Edinburgh club this summer and there had been speculation that his destination would be Glasgow – in particular, the blue half of the old firm.

However, while there was a time when the news that Glasgow Rangers were interested in a Cardiff City transfer target would have been a signal for us to accept defeat and move on to someone else, those days are long gone now.

I say that not because we have grown from where we were, say, seven years ago, but because it would appear that, although Rangers are now back in the Scottish Premier League, they are still some a long way from being the financial powerhouse they were during the Graham Souness days when current England internationals were being tempted north of the border.

The consequences of the liquidation which saw the Ibrox club demoted to the fourth tier of the Scottish game five years ago are still being felt and so the player pool they are forced to fish in these days appears to be the same one as middle to lower ranking Championship clubs like us are using. Therefore, stories the like of which we saw this week where it was reported that Rangers seem to be losing the race to sign Callum Paterson to Cardiff City should not be treated with scorn - there probably will come a time when the “natural order” of things whereby we would be long odds second favourites in any race with Rangers for a player will be restored, but that time’s not here yet it seems.

Perhaps tellingly, there has been no denial from Paterson or his representatives or Neil Warnock and Cardiff City that the reported meeting between the two parties did take place. Therefore, I would conclude that there was a meeting – consequently I feel that Patterson is someone we are very interested in capturing.

Of course, it could be that stories saying we look favourites to sign the player could all be part of a ploy to alert other clubs that a deal is imminent and they need to get a move before it’s too late for them. However, there is the fact that Paterson is only just back into light training following his knee ligament injury early in the year which threatens to keep him out for the early stages of the new season to take into account as well – this may mean that there are clubs, who would otherwise have been interested, who’ll now be looking elsewhere, but, assuming that meeting with Warnock did take place, it does show how much we want this player and that may be something which Paterson would appreciate at this particular time in his career.

No one is claiming yet that Joe Ledley has met with Neil Warnock with a view to signing for City, but, let’s face it, if, as expected. Crystal Palace do not renew his contract when it expires at the end of next month, then we would be better placed than many other Championship clubs are to persuade the man from Fairwater to step down a division.

I’ve always felt that Ledley was a strong candidate to return to the club he left in 2010 eventually, but as he only turned thirty in January, I thought that day would be a few years down the line yet. However, albeit on a smaller scale, it would appear that we are now in a similar situation to where we found ourselves when it was first mooted that Craig Bellamy could be coming “home” – the signal us not being interested in a player who is currently still good enough to be selected in what Chris Coleman would consider his strongest Wales team would be harmful to City if said player was amenable to such a move.

Of course, there is nothing official yet to confirm that Joe Ledley would be amenable to a return to Cardiff and it should not be forgotten that there has been no official confirmation from Palace yet that they will not be offering him a new deal.

It is a fact though that Ledley has, seemingly, said his goodbyes to a member of the Palace medical staff on social media and this, together with the fact he owns a house in Penarth (apparently, he has done for a couple of years mind) is enough for some to conclude that Matt Connolly might face competition for the number sixteen shirt at Cardiff in 17/18.

For myself, I’d say that it wouldn’t surprise me too much if we were trying to get Ledley and, if we are, then I think there’s a decent chance we’ll get him.

So, I’d say we are almost certainly in for Paterson and it’s more than likely that we are for Ledley. I’m not so sure about reports that we are interested in another Scottish international defender in Newcastle’s Grant Hanley mind. The centreback, who struggled to get games for the title winners in 16/17, is the subject of a reported £4 million bid from Derby and, surely, we need to be spending such a fee in other areas don’t we – always assuming we are in a position to spend millions on one player of course.

Two things occur to me about Hanley – first is he really that much better than what we have already and, second, if we really are chasing £4 million rated centrebacks, then you have to conclude that Vincent Tan has authorised transfer spending of the level we saw in the summer of 2012 before our Championship winning campaign – that just seems very unlikely to me.

Finally, Millwall’s Play Off Final win over Bradford last weekend means that we will have a relatively short away trip to go with the treks up north for visits to relegated sides Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull and newly promoted Sheffield United and Bolton. With Reading and Huddersfield meeting tomorrow to decide the final promotion place (it goes without saying that my prediction was for a Sheffield Wednesday v Fulham Play Off Final!), the full make up of the 17/18 Championship will soon be known. I suppose on geographical grounds alone, I should be rooting for Huddersfield and I do slightly favour them, but it wouldn’t bother me too much at all if Reading went up – either way, promotion for one of these teams (as well as Brighton’s automatic promotion) offers yet more proof that the Championship is a league where you do not need to have millions of pounds in parachute payments behind you to be successful.

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Weekly review 21/5/17.

 

Aleksander Kolorov has been at Manchester City for seven years this summer. He’s played getting on for two hundred matches for the club and, although he has been used as a centreback at times this season, most of his appearances have been as a left back.

Like many modern day full backs, it could be argued that Kolarov is better going forward than he is at defending, but you don’t get to play so many matches for what has, arguably, been the country’s top team during his time at Man City if you are a complete liability as a defender.

It would be interesting to see who Kolarov rated as the players who have given him most problems over the past seven years – is there a chance I wonder if a Cardiff City player would feature on a list of his most difficult opponents?

Craig Noone was injured at the start of our Premier League season (13/14) and so didn’t feature in the never to be forgotten first home match back in the top flight when we beat a Man City team which had the Serbian as an unused substitute 3-2.

So, when the teams met for a second time on 18 January 2014, I suppose it’s possible that Kolarov had barely heard of Noone, let alone seen him play. Certainly, the left back’s unfamiliarity with his direct opponent that afternoon may have been a reason for the uncomfortable time of it he had against a player who was able to consistently get the better of him.

I remember I rated Noone’s display that afternoon as one of the best I’d seen from a City winger and said so on here at the time. This opinion was disagreed with by some, but I maintain that, given Noone turned it on against the team that would win the title that year, he had a right to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Farrell against Middlesbrough, Villars against Palace and Anderson against quite a few opponents in 75/76.

Man City’s attacking play was so potent that season that their first goal that afternoon was their hundredth in all competitions for the season, but, by losing 4-2, City could take some consolation from the fact that they didn’t leave Manchester on the end of a real drubbing like so many sides did that season.

The main reason why we were able to give the Champions elect a decent game was that Noone had what has to have been his best game in a City shirt that day. He scored a lovely goal and, although this was yet another defeat we suffered that season with him in the team (given that he was absent for our decent start to that campaign, our results were absolutely appalling in the Premier League matches in which he featured), I’d still say that, overall, Noone was one of a very small group of our players who acquitted themselves pretty well at the top level.

Certainly, given his fine form throughout the Championship winning season, there were grounds for thinking that Noone would be one of our strongest performers back in the second tier and one of the foundations that any attempt to return to the Premier League would be built on – especially as, at twenty six, going on twenty seven, he was entering the period when it’s generally reckoned that pro footballers are at their best.

Instead, the last three seasons have seen Noone in decline until it got to the stage where this week’s announcement that he has been made available for transfer came as no shock whatsoever.

Right from his first game against Wolves, Craig Noone made a significant impact during our promotion season, but, unfortunately, I think it’s true to say that nearly all of his best football at Cardiff was played when we were the “redbirds”.

I remember reading an article at the time of Neil Warnock’s appointment which picked out Noone as a player who would prosper under our new manager. Given that Warnock has spoken of his liking for wingers in the last few months and was, indeed, one himself in his playing days, I wouldn’t be too critical of the writer of that piece for being proved wrong and it’s true to say that the first goal of the Warnock era came from a penalty awarded for a foul on the scouser by Bristol City’s Joe Brian.

Unfortunately, as another winger in Kadeem Harris, who was at the club before Warnock came here, has shot past Noone in the pecking order, the man who, famously, tiled Steven Gerrard’s roof, has resolutely failed to fall under the spell of “the Warnock effect”.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. For a few weeks in February, Noone looked to be coming back to his best and it was no coincidence that his two goals for the season came within four days of each other in the high scoring wins over Derby and Rotherham, with the first of them being an absolute beauty. However, Noone was unable to maintain that form and Harris and Junior Hoilett soon resumed their places as first choice wide men in Warnock’s team.

So, why did Noone not kick on and build on those two good seasons he had when he first came here? Well, I wouldn’t put his demise down to a poor attitude on his behalf, because he remained willing to put a shift in for the team throughout the years since we were relegated. No, as a winger who relied on trickery to beat his opponent, rather than searing pace, I feel it was more down to a decline in confidence.

There will be those who will say that left footed wingers should play on the left and right footed ones on the right and, broadly speaking, I agree with that view. However, the left footed Noone was playing on the right that afternoon when he tormented Man City and, certainly, while the shots as he cut in to hit the ball with his left peg were hitting the net or forcing saves from the keeper, there was merit in the idea of playing him on the “wrong” side, but that fine goal against Derby became something of an oasis in a desert of shots that flew high, wide and not so handsome I’m afraid.

Presumably, Noone has just the one year left on his contract, hence the wish to get rid of him while we can still get a fee, but how big a fee it will be remains a matter of debate. There was a time when reports that a former club of Noone’s was interested in signing him would set you thinking that newly promoted Brighton might be looking to integrate him into their Premier League squad, but, now, the only club I’ve seen him linked with so far is Plymouth who are also celebrating a promotion at this time, but only to League One.

Noone is too good for that level in my book and it wouldn’t surprise me if, with a change of surroundings and a new playing challenge, he turned into a good, pretty cheap, signing for a mid to lower ranking Championship club who may well come back to haunt us at some time during 17/18 – I definitely believe the decision to make him available for transfer was the right one for all parties involved though.

That apart, it’s been a very quiet week on all fronts at the club, with the only other transfer speculation/rumour I’ve heard being an unlikely sounding move for Preston left back Greg Cunningham (surely we have enough cover for that position already?) which brought the response that they weren’t looking to sell any of their players from the Lancashire club. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong, but, on a scale where one is very unlikely and ten an absolute certainty in the transfer rumour stakes, I’d give this one a two.

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