Weekly review 23/7/17.

In terms of results at least, the club’s pre season tour of Devon and Cornwall can be counted as a success at first team level, but the Under 23 Development team found it tougher going.

Starting with the seniors, they followed up the 1-0 win at Taff’s Well last week, with a trio of victories. The first came at Tavistock on Monday, where Nathanel Mendez-Laing, Kenneth Zohore and Idriss Saadi (more on him later) all bagged a brace of goals in a first half which ended with us 6-1 ahead. A raft of changes and an alteration in formation followed and City were in danger of “losing” the second half until Joe Ralls’ late goal put the icing on a 7-2 victory.

It was tougher for a much changed starting line up at Bodmin a couple of days later as Lee Tomlin made his first start for us, but it was another newcomer, Loic Damour, who made the biggest impact as he netted with a ferocious effort from twenty five yards to put us ahead. A dodgy penalty (to follow a similar spot kick award against us at Tavistock) enabled the home side to go in level at the break, but, after more mass changes at half time, City were able to give themselves a bit of breathing space early in the second period through a second from Damour and a close in header from Zohore who had taken over the main striking role from Danny Ward. The former Rotherham man had switched to the left to accommodate Zohore and, while Ward has had a frustrating time of it in front of goal so far and was the main sufferer at the hands of an inspired home keeper at Bodmin,  he showed up well with assists from the left wing for both of the second half goals.

Loic Damour is congratulated following his brilliant long range goal against Bodmin this week.*

The game finished 3-1 and set up the senior side nicely for their tour finale at Home Park against Plymouth. This was an altogether tighter affair as City, fielding a 4-3-3 formation with Gunnarsson, Ralls and Damour in a narrow looking midfield with the impressive Mendez-Laing and Ward on the flanks, found it hard to get men forward to support Zohore in a goalless first half.

The introduction of Matt Kennedy and, in particular, Tomlin at half time gave us more of an attacking edge and it didn’t take long after the break for us to get the game’s only goal as Zohore’s clever run after he’d been fouled and Tomlin’s vision to quickly thread the ball through to the striker from the free kick put him through on goal in a position which became increasingly familiar over the second half of last season. The result was usually a goal for us in 16/17, and it was here as well as Zohore confidently rolled the ball home.

Argyle, promoted from League Two last season, put us under pressure after that, but couldn’t break down a solid rearguard in which Sean Morrison, who signed a three year contract extension in the week to, hopefully, put an end to the uncertainty caused by Sheffield Wednesday’s bid for him a few weeks ago, shone against the home town club he had started his career with.

Jazz Richards’ forty five minutes as a second half sub meant that all of our first team squad have got some game time now except Callum Patterson, who continues his comeback from the cruciate ligament injury he suffered late last year, and Lee Camp, but there are hopes that the latter will be able to feature in one of or both of this week’s matches at Shrewsbury on Tuesday and then at home to Livingston on Friday.

As mentioned earlier, things did not go as well for the youngsters who accompanied their seniors to the west country. On Thursday, they drew 2-2 at St. Austell as they, disappointingly, conceded twice from headers from free kicks to lose leads given to them by Mark Harris and Declan John. Yesterday afternoon saw us go a couple of early goals down against Bideford – Ibrahim Meite reduced the deficit late on from the penalty spot, but it wasn’t enough to prevent defeat in a match where Jamie Veale’s saved penalty in the first period proved crucial.

The City teams for these two matches included a raft of trialists which included the Livingston pair (Matthew Knox and Danny Mullen) I mentioned on here a couple of weeks ago – they will stay with us next week until we face their parent club in five days time. Also recorded as a trialist by the media was Tyrone Duffus, whose presence in the pen pictures for the Development team on the club’s website suggests he has already signed a contract for us.

Duffus is an attacking midfield player who was released by Everton this summer having signed for them from home town club Cheltenham in 2012 – he never made a first team appearance for the Goodison Park side, but now has the chance to make an impact closer to home so to speak.

Spending so much time discussing football matches is always a good sign in these reviews as far as I’m concerned because it signals that the “proper” stuff isn’t too far away. However, there is still the odd off field story floating around which merits some sort of comment and so, here’s a few words about the claim made in the national media a few days ago that Vincent Tan is prepared to sell the club for £30 million.

I must admit to being sceptical when I saw that figure because it seems to be low to me and senior figures from the club moved quickly to deny the story.

However, this story from the local media paints a slightly different picture in that it tells us that the document, which was at the heart of the original story, is only dated last month and those quotes in the Wales Online story from the opening lines are pretty unequivocal. My guess is that what we have here is a confirmation of what I think most City fans have known for some time. Vincent Tan is willing to sell the club for the right figure, but that has been true from the day he first became linked with the club eight years ago – I don’t believe the release of this thirty two page document signals a new thinking on our owner’s part, more it’s a reaffirmation of something that was true from day one.

Anyway, that’s an end to this off field stuff this week and I’ll finish with a subject I’m much happier talking about – current and/or former City players.

Firstly, there’s someone who now falls into the former City players category as the aforementioned Idriss Saadi moved to newly promoted Ligue 1 club Strasbourg this week on a long term contract.

I still believe that the main reason Saadi is no longer at the club is that he found it hard to settle in this country after moving here nearly two years ago and I note with interest reports that his wife remained in France when Saadi was signed.

People got very excited about a twenty five minute cameo off the bench by Saadi in a win against Reading back in November 2015 and I assume that this is why there were those who were critical of the club for selling him this week. Certainly, a couple of goals in his final appearance for the club to go with his impressive loan spell at Kortrijk last season adds strings to their bow so to speak, but as someone who watched Saadi and Kenneth Zohore playing in the same Development team on a couple of occasions late in 15/16, I rated Ken (then perceived as something of a raw failure for not fulfilling the potential of his teenage years) the more likely first team player at the time – notwithstanding the fact that Saadi scored a good goal in one of the matches.

One thing that was interesting was that Neil Warnock said we had got a good price for Saadi (who won his first full cap for Algeria last month) and I agree to the extent that we must, surely, have got more for him than we originally paid to bring him here. However, I’m far from convinced by claims that the fee we got for Saadi runs into seven figures, even if his transfer value has risen in the last twelve months – I’d love to be proved wrong because it would reflect well on the club if it were true, but I don’t believe that the fee we got from the striker covers the whole of what we might end up paying for Danny Ward, as has been claimed on the messageboards in the last day or two.

Finally, kudos to those on the club’s website responsible for it being so up to date on the players who will be turning out for City at Academy level over the next nine months or so. I’ve already mentioned ex Evertonian Tyrone Duffus, but looking at those at a younger age level than him, it seems that City may have benefited from there being someone at that club who had tipped us off about players they were releasing, because of the three new Under 18 players appearing on the website, two of them were with the Goodison Park club last season.

First, there’s Welsh youth international utility player Ryan Reynolds who is versatile enough to play in a number of positions, but, given our lack of young strikers below first team level at the more senior of the various age groups, I’m pleased to see striker Henry Smith arrive – thinking about it, I believe both of them may have featured in the Under 16 team victory over Wolves in a game played at Cardiff City Stadium very late last season.

City have also signed Jordan Duffy, a goalkeeper who was with Plymouth Argyle and he featured from the bench in yesterday’s Development team match.

*picture courtesy of

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

 

 

Posted in Out on the pitch, The kids., The stiffs, Up in the Boardroom | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weekly review 15/7/17.

According to Neil Warnock, Cardiff City completed their incoming transfer business for the summer this week with what was their most expensive signing of the close season period – almost certainly, it involved the biggest fee we’ve paid for a player since the reported £5 million we paid for Bruno Manga in August 2014.

I’ll come to the player involved shortly. but, before that, I should add the caveat our manager gave that we may still be looking for new arrivals before 1 September if we receive a bid for a current player that is too big to turn down.

Currently, it would appear that this may be relevant to two first team squad members in particular. Apparently, we’ve received another bid from an unnamed club for Sean Morrison who was the subject of an offer, believed to be £3 million, from Sheffield Wednesday about a month ago.

With a probable need for some balancing of the books following the signings we have made, I suppose it doesn’t have to follow that the latest bid for our captain was a bigger one than the previous one, but the likelihood has to be that it was. Either way, with his contract up next summer, Morrison is at that stage where interested parties probably think they’ve got their best chance of getting their target. Although he didn’t say it in as many words, our manager appeared to hint that the club were taking steps to sort out a new deal for Morrison in the near future, but, I’d say that further developments in this case cannot be ruled out if the player’s contract situation remains as it is now as the closure of the transfer window gets closer.

Hardly surprisingly, the other player I was referring to is Kenneth Zohore.  After having their first offer rebuffed, Hull City came back with a second one (£8 million, possibly rising to £10 million is the amount I’ve seen reported), which was, apparently, also given short shrift by City.

The word coming out from the club appears to be that potential suitors need to look at a minimum of £15 before they would think of doing a deal to sell our top scorer, with the implication that it would take a Championship record transfer fee for the Dane to move elsewhere in this window. I believe that by putting that sort of information in the public domain, the club are hoping to knock any more interest in Zohore on the head once and for, but I suppose, that it’s likely to mean that, in the unlikely event of anyone being prepared to pay such a fee for him, supporters would need to prepare themselves for his departure.

Anyway, let’s return to this week’s signing. There had been plenty of comment to the effect that we needed a number ten type player on the messageboards in recent weeks and it seems that Neil Warnock agreed because, in a move which surprised and delighted many fans, we brought in Bristol City’s Lee Tomlin on Tuesday for a fee which it’s reported could reach £2.9 million.

Twetny eight year old Tomlin, who plays mostly through the middle as opposed to other similar type targets we had in Jonny Hayes and Barrie McKay who favour the wings, was a real thorn in our side at times during his time with Peterborough and came to be recognised as one of the Championship’s best attacking midfielders cum strikers during his spell at Middlesbrough in 2014/15. It was generally thought his displays at Boro had earned hia deserved move to the Premier League with Bournemouth for the 15/16 campaign.

I don’t think Lee Tomlin has been signed as a replacement for Peter Whittingham, but in terms of set piece delivery and someone to provide that “wow factor”, he is the most likely in our squad to succeed Whitts. *

However, for whatever reason, it did not work out for him on the south coast and he was loaned to Bristol City for the closing months of the season where his contribution was considered to be a very important one in maintaining the wurzels’ Championship status.

Predictably this led to a permanent move to Ashton Gate last summer, but amid rumours of a falling out with manager Lee Johnson, Tomlin made less of an impact as Bristol endured a relegation battle they looked like they would lose at times last spring and the improvement that eventually saved them only came after our new man had been relegated to the substitute’s bench.

Therefore, it wasn’t a total surprise that our west country rivals were prepared to do business for the player, but it did come as one when, after initially enquiring about a loan deal, it turned out to be us who got him.

With his fall from grace at Ashton Gate and the odd rumour of him possibly being something of a problem player for Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, there are those Bristol fans who are glad to see Tomlin go, but there are at least as many who regret his sale and are of the opinion that Neil Warnock is just the sort of player to get him playing to the level he is capable of on a consistent basis – if that can happen, then I believe we’ve got a bargain.

Certainly, it was being reported before the speculation linking him with us blew up that Tomlin, a player who has tended to attract those “you fat bastard” chants from opposing supporters which are generally a recognition that you are a good player in a way because bad players don’t tend to get targeted in that way, turned up for pre season training at Bristol looking trimmer than he had last season, so that’s a good sign at least.

I commented on here about Tomlin’s diving in our 2-1 win over the wurzels at Cardiff City Stadium last season and I’m not going to change my opinion just because he’s playing for us now – I don’t like diving, but it’s part of the modern game I suppose and we got so many penalties during the Chopra/Bothroyd era which I still celebrated when the ball hit the net despite the suspicion that one of those two had gone to ground very easily!

Warnock has said that there was a time when Tomlin was his number one target for this summer, I can understand why he would think that – there is the risk that it could all turn sour pretty quickly given what’s happened to Tomlin since he left Middlesbrough, but with our manager making comparisons with the notoriously difficult Adel Taarabt who he got the very best out of in QPR’s title winning 2010/11, it shows how much he rates our new playmaker – I’ve  a good feeling about this.

Even without the reported thigh injury which caused him to miss Bristol’s first warm up match of the campaign, Tomlin was never likely to figure in City’s opener at Taff’s Well last night. With those who played international football in June not included and a few others missing with minor knocks, City fielded what were almost two different teams for either half with the majority of the second half selection being youngsters.

There were four of the new signings on show in the opening forty five minutes. Neil Etheridge made one diving save during a quiet introduction which saw him replaced at the break by, first Brian Murphy and then Oliver Byrne. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing looked powerful and pretty effective in a roving role up front, Loic Damour was quietly impressive as he provided continuity and Danny Ward flashed a header just wide in an otherwise unspectacular first showing.

At right back in the first half was teenager Cameron Coxe and, as he played for something like twenty five minutes after the break as well, he had more game time than anyone else. I thought Coxe used that time well to show that he could make a league debut in the coming season – if not for us, then out on loan somewhere to a lower division club. Of the others, Matt Kennedy looked lively and Joe Ralls was his usual self alongside Damour in an effective central midfield pairing.

The game was decided by a single Anthony Pilkington goal (a fine volley from about fifteen yards out) after just six minutes and I’m sure that most of the crowd of almost three thousand who helped to make the event such a success in terms of fund raising for a couple of charities and for the home team anticipated that it was the first of many.

However, it was not to be. Credit goes to Taff’s Well for defending resolutely and, in particular, to their keeper for some good saves, but I could understand why Warnock confessed himself “disappointed” with the game from his team’s perspective – it felt like a training game on the pitch and one of those pre season matches we used to play every year at Merthyr off it with many of the crowd not fully engaged with the football being played out in front of them.

I’d count myself among those who weren’t really into the game, but I had the excuse of getting the confirmation as I set off for it of the news I was sure I was going to receive – my so loyal and friendly old Staff, Ruby, has got lymphoma.

I felt a lump just under her collar about three weeks ago, but, at the age of twelve, I didn’t read too much into it because it didn’t seem to be bothering her. This week however, three more appeared around her throat and the vet said she was 90 per cent sure it was lymphoma when she saw her.

Typically, dogs take four to six weeks to die from from the cancer without treatment and my guess is that she had that first lump for a while before I felt it, so I don’t think Ruby has long left at all.

Treatment options are Chemotherapy which is out of my financial range and, anyway Ruby’s probably too old for it now and steroids which surprised me by how cheap they are, but the downside is that, although more than half of the dogs treated with them alone go into remission, it’s only for something like two to four months, so, whatever happens, it’s very, very unlikely that my Ruby will experience another bonfire night (fireworks upset her so much).

At the moment my thinking is that, although there are times when you can see she is ailing, she is still definitely enjoying her walks with me and she certainly hasn’t lost her appetite, so I’m leaning towards giving her a great weekend and then taking her to the vets to be put to sleep on Monday, but I’ll see what the next forty eight hours hold.

Finally, despite the comments about no more signings this summer, it seems that City are giving trials to two Livingston forwards next week. I say “it seems” because the only source of this story is from Sky Sports.

On the face of it, Knox looks a talent and I would have thought that, at twenty two, we would only be interested in Mullen as someone who would become a member of the first team squad immediately – I’m not sure there is much to this story, but things should become clearer during the next seven days.

*picture courtesy of https://www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk/

Posted in Out on the pitch | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments