In his post match press conference following yesterday’s abject 2-1 defeat at the hands of an Ipswich team that occupied twenty third position in the table beforehand with just one win to show from seventeen games, Dave Jones said we haven’t become a bad side overnight – I’m sorry Mr Jones, but your sides often do exactly that and they have been doing that throughout your four and a half year tenure as Cardiff City manager!
Sitting top of the league in October 2006 and then winning one of the next fifteen matches, form good enough to win Dave Jones the Manager of the month award in January 2008 to be followed by a haul of just two points, and two goals scored, from six matches, the spectacular capitulation in the last four games of last season are all examples of the sort of thing we are seeing now and there are a few others as well during the “feast or famine” Dave Jones years.
The fact that runs like the current one of one point from four matches follow periods of good performances and results suggest to this supporter that too many on and off the field at Cardiff City become complacent at times when things are going well as they start believing what is being written and said about them rather than work on keeping things going.
How else can the sort of switchback form that has become so commonplace since May 2005 be explained? I entitled my reaction on here to the Barnsley defeat “Consistently inconsistent” and to maintain that theme I would say that what happened yesterday was predictable in it’s unpredictability! A team in seventh entertaining the last but one side in the league has to be a home banker doesn’t it? Well those familiar with the way things go at Cardiff City during the second half of this decade know better than that!
So, City maintain the pattern of this season which sees them get healthily into credit in the ratio of wins to losses only to give it all back again in the following month. Shouldn’t that therefore mean that December will see us climbing the table again? Well I’m afraid that the signs are that the sequence will come to an end during the next thirty two days – a very tough looking run of matches against West Brom, Middlesbrough and Leicester makes an upturn in results unlikely but it is mostly the fact that, based on yesterday’s second half display, we would have trouble beating a team from League Two let alone one from the Championship which has me fearing the worst.
In particular, our central midfield looks woefully inadequate at the moment and with Steve McPhail absent for at least a few weeks more, it’s hard to see what can be done with the players we have to pick from until January to improve things. I have always tried to defend recent central midfield pairings by saying that while Dave Jones’ slavish devotion to 4-4-2 ensures that when we play a team using 4-5-1 it means that we have options up front than our opponents, our two in the middle are always outnumbered so it is asking a lot to expect them to run the show. However, although one of their strikers sometimes dropped a bit deeper, Ipswich came here and played 4-4-2 so, in terms of numbers at least there was parity in central midfield and yet Ledley and Rae were so poor after the break that they ended up finishing comfortably second best to Garvan and Leadbitter. The sad truth is that in the last three matches we have seen just one half (the first forty five minutes yesterday) in which Ledley and Rae have shown anything like the standard needed for this league, let alone the top six of it, and, although I am not convinced that such a move would work, I think the time might have come to try Peter Whittingham in that area.
It would be wrong to put all of the blame on Ledley and Rae for yesterday’s second half horror show though. Joe Ledley in particular made his frustration with the lack of movement in front of him pretty clear at times and it has to be said that he had a point. In the first half Jay Bothroyd was one of if not the best player on the pitch, but if it hadn’t have been for his disallowed header, you could be forgiven for thinking that he didn’t come out for the second half! In the case of Michael Chopra, his performance was a definite improvement on his Barnsley showing as he linked up play well at times and there was a real appetite for closing opposing player down, but, although that always wins a round of applause from supporters, it’s attacking runs to give midfielders options that are probably more important and there were few of them after the interval – worryingly, apart from the incident which caused Richard Wright to leave the pitch, there was, once again, no goalscoring threat at all from Chopra.
To be fair to those I have mentioned, so many others all over the pitch had a nightmarish second half and I think it has to be said that only the much maligned Mark Hudson emerged with any credit – while too many showed the familiar failing of taking a backward step when things got tough, Hudson put in a decent shift over the whole ninety minutes and I would say that he has been head and shoulders above his team mates when it comes to performance levels over the past three matches.
Over the past seven months it has been my habit to point blame more at the players than Dave Jones when things go wrong, but, this time I have to go back to our manager. I agreed with an awful lot of what Dave Jones said in his post match interviews (what he had to say to the BBC can be seen here) and it was good to hear him acknowledge his share of the blame for yesterday’s debacle, but there are two matters which he didn’t talk much about that have someone as supportive of him as I have been beginning to wonder if it is time for a change of manager.
Firstly, although the way we start matches poorly has been commented on quite often this season, there hasn’t been as much said about how we take time to get going after the interval as well. Yesterday was different – we never got going at all in the second half and so, not for the first time, I find myself asking what on earth was said to the players during the half time break? According to Dave Jones it was along the lines of “more of the same lads”, but it didn’t half look to me as if they came out with a what we have we hold mentality which, if true, represented a change of approach from the closing minutes of the first half when they continued to push forward even though they were a goal up.
Now, if I am right, the natural question to arise is where did that change in attitude come from and the obvious answer is the manager and, possibly, his coaching staff – even if I am wrong and the players just ignored what they had been told, that also doesn’t reflect well on our manager.
The second point is the way Dave Jones used his substitutes. The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw some awful football as Ipswich, by and large, played as poorly as City were. However, while Roy Keane took steps to rectify the situation by making his two remaining substitutions, Dave Jones kept things as they were despite the fact that there were five or six genuine candidates for the “hook” in his side. If our manager thought that things couldn’t keep on going as badly as they were, then he was proved to be utterly wrong in that viewpoint as Keane’s substitutions helped his side seize the initiative in the last half an hour. When Dave Jones was finally moved to look to the bench after each of Ipswich’s goals, it smacked of tokenism and, although Ross McCormack did nothing at Swansea or Barnsley to merit inclusion from the start yesterday, he has shown in the past that he is someone who can come up with something special to change a game – with us playing so appallingly, I cannot begin to understand why Dave Jones only saw fit to give McCormack just the last four minutes to try and turn things around.
So, the team did nothing yesterday to lift the morale of supporters who have been left shocked and angry by the disclosure that the club were up in front of the beak last week for non payment of taxes and it was very disappointing to hear Dave Jones follow the Ridsdale lead of shifting blame on to those who broke the story rather than addressing the issue itself. While it was good to hear him refusing to blame last week’s events for the performance yesterday (after all if the players were reacting to something they had be told about the club’s financial position, why did they play pretty well in the first half?), the reaction which sees club officials having a go at the press for breaking the story they refused to tell us about smacks of a five year old who believes that if they ignore something unpleasant long enough it will go away – memo to Mr Ridsdale, the court hearing didn’t take place because of what the Echo printed, it took place because you and other highly paid officials at the club didn’t do your job properly.by The other Bob Wilson
The 1967/68 campaign had been a case of that difficult third season so far for John Toshack as he made his way to Ninian Park on 7 October 1967 for the game with Ipswich Town.
Aaron Ramsey became the youngest City player to feature in a league match when he made an appearance at the age of sixteen years and four months as a substitute against Hull in April 2007, but Toshack had been the previous holder of that record when he also came off the bench at the age of sixteen years and seven months to play, and score, in a 3-1 win over Leyton Orient. Toshack was in from the start the following week at Middlesbrough and scored twice this time as City won 4-3.
Although he was used sparingly after that, a total of six goals from eight appearances represented a promising first season in the game and Tosh followed that up with eleven more goals from twenty four starts the following year but he was yet to score in three starts and two substitute appearances in the current campaign ahead of the encounter with Ipswich.
It goes to show how much things have changed since those days that Toshack, who lived by the old Market Road School (now the Chapter Arts Centre) used to walk to home games and as he made his way past the old Ninian Park pub at about half past one he was joined by a kid of eleven who started talking to him about the upcoming match. The two chatted as they made their way to the ground until Tosh (no doubt grateful to be rid of the young brat!) went through the main gate to the ground on his way to the changing rooms.
Quite what I was doing going to the ground so early that day I’m not sure. Maybe I was going through my autograph collecting phase (which lasted all of a month!), but it was certainly not my normal pre-match routine and I counted myself very lucky to have bumped into City’s promising young striker on the way to the ground.
Now, in the forty two years since then, John Toshack has acquired a reputation as someone who does not suffer fools gladly but, although I cannot remember the details of our conversation now, I do remember that it all seemed perfectly natural and he said nothing that made me feel ill at ease.
I was at an age then when a wrong word or gesture from someone you admired could alter your opinion of them for life (for example, I didn’t like Geoff Boycott long before I realised quite how boring a batsman he was because of what he said to a friend who had the temerity to ask him for an autograph before a game), but Toshack found the time and patience to talk to me for that five minutes and I’ll never forget that. This is one of the reasons why I’ll defend Toshack against charges that he is a jack who deserted his home town club and why I find it so hard to criticise him as Wales manager even though there are times when he probably deserves stick.
I would like to claim that the meeting was mutually beneficial for the two of us but I don’t really think that I can quite put the upturn in his fortunes from that day down to our encounter. It is a fact though that Tosh did get his first goal of the season that day (a header at the Grange End I seem to recall) with both sides scoring before half time as City ended a run of four consecutive defeats with a 1-1 draw. Furthermore four goals in our next six matches cemented his place as a regular starter in the team and he didn’t miss another game as he ended the season one behind top scorer Peter King with fifteen goals in all competitions.
Ipswich were a good team in those days and came into the game in seventh place having lost just one of their first ten matches while conceding only six goals. The visitors good start to the season was no flash in the pan either as they finished up as Champions having lost just the single game after the turn of the year.
Therefore, City’s point wasn’t a bad one at all and, although the 67/68 campaign is best remembered as the one where we made it all the way through to the Semi Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup, it was also a time when the club consolidated in the League after two years which had seen them finish in twentieth place (two teams went down from the twenty two side Second Division in those days) with the drop being avoided by a single point in 65/66 and three points in 66/67.
The 67/68 season was one which saw partnerships starting to develop – in central defence, Don Murray was learning all the time from the canny Brian Harris, while Toshack’s game came on leaps and bounds once he was paired up with Brian Clark after his signing from Huddersfield in February 1968.
Okay, a final position of thirteenth with a total of thirty eight points from forty two matches (it was only two points for a win back then) was not spectacular, but it did mean that City, probably distracted by their great run in Europe, could afford to take only eight points from their final eleven games without relegation becoming the issue it had been previously.
All of this meant that when Gary Bell established himself as another partnership was formed, this time with Dave Carver, and players such as Mel Sutton and Steve Derrett broke into the side during the following season, City had become one of the better teams in their league. For three years supporters had the luxury of being able to contemplate their side leaving the Second Division through a promotion rather than through the trap door of relegation – perhaps I should have charged the club a consultancy fee for my little chat with Mr Toshack!
7 October 1967
Cardiff City 1 Ipswich Town 1
City Wilson; Coldrick, Murray, Harris, Carver; Jones, Williams, King, Lewis; Brown, Toshack (1) Sub Clarke
Ipswich Hancock; Carroll, Baxter, McNeil, Houghton (1); Spearitt, Viljoen, Hegan, Woods; Crawford, Wigg
Att. 11,261by The other Bob Wilson