I gave my opinion as to what should happen to our manager in my last entry on here and so, at a time when there are so many opinions being expressed as to whether he should stay at Cardiff or not, I thought I would try to take a, hopefully, balanced look at how Dave Jones had fared in 2010/11 compared to his five previous seasons at the club – although I accept it’s probably impossible to do this without letting the current speculation influence my opinion in some way, I’m going to try and treat 2010/11 as a season which did not end with his future looking so uncertain.
So, speaking as someone who, that one period in 07/08 when it was reported he was going to be sacked after a defeat at Charlton apart, has been supportive of our manager, I must say that I don’t think 2010/11 was one of Dave Jones’ best seasons at Cardiff – in fact, it may well have been his worst. Perhaps as good a place as any to start in trying to explain why this should be would be to point out that this season was different to the previous five because our manager took on some additional responsibilities on the administrative side of things which would previously have been done by Peter Ridsdale – did this increased workload have an influence on the footballing side of things?
I think there is some evidence to suggest that it did. I’m thinking in particular here of Dave Jones’ transfer dealings this season – to me, they had a “lazy” look to them because we were always being linked to high profile (and high wages) players who didn’t require much, or in some cases any, scouting. Maybe Dave Jones was traveling all over the country every week looking at players like so many of his colleagues do, but, off the top of my head, I can’t remember seeing him at any of the hundreds of televised games shown during the season. Similarly, although I can remember reading the occasional story in the press about him going on scouting missions (e.g. to Scotland around the New Year), there weren’t many such reports at all. Do we deduce from that then that our manager was taking the easy option of just watching games on the telly like the rest of us or was it that his additional responsibilities made it impossible for him to go on as many scouting missions as he had in the past?
As for his transfer dealings, well, once again, I can’t help thinking that Dave Jones has had better seasons. As is usually the case with him, there were good signings like Tom Heaton and I would say that although it needs to be remembered that he didn’t always play like he did in the closing weeks of the campaign, Craig Bellamy has to be regarded in that way as well, but who else falls into that category? The good impression Dekel Keinan created in his first three months was largely undone by his horror shows in our last two home games, I wouldn’t describe Seyi Olofinjan as a bad signing, but he was inconsistent and lost form at the worst possible time, a great goal on his debut apart, Jon Parkin never did anything to suggest he could influence games, Danny Drinkwater flattered to deceive, the demise of Jason Koumas was just sad to see and, if he once knew what made a good left back, Dave Jones’ efforts to fill the gap left by Mark Kennedy suggested that he has forgotten what it is now.
Mention of two of those players above, brings me on to a couple of other points about Dave Jones’ management suffering this year when compared to others. Firstly Jason Koumas, if it is true that, as reported in the Echo yesterday, we were prepared to offer him a two or three year contract last summer if Wigan had been prepared to release him then that shows really poor judgement. I’m not being wise after the event there either, there were plenty of supporters who said back in August that while they were pleased to see Koumas back at Cardiff, they had doubts as to whether he would be able to recreate the magic of his 2005/06 stay with us (after all, there was nothing in his form for Wigan for most of 09/10 to suggest he would).
Perhaps Dave Jones thought he could fall back on his often reported talent for getting performances out of players that other managers had given up on? There is certainly evidence around that our manager can do that, but did he fill his squad with too many of what he calls high maintenance players to the extent that this ability he appears to possess was spread too thinly? Certainly, incidents like the one which saw players out drinking a couple of nights before a vital game with Middlesbrough suggested that the Dave Jones method of dealing with these high maintenance players wasn’t working as well as it had in the past. With about three weeks of the season to go, Michael Chopra, who, apparently, had already been warned for drinking in Hereford shortly before the Barnsley game, spoke of his admiration for Dave Jones and remarked that he will give him a day off when he asks for it, well, if as is widely rumoured, Chops was one of those players out before the Boro game, what does that say about Dave Jones’ judgment?. Worse than that though, every decision a manager makes can have consequences and what would the good, conscientious pros that we have (despite recent evidence, I’m sure we have more than a few of them) have made of a player being indulged like that?
The other player I wanted to talk about was Danny Drinkwater or, in particular, Dave Jones’ attitude to young players. Maybe our manager was right about Drinkwater, but, after a very promising start, he was cast aside very quickly when he was unable to repeat that form against the likes of Swansea and QPR – would he have been treated the same way if he had been 25 (the age you now need to be to win Young Player of Year awards at Cardiff!)? There is evidence, not just from this season, to suggest he wouldn’t have been (even Aaron Ramsey was under used during his time with us as a teenager), Jon Meades and Aaron Wildig were two other talented kids whose career development stalled because there is something of a black hole between leaving the Academy team and getting into first team contention (hopefully the proposed Under 20 team will change that situation, but I’m not holding my breath).
Of course, the real point of bringing the subject of young players up is to mention the case of Adam Matthews. Now, I’m not going to talk here about how good or bad Matthews is, but about the type of man (or should that be teenager) management which, seemingly, believes that bawling one of your staff out in public is a good thing in terms of their development. Of course, we are not all the same, and there are almost certainly nineteen year olds who would react positively to the sort of dressing down Matthews received, but there are far more who wouldn’t. Whatever Dave Jones’ motivation was for saying what he did, the simple fact is that it did not make Adam Matthews a better player (far from it in fact) and so it has to go down as rank bad management.
On a more positive note, Dave Jones did show the sort of tactical flexibility that he is often accused of lacking this season and, although I don’t think everyone would agree with me, I reckon that, overall, the switch to 4-3-3/4-5-1 when we used it worked quite well. The one exception to that mind was the Swansea game, but there is an irony there in that much of the stick flying in our manager’s direction at the time was for not playing his beloved 4-4-2! It was disappointing though to see that the only response to being 2-0 down on Tuesday night was to stick to a 4-4-2 with a couple of big men up front and even less pace on the pitch than we started the game with – that was the sort of old fashioned football that Dave Jones is often accused of favouring.
Any analysis of our manager’s season cannot pass without mention of the disaster area of his public relations. Now, Dave Jones has never been a particularly media friendly manager and with what he has had to put up with in his private life. why should he be, but anyone who had the misfortune to watch a few of his press conferences this season will know that things have got much worse in that direction over the past nine months. Whatever the rights and wrongs of his feud with Media Wales, it’s being going on for fifteen months now and it does the club no favours to see the man who is now probably seen as the public face of Cardiff City so often revert to throwing insults at absent journalists while being prickly and uncooperative for much of the time with those who are there.
On Bonfire night last year, Dave Jones met with members of the Supporters’ Trust and although I wasn’t there, I have heard that he was in sparkling form as he revealed a humorous and outgoing side to his personality that I’m sure came as something of a shock to those who were there. At that time, everything was going well for Dave Jones, the team had won five games on the trot, were top of the table and he had just been selected as Manager of the Month for October. Two days later the team had the chance to put nine points between them and the jacks in third place when they faced them in the much anticipated televised derby game at Cardiff City Stadium, sadly it’s been more or less downhill all the way for him since then.
If only Dave Jones could have shown some more of that human side of himself more often. I’m not saying that he wouldn’t be under the same pressure as he is currently if he had smiled more and not talked about “people from this part of the country” so much, but I don’t think there would have been as much ill will being directed at him as there is at the moment. I get the feeling there will be widespread celebration if he does leave his job and that’s a shame - I think he has to go, but he has done a lot of good for this club and he doesn’t deserve that.