As was the case last season, I’ve gone for a breakdown of each player’s season and given them marks out of 10 – where applicable I’ve also included the score I gave them last season in brackets. Also, as there has been no official confirmation yet as to who the five players were who were out drinking before the Middlesbrough match, I’ve not considered this when arriving at my markings – if we do ever find out who they were, then three points should be taken off the players concerned (even if it might end up with some of them getting a minus rating!).
The transfer deal which brought live coverage on Sky Sports News and immediately installed us as automatic promotion favourites cannot be described as a total success because we will still be playing Championship football next season. However, I don’t think there are too many who will blame Bellamy for this. While he went through spells when his form was patchy and I’m sure his desire for the highest standards from his colleagues (as well as himself) caused the occasional problem, I can willingly accept this because we also got a player who made a fantastic gesture in coming to his home town club when he could easily have continued playing at a higher level, we got a player whose commitment levels put a lot of his, lesser talented, team mates to shame and we got a player who made a huge impact at the business end of the season – sadly, our promotion prospects effectively disappeared when Bellamy went off early on at Reading – 8.
Could not maintain the standards he set in the second half of the 2009/10 campaign. As usual, Blake suffered for being too versatile, but, based on what we saw of him, I get the feeling that his best position is right back. Won a first senior Welsh cap in the autumn at a time when he was not playing that well and I don’t think he could complain too much when he often found himself on the subs bench at Cardiff. An apparent reversion to some of his bad old eating and drinking habits didn’t help his cause and there was some negative publicity for him when he was arrested in February for allegedly causing criminal damage to a pub in Blackwood. Ironically, he was doing pretty well by this time when he got the chance to feature in the first team and he ended the season as one of our better players over the two matches with Reading – I think he has more talent than many City fans give him credit for, but he has to learn when to utilise it better - 5 (7).
The first ever Cardiff player to win a full England cap while still playing for the club, his best ever goalscoring season and numerous examples of the sort of skill which, with the possible exception of Robin Friday, makes him the most naturally talented striker I have seen play for the club – surely this man has to be worth a mark of 9 or 10? Well, no he isn’t actually – if the season ended in November, then Jay Bothroyd would have got those sort of ratings, but from the moment he returned from his hamstring injury in January, he began a metamorphosis in reverse into the player many City fans feared we were signing back in August 2008. Will almost certainly leave the club in the summer, but I can’t help feeling that his performances over the second half of the season will have put off a few decent clubs who were considering him around the turn of the year – such a shame that he is unlikely to be remembered by Cardiff fans with the affection and respect that the majority of his performances in a City shirt deserved – 6 (8).
Another under performer when compared to last season. Burke went from being the player I most enjoyed watching in 2009/10 to someone who I didn’t believe was worth his place in the team at the end of 2010/11. There have been rumours that he wanted to go back to Scotland, so maybe that was the reason for his decline or, perhaps, his unresolved contractual situation was playing on his mind, but, whatever the reason, he never showed the confidence to attack his full back in the manner he did in his first full season with us. With a decline in his goalscoring output as well, Burke’s contribution this time around was highly disappointing and I’m afraid that the fact that his attitude is usually very good and that he showed exactly how much defeat against Reading hurt him after the game cannot save him from a marking of just 5 (7).
I was defending Bywater while he was letting in eight goals in his first four matches with us because I reckoned he could only be, partially, blamed for one of them. Over the rest of the regular season I began to think I had earned the right to say “I told you so” as he turned in decent performances in his next four games in which he conceded just three goals. However, his displays in the two Play Off matches undermined any credits he may have gained earlier. Even if you completely ignore his part in Reading farcical opening goal, he looked uncertain throughout what were, surely, his last two matches for us – people knock our two permanent keepers, but Bywater inadvertently showed that Heaton and Marshall aren’t quite as bad as their critics think they are - 3.
I’m sure I’ll get to a player that I can be upbeat and positive about soon, but I’m going to have to wait a while yet. I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand why some supporters appear to treat Chopra as the same player he was back in 06/07. This time last year he was in the process of, partially, rescuing an inconsistent and patchy season with some excellent performances in our Play Off campaign – sadly, there was no chance of something similar happening in 10/11. Injuries didn’t help his cause this time around and I suppose there has to be sympathy for his addiction issues, but, in my case at least, that tends to disappear when you see how he has let himself go physically over the course of the season – after denying it earlier in the campaign, I have to admit that he is carrying more weight now than he did when he was such a fine player for us. A few examples of his finishing ability and the odd good display here and there were nowhere near enough to rescue a season during which I reckon his transfer value plummeted - 4 (7).
For a while he looked to be exactly what we needed in the middle of the park following the departure of Joe Ledley. Was rated by many to be City’s man of the match at Portsmouth in one of our best displays of the season, but was then troubled by exactly the same type of thigh injury that had disrupted his season on loan at Huddersfield a year earlier. When he was fit again, Dave Jones, seemingly, showed how important he thought Drinkwater was to his plans when he put him straight back into the starting line up for the derby game with the jacks. Predictably, Drinkwater struggled as City came second by a distance to an impressive Swansea team and after that our manager appeared to lose faith in him, only using him in unfamiliar wide positions in a couple of losing away games before he returned to Manchester United because he wasn’t getting the hoped for first team experience – a subsequent unsuccessful loan spell at Watford suggested our manager might have been right in his judgment of the player - 5.
Similar to Drinkwater in some ways. His cause was not helped towards the end of his stay by the restrictions caused by having to include an on loan keeper in the matchday 18 which meant that he had to be omitted from the squad at times. I’m sure both he and Arsene Wenger didn’t think that he would be playing matches against what was effectively a Yeovil youth team at Treforest when he came to Cardiff and I’ll admit to believing that our manager could have done more to get him playing to the sort of level that he has to have shown at Arsenal to get so close to their first team at times. However, when given his chance in our two biggest games of the season, JET did himself no favours at all as, like too many of his team mates, his performance level fell well short of what was required. With the exception of Bywater, he was, arguably, our weakest player in the Play Off games and his comments on Twitter regarding the criticism his performances attracted only added to the impression that the modern day footballer is a petulant and spoilt individual who is out of touch with reality- 4.
I’ve included him because he did play a couple of League Cup games for us at the start of the campaign before going off to Hull. To be honest, looking at the goal he gave away against Burton and his performance in pre season games, it was hard to argue with Dave Jones’ decision to loan him out at the time. However, his form over the course of the season for the Humberside club means that questions have to be asked now as to whether we would have been better off keeping him here. Gerrard surely has to come into contention for a place in the team next season, but with it being reported that there will be interest in him from Premiership clubs this summer, perhaps that won’t happen whoever our manager ends up being - rating based on Cardiff appearances in 10/11 = 5 (7).
Has been quoted in the local press this weekend as saying that he cannot play for Dave Jones again and, given the way that he seems to have become a bit of a scapegoat in the past year or so, it’s no real surprise that he feels like this. When you consider that Gyepes was a virtual ever present until early November at a time when we were, perhaps, playing our best football of the season, it could be claimed that he has had a raw deal, but I don’t think he did enough to justify a recall as first choice when he got one of his, increasingly rare, chances to impress. It was widely rumoured that he was on his way to Crystal Palace in January only for George Burley’s sacking to put an end to that move and it’s hard to avoid the feeling that, certainly under this manager, he has no future at Cardiff - 5 (5).
I mewntioned earlier that Heaton has his fair share of critics, but I’m not sure why. Yes, he isn’t the finished article by any means and he was one of several players who came up short in the shambles that was the Middlesbrough match, but, you’ve got to wonder as to how fit he really was then (my feeling is that he has been a long way short of full match fitness since the end of February). Although him being awarded Young Player of the Year at the age of 25 is just plain ludicrous and says so much about our manager’s attitude towards youngsters this season, Heaton is young for a keeper and, when you consider that he didn’t cost us anything, I rate him as our best permanent signing of the last twelve months – he looked a better keeper than he did in his first spell with us and I reckon he merits a 7.
In a squad where so many failed to maintain their 09/10 standards, Hudson was one of those who made a forward move and in my opinion was our best and most reliable centre back over the course of the season. Ironically, his poorest display may well have come at Burnley in our final match of the regular season where he struggled in his first game back from a knee injury picked up at Millwall and had to be withdrawn after half an hour. Maybe he wasn’t back to full match sharpness and, given the nature of Reading’s strikefore, I could understand Dave Jones’ decision to leave him on the bench for the Play Off games. In the rush to criticise our manager after the way the season ended, the fact that we were unlucky with injuries over the last few weeks of the campaign tends to get ignored – Hudson playing as he had done for most of the season though would, surely, have been one of the first names on the team sheet against Reading- 8 (6).
Only played the one game and, given that he is on a one year contract and that his loan spell at Newport in the autumn ended with him being left out of their team, it is unlikely that he will play any more for us. Did okay against Burton, but really struggled with cramp for the last sixty of those one hundred and twenty minutes – when you consider the problems we had at left back all season and that, despite this, he never came remotely close to first team selection again, I suppose he has to go down as a Dave Jones punt that didn’t come off – 4.
If only our season could have ended after the Preston match on Easter Monday! If that had been the case, I think we would all have been saying that we had got an absolute bargain in Keinan, but a couple of dreadful displays in our last two home matches which saw him shrugged off the ball by the much smaller Leroy Lita in the Middlesbrough match and make a couple of awful errors which led to Reading’s first two goals on Tuesday have changed that perception I’m afraid. In saying that, it shouldn’t be forgotten that, for most of his first three months with us, Keinan looked an assured and solid centreback who posed a real threat when he got forward for attacking dead ball situations. Israel aren’t a bad side and the fact that he is a regular starter with them suggests that there is a decent player there, but he will have to start convincing his new found doubters about that all over again when the new season starts - 6.
Another loan signing that didn’t work. I always used to rate Keogh at Scunthorpe and Wolves and I think we could have done with a few more players with his attitude towards the end of the season. Unfortunately though, his performances while with us meant that I don’t believe he could have any serious complaints about being out of the team more than in it. A further loan spell at Bristol City which also ended early because he wasn’t playing first team football only offered more proof that he had either gone back a bit in recent years or, more likely, he was never as good as I thought he was. Did earn us three points with his late goals against Millwall and Preston and was probably our best player in the home derby with the jacks, but in any debate about whether this season’s policy of mass loan signings worked, I reckon Keogh would be one of those players chosen to argue that it didn’t - 4.
How the mighty have fallen! I wasn’t expecting him to be the same player that he had been five years earlier, but the contrast between the Jason Koumas of 2005/06 and the one of 2010/11 was incredible. It was really sad to see a player who continuously showed his mental bravery by successfully trying the difficult and unconventional high tariff option so often in his first spell, now reduced to, more often than not, taking the safe and easy choice in his second season with us. Because we are talking about a player with special talents here, there was always going to be the odd flash of the old Koumas now and again. A brilliant free kick at Doncaster, a fine cross for the winner against Scunthorpe and the best cross that City put in all night last Tuesday in his first involvement after coming on were all proof of this and he was nearly always able to pass the ball accurately. Those passes weren’t hurting sides any more though and there was no longer that sense of anticipation when he was in possession – we still have 2005/06 to remember him by, but, for me, he was probably the biggest single disappointment of the 2010/11 campaign - 3.
Became one of a rare breed amongst City keepers in December when he actually saved a penalty in “normal” play at Watford (not that it did us any good mind) , but it was a frustrating and difficult season for Marshall as an elbow injury kept him sidelined for much of the time. It was never really clarified whether he he had been dropped or whether he was feeling the effects of his injury when he was left out after the defeat at Ipswich in September (I didn’t think he had been at fault with any of the goals he had let in up to that point), but there was never really a feeling that he was going to keep Tom Heaton out once he was fit again when he played four matches in December. Probably a season to be put down to experience for Marshall – he will face a real battle for his first team place in 2011/12 (always assuming he is still at Cardiff of course) - 5 (7).
I could go on for ages about this player after spending a lot of time defending him on message boards over the past few months. I’m not judging potential or the way he was treated by his manager here though, just how he played this year and the truth is that Adam Matthews suffered from a bout of second season syndrome. The implications of and fall out from his own goal at Ipswich probably had a fair bit to do with the fact that he will not be a Cardiff City player next season, but what happened that day was the probably the most significant in a chain of events that showed that his defensive play (which was not the strongest part of his game when he was playing well in 09/10) regressed this season. I’ll always believe that Matthews was handled very poorly by Dave Jones and he should have been given more opportunities this season, but I’ve got to admit that he didn’t take the ones he was given (e.g. Reading away and Forest home) - 5 (7).
It’s probably now forgotten by many that McCormack transformed the League Cup game with Burton when he scored two goals in two minutes in extra time. The second of them was a reminder of the Ross McCormack of 08/09 as he cut in from the right before firing home from twenty five yards and there were times, especially when Michael Chopra was in one of his “going through the motions” moods, when I found myself wishing he was still with us. However, he looked a pretty forlorn figure when he made his Cardiff City Stadium return with Leeds in January and he only really started to show his new club’s supporters a little of what he was capable of in the last two matches of the season. That was enough to earn him a recall to the full Scotland squad and it shows that he is still highly thought of, but he is still very much an unfulfilled talent – just for those couple of goals I’ll give him 6 (4).
After a bit of a blip in 09/10, Super Kev was back to his best this season and was a clear and deserved winner of the Player of the Year award. His versatility was again apparent as he performed with distinction at full back and centre back, but his uncomfortable evening against Middlesbrough offered further proof, if any were needed, that the former is his best position. That said, McNaughton’s pace and anticipation at centre back can be very important against a certain type of strikeforce as speed off the mark is something that our more traditional centrebacks lack. Has been, arguably, Dave Jones’ best signing as Cardiff manager and, while it may be that other more high profile team mates are expendable, McNaughton remains a vital member of the squad who would take a hell of a lot of replacing - 8 (6).
The player who, for me, really eptomises our midfield dilemma. Not as influential this season as he was last, but, because he can bring order and an element of control to our game when he is on song, I would always have him in my starting eleven if picking from players in the current squad. The trouble is though that I thought there were a few signs this season that Anno Domini was catching up with him as someone who has never been the most dynamic and mobile of players almost faded from games completely when things were going against the team (e.g. Middlesbrough). As I see it, a promotion winning team needs more power, thrust, movement and goals from the middle of the park than McPhail can provide and yet if you want craft and technique he is your man – if we are to become the team we want to be, then I think McPhail should be there to provide ball retention skills from the bench when we are protecting a lead or are happy with a draw - 6 (8).
The fact that Dave Jones had two go’s at finding an adequate replacement at left back for Mark Kennedy shows that his first one, Lee Naylor, was hardly a success. Naylor was a good player at this level for Wolves five or six years ago, but when we signed him from Celtic, many of their fans lined up to tell us not to expect much from him. What we got was someone who scored two goals (one a complete fluke and the other a fine right footed strike from outside the penalty area) and the occasional decent performance, but the bad days outweighed the good I’m afraid. After a while it became clear that opposing sides were targetting the left side of our defence where Naylor (who probably could have got more help from the likes of Bellamy and Whiitingham) often struggled. Things came to a head at Watford where he was withdrawn after 35 minutes of torment at the hands of Will Buckley, but it was only after another uncomfortable game against Jimmy Kebe in the home match against Reading in February that Dave Jones finally conceded that we needed a change at left back - 3.
An inconsistent season for the player who I take it Dave Jones saw as Joe Ledley’s replacement. When he was good, Olofinjana was very good and, overall, I think there were more good performances than bad ones, but his form over the last four games mirrored that of the team as the effects of the heavy workload he had been given (screening player in front of the back four as well as the central midfielder most likely to make runs beyond the strikers) looked to catch up with him. It seems that he would like to stay at Cardiff, but he’d be another thirty something in a squad that contains a lot of them already and I’m not sure he did enough to merit a permanent move - 6.
Despite scoring a fine goal inside the first ten minutes of his debut at Norwich which showed that there was more to his game than just being a big awkward lump, Parkin was a disappointment as far as I’m concerned. Was only given one other league start (at Forest) where the striking combination with Jay Bothroyd that we ended the season with was anything but a success. Did little to influence games when called upon as a substitute, but, in his defence, his appearance usually led to City going even more route one than they had been before and, from what I saw of him at Preston, he was capable of being more of a link up player who may have prospered with a better service - 5.
An odd season for the Scottish full back who went from being someone who barely featured in pre season matches and only had ten minutes of league action, when he came on as a late sub in the home game against Palace, before the turn of the year to being, possibly, our most consistent player over the second half of the campaign. Quite why he was ignored so much before January was a mystery, but once he got his chance, he made the right back spot his own. You don’t get Angel Rangel or Russell Martin style charges into the opposition’s penalty area from Quinn, but you do get solid defence, decent distribution and crossing and the sort of competitive attitude that we could do with a bit more of. While the absence of Bellamy was the main talking point as the Reading game kicked off, Quinn’s unavailability was a real setback as well – “bottler” is not a word that readily springs to mind when I think of him - 7 (6).
Very much a bit part player in what was, almost certainly, his last season with the club (he is currently being strongly linked with Aberdeen). Only started two league matches (Sheffield United on the opening day of the season and at Leicester) and was barely used from the bench after September, but his memorable moment for the campaign came when he scored a rare goal in the win over Hull after coming on as a sub. No one could question his team ethic when he was used and, judging by what I’ve heard and read about him he was a popular member of the squad – I wish him well for the rest of his career and thank him for his four seasons at Cardiff - 5 (5).
Maybe he’s not back to his best at Premiership level yet, but it’s no coincidence that we were unbeaten in the six games Aaron Ramsey featured in and it’s hard to believe that our season would have finished up as it did if we had been able to keep him for even just the one more month. While Ramsey was here we had a proper, fully functioning midfield that did not rely wholly on Olofinjana to support the strikers. Ramsey’s classy goal in the win over a Leicester team bang in form was a microcosm of his contribution all over the park and, like Craig Bellamy, his impact could have been even greater if some of his colleagues had been on his wavelength more often. In saying that, even with Ramsey in central midfield, there were still times when our central midfield pair in a 4-4-2 were very much second best to the opposition three in their 4-5-1 (e,g, Burnley at home and the early stages of the Leicester match) and this brought home how hard our manager’s preference for that formation can make life for our central midfielders - 8.
Sadly, there was almost an air of inevitability to how Chris Riggott’s time at Cardiff would pan out. Having taken three months or so to get him into a condition where he could be considered for selection, Riggott finally made his debut in the home game with Coventry on Boxing Day and his assured and authoritative display (he would have scored as well but for one of a series of fine saves from Keiron Westwood) offered a clue as to why Dave Jones had gambled on him back in September as he played a big part in securing what was our first win in four matches. However, after being rested for the heavy defeat at Watford two days later, Riggott only lasted a quarter of an hour at Bristol City on New Year’s Day before injury struck again and his frustration as he left the pitch was obvious – City released him shortly afterwards and there have to be serious doubts as to whether he will play again - 6 for his performance on Boxing Day.
Jay Lloyd Samuel
Had spent a decade playing in the Premiership when he came here, but the fact that he hadn’t featured in the first team at Bolton at all this season was all too apparent in his first game against Derby where he struggled defensively at times. Sadly, although he showed himself to be pretty quick and more attack minded than most of our other full backs, there was not too much of an improvement in this department of his game in subsequent matches, but his disastrous display against Middlesbrough which saw him withdrawn after just half an hour with the game already lost still came as a real shock. Samuel’s terrible performance that evening and the widespread allegations as to the reason for it, meant that it was generally believed that he had played his last game for Cardiff, but he was back last Tuesday and did little to salvage his reputation amongst Cardiff supporters with yet another poor defensive display - 3.
Whitts was virtually reinvented as a player during this season – gone was the prolific goalscorer of last season and in his place, for much of the time anyway, was a multi purpose central midfield player who, although playing a lot deeper, was still able to get into double figures as a goalscorer. Whittingham’s vision, skill and passing ability in a “quarterback” type role played a big part in many of the goals we scored, but, just like Steve McPhail, he is not the fully rounded central midfield player that I believe we need. The weaknesses to his game that have been apparent for some time stop him from being a complete central midfield player, but, for someone who has been accused of lacking heart in the past, I thought he gave his all in most games – he certainly did so in both Play Off matches where I thought he was our best player by some distance. Frankly, I think those who have been critical of him this season are talking out of their backsides and he should already be pencilled in as a key player for us in 2011/12 (preferably in a wide position) - 7 (8).
It soon became obvious that Wildig was going to feature less than he had done in 09/10 as Dave Jones put together his “best ever squad”. Wildig only appeared in two league games when he came on as a sub against Hull and Leicester, but he made his mark on the first of those matches when his lovely little reverse pass set up Gavin Rae’s goal. He also did well when coming off the bench in the FA Cup replay with Stoke but you still got the impression that he needed to do some filling out before he could make a real impact in what is a physically demanding league – what benefit his unhappy loan stay at Hamilton Accies had to his development as a footballer is hard to see though as it seems to have been a bit of a waste of time for all concerned - 5 (6).
What strikes me most about these ratings is that I have given all of our “flair” players who were with us in 09/10 lower marks than I did last year. The arrival of Craig Bellamy compensated for this to a degree, but I think it’s true to say that most of Cardiff’s big guns didn’t fire as well as most people expected them to and a few of them didn’t fire at all. This wasn’t the only reason why we didn’t achieve the target that the manager, players, back up staff, many in the media and most supporters set for this season, but with us, by fairly common consent, having to rely on individual brilliance rather than more solid virtues like teamwork, application and concentration, it certainly didn’t help our cause.