2011/12 for the players.

I’m going to stick to the format I’ve used in the last two years where I’ve given each player who appeared in the first team this season a mark out of ten and, where applicable, I’ll show what I gave them in the previous season as a comparison – I’ve tried to be consistent in my thinking when arriving at a rating for each member of the squad, but probably failed!

Darcy Blake

I suppose the first thing to decide is whether International performances should count towards a player’s marking because, certainly, in Darcy’s case, it makes a difference to how his 2011/12 season should be assessed. I can see both sides of the argument here – a Cardiff City blog should just relate to what a player does in a City shirt, but, this is a review of someone’s performances over a season and it would be stupid not to include every game you have seen that person play during that period. For right or wrong, I’m going to opt for the latter approach, so I’m including Darcy’s very good performances at centreback for his country. The problem for Blake is that his manager at club level doesn’t appear to fancy him as a centreback (with most sides in the Championship fielding a target man type striker, you can understand Malky Mackay’s point of view) and he has been used almost exclusively as a right back, where he has given a series of steady, but unspectacular displays which hardly demanded a starting place when everyone was fit and available – 6 (5)

Craig Conway

Started so well after signing from Dundee United in the summer, but, from about October onwards, his form became more patchy – this may have had something to do with the fact that opposing full backs cottoned on to the fact that he didn’t really have the pace to beat them on the outside. Had a great week  in late January when, recalled to the team after a couple of months spent mainly on the sub’s bench, he scored a late winner against Portsmouth, a penalty in the shoot out against Palace and the goal which got us at point at Southampton, but he couldn’t maintain that form and was soon out of the side again. I reckon he’s the best crosser of the ball in open play at the club and he was playing well when his season was ended early by a poor tackle from Watford’s Jonathan Hogg, but he wasn’t really consistent enough to maintain a place in a promotion chasing Championship team -6

Don Cowie

Was the criticism we saw from some of Cowie’s performances from November onwards solely down to him being unable to maintain a scoring rate which, judging by previous seasons, was never going to be carried through the whole campaign? I ask that because for most of the season, I thought his form was pretty consistent. Cowie is a great team man and his stamina levels are amazing, he is good technically and certainly never let his country down when selected (which was quite often). That said though, I’ll admit to expecting a bit more from him in terms of creativity. I say this because in the Carling Cup Final he showed an attacking sharpness and originality which wasn’t always apparent in the two matches a week grind of the Championship – I’d also say that even he was showing signs of tiredness in the last two months of the campaign - 7

Robert Earnshaw

Now I’ll say from the start that I think Malky Mackay should have made more use of Earnie especially when you consider how much Kenny Miller was struggling from February onwards – unfortunately however, there was little that Earnie did when he was given a chance which suggested that the manager was getting it drastically wrong by virtually ignoring him. His attitude off the pitch throughout what must have been a difficult season for him was spot on and on it there was more of a willingness to help out on the defensive side of things than there had been in his first spell with us. Unfortunately, there were also few reminders of that explosive acceleration or the pace to keep him ahead of defenders which had made him such a danger to them ten years ago. Started the season with a few typical striker’s goals before losing his place in October but, apart from a good showing against West Brom, one of his former clubs, in the FA Cup in January, never did anything which demanded inclusion - 4

Alex Evans

Was one of a few first year pros given a start in the First Round Carling Cup tie at Oxford and didn’t do too badly by all accounts, but, apart from the matches in the next two rounds of that competition when he was an unused sub, he was never seen in the first team squad again and was made available for transfer at the end of this season. Suffered because he played in a position where we were, probably, strongest and because he was not playing enough matches for the Under 21 Development team (two from Turner, Gerrard, Keinan and Gyepes were often selected in front of him). Could have benefited from being loaned out to get some first team experience (even of it was at non league level) and his latter performances  had the look of someone who knew he had no future at Cardiff - 4

Ibby Farah

Another whose only outing came at Oxford where he played the full two hours and was unlucky to see a long range shot come back off the woodwork. Got the chance to go out on loan which Alex Evans didn’t when he signed for Tamworth and played a total of four games for them, but, with greater competition for midfield places and the emergence of Joe Ralls, his career stalled somewhat this season and he probably ended it further away from a first team place than he was a year ago – has to make a bigger impact in 2012/13 -5

Ibby Farah in action for City's Under 21 development side in November - more of the same or another loan out to a lower league team looks the most likely outcome for him in 2012/13.*

Anthony Gerrard

A series of messages on Twitter which were, allegedly, none too complimentary to club or supporters at times, hardly helped Gerrard’s cause in a season which saw him become the player to suffer most from Ben Turner’s good form following his signing from Coventry. Was a regular for the first couple of months of the campaign without really showing the sort of form that made him such a hit at Hull during his loan spell there in 10/11 and it wasn’t surprising that he lost his place once Turner had proved his fitness. Came back for a spell in November and December when he did well enough to keep the fit again Mark Hudson on the bench for a while, but his time in the team in late January/February did not go as well and he was withdrawn during the 3-0 loss at Ipswich. Missed the crucial penalty in the Carling Cup Final the following week after coming on as a sub – he should not be blamed for that, but, overall, Gerrard didn’t play as well as he had done for us in 09/10 - 5 (5)

Rudy Gestede

Supporter’s opinions tend to be divided regarding our target man, but the reward of an extension on his contract which will keep him at Cardiff until 2014 indicates that his manager seems to rate him. Should have scored more goals, but  a look at his record in that department during his time in France shows that he is never going to be prolific. I tend to side with the camp which feels that Gestede does have something which can make him an effective performer at Championship level and would argue that he has done so already to some extent (he also didn’t look out of place in our appearance at Wembley this season). If I have a concern about him, it’s the series of niggling injuries (starting with the hamstring pull against Leicester four days after scoring his first goal for us in the League Cup match against the same opponents) that he was unable to fully shake off for the rest of the season – gives us something different up front when fit and, more than most in the division, we were too often in need of more attacking options -6

Aron Gunnarsson

One of my City players of the season, but forty odd appearances into his Cardiff career and I’m still not sure if his best position is sat in front of the back four breaking up attacks, playing as a box to box midfielder or as someone charged with making late runs into the penalty area beyond the strikers. Actually, I’d go for the middle one of those three options if I had to make a choice, but it does show what an all rounder the Bosman signing from Coventry is when it comes to playing in the middle of the park. Like others in this part of the pitch, fatigue might have played a part in a tailing off in performances levels as the season came to an end, but, at just 23, he looks to be one of those who will be a fixture in the team even if Malky Mackay is given the sort of playing budget that some of our “reported” bids for players in the last couple of weeks would appear to indicate – rumoured interest from Seville notwithstanding -8

Gabor Gypes  

Ended his time at Cardiff as, arguably, our sixth choice centreback which is pretty sad really when you consider that he gave us good service through most of the three and a half years he spent at the club. Another whose only first team opportunities came in the early rounds of the Carling Cup – he scored a good goal against Huddersfield, but the three goals we conceded that night offered a clue that he might not have been as effective defensively as he once was. This tended to be backed up in the Development team games I saw him play and he has yet to find a new club after being released by us on 31 January - 4 (5)

Tom Heaton

The best goalkeeping understudy in the Championship? Watching Heaton perform in the Carling Cup, there has to be a strong argument for this claim being true. Apart from an error of judgment when he came out too far for Ambrose’s free kick in the Semi Final First Leg, Tom Heaton was excellent in our cup run with his save from Steven Gerrard in the penalty shoot out being one of the best I’ve ever seen given the circumstances. He also didn’t concede a goal in the two league matches he played a part in and, given all of this, his decision to look elsewhere for a club when his contract with us runs out in a few weeks time is entirely understandable – is easily good enough to be a first choice keeper at this level and I’d like to thank him for his service to City over three seasons and wish him all of the best in the future - 7 (7)

Mark Hudson

Another to be given a contract extension during the season and this was concrete evidence of how, even at the age of 30, a player who had a shaky first season at Cardiff has developed over the past two seasons. Towards the end of the season, he was criticised at times for his wayward passing, but that was to ignore the fact that a lot of the time he was attempting to play balls that our midfielders should really have been attempting – rather than have a go at Hudson, I tended to admire his bravery in attempting to play passes which you would normally considered to be beyond the remit of a Championship centre half and, quite often, he was able to succeed in finding his target. This together with his outrageous goal against Derby (one of five for the season) offered proof that Hudson was better with the ball a this feet than had been previously thought, but defending is his main priority and, once again, he did that to a higher standard than most others in his position in the Championship - 8 (8)

Mark Hudson is buried under six or seven incredulous team mates after his goal from 68 yards out against Derby.+

Nat Jarvis

 Scored with a last gasp header to seal our win after coming on as a sub against Oxford back in August. That was the locally born striker’s only appearance for us during the season, but he ended it by playing for Newport County in the FA Trophy Final. Jarvis had two loan spells with the County as he did his bit to help them earn a first trip to Wembley as well as securing their place in the Conference for another year. Six goals in thirty one Conference appearances was not a great return, but Jarvis obviously did something to impress Malky Mackay in between his loan spells at the Spytty Stadium because he signed a one year extension to his contract in January – I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more time out on loan in store for him in 2012/13 - 5

Dekel Keinan

Fourth choice centreback he might have been at Cardiff, but the fact that Crystal Palace and Bristol City were willing to take him on loan spells during what was a pretty miserable season for the Israeli international shows that even if, as seems likely, he leaves us during the summer, Keinan could well be appearing at Cardiff City Stadium again next season. Apart from couple of minutes at the end of our win against Southampton in late September, it was cup action all the way for Keinan in 2011/12 and, to be honest, his rustiness showed on occasions – we conceded nine goals in the three matches he started. It must be hard for someone with Champions League experience and with twenty odd caps for his country to get motivated for matches on a Tuesday afternoon at Leckwith Stadium, but Keinan’s attitude was always spot on in Development team games - 4 (6)

Filip Kiss

Although hardly in the Gestede class, the loan signing from Slovan Bratislava was another who often struggled with injury (there were also occasional matches missed through illness) and, towards the end of the season there were quite a few occasions when the Slovakian Under 21 captain was not in the match day squad. When he did get his chance, Kiss gave the midfield urgency, ball winning qualities (he does sail close to the wind in this department though!) and some ability when running with the ball. One goal (I’d give him the second goal against Blackburn as well mind) in thirty two appearances isn’t good enough for someone in his position, but, with a bit more luck he could have scored in the League Cup Semi Final and Final. It’s been claimed for some months now that there’s a deal in place to sign Kiss on a permanent basis, but it’s not happened yet – I hope it does some time in the coming weeks -6

Liam Lawrence

Made a slow start when he first arrived on loan from Portsmouth at a time when we were in our worst run of league form of the season, but became increasingly influential as we got closer to the Play Offs with his well taken goal to win the game at Barnsley being a crucial moment in our season. Whether he was the type of player we needed at the time is arguable though.Lawrence brought a good attitude, excellent crossing ability and a bit of craft to our midfield, but he was not the winger many were crying out for. His lack of pace  and propensity for coming inside proved that and, if anything, he made more of an impact when playing in the centre of midfield. Did not play well in the two matches with West Ham that ended our season, but you could say that about most in our team – has now gone back to Portsmouth and it seems we won’t be signing him in the summer - 6

David Marshall

Has just signed a three year contract extension after what I believe to be his best season so far at Cardiff. Arguably the most consistent member of our team throughout a season which saw him start well with a clean sheet at West Ham and, largely, maintain that standard throughout the campaign. Had a bit of a poor patch around January/February, but, that apart, confirmed that he is one of the better keepers around at this level – certainly in terms of shot stopping. There are those who are critical of him because he isn’t as dominant as they’d like when crosses are coming in, but it’s so much more difficult for keepers to do that nowadays with so many opponents determined to block you off and, maybe, that’s the reason why modern day coaching places less emphasis on this part of the game than there was twenty years ago – whatever, I believe Marshall was our number one choice over a very good deputy on merit this season -8 (5)

Joe Mason

His arrival produced less headlines than most during the summer of 2011, but Mason’s signing could well have been the best bit of transfer business Malky Mackay has done at Cardiff so far. Right from when he came on and caused havoc against Bristol City in the first home league match of the season, Mason looked at home in the Championship and, once he’d got his first goal against Barnsley, more followed on a pretty consistent basis. Mason isn’t the finished article yet, he can be anonymous at times and. for such a good finisher, he maybe doesn’t get enough shots away, but he had become a very important player for us by the end of the season -after Peter Whittingham, I’d say he was the player most likely to come up with a moment of magic which could get us a goal. A four year contract extension signed in April offers proof of how highly the Republic of Ireland Under 21 striker is rated and, with his down to earth attitude, there’s every reason to hope that there is a lot more to come from Mason yet - 8

The moment Joe Mason stopped being a name known only in certain parts of Devon and South Wales – his calmly taken goal puts us 1-0 up at Wembley.

Kevin McNaughton

After five years of excellent work at Cardiff, it was ironic that when McNaughton finally got some nationwide recognition with his selection in a Championship team of the season chosen by the pundits on the BBC’s Football league highlights show, it came at a time when his performances had slipped below their normal standards. The arrival of Malky Mackay probably had more of an impact on Super Kev’s game than any of the other players he inherited as he was transformed into a full back cum winger who spent the season chasing up and down our right hand side. Given that McNaughton often looked by far the quickest player in the side, this change of role for him was understandable and there were times when he did well (e.g. when creating the break through goal in the home league game with Palace and a marvellous chance to win the match for the same player at Coventry), but, too often, his final ball wasn’t good enough. With a combination of tiredness and his dodgy hamstrings, perhaps, leading to an uncharacteristic defensive vulnerability towards the end of the season, it was not one of McNaughton’s best City campaigns -6 (8)

Steve McPhail

It’s hard to be dispassionate here, because we are talking about a brave footballer (both physically and mentally) and good bloke who has had so many awful things to put up with over the past two or three years, but, for me, Steve McPhail was not as influential this season as many made him out to be. This wasn’t all his own fault of course, and there were times (for example the Second Leg against Palace) when he was essential to the way we played, but, being realistic, the game against Coventry, one of several we should have won at home but didn’t, was more typical of McPhail’s season – that is a very influential half an hour when we were dominant and he was running the match, followed by a spell when he faded from the scene and the opposition took over, before he was withdrawn early in the second half. I feel guilty giving such a good servant of the club a mark that he doesn’t deserve for so many reasons, but, purely on his level of performance over the season, I think he merits a 5 (6)

Kenny Miller

Perhaps the player who divided opinion more than anyone this season. On the one hand, you look at the amount of work he put in ploughing a lone furrow up front for much of the season and the way he put himself about for the team and you think that he has gone a long way towards paying off his transfer fee – there was also some impressive finishing (for a while at least anyway) – e.g. West Ham away, Southampton home, Palace home, Forest away and Portsmouth home. On the other hand, you remember his awful goalscoring record from that Portsmouth game onwards and shudder. Yes, he had a lot of bad luck with efforts hitting the woodwork and goals dubiously ruled out, but, most tellingly for me, his finishing became wilder the longer the season went on and, although I’m reluctant to blame any one who misses penalties in a shoot out on the big occasions, when he did it twice without forcing the keeper into a save and missed a very presentable late chance to win a Cup Final, you have to conclude that Miller did not provide the bug game experience and expertise you would expect from someone with his background - 5

Lee Naylor

Strangely enough for someone who featured so little, Naylor did well when called upon. He only made two league appearances and we didn’t concede a goal in either of them, with the job he did on Chris Burke back in December possibly being the best example of defensive left back play seen by a City player all season. Apart from that, it was cup action all of the way for Naylor and his last game in City colours turned out to be the 4-2 defeat at West Brom. There were a few players who Malky Mackay could have maybe made more use of over the season and Naylor (another whose attitude was first class in the reserve matches I saw) was one of them with Andrew Taylor pushed forward into a midfield role - 6 (3)

Jon Parkin

No league action at all for the “Beast” at Cardiff, but he did score a clever header against Huddersfield in a match in which he played well before running out of steam in the second half. It seems that what they saw that night impressed Huddersfield because, after a month’s loan at Doncaster, Parkin joined them on a temporary basis in November, but, just as at the Keepmoat, the striker’s spell up in Yorkshire was hardly a success. Parkin did better at Scunthorpe though and scored six times in his three months there as part of a successful battle to avoid relegation to League 2 – likely to move on during the summer I would have thought - 5 (5)

Paul Quinn

Replaced Kevin McNaughton for twenty minutes in the late September win over Southampton, but the League Cup wins over Huddersfield and Leicester and the FA Cup defeat at West Brom were the only other times a player who I reckoned was as consistent as anyone over the second half of 2010/11 saw first team duty in 11/12. Gave Jordan Rhodes a goal with a sloppy back pass, but his penalty when captaining the side won the shoot out against Leicester at a time when he was struggling with an injury. His release comes as no surprise at all, but someone, somewhere could get themselves a bargain if his attitude is right at his new club - 5 (7)

City players rush to congratulate Paul Quinn after his match winning penalty in the League Cup tie with Leicester.

Joe Ralls

Would have won the Young Player of the season award most years, but missed out because of Joe Mason’s fine season. Ralls impressed when brought on at Oxford and then made a remarkably composed first start against Huddersfield, before following that up with a superb goal at Hull when making his league debut. His first league start came at Millwall, but it was his influential role in City’s best league performance of the season in beating eventual Champions Reading which most took the eye. Ralls was tremendous that day as he brought creativity, movement and a goal threat to a City midfield often accused of lacking such things over the second half of the campaign. He found selection from the start in the Semi Final at Selhurst Park a tougher proposition and after, harshly in my view, being withdrawn at half time against Blackpool, he faded from the first team picture – it seemed odd that he and Filip Kiss featured regularly in a side doing well from August to February and then hardly got a look in when we were struggling in the last third of the campaign - 7

Solomon Taiwo

One of three players whose only league action for City during the season was when they appeared as a substitute in the win against Southampton (it’s easy to forget now how badly hit by injuries we were around that time), Taiwo’s campaign was like his other two at Cardiff in that he was something of a forgotten man. Was pretty impressive at Development team level when I saw him, but a loan move to Leyton Orient saw him only feature five times for the League One struggler’s -4

Andrew Taylor

Composed left back whose use of the ball is far above the standard we’ve come to expect from City defenders down the years. Was never one to go bombing down the touch line like McNaughton, but, when he did get forward, he put a mean cross over, scored a good goal at Portsmouth and, with a bit of luck, could have had two or three more. However, when you consider the number of goals that came from crosses from our left and the times Taylor was caught out of position defensively, it could be argued that he was better suited to the midfield role Tony Mowbray preferred to use him in at Middlebrough than he was at left back. If I was awarding half marks in this, he’d be getting a 6.5, but, as I’m not, Taylor gets a 7

Ben Turner

Looked  a bit of a risky signing when Malky Mackay paid Coventry £750,000 for a player who had suffered two long term injuries before the age of 23 and even more of one after we conceded nine times in his first three matches. Truth be told though, even when we were letting in all of those goals, Turner looked like he was a good acquisition and over the weeks that followed he impressed with an ability to hit long and accurate diagonal passes with his left foot (sides have cottoned on to that now though), a surprising turn of speed for someone of his build and some uncompromising defending. Like many others, his form suffered a bit towards the end of the season, but as with his centreback colleague Hudson, he was superb against Liverpool at Wembley and his goal in that match was probably the highlight of most City fans’ season – his absence from the Welsh squad for Sunday’s match with Mexico is a mystery -7

Haris Vuckic  

His loan signing from Newcastle was presented as something of a coup after a couple of impressive Premiership performances a few months earlier, but the Slovenian attacking midfielder’s City debut at Leicester was a bit of a disaster as he gave away a penalty before being substituted at half time during our 2-1 defeat. Three days later, he did better in the 3-1 home win over Peterborough with a goal as he impressively controlled the ball and rolled it home in the same movement. He was used exclusively from the bench  after that, but it was only when he played a big part in securing a win at Ashton Gate that he really suggested he was getting to terms with the physical demands of the Championship. An injury crisis at Newcastle prompted Alan Pardew to recall him early, but it would have been interesting to have seen if Vuckic could have provided some much needed flair – I wouldn’t rule out him coming back here if Newcastle are prepared to loan him out again next season - 6

Theo Wharton

Wharton got twenty minutes of first team experience at West Brom when he replaced Dekel Keinan in the Third Round FA Cup tie. By all accounts, he didn’t do anything earth shattering, but his selection at just a few weeks after his seventeenth birthday offered a clue as to how highly rated he is at the club – as does him being offered a two year pro deal by City more than a year before such a decision needed to be made. Week in, week out, Wharton was the best player in the Academy team this season  and he is still eligible for them next year, but I would assume he’ll be a regular in the Development team which will, apparently, be playing in a new league in 2012/13 - 5

Peter Whittingham

Supporters whose memories only go back a few weeks are saying that we should accept any reasonable bid this summer for Whittingham. Apparently, he doesn’t do it on the big occasion -such nonsense ignores superb performances at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, against Leicester and Reading (where he was just about the only one of  our players not to freeze) in the Play Off’s, two goals created against Blackpool at Wembley and fine showings against Palace and Liverpool in the League Cup of course, but centres on his two below par efforts against West Ham. Never mind the fact that when you are, virtually,  your team’s sole creative outlet it’s easy for opponents to target you, Whittingham’s recent run of substandard displays (brought on by tiredness in my opinion) means that we should ignore the evidence of the last three years and categorise him as the one good game in three merchant he was during his early seasons with us. I could go on much longer about, possibly, the most talented player I’ve seen at the club, but I’ll say no more than it’s a case of keeping the best to last -9 (8)

Would you have swapped him for any other Championship player in 11/12?

A couple of things to finish, I’d like to have been able to give my opinion of the only player we signed on a permanent basis in the January transfer window, but, sadly, Kadeem Harris is still awaiting his first team chance. Also congratulations to the whole squad for not picking up a single red card this season – that’s a tremendous achievement, despite Filip Kiss’ best efforts!

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