I saw all or part of four matches over the weekend and three of them were significantly effected by the warm and sultry conditions they were played in. The exception was England’s 1-0 win in Norway, but in the first of the two Play Off Finals at Wembley, Huddersfield and Sheffield United played out a turgid 0-0 draw in which caution reigned supreme with the stifling conditions preventing midfield players making runs into dangerous areas on the rare occasions when there was a willingness to do so. Crewe v Cheltenham yesterday, was better with both sides showing much more enterprise in a lively first half, but Cheltenham in particular ran out of steam from around the hour mark onwards and. in the end, Crewe’s win was fairly straightforward.
Although the game took place over five and a half thousand miles away from Wembley, Wales’ match with Mexico in New York last night followed a similar pattern, but there was a difference in that in London all four sides found it tough going, but at the MetLife Stadium, Mexico were able to defy the conditions in impressive fashion to earn a 2-0 win which did not flatter them in the slightest. Indeed, if had not been for some fine saves from Jason Brown (making a rare start in goal due to the unavailability of Messrs Hennessey, Myhill and Price) Wales’ margin of defeat could have equalled Scotland’s in their 5-1 loss to the USA, just under twenty four hours earlier.
Brown, who must have wondered why he was at Cardiff for a short spell at the end of the 2101/11 campaign as he watched fellow loannee Steven Bywater’s error strewn performances from the bench, was an obvious man of the match for his country – he had no chance with either goal and made two or three exceptional stops including somehow keeping out a second half header by Dos Santos from point blank range.
The thing that I noticed most when comparing the two sides was how much more quickly Welsh players were closed down when in possession than the Mexicans were. Obviously the conditions, which favoured the Central American team so much more than the Northern European one, had a bit to do with this, but there was a sluggishness about many of those in a Welsh shirt which suggested that the match would have gone the same way if the temperature had been, say, fifteen degrees cooler.
Wales looked like a team at the end of their domestic season and, apart from a header wide by the disappointing Robson-Kanu and a snapshot from Bellamy after he had been set up by Sam Vokes (who did quite well when he came off the bench to replace Steve Morrison) which did not miss by too much, they never threatened to score. There was no shame in losing to a Mexican side who don’t very often fail against sides they should be beating when you look at the FIFA rankings, but, historically, they seem to struggle against the “big” teams who, often, don’t look to have as good a starting eleven as they do.
If Mexico do have an inferiority complex, then it was never going to be an issue yesterday during Chris Coleman’s first game in which he has been fully in charge since taking the job in December. Although I am one of what I would guess is a large number of Welsh fans who are not overly optimistic of him being able to repeat the results and performances seen in the last few months of Gary Speed’s time in charge, it’s hard to see a great deal he could have done differently to effect yesterday’s outcome which, in the grand scheme of things, was not particularly important anyway.
In saying that though, you have to wonder whether it would have been preferable to have started with someone more used to the centreback position than Chris Gunter. I’ve already commented on the strange ignoring of Ben Turner by someone who has managed him at club level and was fulsome in his praise of our centre back after the Carling Cup Final, but even more odd was Wales’ new manager’s non use of Gunter’s Forest team mate Joel Lynch who stayed sat on the subs bench after his out of the blue call up to the squad ten days ago – you would have thought a match like yesterday’s would have been an ideal opportunity to see how Lynch, who had an impressive season at club level apparently, would cope with International football.
by The other Bob Wilson
It’s now getting on for a fortnight since City Chairman Datuk Chan Tien Ghee (TG) attended a Board meeting to discuss how the club would proceed following the decision to abandon plans to change our kit colour and badge for the 2012/13 season following opposition to the “re-branding” from some supporters. A statement on the matter appeared on the official site within hours of the meeting concluding which stated that “All at Cardiff City Football Club appreciate the desire and appetite from supporters to learn more, and as such further information will be released at the earliest opportunity.”. I think it’s fair to assume that most would’ve expected to have heard something from the club by now and, in my opinion, the delay in receiving any feedback is leading to opinions hardening in a divided supporter base – the way the matter was originally handled by the club with briefings to one supporter weeks before the changes were to be announced as a fait accompli, only made an awkward situation worse and you would have thought they would have got something out by now (even if it were only a “holding” statement) to prove that they hadn’t forgot about the commitment they made on the fifteenth of this month.
In the meantime, we can only speculate as to how much Malky Mackay has to spend on player recruitment. Our manager has stated that he is “relaxed” about how the dialogue between him, the Cardiff based Board members and the Malaysian investors is going, but then, in his position, he would say that wouldn’t he. Even reports of a £5.5 million bid for Burnley striker Jay Rodgriguez has not really satisfied doubts amongst many supporters that the decision to stay blue will come with a significant reduction in the funding available to our manager. On the one side of the coin, you have an article like this which sees our interest in Rodriguez as a real statement of intent regarding our plans this summer, but on the other you have the people who say that Cardiff are always being linked with big money players which they know they won’t end up signing – I don’t happen to agree with that viewpoint, but with the likes of Newcastle and Southampton being linked with the England Under 21 international (and Everton, reportedly, on the brink of a £3 million bid for another reported target, Lillestrom’s Björn Bergmann Sigurdarson), it has to be acknowledged that, as yet, it’s impossible for them to be proved wrong.
We did make our first signing of the summer mind when it was announced that, as had been reported previously, Peterborough goalkeeper Joe Lewis was joining us on a three year deal beginning on 1 July. Having tried to gauge Peterborough fans opinions on him over the past couple of days, it would appear that he had a rough time of it last season and he was not as highly rated as he was a year or two ago. They are, obviously, in a better position than me to judge, but what I would say is that if a City player started to let it be known that he would not be signing a new contract when his old one ran out in a year’s time, I think this would have an effect on how he was perceived by the fanbase – it might well influence team selection as well. As I mentioned last week, I think this is a clever signing because all of the basic ingredients seem to be in place for Lewis to become a very good keeper indeed, but, perhaps there is more to the situation and it’s not quite as straightforward as I first though – time will tell I suppose.
One last thing, the final spot in next year’s Championship will be filled by Huddersfield Town who played out a match that was, possibly, even more boring for the neutral than our 1-0 win over QPR was nine years ago. The game, which finished 0-0 after 120 minutes, was played in very hot conditions which I’m sure influenced the way things panned out and the lack of quality carried on into the early stages of the penalty shoot out as six of the nominated ten best penalty takers (including Huddersfield’s Alan Lee) failed to score. Once the “duffers” from sixth choice onwards started taking them though, the standard improved straight away with the next eight all being scored until the respective keepers had to have a go – Huddersfield’s Ian Smithies blasted his spot kick in, but Sheffield United’s Steve Simonsen’s Waddleesque effort flew high and wide and the side that looked shoe ins for a second placed finish until Ched Evans’ jail sentence have to face another year in the League’s third tier.by The other Bob Wilson