Hull’s feeble 0-0 home draw with relegated Bristol City (this season just gets better and better!) on Friday virtually guaranteed us the Championship title, but yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Burnley confirmed it and I suppose it would be nice now to see us get the two points needed from our last couple of games to give us a record tally for a season. This would give the current team another record to use as evidence to back up a claim that the 2012/13 side is right up there amongst the most successful Cardiff City teams ever.
The sobering truth though is that they probably have done more than enough already to guarantee themselves a top three place (at least) because the simple fact is that, if you measure how successful a side is by the trophies it wins (and that seems the most logical way to do it), then the current team doesn’t have many rivals for the title of our most successful ever. In ninety three years of Football League existence, Cardiff City have, to put it mildly, not been very good at winning things – obviously, there’s the FA Cup in 1927, but what else? Well, there’s been plenty of Welsh Cup wins, but I’m struggling to think of anything else apart from the Third Division (South) Championship in 1946/47, that side won their league with a phenomenal sixty six points (ninety six in today’s money) despite only playing forty two matches, and the 1992/93 team who won the title in what I still call Division Four – they also managed a Welsh Cup win to further their claims.
So, by winning the domestic game’s second tier this season, the current team has proved itself to be Cardiff’s most successful ever in terms of trophies won in the Football League in my book because our only other two league winners did it at a lower level than them. However, to win a competition open to the best in the land surely has to be the criteria by which any contender for most successful City side ever has to be judged and so the 1927 FA Cup winners have to come out on top in my opinion, but I think the current side have certainly done enough to be classed as runner’s up to them.
Does that make them the second best City side ever? No, for me it doesn’t – I’m not really sure if the 1927 side (who finished fourteenth in the First Division in 26/27) were the best ever City team either. For a start, the 1923/24 side which came so agonisingly close to winning the First Division title, were more consistent at the highest level and there were four sides in the twenties and one in the fifties who finished in the top half of the best domestic league of their time who the current team would be absolutely delighted to emulate next season. As for the teams I’ve seen since 1963, I suppose the 70/71 side which came close to promotion, won the Welsh Cup and played some superb stuff to reach a Cup Winners Cup Quarter Final with Real Madrid would be the main contenders.
Turning to yesterday’s game, over the past few days I saw the hope being expressed that the team would be able to show what they were really capable of as the reins came off after promotion had been won and for forty five minutes they did just that. However, even as they had Burnley chasing shadows with their movement and ability in midfield and Craig Conway was scoring a fine goal from open play that gave the lie to any theory about us only being dangerous from dead ball situations, City were showing a weakness which I believe will be mentioned as evidence against them when the 2012/13 team’s merits are discussed in the decades to come.
The gap between the teams in the first half was a huge one, but, even then, City reminded me in some ways of a cat that has caught a mouse or a bird, toys with it for some minutes and then allows their prey to escape. Although I accept that yesterday was not the day to be too judgmental on the side’s level of performance, that inability to go for the jugular (in the form of doubling their lead) and finish the job off when dominating is something which has stopped what is a very good side becoming a Reading (in 2006) or Newcastle that completely dominated the Championship in winning the title in my opinion.
I presume it was sheer frustration that led to Ross Wallace’s cynical and cowardly assaults on Kim Bo-Kyung, but that was no justification for a couple of elbowings which were, in my opinion, far more calculated and intentional than the one which got Forest’s Darius Henderson a red card against us last week. Kimbo ran the game in the first half as the three man central midfield shone once again and Conway showed that he has a fine all round game to go with his industry, but, although it was never as one sided as the opening forty five minutes had been, Burnley did a lot better after the break (credit to Sean Dyche for the half time reorganistaion which made his side far more competitive than they had been) and in the end it was hard to begrudge them an equaliser in added time which could mean so much for their season.
In different circumstances, City’s inability to get the three points after dominating so much would have led to calls for Malky’s head on the messageboards and a fair amount of stick directed at team and manager on here, but, for the second successive match, it was what the game meant, rather than the game itself, which was important. City needed a point on each occasion and a point is what they got, therefore any criticism of their performance should be of the very mild variety only.
Even though it’s always frustrating to concede an equaliser after the ninety minute mark. if it has to happen, then yesterday was the sort of time when it should and yet there were a few things about Burnley’s goal which say so much about why we are Champions of this league. Firstly, having been part of a defence which was under pressure for much of the second half but, apart from on one occasion, never looked being breached, captain for the day Andrew Taylor picked up a knock immediately before the goal which I believe led to the equaliser – Taylor’s lack of mobility and full concentration meant City weren’t as organised as they normally would be and Burnley took advantage of the slight delay in getting someone over to try and cut out the cross as the other City players realised our left back wouldn’t be able to.
Even allowing for that though, David Marshall (who, after having nothing to do for eighty six minutes foiled Danny Ings with a brilliant save on the one occasion Burnley opened us up during normal time) almost kept out Edgar’s point blank header – I must admit to being a bit sceptical when I first heard Malky Mackay describe Marshall as the best goalkeeper in the Championship some months ago, but, after watching him in the last few weeks when it really mattered, I’ve got to say our manager was right. The final thing was to see Kevin McNaughton’s annoyance when the ball hit the net – the goal didn’t mean a great deal from City’s point of view, but, in that moment when he realised that he maybe could have done more to prevent Edgar scoring, our full back showed the sort of desire which was one of the factors which has put us ahead of the other twenty three Championship teams.
The end of the game saw some great scenes as the players and backroom staff celebrated winning the title – as Malky Mackay said in a post match huddle which must have included about thirty people, these are great times and we should enjoy them fully while we can.
* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/