I think the fixture computer handed us a very tough August with our first three away matches in particular offering a real test of a squad that has been hit by something of an injury crisis in midfield in recent weeks. When you consider that the squad is reckoned to be too small anyway by our manager, then one defeat in five in the league to go alongside two hard fought League Cup wins has to represent a satisfactory start given all of the upheaval and new arrivals of the summer.
Yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Portsmouth left me with more or less the same feelings I had after last week’s game at Burnley – a draw at the ground of a team I believe will finish in the top ten is a good result which again confirms the suspicion that this side has a resilience that wasn’t always apparent in last season’s City team which is, by common consent, considered to be better than this one (I’ll pass on giving a judgement on that until we know what our squad looks like when we next play in just under a fortnight). In all three of our away games we have gone through spells where we have been put under concerted pressure by the home team, but we didn’t lose any of them and with just two goals conceded, there is a defensive solidity about us on our travels which, unfortunately, we appear to lack at home at the moment.
Of course, consecutive draws will mean that you are going to lose ground to some of the team’s around you, but when looked at in the context of them coming off the back of our one really disappointing display so far, against Brighton, I’d say that the fact we’ve “stopped the rot” at Burnley and Portsmouth is more important than it being three league matches since our last win – obviously, I’ll be thinking differently if we fail to see off rock bottom Doncaster on 10 September! For a while yesterday it looked as if Andrew Taylor’s first goal for the club twenty minutes from time following a neat move involving sub Rudi Gestede, Earnie and Craig Conway was going to be enough to take the points against a Portsmouth side that has been short of goals so far. However, veteran Kanu came off the bench to score only his fifth league goal since getting the winner in the 2008 Cup Final when his close range header beat David Marshall on 80 minutes.
City’s season now comes to a halt until a week Saturday as we have the first of the breaks for International fixtures, but, certainly until Wednesday evening, the focus will still be very much on club football as the summer transfer window enters it’s final few days before closing late on 31 August. For much of the last few weeks it has been hard to avoid the suspicion that transfer dealings (on the incoming side at least) at Cardiff had been suspended until Craig Bellamy’s situation was been resolved one way or another. The former Wales skipper had talked of coming here again after last season’s loan and it’s been pretty obvious that City had been hoping to bring him back through another loan deal or, possibly as a permanent signing in the event of Man City cancelling his contract by paying off a significant portion of the money he stands to earn from the ten months left on his deal.
However, Man City have, seemingly, not been willing to entertain a loan similar to last year’s whereby we paid around £25,000 of his reported £90,000 a week wages – they have wanted any club he plays for to pay all, or very close to all, of his wages and that puts him way beyond our resources. For a long time, Man City were saying they were only willing to let Bellamy leave for a fee widely reported as £4 million, but, they appear to have relaxed their stance in the past week or so and now it looks like they are prepared to let him leave on a free transfer or on loan. Over the past week or so there has been widespread speculation that Bellamy was on his way to Liverpool, but with the player seemingly not prepared to take a significant drop in wages, there have been some reports of their interest in him cooling and now this morning’s Daily Mail has said “yes” to Spurs (quite what this “yes” was in response to isn’t clear mind, there’s no mention of it in the story – maybe they asked him if it was true he was born in Cardiff?).
Speaking as someone who was always optimistic last summer that we would get Bellamy, I believe our chances of getting him aren’t great this time around. If his position isn’t sorted out by Thursday, then we’ll be back in the running, but I wonder if it isn’t a coincidence that stories about us signing Coventry’s Ben Turner (with Jon Parkin possibly heading in the opposite direction) surfaced yesterday? If there is something to these reports, then does it signal an end to our interest in Bellamy as money that had been set aside for him is used to try and bring in other targets? Anyway, 23 year old Turner (who is qualified to play for Wales) is a centre back who was certainly very highly rated by his club who offered him a three and a half year contract last season and he is someone that has attracted the attention of Premiership clubs in his time. However, the fly in the ointment is that injuries have restricted him to just twenty seven league appearances in the past two seasons and he has yet to play a game so far this time around. On the face of it, it appears a bit strange that we would be in for someone with a record like that, especially when you consider that we have four centrebacks already – I can only think that one of Hudson, Keinan, Gyepes and Gerrard would be leaving (the last named is in the final year of his contract with us and, apparently, his family are still living in the North of England).
Finally, a couple of other quick items, Peter Whittingham signed a contract extension on Friday that will keep him at the club until June 2014 and City were the first name out of the hat in yesterdays draw for the Third Round of the Carling Cup. They will entertain mega bucks Leicester City in a match likely to be played on Tuesday 20 September five days before Sven brings his team here in the Championship.