Appropriate end to a season which just faded away in it’s last six games.

CoymayAfter their deserved draw at eventual Champions Burnley on 5 April, Cardiff City had momentum – they were closing in on the top six and, with just two defeats in their last fourteen matches, the club’s stated target for the season of reaching the Play Offs did not seem as far fetched as it had done for much of the previous seven months.

Now City had six matches left which would define their season, it wouldn’t be easy, but there was a belief in the squad which backed the suggestion that much maligned manager Russell Slade was finally winning over significant numbers of his critics.

What followed merely enabled the cynics among City fans to exchange knowing glances with each other as the curtain came down on the season at lunchtime yesterday with an undistinguished 1-1 draw with Birmingham at Cardiff City Stadium – they knew that those fans who had allowed themselves to start to believe had been kidding themselves because, at the business end of the campaign, City had, in many ways, pulled a metaphorical sickie!

Those six truly vital games yielded a miserable total of five points – all of these came at home to ensure that City’s impressive record of having lost only twice at Cardiff City Stadium was maintained, but they were only good enough to beat bottom team Bolton, who had been playing with ten men for around an hour, thanks to a penalty deep into added time.

Away from home, it was losses all of the way as City subsided disappointedly at Fulham and Brentford and, to all intents and purposes, didn’t turn up for the “Play Off showdown” at Sheffield Wednesday which ended in their heaviest defeat of the campaign.

The last goal conceded by David Marshall in his time at Cardiff City? After a couple of years of speculation about him moving, I think he may well get his deserved opportunity to play more Premier League football during the summer. As for the scorer, although I don't mind Birmingham, David Cotterill has spent his career mostly playing for teams I'm not too keen on, so he's never been a favourite of mine, it was a good finish yesterday though and I expect to see him named in the provisional Welsh squad for the Euros which will be announced by Chris Coleman tomorrow.*

The last goal conceded by David Marshall in his time at Cardiff City? After a couple of years of speculation about him moving, I think he may well get his deserved opportunity to play more Premier League football during the summer. As for the scorer, although I don’t mind Birmingham, David Cotterill has spent his career largely playing for teams I’m not too keen on, so he’s never been a favourite of mine, it was a good finish yesterday though and I expect to see him named in the provisional Welsh squad for the Euros which will be announced by Chris Coleman tomorrow.*

Therefore, with nothing riding on the outcome of a game between two teams were just wishing away a season in which they had both had fleeting moments when they could entertain the notion of facing the Chelsea’s, Manchester United’s and, dare I say it, Leicester City’s of this world, I headed to the ground not expecting much and not much was exactly what I got.

There were some items of interest. For example, in another instance of the improvements being made at the club off the field in recent months, City wore their 2016/17 kit and, even an old misery like me who whinges away at football losing it’s soul because of such rampant commercialisation as changing your kit every year and charging a fortune for low quality versions of it with a sponsors name plastered across it, had to admit it looked quite good – better still, the new shirts can be ordered from the club now, so the days of waiting until about November before they appeared in the club shop seem well behind us.

It was also good to see Ben Turner back playing first team football again after an injury ruined couple of years which must mean that there are doubts as to whether he will be offered a new contract by the club when his current deal runs out at the end of June. However, Big Ben did his prospects no harm at all as he was one of our better performers on the day, even if he did find Clayton Donaldson’s pace and movement pretty difficult to deal with at times.

Before going on to the match, I should mention one other item of good news as it was announced that the club’s transfer embargo had been lifted at 2.30 yesterday afternoon.

As for the game, the BBC’s stats made for interesting reading because they showed both teams level when it came to goal attempts, efforts on target and corners gained. So, all of that would suggest that a draw was the right outcome, but when you consider that the visitors hit the woodwork twice and had a couple of efforts cleared off the line, whereas we struggled to create meaningful chances to add to the goal we were gifted, I think it’s fair to say that Birmingham’s impressive travelling support headed home thinking that their team were the ones who were the moral winners of the match.

One aspect where City enjoyed dominance was in the matter of possession. Unusually for them, City had the ball for as much as sixty per cent of the time, but, as I’m told by Sky’s commentators every time one of their matches is televised that Birmingham have the lowest possession figures in the Championship, this didn’t come as a surprise.

Speaking as someone who belongs firmly in the camp which wants my team to have as much of the ball as possible because the opposition cannot score without it, I have to admit that it’s been a good season for those who think differently to that. Sides who are comfortable with letting their opponents have the ball have prospered and the success of teams like Leicester has shown that this doesn’t have to mean that the anti football doctrine of Jose Mourinho has to be slavishly followed when it comes to these outfits who sometimes have you thinking they don’t want the ball.

Birmingham have just completed their best season in years and did so by, basically, inviting their opponents to break them down, while looking to break with pace and purpose if the opportunity arises.

As I watched Donaldson leading the Birmingham line so effectively, I found myself wondering what City might have achieved this season with someone like him or Cameron Jerome up front as opposed to the statuesque Kenwyne Jones and the willing but inexperienced, in that position at least, Anthony Pilkington.

Russell Slade appears to be contemplating what the future may hold for him . With a, so far, pretty vague job description for his new Head of Football tole, there are those who are speculating that could be very tempted to move elsewhere if a managerial offer comes in for him - in fact, with the club looking for a new

Russell Slade appears to be contemplating what the future may hold for him . With a, so far, pretty vague job description for his new Head of Football tole, there are those who are speculating that he could be very tempted to move elsewhere if a managerial offer comes in for him – in fact, with the club looking for a new “boss” for them, many of the City staff in this photo could face an uncertain future – how many of them will still be at Cardiff City come the new season?*

However, the way Birmingham were able to snuff out so many of our attempted attacks at source only served as a reminder that you need a complete package to compete at the very top of this league – we could have had, say, Andre Gray or Jordan Rhodes up front, but the lack of a quality final ball from midfield as the fitful Noone, Lawrence and Whittingham flattered to deceive and the earnest but, on this occasion, limited O’Keefe laboured with little effect meant that there would not have been an end product.

When Birmingham were inconvenienced, the cleverness of the fit again Lex Immers usually had something to do with it. Immers wasn’t as impressive as he had been a month or two ago, but he still did enough to have me hoping that, with the embargo lifted, the funding can be found to bring him here on a permanent basis in the summer.

Once Immers left the field to be replaced by Kenneth Zohore, who this time gave a performance which backed Russell Slade’s cautious approach towards playing the young striker, City became something of a mess.

Increasingly, they offered Birmingham hope that they could take the three points and our season ended with us clinging on pretty desperately for the draw which, in the event, was not enough to hold on to seventh place because, while we were ending our away season with no points from three matches, Ipswich were drawing at Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough and beating Derby.

So, for me anyway, Russell Slade’s time at Cardiff ended in much the same way as it went for the majority of his eighteen months with us – playing unconvincing, functional, hard working and one paced football which left fans yearning for that something extra.

Mr Slade also leaves the manager’s job having been entirely consistent in his ignoring of young Welsh players who were at the club when he arrived. If we accept that Declan John was an established first team squad member going into the 2014/15 season, then I maintain that Russell Slade has not progressed the career of a single locally born young player who would have felt he had a reasonable chance of playing first team football in the next eighteen months at the time the new manager arrived – for me, the club has never felt less Welsh than it did under Russell Slade.

*pictures courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncandy/

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13 Responses to Appropriate end to a season which just faded away in it’s last six games.

  1. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Paul has produced his typical brilliant and well-rounded assessment of yesterday’s game. Equally typical was the manager’s stubborn refusal to change his personnel or ‘his tactics, almost as if he was sticking two fingers up to everyone who called for (and hoped for) some sort of different approach. In contrast to his ineffective strategy, we saw the value of an IMMEDIATE left-wing cross from a left-footed player which, aided by a piece of defensive fumbling, led to a well taken goal from the intelligent movement of Pilkington.
    In terms of football intelligence, however, Immers was brilliant. I have the gut feeling that if Mr Slade had remained in charge, Immers would have been glad to move on — and on the evidence of his game, plenty of clubs would be eager to sign him. I read years ago that Craig Bellamy had an intimate knowledge of Dutch football — which to me, if he became manager, might be a factor in keeping Immers at Cardiff and getting the best out of him by playing in his natural position and employing players who could best work with him. Just a thought!
    Finally, thanks to one and all for referring to my previous attempt at versification, which in origin was a challenge in its derivation, and has now become a blushing peroration.
    To mention me (even in Russell’s tongue-in-cheek fashion, of which I much improve) in the same breath as Keats, reminds of an old story: a large group of soldiers had been dragooned to listen to an Army Education Corps lecture on Keats. The sergeant-major spoke to them before hand something along the following lines: “Now you lot, listen carefully to the officer’s lecture on keats because I know that none of you ignorant bastards even know what a keat is.”

  2. Colin Phillips says:

    Tired of his team selection, tired of his tactics, tired of his substitutions, in fact tired of the whole set-up including the half-time ‘entertainment’!!

    Time for a change, surely it can only be for the better.

    NB – have we won in recent history a game where Whitts has played central-midfield, except for one killer pass to Malone who fecked-up the chance, it would have been a relief to see him get a red, instead of the yellow, card. It was so bleeding obvious he was going to do it. In fact everything about yesterday’s game was SO predictable.

    Looking forward to the new season!

  3. Clive Harry says:

    Colin, you sound exactly how I feel. Annoyed, frustrated, and completely cheesed off by an opportunity to do or try something different with the team’s structure and tactics being ignored yet again by our lacklustre, uninspiring (ex) manager. I was stunned when I saw the same old being turned out for a game with nothing on it. I thought at least he would bow to popular opinion and have a brief look at Declan John with one of his famed 83rd minute substitutions but even that didn’t happen. The inclusion of loan players in the squad was also completely pointless.
    I have to admit that my spirits rose when I saw Russell would no longer be in post after yesterday but they soon sank when I realised that he would be moved to another role. His work in the transfer market and in the field of youth development are obviously much too valuable to be lost to the club (heavy irony alert).
    Rumours will no doubt be rife for the next few weeks but I hope the one about Paul Trollope taking over is not true. He may well have done a decent job but change is needed. I also think Scott Young brings nothing to the party but possibly should go back to working with the Academy.
    I intend going to the Trust AGM next week when I can hopefully look into the other rumour I have heard that TOBW is buying out Vincent Tan and appointing a new board consisting of the regular contributors to this blog. It would definitely be a forward step as long as we can stop Dai giving tactical advice to the new manager.

  4. Russell says:

    I was gripped by yesterdays game ,end to end ,high intensity football ,dazzling array of young talent showing thier wares, finally I took my google glasses off to reveal the reality.

    Let’s hope we know get brave risky football based on recruitment of pace,skill and youthfulness,supported with few old heads such as Nolan as a driving captain.

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    STOP PRESS, Paul…
    Rob Page is coming!
    Golly.
    I am trying to think when – if ever – City had a manager from my native Rhondda Valley…??
    Tylorstown. (Where I used to climb the tip as a lad…when it was covered in snow, I felt like a member of the Alpine Climbers Club, without incurring any of the expense!)

    A village as famous for its line in the song If I Could See The Rhondda One More Time as for Jimmy Wilde.
    The late David Alexander was someone who must have been miffed to see Tom Jones get such huge success…because let’s face it, he was very decent himself, and should have been more famous, and got some of the plaudits aimed at his more illustrious twin “brother” …certainly a twin vocally.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfsVBhshJR0

    Makes me laugh to see people like the guy in the comments section below the YT screen, claim that the song is about his native Tylorstown…no it ain’t matey. The chap from the North East of England who wrote it – I’ll wager – never set foot in Tylorstown…at best he drove through in a car.
    He needed the rhyme…”Walking down” with something …so what better than with “From Tylorstown” ?!
    Still …poetic licence is allowed…!!

    Have written more on FOOTBALL on your other posting of 48 hours ago, Paul.
    And have thanked you for a wonderful season of hard work.
    DW

  6. rhondda blue says:

    thanks to all letter writers on this blog all done with passion unlike our football on the pitch under rusty which in all honesty were found wanting at times. why did he not blood some younger guys yesterday ie: like Declan, kennedy, o’sullivan, healey, and the likes, with nothing riding on the result. clueless, that’s why I am glad the club have acted and got rid, but then we get paper talk of Robert Page taking over, ffs City we have been there before, get someone who’s been there got the t shirt and done it else we will be back where we started. have a great summer City Fans, keep the faith and see you next season, hopefully with a better standard of football

  7. Clive Harry says:

    Rob Page – 12th in League One and lost 5-0 at home today. What a perfect fit for us he would be.
    In answer to Dai’s question – Scott Young.

  8. Stephen Fairhurst says:

    Whilst it was known prior to the match where Slade would be come next season I somehow knew along with many others what the team and playing style would be against Birmingham. My particular nadir came on Saturday when our ’striker’ trotted from the front, past people to the defence for a Birmingham corner. Pilkington along with others are to be thanked for effort though I sometimes he got frustrated in prior games and allowed it to affect his game. Similarly Whittingham’s ‘tackle’ and booking seemed to show someone who wanted to show he was doing his bit to defend. Which having heard Slade presumably geeing up the team in recent weeks have left me surprised as passion is the one emotion not heard in them. I believe in the adage of stop worrying about the opposition but take the game to them and make them worry about you. Would have liked Noone to have two ways of taking on a defender and add going round the outside on the left hand side but we have to wait for Kadeem to be brought on. But I must give credit where due for his header off the line especially as I got a great side on view and reacted with that roar of pleasure that football brings. Deep down we all have that spark inside which hopefully can be made to burn bright next season with a new head coach who won’t always play it ultra safe. With appreciation and thanks for your well written pieces and the passion of other contributers.

  9. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Russell,

    I have just been looking over the most recent comments and have spotted a glaring error I made — I wanted to say that I much APPROVE of your tongue-in-cheek mention of Keats, and I see that I wrote Improve, which is not what I meant at all. My apologies.

  10. Barry cole says:

    Well done Paul
    No long winded blog today
    My relief in knowing that slade will not be in charge next season is tempered with the hope that the person who comes in will be the right man.
    Whoever he/ she is nothing can be worse that the 18 months of purgatory we have had to put up with.
    I purchased my season ticket on the understanding that slade would not be here and at least that part has been a success.
    I hate this next few months waiting for the season to t at least we have the euros to eat it up.
    Best wishes to all bloggers on here and look forward to an enjoyable season with our team playing the type of football Win or lose that we saw some years ago with Dave Jones. Preferably winning .
    I will wash my mauve and yellow shirt ready for summer and look forward to the positives of next season
    Best wishes to one and all

  11. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks to all for their replies to my piece on Saturday’s match, but I’d like to go further than that to include a thank you to you all for your contributions throughout the season – I’m biased of course, but I think the feedback generated on this site is as good as you can read on any Cardiff City related outlet.
    Not got a great deal of time this morning, so I’ll limit myself to a few comments on various matters raised.
    AMO, Russell Slade sounded very hopeful in his post match press conference that we would be signing Lex Immers permanently – indeed. given how cautious he tended to be in his dealings with the media, I’m pretty convinced now that it will happen.
    Colin, regarding Whitts’ tackling, he gave away a free kick in the first half and I remarked that it was the first time I could remember him not being yellow carded for a foul all season – maybe it’s to do with him becoming a bit more off the pace as he gets older, but I can’t remember him being as bad at tackling a few years ago as he is now. Anyway, the one in the second half was a borderline red card and was what we’ve come to expect from him now – I mentioned a few weeks back that if you really, really stretched a point you could see playing similarities with Paul Scholes in Peter Whittingham, but, when it comes to tackling, they’re like two peas in a pod.
    Clive, rest assured, as the money man (can’t help thinking you’ve got me confused with someone else there mind) behind this buy out of the club, I’ll ensure Dai will not be getting within one hundred miles of the tactics board!!!!!!
    Only joking Dai – well, kind of! I was interested to see your comment on the Brentford owner because I’m just contemplating writing something about the stats based approach mentioned in the club’s press release announcing Russell Slade’s move upstairs/sideways/downwards or whatever it is and, if I go ahead with it, that club will feature quite heavily in it.
    Finally, I come to Russell Slade, Everyone is having their say on him, but I think Stephen put things very well when he talked about us all having the “spark inside” which can be made to burn bright – it may not burn as bright in some as it does in others, but, he’s right, it’s there in any football fan when it comes to their club. However, even in those who were more supportive of Mr Slade than many others were, I have to wonder how many times under his management can they honestly say that the spark ignited into a flame?

  12. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks Barry – I used to hate the summer break when I was a kid and I’m still not a fan of it if I’m being honest. As you say, there are the Wales matches to look forward to this time though and I’ll be doing something on them as well as a weekly review concerning events/speculation at Cardiff City Stadium. I also have plans for a couple of quizzes, so I’ll still be pretty busy on here and I hope you all will keep on dropping in every now and again – have a good summer all.

  13. MIKE HOPE says:

    I’ve only just had the opportunity to read this last blog so my comments will probably go unread.Many thanks for all the reports and I look forward to next season.We are now ranked 28th in the 92 club pyramid which I suspect is better than our average position over the past 50 years.Combine this with the fact that we have a billionaire owner who has promised to leave us debt free and it is surely a time to be optimistic.
    It is obviously the right time to look for a new manager and it is important that we make the right choice.The description by the club of the man we are seeking fits Michael Appleton of Oxford like a glove. As he has previously had the misfortune to work for the owners of Portsmouth Blackpool and Blackburn he will surely think that Vincent Tan is St. Francis of Assissi!
    A final comment on Russell Slade, despite what some of our fellow bloggers might think, in the football world he has enhanced his CV during his time with us and will probably become manager of another Championship club early in the new sacking season.
    I think that Mr. Tan has rewarded him for his loyalty by giving him a holding job in the meantime. The club’s reference to improving the synergy with our sister clubs could make him our temporary man in the Balkans and Belgium!.

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