Away day blues continue for the reds.

CoymayDon’t ask me why I remember this, but back in 1975/76 while we were getting promoted from the old Third Division, I recall there being much scratching of heads forty miles down the coast at Swansea.

The jacks finished the season halfway up the old Fourth Division and baffled as to why there was such a huge contrast between their performances at the Vetch Field and in their away games as they visited places like Workington, Southport and Stockport.

Their manager at the time Harry Griffiths was at a loss to explain how a team that were blowing away sides at home would become so timid on their travels and, having done some checking, it’s easy to see why he was so frustrated.

Swansea scored fifty one times in winning fourteen and losing just one of their twenty three home matches, but there were only two wins to go with fourteen defeats in away games with a paltry fifteen goals scored.

Swansea in 75/76 is just one example of a problem that tends to afflict at least one team every season and the concern for Cardiff City fans after another feeble away performance in losing 1-0 at Millwall, is that this season there are increasing signs that their team might be the Championship’s number one soft touch away from home.

Having been able to watch (or should that be endure?) six out of our seven away games so far, I suppose it could be argued that there has been an improvement of sorts in the last two of them. Unlike at Blackburn, Wolves, Fulham and Derby, it didn’t look like we could collapse at any time and end up being on the end of a thrashing at Blackpool and Millwall.

What a mess! It may or may not have been a foul on David Marshall, but Federico Macheda's

What a mess! It may or may not have been a foul on David Marshall, but Federico Macheda’s “challenge” on goalscorer Danny Shittu only tended to validate the opinion that Kenwyne Jones is needed as much for what he brings to our defence when dealing with free kicks and corners as he is for any attacking prowess he possesses.*

However, it wouldn’t have escaped the attention of many of our supporters that we were up against a side who had not won all season and another that had not won in eight in these matches. When all three of your away defeats have been by 1-0, there will be some bemoaning of your side’s luck, but two of them have come in exactly the sort of game where a potential top six team would be expected to make their alleged superiority count.

Sadly, just like Blackpool before them, Millwall wanted the win more than we did and yet this is the same bunch of players who have recovered from a trio of bad results at home by beating a Sheffield Wednesday side that was defending an unbeaten away record, a Forest team that hadn’t lost a game and an Ipswich who scored first while being unbeaten in eight.

Millwall manager Ian Holloway referred both before and after yesterday’s game to the pressure Russell Slade is under because of the high expectations at Cardiff. Yet, with the transfer spending seen since summer 2013 and the current wage budget at the club, I think it’s reasonable for the man who is bankrolling the whole thing and the fans who spend hard earned cash to watch their side to expect a lot more than we’ve seen so far.

There’s a trend developing here I’m afraid – despite our continuing inability to keep clean sheets, we are quite good defensively away from home, but five goals from seven games is a woeful figure for a team that was supposed to have a potent strike force following Ole’s summer spending.

While questions still remain about our midfield on all sorts of levels, it has to be said that our army of strikers do not look quite as good now as they did back in June when they didn’t have to play football – Nicky Maynard is making little impact, his misses yesterday showed that Adam LeFondre is still struggling in front of goal, Federico Macheda still does not convince, Kenwyne Jones is too static and Javi Guerra seems to be on his way out of the club.

Meanwhile, leaving Jones aside for now, Joe Mason, who looked such a great prospect for us back in 2011/12, and Rhys Healey, who has shown himself to be a very good finisher at Under 21 level, have both scored as many league goals as the other four put together in their loan spells at Bolton and Colchester respectively.

With our defence doing a so so job, our midfield looking very ordinary and, Jones apart, our strikers not scoring on our travels, a pattern is emerging in City away games and it is one which needs to be addressed and sorted out as soon as possible if we are going to come close to mounting the bid for a Play Off place that I’m guessing is seen as a minimum requirement by Vincent Tan.

In your face - Matthew Briggs epitomises Millwall's approach against a side that is almost always the one which takes the backward steps when they play away.*

In your face – Matthew Briggs epitomises Millwall’s approach against a side that is almost always the one which takes the backward steps when they play away.*

It’s possible that upcoming opponents in away games (particularly of the type we have faced in our last two and will do in our next two) might have looked at our squad and our wage bill and felt a bit intimidated at one time. However, they now know that if they play typical Championship football (i.e. put the effort in) and score once against a team that doesn’t do clean sheets, then they are very unlikely to lose and there’s a good chance they’ll win given our lack of firepower on other team’s grounds.

Taken in isolation, 1-0 defeats at places like Blackpool and Millwall go with the territory in a league like the Championship – the one about anyone being able to beat anyone else in this division may be a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

However, where are those times in away games that you used to get with Cardiff sides of the recent past at this level when you felt the team was in control? There have been the odd few minutes here and there where that has happened this season, but the overwhelming impression I get is of a side that is almost constantly under pressure and struggling for both inspiration and confidence.

So, Russell Slade’s first away game in charge turned out to be as fruitless and flat as the ones under Ole and Gabbidon/Young. Predictably, our manager looked for positives after the match and subsequent results tended to support the view that this defeat had not done any great harm to our cause as the Championship lived up to it’s reputation as a barmy league.

While Bournemouth managing to score almost twice as many away goals as we’ve managed all season in their 8-0 win at Birmingham took the headlines, only Wolves out of the top six yesterday morning won – we just dropped one place and are still only four points off sixth position.

None of this changes the fact though that we have to get out of the routine that was bemusing Harry Griffiths nearly forty years ago. I’ve seen it said that we suffered yesterday because of the effects of playing three matches in eight days. I daresay there is an element of truth in this (after all, Russell Slade has identified a lack of fitness as one of the things he is working on to put right), but, for me, the problems we have in away games are at least as much psychological as they are physical – the belief seems to drain out of us as soon as we leave South Wales.

* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

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7 Responses to Away day blues continue for the reds.

  1. Matt N says:

    Cheers Paul,

    I thought there wre several factors which led us to another slim defeat. If ALF had stuck away one of his chances in the first half, it would have been a different story. Losing Gunnarsson was a big blow as he has been the only driver of the team for weeks. The ref was influenced by the crowd I think and gave a number of poor decisions. And Millwall as expected were in your face. On the latter, Slade and the lads should have been prepared, and on the ref, well players should be well used to that and be a bit more professional. Pilkington reacted extremely poorly to a decision going against him and disappeared. After Whitts’ tete-a-tete, beautifully captured in your photo, he went into his shell. The passing once more flitted in and out – I was disappointed with Ralls in this regard as usually he is quite tidy,
    You have summed up our striking problem very well. I mentioned after the Boro game how impressed I was with Guerra (followed up by the infamous showing v the Cherries) – I wonder if Slade’s famous man management can mend a few bridges and massage him back into the fold?
    Whatever the combination of events which led to our loss yesterday, it is apparent that old Russ has to earn his wage over the coming weeks…starting with a winnable home game next week.
    Come on City!

  2. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Paul (and Matt too) for your thoughts.
    Cannot disagree with anything either of you said.
    I would just like to add this about RS:
    Yes he will probably win the “winnable home game” and however long he lasts as City manager, he will probably win about 35% of his games, and draw maybe 20%.
    But that said, yesterday was a very good reality check.
    There were one or two City fans who already had considered him the New Messiah !
    He, ain’t, and never will be.
    He’s just probably the best moderately cheap manager that Vincent could hire.
    He will indeed go some way to HEAL the self-inflicted wounds in the body politic of the club. He will make the players fitter. He will stop two stupid back passes like those apparent on MotD last night, where Sunderland handed Arsenal their two goals on a plate, from balls that should have been put into touch, and he will stop keepers doing a Schmeichel with a daft “pass out” like occurred at The Liberty (when he should have put his boot behind it).
    One wonders whether, in making players fitter, he can make Marshall not fall down when the much smaller McDonald leans back into him? If he cannot, at least he can get a City player between him and our keeper for corners.
    But do not go looking for him for real tactical nous: it is not there.
    I just rang a Grimsby Town season ticket holder who saw the interview with RS: he says this was typical of his time at Blundell Park.
    He would always be Sweet Reason Personified after such a defeat. He says his interview yesterday was a mirror image of his interview after the Mariners’ tame surrender to Cheltenham in the play-off final at The Millennium.
    (And come to think of it, not that far removed from his interview after last season’s Wembley defeat to Rotherham.)
    So the City are in the hands of a decent if uninspired boss. A chap who will put in the hours and will heal rifts. A guy who knows how to work the media.
    And I hope he stays, because after the disastrous Ole, Cardiff need some stability.
    But dear City fans, realise that here you are getting what Vincent has paid for !!
    That is to say that he deliberately eschewed the two glowing – but expensive options – on the table: Tony Pulis and Neil Lennon.
    With either of those, City would have made the Play-offs, methinks.
    Part of me cannot blame Vincent for going down-market so-to-speak: he has been paying three managers megabucks. His first manager sued the club for £500K+ that he claimed was owed him; the second wanted to sue the club but Vincent outflanked him; and the third should have been sued BY the club for gross incompetency, instead of being given a handsome pay-off.
    So Vincent figured that £250K was his top whack. Fair enough.
    But I would argue that if you are prepared to pay nearly £12m for a player (e.g. the overrated but perfectly decent, Gary Medel) then you should be able to pay AT LEAST as much for a manager.
    For the right manager – as Brian Clough, with Hartlepools and Derby, Fergie at Aberdeen – often picks up players for a song, and makes them into something they never thought they could be.
    The manager should be the highest paid man at a club, because quite simply, he is the most important.
    Kindest,
    Dai.

  3. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks both for your comments – I agree with virtually everything that you say. Matt, I’m glad to see your comments about Gunnarsson because he has been getting quite a bit of stick off supporters on the messageboards lately – I think, at this level at least, he is an important player for us and he should always be in the squad if fit. With regard to Guerra, he’s certainly got ability, but I think the writing is on the wall as far as he is concerned and I can see him going back to Spain soon – I’ve not got any proof to back this up, but I believe he may well be a Boardroom signing, so to speak, and, consequently, I’m not sure if any of the four managers he’s played under in his four months with us (that makes us sound like Leeds!) have really wanted him here.
    Dai, I agree that cost is one of the biggest factors in Russell Slade’s appointment. Did you know that the club no longer sell programmes on match days from the booths dotted around the ground? Apparently, this is a cost cutting exercise, but the money saved is a tiny drop in the ocean when compared with the money we are losing because of our wage bill – as you say, we have spent fortunes on players who aren’t even close to the match day squad, whereas the money could have been better spent on a Pulis or Lennon. However, this brings me on to my one slight quibble with what you say – whereas you appear to believe saving money is the main factor guiding Vincent Tan in appointing Russell Slade, I feel that there is also an element of him wanting someone in post who he thinks he can control.

  4. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks for that last comment Paul…and especially that immensely thought-provoking final sentence.
    And I am sure you have hit the nail on the head with it.
    One other thing I need clarify re my posting: just in case someone gets the wrong idea…I wad not suggesting that Vincent pays a manager £12m a year! (Even though The Gunners apparently pay Wenger an incredible £8m.)
    No…I meant that if the club had that kind of crazy money to throw around, then they should at least see that no single player earned more than their manager. There is no more vital cog in the machine than him.
    The wage bill is ridiculous…and what you tell me about the disappearance of programme booths, almost makes the club a laughing stock, when you consider how they spend money like water elsewhere.
    Kindest,
    Dai.

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning Dai. There was a meeting between club officials and the Supporters’ Trust last month and the minutes (which the club had to approve) contained the following;-

    “Ken Choo introduced himself to us. He’s an accountant by profession, is Vincent Tan’s personal appointment and said he had full executive powers at the club. Ken talked us through the present financial situation. Our income this season will drop from £80m to £40m and there have been and will be cuts to the budget and like all clubs we must adhere to the financial fair play rules. We are likely to see more players go out on loan so that the wage bill is kept under control. Mehmet Dalman added that things look ok for this season but that if do not get promoted then the club will be in serious financial difficulty.”

    Against that sort of backdrop, the appointment of Russell Slade, who, famously, did not spend a penny in transfer fees during his time at Leyton Orient, becomes more understandable. I’d like to think that our new manager will have some spending power if we don’t get promoted (and there’s been virtually nothing in our first fourteen matches to suggest we will), but it seems to me that any transfer budget he has will have to come from player sales. If Vincent Tan does decide that the big spending has to stop, than you can’t really blame him – when you think of what’s been spent since we got promoted (okay a fair proportion of it has been recouped with the sale of Medel, Caulker and Mutch) and the return there’s been on it in terms of league position, it’s pathetic.

    Reportedly, Russell Slade is on a modest wage (by our recent standards anyway) and a big promotion bonus – I would guess his basic wage is lower than what a large majority of the first team squad earn.

  6. Rod Groves says:

    Good morning all just read all your posts ,and a hole lot of common sence as usual ,the problem is and I really believe this Ole;s time as manager has put this club back 5 years ,in a reasant post I said that Olie was the worst manager this club has ever had ,some came back to me with the name of Alan Durban as the worst, yes he was very bad ,but he had no MONEY Olie had plenty and brought in clown after clown ,were are the Norwegians now ? only 3 or 4 of his players that he brought to this club will be of use in this league a 46 game battle the rest a total financial black hole currently being filled by Tan and parashoot money 1 will run out, and that leaves us with Tan and his desire to put more money in to prop the club up we will see.On the playing front a totally gutless performance at Millwall ,they got stuck in to us and that was enough to take all 3 points,yes we missed a sitter in the first half but all we had to do was have a real go at them in the second half and we would have got some thing Millwall will not make the Play offs by the way .On the positive side there is some real rubbish in the league this year so we should be able to stay clear of the drop thank god, but as for anything else I am not sure we will see ,next 3 games are winnable ,lets see what we end up with ?.

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Sorry for not replying earlier Rod.

    All I’ll say about Ole for now is that I think if anyone is thinking of employing him, they’ll more than likely be put off if they do proper due diligence regarding his time with us – I want to be charitable about a nice bloke, but I think you could well be right and his time at Cardiff could get to look worse and worse as time goes on.

    I wasn’t very annoyed by our defeat at Millwall at the time because I was half expecting it, but I am now. The attitude the team has shown in away games this season will get you nowhere in this league where it’s all about earning the right to play by putting in the hard work first.

    It’s been mentioned by a couple of people to me that Gary Rowett must be rubbing his hands because one of his first home games is against the team that is fast being seen as the ideal opponents for any team that is struggling in front of their own fans.

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