Baffled, bewildered, befuddled and bemused by Russell Slade.

CoymayLast night’s 2-1 defeat at Brentford was another of those occasional games where I, for one reason or another, am unable to even listen to the radio coverage of it. So, I’m writing this having watched the highlights here and read a little about what happened on various sites and messageboards.

Even so, when you are talking about a subject you have grown to know well over a period of nearly nine months through watching them in action regularly, I believe that there are certain logical conclusions you can come to based on what that knowledge and experience has taught you.

So, although I must acknowledge the possibility that what I’m going to say and the conclusions I draw could be miles wide of the mark, I somehow think this will not be the case. You get to know the strengths and weakness of the individuals involved (especially in the case of a manager who’s now been at the club for more than double the nine months mentioned earlier) and so there is little that happens which should surprise you.

Now, that last bit may sound a little contradictory when you consider what I’m going to say about Russell Slade’s team selection last night so let’s make it clear now that I’m baffled, bewildered, befuddled and bemused by his decision making on various matters, but not really surprised by it - eighteen months of Slade watching teaches you a few things.

Let’s start with our manager’s recent policy when it comes to team selection. I use the word “policy” there, but, truth be told, when you contrast his approach to what he did a fortnight ago when we had three matches within a week with what has happened so far in this run of Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday football, you have to wonder if one really exists.

Two and a half weeks ago, we deservedly beat Derby in front of what was a record crowd for a City game at their new stadium. At the time, the notion of a top six finish for the team appeared to be as realistic as it had ever been as we went into a match at top of the table Burnley little more than seventy two hours after our previous game.

When you look at the number of players currently contracted to the club, it can be seen that we still have a big squad, but with many of them out on loan and others, apparently, disqualified from selection on the grounds of age (I’ll come back to this later), the truth is that the number of players Russell Slade has to pick his team from every game is relatively small by the standards of this division.

It’s for this reason that I’ve been fearing that our Play Off challenge would go the same way as others did under Dave Jones’ management a little under a decade ago as fatigue became a factor among a group of players who were not able to get a short respite from exactly the sort of testing fixture list late in the campaign we are currently experiencing.

So, when Russell Slade decided to change the midfield around a bit for the Turf Moor trip, I thought it was an understandable move which also had tactical benefits with Kagisho Dikgacoi sitting in front of the back four. The changes worked to the extent that we played well and got something from what was a potentially very difficult match.

However, with all of the catchable sides above us winning, our 0-0 draw saw the gap between us and sixth place grow to five points – a big gap at this stage of the season, but not insurmountable as we approached a run of four matches that all looked winnable.

City needed a different approach for the game at relegation threatened Fulham just under four days later and, so not surprisingly, Dikgacoi was left out of the starting line up as Peter Whittingham returned. However, there was another change of Stuart O’Keefe gave way to Aron Gunnarsson.

I defended our manager after our defeat at Craven Cottage on the grounds that he and his staff were better placed to know which players were more fatigued than others, but I must admit it struck me as odd that O’Keefe (a box to box midfield with plenty of stamina who had, basically, only been playing for half of the season and was, along with Immers, a genuine reason for our improvement since January) was one of the players deemed to be in need of a rest.

So, after those three matches in eight days in which Russell Slade had indulged in something which is practically unheard of for him (a degree of squad rotation), the results were, at best, mixed with a good outcome against Derby, a decent one against Burnley and a poor one against Fulham.

Not a ringing endorsement of squad rotation then, but, with another three game in eight days spell arriving shortly and fatigue, presumably, more of a factor, I would have assumed we’d be seeing more of the same?

He doesn't always come off when introduced off the bench, but last night was another of those occasions when Kenneth Zohore showed glimpses of what persuaded Fiorentina to sign him - has his goal and all round effectiveness earned a chance to show what he can do from the start as our matches become more meaningless? Probably not based on what we've seen from our manager over the past eighteen months.

He doesn’t always come off when introduced off the bench, but last night was another of those occasions when Kenneth Zohore showed glimpses of what persuaded Fiorentina to sign him – has his goal and all round effectiveness earned a chance to show what he can do from the start as our matches become more meaningless? Probably not based on what we’ve seen from our manager over the past eighteen months.

Not a bit of it, last night’s starting line up was exactly the one which started against QPR. Now, with City’s need for a win greater now than it was a fortnight ago, I suppose our manager could have been thinking that he needed the eleven he considered most likely to deliver the three points on the pitch from the start, but are we to believe that the side which virtually sleepwalked it’s way through the first half on Saturday is really the best we can do when it comes to scoring goals?

For me, that opening forty five minutes against QPR should be held as an indictment against players and manager when you consider what was at stake. Yes things improved after the break, but there was nothing in the display in my mind to suggest all eleven starters had done enough to maintain their place against Brentford.

As had been the case in about ninety five per cent of our matches this season, we didn’t produce an effective ninety minute performance on Saturday and we didn’t again last night. Apparently, we were the better team in the first half at Brentford, but if the shots of varying quality from Anthony Pilkington as shown on the highlights package represents the sum total of our “dominance”, then all we did was produce yet another of those tepid opening periods which have become the norm under this manager, that are suggestive of a caution, at home and away, which was the last thing we needed in our current position.

Presumably, our manager thought on Saturday that Pilkington, Immers, Noone and Whittingham were the attacking quartet most likely to deliver three points and, despite all of the evidence to the contrary we saw against QPR, he still felt the same last night?

Now, I’m not saying all four of them should be dropped, but Pilks has stopped scoring, Immers (who I notice was taken off again last night) might be suffering as a consequence of the huge amount of work he has been putting into each match since January, it’s been last season’s Craig Noone out on the wing lately and Whitts is in one of those spells where you think it’s only his dead ball delivery that is keeping him in the team.

My view is that virtually every team in this league would have changed at least one out of it’s attacking quartet if it had, collectively, come up with a performance as insipid as the one our four produced against QPR, but I suppose our manager would argue that other clubs have got the forward options which we lack.

That’s a fair point, but only to a degree. I’m struggling to put my finger on when and why it was that Tom Lawrence went from being regular starter to bit part player who might get a quarter of an hour or so here and there off the bench. Yes, he’s in a goal drought currently, but then so are three out of four of the first choice attacking quartet.

Sammy Ameobi has been a big disappointment, but he comes up with something every now and then which reminds you why so many hailed him as a good signing last summer, while Idriss Saadi may or may not be good enough, but has he had sufficient chances in the first team to prove that conclusively one way or another?

Finally, we come to Kenneth Zohore who, granted, has looked like a raw novice in some of his substitute appearances in the first team, but, now and then, has caused Championship central defenders all manner of problems when he comes on. For example, he put himself about a bit and caused Middlesbrough a few alarms at the Riverside, he frightened the Burnley back four to death at Turf Moor and it certainly sounds like our attacking play was transformed last night by his introduction off the bench.

Zohore made that big impact at Griffin Park despite only being introduced in the eighty fourth minute,  while on Saturday it was the eightieth minute and, don’t forget that this is a team which needed wins desperately and hadn’t scored in the first ninety per cent or so of either game.

So, given our record of two goals in four matches (one of which he has scored himself) at a time when we simply have to win games, why is Zohore not starting? Well, I can only believe that it comes down to his age – I’ve mentioned that inconsistency he has and it’s obvious that our manager’s faith in him is limited, but then, in a team that has been consistently guilty throughout the season of not putting in ninety minute performances, there are certainly those who Mr Slade has shown great faith in despite their inconsistent displays.

Unfortunately for Zohore, he has committed the dreadful sin, in our manager’s eyes at least, of only being twenty one years of age. I swear that, were it not for the fact that Mr Slade gives Declan John a minute or two off the bench in a senior game every six months or so, he thinks that our Under 21 team is the highest level our players in that age group are allowed to play at while they are developing – or at least, what passes for developing under this manager.

Anyway, I don’t want to start banging on for ages about youth development at the club again, so I’ll move on to the matter of substitutions. I saw a messageboard post a couple of days ago accusing Russell Slade of effectively wasting two of our substitutions on Saturday – Ameobi for O’Keefe with Whittingham moving into the middle made no sense to me at the time and still doesn’t now. According to the messageboard poster, Gunnarsson for Whittingham fifteen minutes later only happened because something needed to be done to address the central midfield problems caused by the first change.

That’s certainly how I saw it, Russell Slade messed up with the personnel he used in a match we had to win. More than that though, the timing of his changes could be questioned with two of them only coming in the last ten minutes – if anything, it was even worse last night.

While I wouldn’t argue with the personnel introduced last night, why did it take so long to make the changes? We may have shaded the first half, but, from what I can gather, Brentford had been getting the better of us for the first two thirds of the second period before our manager tried to do something about it by introducing Lawrence for Noone.

It seems that Zohore only came on as a result of us going a goal behind and then Ameobi was given just two minutes and added time to try and change things after we went 2-0 down – if I didn’t know better, the changes were indicative of someone who was happy while the score was 0-0.

Sheffield Wednesday probably cannot believe their luck – last night’s 0-0 home draw with relegation certainties MK Dons strongly suggests that the wheels have come off for them with a heavy away defeat and two one pointers at home against teams in miserable form. However, that’s still double what we’ve managed over the same period from three games in which we’ve played one team which still had a few lingering relegation worries and another two with nothing to play for.

Russell Slade was, rightly, praised during the first three months of this year as we worked our way into a challenging position despite having a transfer embargo imposed on us, but, for me, he’s undone so much of that good work by inconsistent selections, highly dubious substitutions and some confusing tactical decisions in April – it’s all been indicative of someone who can take us so far, but no further and isn’t that what a few people told us when he was appointed?

One last thing, apologies for the lack of pictures from last night’s match, but the only ones I could find were the property of two companies who told me that I couldn’t use their photos in the Journey Back despite me offering to fully acknowledge them, so I just don’t use anything by them at all now.






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11 Responses to Baffled, bewildered, befuddled and bemused by Russell Slade.

  1. paul says:

    I listened to the game last night and following my sunday comments Slade was hoping something would happen rather than he himself making it happen with timely sensible substitutions or tactics.
    Zahore was waiting to come on when Brentford scored their first, why so late.?
    Was it at 0-0 we sneak one and then we only have to defend for 5-10 minutes where as if he came on in the 60th minute and scored it is a long time to defend.
    Gabbidon was stating arond the 60th that a change was needed!!
    Its around 8 games since Pilks scored and is it 6 he has for the season and at least 2 of those from the spot. Clearly it is not working.
    I am not stating that Zaahore should have started but when the 2nd half was going against us he would have been fresh legs and given Brentford something different to worry about. Perhaps even got the impetus back in our favour. We will never know that as the trouble with games of football we cannot guess the outcome if things were changed. We can only ever know the outcome, but, the outcome is generally the same.
    Same team
    Same subs
    Same timing of subs
    Why so many late goals?
    teams get used to our style over 80 minutes and stop us playing.
    AS i stated sunday Slade must go as he cannot take us any further, he cannot improve us so bring in someone who can. NOW.

  2. Graham says:

    I agree with every word. A key factor in our not even making the play-offs is our manager’s bizarre failure to make substitutions when they are actually needed from a bench where there are players who could make a difference, given enough time on the pitch. No amount of goodwill sought by the Club administration through a deluge of free tickets will make up for the poor performances and the consequent results orchestrated by the manager and his coaching team – on Saturday fewer will be back on freebies than there were against QPR, and there were fewer for that than for Derby.
    And Mr Tan has clearly decided that Mr Slade is the manager he wants. I’m sure he’s a very pleasant man who cares deeply about his job – he may be the nicest manager in football but ..

  3. Colin Phillips says:

    Can’t argue with the original article and the above comments.

    It seems that Slade still feels we have a chance of the play-offs, for someone who has such a negative approach with his teams on the field it’s surprising that he thinks positively at all.

    Will he change things for the Bolton game, he should but………

  4. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Both Pauls have hit the nail on the head. As soon as I heard the team last night, alarm bells started ringing. Our manager’s selection guaranteed that we would yet again fail dismally as an attacking force. To some degree I have a kind of grudging respect for the way in which he sticks to his guns — STUBBORN is scarcely a strong enough word. But STUBBORN is not far removed from STUPID. And if you have guns to stick to, use them and go down with all guns firing. Instead of which, we had yet more of the same. I even wondered if Mr Slade knows something we lesser mortals do not and was either saying goodbye or underlining the point that he needs no-one else’s opinion apart from his own. At any rate, in his team selection, ineffective tactics, laughable substitutions, he was sticking up a metaphorical two-fingers to our hopes and expectations.
    I read that he blamed our shambolic defeat on “the lack of a clinical edge”. So, who selected the team, who made them play to a pattern which is always destined for failure, who failed, in spite of the transfer embargo, to bring in players who could provide that cutting edge, who did not make an effective substitution which should have been made after five minutes’ play (if not before), who’s decision making is unworthy of a professional football manager?
    Can anyone, including the set-in-stone Mr Slade himself, still believe that he is the man to take us forward. Results, team selection, tactics, ability to adapt, style of football, man management, judgement, use of substitutes, learning from past experiences, ability to motivate, signing of players, and many other aspects of his regime are, at the very least, suspect. All this, of course, relates to the whole management structure, but the man at the top – if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor — always has to carry the can!
    And why, if Saadi, deserved to be on the bench, was he deemed not good enough to be brought on? If we recall his early albeit short-lived appearances, he is exactly what Cardiff needed last night, probably in tandem with Zahore.
    My first reaction as the game reached its almost inevitable conclusion was to think that, although I have already ordered the extra free tickets, going to see Cardiff play on Saturday would be a pointless exercise (in all senses of the term). But then I recalled what the second Paul said in his previous response. It deserves to be repeated word for word: !Faces will come and go but CCFC are always there, Blue, red, green, yellow, black or pink. IT IS ALWAYS CARDIFF CITY THAT WE LOVE AND SHOULD BE SUPPORTING.”
    Ain’t that the Gospel truth! It should be reproduced in large letters around the ground.
    So, down to Cardiff as usual on Saturday, going equally as usual with the feeling that hope will need to overcome experience;
    Some time ago I suggested that Craig Bellamy would at least bring a sense of motivation among the players, and automatically get their respect (and respect from the fans). Sadly, Mr Slade does not seem to have such attributes.

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    You were at your best here with that long considered piece, Paul. A truly philosophical approach which marks you out as head, shoulders and TORSO above those bloggers used by Walesonline who all seem to favour simplistic views… all minus any awareness of nuances involved. People who have bankrupted themselves in the Court of Public Opinion by calling very average players like Steven Caulker “a colossus”, and siding with the egregious Malky against “Sir” Vincent.
    Before saying what I want to say, can I thank you for the link to the Sky Sports football highlights! I had no idea this site existed. Golly…and well over 2 minutes too. And what a veritable cornucopia the site is !!
    (One question here Paul: am I right that they – like C5 – add on crowd sound effects? I mean to say, does everybody shout “YES !!” when the ball hits the opponents net?
    Maybe they do. Mind you, surely a goodly number of the opponents’ fans must simultaneously shout “NO!”…yet it is only the yeses that one hears. And sometimes one hears yeses when you know that the away team in Division Two that has just scored, have brought their total number of fans in a minibus. Your advice here Paul, would be appreciated.)
    Right. Down to The Bluebirds.
    First let me rather tardily fully echo your scathing comments in a recent post on the Fulham game re Russell Slade’s crazy comment to the effect that winning was not vital. Dear me! Oh, Mr Slade… a child of six would tell you that this was NOT the way to motivate players! (As the late great Groucho Marx said “Somebody go fetch me a child of six!”…and I would add…consider letting that same child take over the pre match team talk !!)
    So Mr Slade has here badly let down the supporters and his magnificent boss. I am sure the Board of Directors will have noted this failure to grasp the most elementary psychology.
    And with that bee buzzing out of my Dai cap, let me say a word about the The Bees last night. Their second goal.
    Mr Slade has GOT to get – repeat, GOT to get – this infuriating habit of backpedalling out of Sean Morrison’s game. The man is a serial offender. He runs backwards faster than some players run forwards. It is a nonsense. And I can get you a man for four quid who can backpeddle at that speed…and not waste the four MILLION quid that was frittered away on this con-artist. If he did that in war, he would be shot at dawn.

    And when we are talking of nonsensical tactics…let me refer you to The Etihad and the second leg against PSG. Did you notice something about Joe Hart? No attempt to repeat his rolling out nonsense, or suicidal tapped 5-a-side goal kicks to team mates on the edge of the box, with dangerous opponents breathing down their necks.
    No. He kicked the ball long…even though he had no maypoles/lighthouses up front to win the ball in the air. And what happened?
    Invariably the PSG defenders won the aerial challenge, but – and here is the “but” alright – the ball often either went off their heads into touch, or went back to a Man City player around the halfway line…so immediately the Man City team had gained territory and were in the opponents’ half of the field (either taking a throw in, or on the move forward).
    I fully expect Hart to revert to his playing out from the back nonsense, because people have seen it done reasonably with a team like Barcelona who have players in defence who can CONTROL a football. Alas Man City do not, and certainly we (i.e. Cardiff City do not), nor would I argue have any team in a very poor Championship this year.
    As for us, Cardiff, we have defenders whose second touch is always a tackle.
    So I will never criticise David Marshall for taking proper goal kicks.
    And one other thing that might seem counter-intuitive, but it is something I firmly believe.
    Down at the training ground in The Vale, Russell Slade (if he is still there) should have practice matches which, apart from not allowing any player to pass backwards in his own half (let alone to the goalkeeper!), should involve insisting all players aim their shots at the goalkeeper’s midriff.
    Such is the imperfection of your everyday Championship player that I will GUARANTEE that a fair percentage of those shots will nestle in the corner of the net, and furthermore I’ll add that NONE will be off target.
    What depresses me most about modern football is an inability to think outside the square.
    Look at the boy who was on our subs’ bench for that Wembley final who is now going to the Euros as a STRIKER with Northern Ireland !! And who’d have thought that Alex Revell would be a veritable CAT when he donned the gloves? And look at Curtis Woodhouse who played for various teams from Sheffield United, to here in Grimsby…he left the game to become a title-winning boxer.
    Now there’s a thought, we need not get Caulker on loan (what a centre forward HE will make by the way – he sure as heck will never make a central DEFENDER), we have a ready made centre forward in Sean Morrison.
    Think outside the square, Russell Slade !!
    Morrison would be a heck of a player with his back to goal, he could protect the ball Mark Hughes-style, and would be dynamite with aerial crosses.
    But get him out of defence…puh-lease.

  6. Big Al says:

    Very interesting reading as always. It is clear from most fans when they talk about poor performance the Manager comes under fire. Quite rightly so – it’s a shame Slade for some reason can’t see the problems or solve them. Perhaps he should get a better view of games by sitting in the stands for the rest of the season!!
    Slade for me has done a reasonable managerial job in certain aspects off the field of play but unfortunately, his style of leadership on it fails to get the best out of players.
    Players in the modern game need to be motivated and given more playing time to prove their worth. Have we seen this from Slade? No.
    On a positive note:
    Off the field of play managerial performance this year has been very good so my message to Mr Tan is simple: move Slade out of first team management now and start year 2 of Ken Choos five year plan with a new first team Manager.
    Bluebirds bluebirds.

  7. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Comments from Dai the Daredevil Dialection were missing recently. Good to see him back, and on top form. Incidentally, Vardy must be thanking his lucky stars he never came to Cardiff. Hade he done so, where would he be now? Probably frozen out by Cardiff, deemed a waste of money, and out on loan to some lower league outfit. A good management team can improve players. Can Cardiff’ do this?

  8. paul says:

    Great comments here.
    On the topic of motivation. What motivates a person. money? Yes but that only lasts for a short period.
    Sucess. Yes, Again what happens following success. Failure and depression.
    Reward, praise. Yes if it is timely and required and how often do we see Slade animated on the touchline in praise of his players.
    It is here where you can build confidence, a pat on the back a ‘ well done kid’ even if like noone he has beaten a few playes only to lose it when about to shoot. That player is dissappointed but the pat on the back lifts him immediatly.
    here is why Marshall is a poor captain. He is too far removed from the players. We never here him shoutng. Listen to Moore when he is in goal you can hear him in the stands.
    So lets get a motivational manager in who commands respect and who will motivate by his presence. I may sound like a stuck record but bellamy is our only answer.

  9. paul says:

    Just read Slades Comment that we are still in with a chance. Who is he tryingto kid. clearly to drum up support for Saturday.
    He stated we cannot look back. Yes we can. He selects the team. He makes the changes. Why so many late goals this season. It would be interesting to see how many points we have lsot in the last 10 mins compared to what we have gained.
    He stated that Zahore has had his opportunities but it hasn’t quite happened for him. 10 minutes at the end of every game exept fulham away. He is trying to prove he is good enough to make it in the UK. Give hime some quality game time without putting under pressure to perform in 10 mins when under performing players are given 80 or even te full 90.
    He clearly does not like young players so if you are going to try one stop giving him a recipe to fail. After all you are giving Malone enough chances to prove himself. Personaly he is rubbish, another goal conceded from the left last night and Malone nowhere to be seen.
    How many is that down his side this season???
    He has got one thing right in the last 24 hours. We do have a chance, Mathematically. So in that statement he is correct but he is puffing smoke of some sort if he realisticaly thinks we have a chance. We blew that smoke away over the last 3 games.

  10. Dai Woosnam says:

    I like AMO’s alliteration, and will take any compliment going my way (“dialectician” is a noble word indeed to use about me, and makes a change from my dear wife’s affectionately mocking “Dai stands for verbal diarrhoea” !!
    Just a line to say that in my piece, apols for not closing one parenthesis early enough, and also (when talking about the failure of football folk to think outside the square) for not mentioning that the now Northern Ireland STRIKER was actually the GOALIE on our subs’ bench.
    I refer of course to Josh Magennis.
    I could also have mentioned that sort of move in reverse…Bobby Gould’s son Jonathan was originally a rather stamina-lacking outfield player, until advised by his dad to become a goalkeeper…and he eventually had several very sound years at Celtic.

  11. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Very busy today, so I’ve not got the time to do any more than thank everyone for another very interesting set of replies – I really look forward to these because they’ve become an integral part of the site, once again, thanks for your continued support.

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