Bold Cardiff finally get what they deserve.

CoymayI’m grateful to my friend, and co author of The Journey Back, Richard Holt for pointing out after yesterday’s fine 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Cardiff City Stadium that, even if we lose 20-0 to Arsenal next weekend, we will not be in the bottom three going into December. With West Ham and Fulham, the two sides three points behind us, due to meet each other at Upton Park on Saturday, there is no way we can drop into the relegation places no matter what happens against Arsenal.

Sorry for labouring this point over the past few months, but I feared for us when I first saw our fixture list up to the end of November. In particular, an awfully tough first seven home matches had me thinking we’d be playing catch up on the other teams as we headed towards Christmas. Yes, our first six away games could certainly have been more testing, but what a promoted side does at home is so important to their survival hopes.

Credit to Hull for the start they’ve made to the season, but I wonder how they would be faring now if their first seven opponents at home were Manchester City, Everton, Spurs, Newcastle, Swansea, Manchester United and Arsenal and not Norwich, Cardiff, West Ham, Villa, Sunderland, Palace  and Liverpool?

I expected five defeats and something like four point in those first seven home matches, but, with one more of them to come, we are guaranteed a maximum of three defeats and double the number of points as we end up with better than a point a game from the home fixtures from hell opening hand that the fixture computer dealt us. For me, this is very significant because I’d like to think that even a heavy defeat by the league leaders next week would not puncture the feeling the team must, surely, have at the moment – that is, that they have shown enough in the opening three and a half months of the season to prove that they have no need to fear anyone at Cardiff City Stadium.

In lots of ways, it's a shame that Wayne Rooney's assault (I don't think that's too strong a word to use) on Jordon Mutch is overshadowing what was a great game. With the mess he made of a great chance with the score at 2-2, Rooney had a poor start and finish to the match, but in between times he was a constant menace to our defence - if I were a Man United fan though I'd be concerned that he represented their sole attacking threat for much of the ninety minutes.*

In lots of ways, it’s a shame that Wayne Rooney’s assault (I don’t think that’s too strong a word to use) on Jordon Mutch is overshadowing what was a great game.
With the mess he made of a great chance with the score at 2-2, Rooney had a poor start and finish to the match, but in between times he was a constant menace to our defence – if I were a Man United fan though I’d be concerned that he represented their sole attacking threat for much of the ninety minutes.*

It needs to be said of course, that any drop from the intensity and competitive levels that we’ve seen up to now at home in the easier looking  fixtures we’ve got from next month onwards will, no doubt, see us punished – we aren’t good enough to think we can cruise to wins over the lesser lights on autopilot like some can do. However, by the same token, we’ll be fine if the ability and confidence shown yesterday can be repeated in other home games.

Make no mistake, we played well yesterday. The Manchester City victory is still just about the highlight of the season for me so far, but there were times during that game when it felt we were just about hanging on – the same can be said for the Spurs and Newcastle games and, to a lesser extent, the Everton match.

I didn’t get that feeling yesterday, we went toe to toe to with the team that is, by some distance, recognised as the most successful in the Premier League era and matched, or even bettered in some cases, them in all areas of the pitch. Now, that’s not the claim of some one eyed Cardiff fan on a high after his team has surprised him against the league champions – the match stats back that contention up, with our visitors having just one more shot both on or off target than us and possession split 50/50 (in fact I believe it very slightly favoured us).

Okay, our task would certainly have been made harder if the likes of Van Persie, Vidic and Carrick had been available for our opponents, but it’s certainly worth contrasting Man United’s 4-1 stroll at Craven Cottage in their previous away game to the examination they were given by us yesterday – there was a belief and positive approach to the team that was in stark contrast to the stuff from some of the sides around the bottom of the league that I’ve seen in recent weeks.

Given the selection and tactics used against some of the league’s lesser lights lately (I’m thinking of Villa in particular here), it was something of a surprise to hear the team Malky had selected with Mutch recalled and Odemwingie moved from the lone striker role to feature in a more attack minded midfield five in place of Gunnarsson and Bellamy and Campbell coming in to take over up front. The line up certainly looked more threatening than the one for the last game, but, by contrast, the continued involvement of Don Cowie offered the possibility of the expected conservative approach.

There I go once again, typecasting Cowie as a dogged “steady Eddie” type of a player whose sole function is to shuttle up and down the right hand side of the pitch trying to stop the opposition playing and, once again, I’m falling into the trap of underestimating someone who is under rated technically and can a show a cleverness and subtlety at times to complement his widely acknowledged stamina. That said, given that he became something of a bit part player last season, Cowie’s continued selection at this level does come as a surprise, but with Kevin Theophile-Catherine turning in another very attack minded display, I wonder if Malky sees the Scot as the most effective “safety valve” type player to operate behind the marauding full back?

All in all, I believe City’s surprising but welcome positive approach cannot be put down entirely to our somewhat depleted opponents and the fact that they led for most of the game – knowing the way Malky Mackay and his staff meticulously plan for upcoming games, I’m sure City were going to play in the manner they did no matter who was in the Manchester United side.

The surprises didn’t end there either. Half time brought a conversation about who would be brought on if we were still losing, I explained in my best know all voice that it would be Cornelius, Gunnarsson and Bellamy and then spent about half a minute or so trying to work out who on earth it was poised to come on to replace Odemwingie for our first change with twenty five minutes left. Eventually, someone said “that’s Craig Noone isn’t it?”, but I still struggled to believe that the out and out winger that had not been used all season was going to get  a chance against these opponents. Noone made an impact though, paired against Chris Smalling, who always strikes me as more of a centreback than a full back, he got by his man a few times and earned two or three free kicks (the last of which proved vital in ensuring the draw).

Kimbo's first ever home goal in a competitive match couldn't have been better timed. On an afternoon full of surprises, the fact it came from a header in a crowded penalty area offered up another one.*

Kimbo’s first ever home goal in a competitive match couldn’t have been better timed. On an afternoon full of surprises, the fact it came from a header in a crowded penalty area offered up another one.*

Kimbo’s later appearance in place of the impressive Jordon Mutch was also a bit of a shock considering the South Korean had slipped down the pecking order in recent weeks, but it also showed Malky in a different light to the dour Scot mode (in tactical terms at least) that many, including myself, have been only too willing to label him with lately. You only need to look at the list of goalscorers to see that this substitution, like the Noone one, worked, but my reputation, for what it’s worth, was saved, to some degree at least, by the long awaited appearance of Andreas Cornelius.

Before I get to our multi million pound Danish striker, I should say that he may well not have got on if Fraizer Campbell had not hurt himself in making a prodigious far post leap for a header as we pressed for the equaliser in the last ten minutes. Campbell was excellent yesterday as he offered up more evidence to back up the theory that he reserves his best performances for the Sky TV cameras. Just as against Man City and Swansea, Campbell had a real impact on proceedings, not only taking his goal well and showing superb vision and technique to hit the crossbar with his chip, but also in his clever movement and anticipation – in this sort of form, Campbell for England (as mooted by Glenn Hoddle after the match) does not sound so outlandish.

As for Cornelius, he didn’t get the chance to do much, but this was a more impressive contribution than the very short one we saw against Man City. The daisy cutter from twenty five yards he hit when we didn’t cash in on a decent opportunity to win the game in the last minute didn’t show him in a good light, but the way he brushed off Fellaini and the speed he showed when running with the ball in the seconds before it did – he also looked fit and strong in his ten minutes or so on the pitch.

Finally, wasn’t our first goal a thing of beauty? David Moyes damned it with very faint praise by claiming that the players involved wouldn’t be able reproduce such quality again (seemingly the Match of the Day 2 experts thought much the same when they finally realised there were two teams on the pitch yesterday) and, who knows, maybe he is right, but we managed to do it the once Mr Moyes which is once more than your side managed in the ninety minutes! Actually, when you think about it, the goal we scored at Hull offered something similar, so let opponents and pundits keep on underestimating what we are capable of at times. Let’s be fair, most of us have been doing the same thing over the past month or so – besides providing great entertainment, yesterday’s match offered a timely reminder that we do have some fine footballers in our squad as well as a manager who is not as easy to stereotype as many would have you think.

* pictures courtesy of

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7 Responses to Bold Cardiff finally get what they deserve.

  1. Roy says:

    Good, sound column – as always.

    Well done, Bob!

  2. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks very much Roy – I never thought I’d ever see the day when we carved Manchester United open with a goal like our first one.

  3. Dai Woosnam says:

    A very good point you make re Hull’s first seven home fixtures vis-a-vis Cardiff’s.
    And a well written report as usual.
    I would like to make the following observations:
    1. The sublime first goal for Cardiff is what results from teams passing the ball FORWARDS.
    2. The daft first ManU goal is what results from teams stupidly taking the ball BACKWARDS and then – the curse of the modern game – playing these negative square passes, that eventually get intercepted.
    3. I know OBW that you and I respectfully disagree with each other on the current trend of playing the ball out through the goalkeeper.
    For this to happen much of the time, one needs to pass it back to the keeper.
    Now forget the nonsense of Boruc last Saturday: just think of the number of times this season that MotD has featured calamitous goals that result from wholly unnecessary back passes. Lloret’s bloomer was the latest in about twenty.
    And what evidence is there that playing the ball out patiently from the back leads to more goals than a Begovic hoof? I submit that with Noone – yes you rightly salute his speed on Saturday – and, now that Gestede has gone to Blackburn, Conway brought back from BHA (he is playing out of his skin there) and with Cornelius leading the attack with Campbell in the hole, Cardiff can be an ATTACKING team again.
    And one that is built around Jordon Mutch as the first name on the teamsheet. The boy is a real star.
    Congrats on the big success of the book: it could not happen to a nicer bloke.
    Dai Woosnam
    Grimsby, UK

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning Dai, nice to hear from you again.

    You might find this a surprise, but I’m in complete agreement with you about the sort of thing that led to Man City’s first goal on Sunday. Why do teams who have got the ball on the half way line with about eight of their side behind it insist on then passing it all the way back to to someone who is in an isolated position with little protection from team mates if anything goes wrong? Lloris is good with the ball at his feet, but there were ten other Spurs players on the pitch who are better and yet they insist on playing the ball back all the way back to him!

    You couldn’t get a better example of what crisp, incisive passing in a forward direction can achieve than our first goal on Sunday, but I’m sure David Moyes and his coaching staff will ask how Mutch was given so much space to run into before playing his brilliant pass the like of which Messrs Moyes and Savage think he will never play again in his life!

    Modern day football, at the higher levels at least, seems to me as much about preparation beforehand as what happens on the pitch and we only scored that goal because someone in the opposition wasn’t doing what they had been told to do.

    The thing is though, if this is the case, then doing something your opponents aren’t expecting could prove very effective and, so, although I prefer to see teams passing the ball accurately and with a purpose (we passed the ball a lot at Villa, but often I found myself wondering to what end), I’m not averse to anyone mixing it up a bit with a few long balls.

    Cornelius has the basic ingredients to be an effective target man and, if he can do the business at this level, then it would be daft to channel all passes to him to his feet, but I’m not sure you’ll get your wish about us being a predominantly attacking team this season. It was good to see us being a lot more attack minded (we were trying to get forward in the first ten minutes) on Sunday than I expected us to be, but I think we will be back to a far more cagey approach against Arsenal.

    Thanks for your comments about the book – I’m pleased to say that, as of today, we have broken even and we won’t need to use the money that we had all set aside for use if things didn’t go as well as we hoped.

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks for your comments Paul.
    And thanks most of all for your classy reminder to me of how to spell the Spurs keeper’s surname! There was me congratulating myself that I got the starting double L right, and then – incipient Alzheimer’s? – I had an email lodged in my head that I had written just 10 minutes before, to a friend about to visit the Costa Brava!
    Ha! I am losing the plot! My standards are slipping!
    Thanks for coming some way toward my thinking that an ATTACKING Cardiff City is desideratum. Indeed, your headline says it better than I could: you use the word BOLD.
    And boldness is precisely what is needed.
    Promoted clubs dive into the Premiership ocean with a life preserver around their necks. Unfortunately, the strings of the life preserver end up strangling them.
    Get in there without a care Cardiff City, the love of my boyhood and youth! Go and SWIM. That moment of Whittingham to Mutch to Campbell shows you can carve open ANY defence. Do not be in awe of these teams.
    And if you drown?
    Better to drown having tried to swim with positive strokes, than stay afloat by treading water, playing this boring negative possession football you have been playing so much of this season!
    You can do it. Make Jordon Mutch the first name on the teamsheet and point him FORWARD.
    Aim for the stars, and you may not get to the highest peak, but you might surprise yourself by getting well clear of the lowlands of relegation.
    Dai Woosnam
    Grimsby, UK
    PS The book may only have “broken even” by now, but trust me Paul, take a check on your returns in mid Jan and book that world cruise.
    You will sell huge quantities in the next 4 weeks for Christmas presents. DW

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    This is where we lead to a parting of the ways Dai. To me it’s quite simple. Forget about the fact that keeping the ball out of your net is generally a simpler operation than putting it into your opponent’s, the plain truth to me is that we have better players in the defensive positions (including goalkeeper) than we do in the attacking ones – especially with Medel primarily featuring in a defensive role. Therefore, I believe it is right against certain opposition to concentrate primarily on keeping them out and hope to grab a goal (probably from a set piece) that will get us a result.

    That said, once the Arsenal game is out of the way, we face a month where, with the probable exception of Liverpool away, a slightly more ambitious approach will be required and, with that in mind, what happened on Sunday was very encouraging. I said our defenders are generally better than our attackers, but that’s not to say we are hopeless going forward – Gunnarsson’s against Man City, Whittingham’s at Hull and Campbell’s on Sunday were all goals scored from open play and prove that we have it in us to break down defences through our passing.

    This brings me on to Malky Mackay – we disagree about his tactical qualities, but I think it reflects well on him that he saw something in the Manchester United team which justified a more attacking approach than was expected by me for one. The fact that we were not content to sit back in the first ten minutes on Sunday shows that it wasn’t just Rooney’s goal which led to us putting our opponents under pressure in the first half especially (it’s worth noting as well that we kept on taking the game to them in the minutes after Campbell’s equaliser).

    We were willing to have a go at Manchester United and so you’d expect more of the same for at least some of our matches next month – we may not be that strong an attacking force by the standards of this league, but, at least, the players involved should have taken confidence from the problems they caused the Champions on Sunday.

    As for the book, I read a couple of times in the research I did before starting it that only one in three books published breaks even, so I’m very happy to do that – especially when you consider it’s not been on sale for a month yet. However, I agree with you that the opportunity is there to sell a lot more copies over the Christmas period. The problem we have though is getting the book out into the “real world” so to speak – at the moment unless you go on City messageboards, read my blog, pass by the Trust office at the stadium on a match day or are a member of the Trust (maybe 10% of our support?) you aren’t likely to know about it.

    I was told something last week which I believe would definitely aid our cause if people got to know about it, but it really needs a wider audience than our present one for that to happen – hopefully it will appear in the real world shortly.

  7. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks for your ever-gracious reply.
    You say “Forget about the fact that keeping the ball out of your net is generally a simpler operation than putting it into your opponent’s”
    Who doubts that? Only an idiot would, an I am not quite one yet. (Joke!)
    Of course getting the ball in the opponents’ nets is harder than keeping the ball out of one’s own. That is why Gareth Bale costs so much more than Gianluigi Buffon.
    But the point that possession football aficionados always miss is this: maybe one’s team won’t score, but the sheer act of ATTACKING opponents keeps them having to hold players back to defend against those attacks.
    And as the much maligned Charles Hughes always said, with the ball in their penalty area, their chances of scoring at your end are diminished. That Rooney goal on Saturday was an appalling act of self-hurt.
    Trust me Paul, whilst it is clearly in Cardiff’s interest NOT to be gung-ho attackers maybe, they should start to have training sessions at the Vale, where they are not allowed to pass back or square, in their own half of the pitch.
    And while I am at it, get a psychotherapist present to ascertain why such a great shot-stopper as David Marshall, is always ROOTED to the spot for free kicks. I see Malky called the Villa free kick “unstoppable”! Eh? What game was he watching?
    I promise you, without a wall, Marshall would have saved that with ease. It want even hit particularly hard.
    Ah I have the answer Paul. Strike my earlier reference to psychotherapists! Not needed.
    Just do away with walls!
    (Trouble is, Villa would have formed one of their own to fox him, realising this repeated flaw in Marshall’s otherwise excellent all-round game.)
    As for your book: you at least CAN write so I wish it a fair wind.
    Most books – in all genres – are earnest enough, but have no literary flair, so it is only RIGHT that a majority do not break even.
    That book Memories of Ninian Park in the right hands, could have been brilliant and not the boring traipse through the cuttings library it turned out to be. If only Dannie Abse had written it!
    Hope your book is nearer an Abse than a Dennis Morgan. BTW, nowt personal against DM: I am sure he is a fine fellow.
    Keep well.

    Dai Woosnam
    Grimsby, UK

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