Cardiff City and the lost knack of the 1-0 win.

CoymayOne of the entirely predictable aspects of the national media coverage of Vincent Tan’s meeting with supporters and sponsors on Thursday was that the important financial announcements would be, largely, ignored as attention centred on our owner imploring our players to shoot more.

After all, this was the opportunity for more of the Vincent Tan bashing, which reached it’s peak two years when we were in the Premier League and so became a club that merited coverage from the great opinion formers of domestic football, to make a reappearance – after a long absence, this was the wacky, Bond villain up to his old tricks again wasn’t it!

Back in 2014, Mr Tan’s apparent frustration at the coverage he was receiving in the national press in particular surfaced when he said that some of the media coverage of him in Britain had been “a little bit racist” – I agree with him, except I have always wondered if the qualifying term “a little bit” was justified or necessary.

Now, before anyone accuses this one time huge critic of our owner of being a hypocrite in the light of my new found respect for the man after his delivery on the loan to equity commitment from 2012, I can honestly say hand on heart that my previous issues with the man were based wholly on his decision making as a football club owner and had nothing to do with the part of the world he happened to come from.

The nearest I have come to anything that could vaguely be called racist when talking about Vincent Tan was on the occasions where I have accused him of not getting what Cardiff City Football Club means to tens of thousands of people who still live in South Wales and many others who have now left the area to live in virtually every corner of the world.

As someone who had lived thousand of miles away from Cardiff for more than half a century and had only just got into football, it’s hardly surprising that Mr Tan struggled with the concept of what a football club represents to large numbers who live (or lived) in it’s locality and I would have been saying the same sort of things about him no matter where he was from.

Much of the media coverage of the last few days on what our owner had to say about our players needing to shoot more was lazy stuff that preyed on preconceived ideas of the sort of man our owner is. Now, I can understand this to a degree, because I’ll admit my first reaction on reading the stories about ugly men and beautiful women was to shake my head in a resigned fashion, but, this time, when you actually put aside the prejudice and look at what Vincent Tan was saying, you have to concede that he has a point.

Does Tom Lawrence have the ability to be the catalyst for a late season run which takes us into the Play Offs? I think he may well do, but it's asking an awful lot of someone who is still making his way in the game and looks to me more of a provider than a predator when it comes to goal scoring.*

Does Tom Lawrence have the ability to be the catalyst for a late season run which takes us into the Play Offs? I think he may well do, but it’s asking an awful lot of someone who is still making his way in the game and looks to me more of a provider than a predator when it comes to goal scoring.*

Speaking as someone who wants to see the team I support be in possession of the ball for the majority of the time, I’ve no problem at all with us becoming more of a passing team in the year since Paul Trollope joined the club. Nevertheless, there are times when I just wish some of our players would trust their ability more when they have the ball twenty odd yards from goal and let fly with a shot, rather than play another sideways pass.

That might not be quite the same as what Vincent Tan thinks, but the thought behind it is similar to his on the matter and it shouldn’t be forgotten that after around a third of the season, our average shots on goal per game figure was the lowest in the Championship.

I’ve been doing some research on this site and found that, while our more attacking outlook of the last three months or so has seen us become more willing to shoot, our figures still aren’t too impressive.

In terms of average shots at goal, we now have 12.3 of them per game with 4.1 of them being on target. That is enough to put us in fifteenth position in the Championship’s shots per game table, but we drop a drop a place when it comes to shots on target and, as far as goal attempts from outside the penalty area go, we are down in eighteenth place with 5.1 of them per match.

So, the stats say that Vincent Tan has a point and it seems to me that with thirty eight goals scored from thirty one games in which we are averaging 12.3 goal attempts per match, his theory that we score once in every ten goal attempts looks about right to me.

Yesterday, Mr Tan was at the Valley to watch us draw with the Championship’s bottom club, Charlton Athletic. According to the BBC, we had eighteen goal attempts, so, perhaps, Mr Tan’s words on Thursday might have made some sort of impact on what I suspect was a cynical audience they were delivered to!

Unfortunately, only three of those goal attempts were on target and so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that we drew a blank for our second successive match to record another 0-0 stalemate with a team deep in relegation trouble. So, although the gap between us and the last Play Off place remains at five points, our chances of finishing in the top six have to have diminished somewhat because we have one less game left to close that gap in.

It seems we had a right go at winning the game in the second half and, just like last week, could claim to be “moral winners” of the match after twice hitting the woodwork and having a goal disallowed, but the suspicion that we just don’t have enough goalpower to, first, climb those three places and, second, stay there has to be stronger today than it was this time last week.

A fortnight ago after a win at Huddersfield, which meant we had scored seven times in taking the same number of points from three games, Russell Slade introduced a note of caution by pointing out how many goals the squad had lost from it with the departure of Kenwyne Jones and Joe Mason and the injury to Craig Noone.

Now, the perception was that by bringing in Tom Lawrence, Kenneth Zohore and Lex Immers on loan, we had done a good job in covering the loss of players responsible for sixteen of those thirty eight goals scored so far in our Championship campaign, but is that really the case?

Certainly, the non use of Immers and Zohore from the bench yesterday is a worrying sign in a game where we really needed a goal. Immers wasn’t used either against MK Dons and Zohore only came on in the eighty seventh minute, so that hardly makes them sound like adequate replacements for, say, Jones and Noone does it?

In the case of Lawrence, Mr Slade sees him as a number ten currently, so he is the nearest thing we have to a Mason replacement I suppose. Now, I happen to believe that Lawrence will end up being a good signing for us and he definitely is better at some aspects of the game than Mason is, but ask me who of the two is likely to end up with the most goals this season and my answer will be that it won’t be the one who played for us yesterday.

Lawrence’s career record of eight goals in sixty two games tells it’s own story and it’s sobering to think that the team he spent the first half of the season with, Blackburn Rovers, are the Championships joint lowest scorers – not all Lawrence’s fault of course, but he’s hardly come here from a confident and successful environment when it comes to goalscoring has he.

Given that the stated goal at the club this season is a top six finish, it would be informative to ask what are the characteristics which mark a team out as being good enough to reach that target?

For me, there are some obvious answers like a degree of consistency, a good team spirit, a true belief that they are good enough for the top six on merit and a sense of resilience – the ability to record the occasional big win would help as well.

How, do City measure up in these departments then? Well, three successive draws backed up by three consecutive wins to start the season certainly suggested consistency, but that’s been a quality which has been sadly lacking since then as the failure to record consecutive wins since early September proves.

As for team spirit, we are told it’s better than it was and, although this is something which might be hard for someone who only gets to see the players for a lot less than 10 per cent of their working week to gauge, my impression is that this is the case. I’m less convinced when it comes to belief and resilience – for me, that trio of home matches where we couldn’t hold on to 2-0 leads said an awful lot, as did those late, late defeats at Rotherham and MK Dons and when it comes to big wins, well forget that – we’ve not won by a three goal margin or more since April 2013!

Actually, on further reflection, maybe that last one is not that important after all, could it be that it is the victories of a completely different kind which do more to shape a team’s destiny?

I’m reminded of one of the best football books I’ve ever read called “Only a Game?” by former Millwall player Eamon Dunphy – I first read it over forty years ago, but I think it’s as relevant and informative today as it was back in the 70s.

Radio Wales summariser Ian Walsh was very critical of referee Iain Williamson's decision to send Sammy Ameobi off right at the end of yesterday's match, but it seems to me that the official had no choice as Ameobi had not learned the lesson of his earlier, needless, yellow card - with Craig Noone likely to be missing next week, it looks to me as if Tom Lawrence or Anthony Pilkington may find themselves back on the wing against Brighton.*

Radio Wales summariser Ian Walsh was very critical of referee Iain Williamson’s decision to send Sammy Ameobi off right at the end of yesterday’s match, but it seems to me that the official had no choice as Ameobi had not learned the lesson of his earlier, needless, yellow card. With Craig Noone likely to be missing again next week, it looks to me as if Tom Lawrence or Anthony Pilkington may find themselves back on the wing against Brighton.*

To give a bit of a background, Dunphy’s book is a diary of the 1972/73 season at Millwall. The London club were only denied promotion to the old First Division for the first time in their history on the last day of the previous season and Dunphy spends much of the time puzzling over what has gone wrong as, far from mounting another promotion challenge, his team finds themselves down at the wrong end of the table.

Hindsight shows that Millwall were in a similar sort of decline to the one which had begun at Cardiff a couple of years earlier after the failure of our 70/71 promotion challenge – important players were just starting to go over the hill (indeed, Dunphy finds himself dropped and then having to sign for Third Division Charlton about half way through the season) and both sides ended up being relegated at the end of the 74/75 campaign.

Anyway, the relevance of the book to this piece is that, just for a short while, Millwall hint at a recovery which would see them restored to their former glory. During this time, they play successive home games on a Saturday and Monday – the first of which (think it may have been against Preston) they win 5-1 and then they also beat Sheffield Wednesday a couple of days later 1-0 thanks to a very late goal.

Dunphy’s reaction to these two games is fascinating. He doesn’t have a great deal to say about the first one apart from something like we played well and it was good to enjoy ourselves against a team who, on this evidence, have real problems, but he is absolutely ecstatic about the Sheffield Wednesday win.

Apparently, Millwall were second best for long periods to a visiting team that played very well on the night, but Dunphy takes great confidence from the fact that his team stayed together, with everyone giving their all to the cause, to secure a win they didn’t really deserve – it’s obvious that he rates the influence a game like that can have on a dressing room above the impact an easy 5-1 win can have.

It needs to be reiterated that Millwall did not kick on from that Sheffield Wednesday win and so Dunphy’s confidence was misplaced in this case, but, since reading his views, I’ve always believed his fundamental point was correct, hence my liking for hard fought 1-0 wins down the years – these are the games which really shape a side’s destiny!

Sadly, if you apply that line of thinking to Cardiff City’s 2015/16 side, the omens are not good. The 1-0 beating of high riding Middlesbrough courtesy of a scrappy’ late, own goal is exactly the sort of outcome which marks a side down as potential top six material, but we’ve only managed one other single goal victory all season – a scrappy affair against Blackburn courtesy of a “tap in” by someone who was the nearest thing we had to be a specialist at such goals, but, sadly, is no longer a City player.

Indeed, City have only managed five 1-0 wins in the sixty six league games played under Russell Slade. Contrast that with the seven Malky Mackay’s “boring” title winning side managed in 12/13 and you have a telling difference between a squad with, arguably more natural ability and another one who knew exactly how to succeed at this level and had an abundance of the qualities I listed earlier needed for a top six finish – the 12/13 side (and quite a few of our other teams which preceded it) would have found a way to win at least one of our last two games 1-0.

*pictures courtesy of






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10 Responses to Cardiff City and the lost knack of the 1-0 win.

  1. Barry cole says:

    Well said Paul it doesn’t seem that we are destined to do anything this season mainly due to the fact we just are not consistent. That has always been the case with slade and it will continue. I cannot believe that tan has backed him and called for all fans to do the same.
    Having changed my opinion of tan following his effort to re engage with the fans and his attempt to reduce the debt I cannot for the life of me understand his backing of slade. If he thinks that the fans blame him for putting slade in place that isn’t the case with me, he has been given a chance to show what he is capable of and that I am afraid isn’t anywhere near the capabilities we require.
    Game after game the opposition change tactics but slade is left wanting. At charlton yesterday he made a unforgivable mistake after controlling the game in midfield he took off o Keefe and put on mecheda . The game turned and we were lucky not to concede at the death. At least tan was there to see this happen. If he had changed the manager before Christmas and let’s face it strategically they should have a plan B, then we may have been in a better position for the play offs. By continuing with slade tan knows that he isn’t going to make the play offs and it will cost him money.
    The easy games are over now with a very poor ratio on the bottom teams we’ve played. At the start of the season the negatives were clear about the way slade played his games and although we have improved we really had to unless we would be looking at relegation. I have no doubt that we have the team capable of a top six place but just looking at slades body language each game , the team are following his example.
    Tan is right it’s no good changing now and so we are left with a mid table existence.
    that means we have the remainder of the season with low crowds, people have already voted with their feet on Slade.
    Tan will make his decision at the end of the season but even he knows that to continue with slade will reduce even further the chance of any promotion but more than that a reduced income. That will be the reason for change and he knows he has to make it to continue his relation building with the fans.
    I just hope there is a good plan B because any other failure will finish any hopes fans have of getting back to the premiership.
    I hope he realises the shortcomings of our manager and he acts accordingly at season end. We then can build up the relationship once more and move in the same direction to get our team over the line.

  2. Vincent Tan is often mocked for his comments on football. But he does not live in a vacuum, he must have advisers, even for football. At least some of his advisers would be knowledgeable about the playing side of the game (though perhaps not for its administrative side) and when Mr Tan says Cardiff should shoot more, he is absolutely and indisputably correct – as is evidenced in Paul’s comments above. Sadly, however, the vulture-like media seize upon his leaning towards hyperbole and try to make him a laughing-stock, and – as is the nature of things – many people then agree, some even for football reasons.
    Clearly, Cardiff’s standard of football has led a large number of former supporters to lose the habit of watching our team in action (if “action” is the right word). Apart from the lack of fluency and individual initiative which normally epitomise the way that Cardiff perform, I do think there is now a greater sense of togetherness in the team. Could it be that two men who, to my mind, never pulled their weight as team performers have now left the club? In these days it is not enough to be a mere “tap-in” merchant or a centre-forward whose main contribution is to head the ball away from his own goal area. That having been said, have all the players recently brought in done much to suggest they are better options, Tom Lawrence apart? To sign a player and then not use him, or at least give him an opportunity, seems a obvious way to create dissension in the ranks. Morale is bound to suffer.
    This leads on to Cardiff’s transfer policy. Who is actually responsible for bringing new players in, or sending others out? I was talking recently to a Romanian contact who had some scathing things to say about the lifestyle of Tamas, so I can perhaps see why he never really played for Cardiff and has now left. But why, then, was he signed in the first place, and ultimately by whom? The same argument applies possibly to Zahore and Immers, and certainly applies to Adeyemi, Revell, Doyle (and Doyle, incidentally, might have been useful in Cardiff’s current goal drought, if he had been given a genuine opportunity). Something is evidently not right about the club, both in terms of playing style and the administration. To lose Watt, for example, smacks of a lack of awareness from the administrators and a lack of Plan B from the management.
    Finally, thank goodness for Vincent Tan – and, so I’ve read – a family member who I believe is actually at the club and presumably there to help sort things out. As a final “final” note, to see just reaching the top six as the be-all and end-all of our ambition is another recipe for a switching-off (albeit unconsciously) in any game that Cardiff now play. If we don’t reach the heady height of top six, well, we tried: if we scrape into that position, well, we have done it at last. This whole approach is a self-defeating prophecy.

  3. Russell says:

    Your right , Slade has to go now , I have tried to stay loyal to a decent man , that has delivered his tough objectives, we now need freshness .

    I would say our recent impact on the opposition’s woodwork has not seen lady luck go our way.

    Where’s Immers gone.

  4. Geoff Lewis says:

    Hi Paul ,
    Excellent as usual, together with comments from other interested parties.
    It sums it up for me ” Slade has to be replaced”, otherwise it is mid table for this season and next. It appears that Slade has Tan’s full backing so far, he trusts him and believes he his doing a good job.
    Yesterday’s game , after all the good news this week, I thought we would coast this match and come away with the three points ( If Bristol City could do it last week) Why not us?
    Alas this is Cardiff City- We hit the crossbar, post etc and a good goal from Pilkington disallowed by the so called officials.
    Roll on Brighton three points for the taking, in with a chance Ameobi banned for this game. Pilkington back on the wing and if fit Saadi to lead the attack!
    Probably another draw as it is an early kick off and on Sky tv!
    There was a comment some time from a fan from Leyton Orient/Grimsby who stated Slade when he was Manager with them, that the style of play would be safe and that is why we are now producing so many draws .

  5. MIKE HOPE says:

    Thanks ,Paul, for your usual well balanced summary of where we currently stand as a club.
    If Cardiff City are inconsistent this is not an accusation that can be levelled at Barry Cole!
    Week after week , win lose or draw ,whether he has been at the game or not ,and apparently it’s usually not , he comes out with the same anti Slade propaganda. He blames him for everything and gives him credit for nothing.
    As he is blogging similar stuff under more than one name methinks he doth protest too much!
    Have they met before ?
    I have this mental image of Barry as a schoolboy with Slade the bullying P E teacher forcing him to do forward rolls ad infinitum!
    Come on Barry, support Mr Tan and like he asks ‘Be reasonable’

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for all of your replies, not got much time for comments, but here are a few quick ones.
    Barry, I don’t always agree with you about Russell Slade, but I must say he made some game changing substitutions as his changes turned a game we were dominating and, perhaps, on the way to winning into one where ended up hanging on for a point in the last ten minutes – Mike, I’m trying to be reasonable as Mr Tan wants us to be, but I found some of those substitutions baffling yesterday!
    AMO, a quick look on Google was all the club needed to do to realise that Tamas had a bit of previous which should have made a player to avoid – his signing goes to the heart of the whole reluctance to trust youth (I say youth, Deji Oshilaja, who I’d like to have seen used as the cover for our back four this season is 22 now!) at the club. Vincent Tan spoke about trying to talk Russell Slade into using players from the Academy, but I think this is something tha the has probably had to admit defeat in.
    Russell, Immers got mixed reviews from Feyenoord fans, but you’d have thought that if he was able to be a regular for them in the past three seasons, he should be able to get some game time with us. So far, he has played about a game and a quarter and in that time he had a hand in creating a goal for us within minutes of coming on to make his debut and we scored three times (one of which he got) in his full debut. Since he’s been a non playing substitute, we’ve not scored in two games – perhaps I can understand his demotion to the bench, but to not use him in matches where we are struggling to break down struggling teams strikes me as very odd.
    Jon, my guess is that Russell Slade will see out the season, but I’d be surprised if he still here for 16/17 – another guess is that any successor will not get that much to spend in the transfer market as we look to utilise loan signings and younger players.
    Geoff, I agree that another draw looks to be the most likely result next week – hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see us scoring more than once.

  7. Colin Phillips says:

    Thanks, Paul.

    So frustrating, dominating a game but unable to pick up the three points.

    I know Macheda has scored some goals for us but whenever I see him in the match-day squad I get depressed. Again Slade seems to have cocked-up with his substitutions!

    Same old, same old.

  8. Dai Woosnam says:

    AMO as always, shows in his comments that he is Sweet Reason personified.
    Mike as always, turns the physical pain I am in right now in Malta, into smiles and laughter.
    And Barry…well Barry is Barry, isn’t he? But we all salute him for his brio…and never doubt his love of The Bluebirds or his sincerity.
    And let me warn Russell Slade not to accidentally scrape Barry’s car in a car park, for if he does, Barry will pursue him to the end of the earth for every penny.
    Still smiling at Mike’s joke re Barry the schoolboy suffering at sadist teacher Russell’s hands.
    I have news for Mike: I fancy Barry thinks that Sir Vincent was the school headmaster who initially employed his martinet master!!

    (All in jest, Barry boyo. We all love you really.
    Well, that said, I doubt if Mr Slade does, if he reads these pages!!)


  9. Clive Harry says:

    It’s been an interesting few days which started very encouragingly with Vinnie’s financial news. However, I was soon brought back down to earth by the support given to our manager immediately afterwards and today my mood darkened further with the news that Russell doesn’t even have to make the play offs to possibly keep his job. It’s as if our owner can’t give with one hand without taking away with the other.
    However, his statements did focus my mind on what has been bothering me so much that I don’t feel I can attend games at the moment – although I watch them in full on CC Player. As you know Paul I have been watching for well over 50 years and seen terrible teams and managers but never have I seen a manager who depresses me as much as the current incumbent. He is allegedly working in difficult conditions and has his hands tied behind his back but quite frankly is living in the lap of luxury compared to many of his predecessors.
    I’ve probably become less tolerant football wise as I’ve got older (although I’m an angel in all other respects) but I simply have no patience with our current post holder.
    More specifically, his complete lack of encouragement for young players, a seeming inability to make team changes unless they are forced on him, no tactical acumen or innovation allied to a bewilderingly incompetent use of substitutes, and a baffling habit of signing players that he doesn’t subsequently use. Apart from this he’s doing a great job!
    In a nutshell, I really can’t face going to watch them whilst he is in charge and I don’t think I’m the only one. According to a certain other message board, this makes me a ‘plastic’ or a ‘glory hunter’ but I’ve stuck with City through much worse times than most of its members have experienced.
    All I can do is keep hoping that Vincent admits the appointment was the wrong one and takes advice from somebody with a football brain (not Glenn Roeder!) before appointing a successor.

  10. Dai Woosnam says:

    Is it not amazing that Mackay frittered away on Cornelius and Caulker almost the entire cost of the Laicester team who are currently top of the EPL…??
    It is no good anyone saying that four people made each purchase.
    They listened to their manager.
    Sir Vincent has in Russell a chap he can trust.
    Let us all be thankful.
    No more the Grinning Norwegian and the Perfidious Scot.

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