It was three years after watching my first City match that I finally saw Wales play for the first time in October 1966 and, in a portent of things to come, they found themselves being robbed of victory by an 87th minute equaliser from Scotland’s Dennis Law who slid in on a waterlogged pitch to knock the ball in, almost certainly, with his hand to secure a 1-1 draw for his country. By this time, John Charles and Ivor Allchurch’s international days were over and so I never got to see two men who were serious contenders for the title of Wales’ best ever player represent their country. However, thinking back, I’ve seen some excellent individual performances in the red Wales shirt and, with a couple of internationals upcoming, I thought it would be a good idea to pick a team of the best players I’ve seen play for my country.
I do this, fully aware of the fact that I’m probably forgetting about some very strong candidates for inclusion, but, in an effort to avoid this happening I’ve come up with three candidates for every position in my team which will be set up in a Dave Jones officially approved 4-4-2 formation – I doubt it if there will be many (if any!) who agree with my selections, but here goes.
The nominations are Gary Sprake, Neville Southall and Wayne Hennessey.
Easiest selection of the lot to start with. It just has to be the man who would be vying for the goalkeeper’s jersey with Gordon Banks and Pat Jennings if this team was my best British eleven. I’m biased of course, but if there was a better keeper around in the early to mid 80′s than Neville Southall, then I didn’t see him. Actually, what interest there is in the selection for this position lies more with who would be my substitute keeper. Gary “Careless Hands” Sprake dropped more than his fair share of clangers during his career, but he was first choice at, arguably, the best team in the country for quite some time – on balance though, I’d go for Hennessey who is now fulfilling his youthful promise and, although, he never receives the publicity that someone like Joe Hart gets, I’d say he is a definite candidate now for the title of best current British keeper.
The nominations are Peter Rodrigues, Rod Thomas and Mark Delaney.
Peter Rodrigues was my first ever City “hero”, mainly because he was a master of the now lost art of slide tackling, but also because I remember him being pushed up front after an injury in the days when there were no substitutes and scoring a goal in a 3-2 win over Rotherham. Rod Thomas was a capable and composed player who could also play at left back and I remember that he did a good job at centreback at Cardiff as he brought some order and class to what was a shambolic back four when he signed for us at the age of 30 in 1977. However my selection is Mark Delaney - injury meant that we probably never saw how good he could have been, but his speed, defensive qualities and ability going forward marked him out as an excellent modern day full back. The best Welsh performance I’ve seen is the 2-1 win over Italy in 2002 where, rather than rely on hwyl and commitment, we beat a fine side in a game of football and one of the main reasons for that was the havoc that Delaney and Simon Davies caused down Italy’s left flank – on that performance alone, Delaney deserves to be in there.
The nominations are Mike England, Terry Hennessey and Eric Young.
Hennessey (who is a cousin of the current Welsh keeper) was a fine player who captained his country in the late 60′s when he was a regular in the Forest team that were pipped for the First Division title by Manchester United in 1967 – probably better known as a midfield player, Hennessey’s versatility possibly counts against him when it comes to selection in this team. While I think Wales have had more accomplished footballers at centre back, Eric Young (who now works as a horse whisperer according to Wikipedia) was an effective performer at International level. The clear winner for me though is Mike England. The former Wales manager was an imposing and dominating centre half who could also play effectively up front - this gives the clue that England was no mug with the ball at his feet either. He was the complete centre half and many regarded him as someone who might well have ended up with a World Cup winner’s medal if his country of birth had matched his surname.
The nominations are Leighton Phillips, Kevin Ratcliffe and Danny Gabbidon.
Again, quite an easy selection here. Although I’ve always thought he was never fully appreciated by City fans, Leighton Phillips was a stylish performer who settled into the centre back role after beginning his career as a midfield player. Not the biggest of players, Phillips relied on anticipation and clean tackling to make him an effective member of a good Aston Villa outfit’s defence and spent much of his career in the old First Division. Another player whose career suffered because of injuries, Gabbidon also wasn’t that big for a centre back, but had a great leap which meant that there weren’t too many strikers who got the better of him in the air, while his pace and reading of the game meant he had very few weaknesses when he was in his pomp. However, Kevin Ratcliffe also had all of these qualities and more – he was a leader who captained Everton to success at home and abroad and in the years before an injury which blunted his effectiveness somewhat, was, probably, as good an out and out defender as any in the British game.
The nominations are Malcom Page, Joey Jones and Pat Van Den Hauwe.
Page only gets a nomination because of a late decision to use Gareth Bale in another position. Solid and efficient rather than spectacular and enterprising, Page was still good enough to be a regular in the most successful Welsh team I’ve seen (the 1976 European Championship quarter finalists), but the real competition for the number three shirt rests between the other two nominees. They were quite similar in a lot of ways in that they were no strangers to red and yellow cards and were very much defenders first and foremost, so neither of them were too effective going forward. If anything, I’d say Van Den Hauwe, who won domestic and European honours with Everton, had the more successful career and was, arguably. the better player, but Joey Jones was passionate about playing for Wales and, although the Belgian born Van Den Hauwe’s commitment to the Welsh cause was never really in doubt, he just shades this selection for me.
N.B. It’s been, correctly, pointed out to me that I should have considered Mark Bowen at left back (told you there’d be some I’d forget about!). Bowen would be a strong contender to get into the team, but I think that, just as I selected Joey Jones over Pat Van Den Hauwe for his his attitude, the same thing would apply here.
The nominations are David Phillips, Simon Davies and Gareth Bale.
Phillips was an unfussy, steady, hard working performer who gave Wales twelve years service in amassing sixty two caps. Versatile enough to be used in a variety of positions, he had a hammer of a shot in his right foot as well as more skill than he tended to be given credit for. As for Simon Davis, like so many good Welsh players he has been hit by injuries that have left him not quite the player he once was, but around the time of our tilt at qualifying for Euro 2004, he was playing superbly – people remember his goal and overall display against Italy, but there was also a great goal to get Wales a draw in a friendly in Croatia and for a while when Manchester United were sniffing around, he was the hottest young property in the British game. Davies would have got in the team, but for my decision to include Gareth Bale in this position – Bale showed that he can be just as effective on the right in the games with Australia and Montenegro and, as a genuine World Class talent, has to be included in this team.
Central midfield (holding)
The candidates are John Mahoney, Peter Nicholas and Barry Horne.
Despite never really doing much that could be considered eye catching, Nicholas racked up seventy two caps in a thirteen year international career during which his ball winning skills and defensive covering did much to give more naturally talented team mates an opportunity to show what they were capable of. Horne performed a similar role in later, less successful, Welsh sides, but, because both players were essentially defensive in nature, they lose out to someone who I would guess is the most surprising choice in my team. John Mahoney was a tireless workhorse in the midfield’s of Stoke City, Middlesbrough and Swansea City at First Division level, but, although his work rate was first class as he, invariably, covered every blade of grass during a game, he could play as well. Mahoney only scored once in his international career, but it was such an important goal as he showed the instincts of the striker he was for a short while at the beginning of his career, to coolly dink the ball over the keeper as Wales became the first foreign international team ever to win at Hungary’s Nep Stadium on their way to qualification for the Quarter Finals of the 1976 European Championships.
Central midfield (attacking)
The nominations are Terry Yorath, Aaron Ramsey and Gary Speed.
Actually, I daresay Yorath may have been better suited to a more defensive role, but finds himself in this category because Wales have rather struggled in this position down the years – Yorath’s hard tackling and leadership qualities tend to be remembered more now, but he wasn’t a bad passer of the ball either. If I do another one of these selections in five or ten years time, then I fully expect Aaron Ramsey to be in the team, such are the qualities that mark him down as, potentially, the best Wales midfield player in decades, but with eighty five caps in fourteen years exemplary services to his country as a player, Gary Speed simply demands inclusion. Until his legs started to go towards the end of his career, with the result that he couldn’t get forward as much as he used to, it was hard to spot a weakness in Speed’s game – good technically, easily able to cope with the physical side of the game, great in the air and an accomplished finisher who captained many of the teams he represented, he had virtually everything.
The nominations are Leighton James, Mickey Thomas and Ryan Giggs.
Although he wasn’t as good as he thought he was, Leighton James could be unplayable if it was one of his days. Two such occasions in a Welsh shirt came at Wrexham as he tore European Champions Czechoslovakia to pieces in 1977 and when he played a leading role in England’s 4-1 defeat in 1980, while he’ll always be remembered as the man whose goal gave Wales their only win so far at Wembley. Mickey Thomas was a busy and effective performer who I suppose is better known now for his off field misdemeanour’s than what he did on a football pitch, but he was good enough to play at the top level for nearly ten years. James and Thomas are quite strong candidates, but when they are up against the most successful footballer of the Premiership era, they have no chance – Ryan Giggs might not have hit his Manchester United heights too often in a Wales shirt and he did have an annoying habit of going missing for friendly matches, but, as the best all round Welsh footballer I’ve seen, he has to be included.
Striker (target man)
The nominations are Ron Davies, John Toshack and Mark Hughes.
My main memory of Ron Davies now is of him scoring all four goals for Southampton in a 4-1 win at Old Trafford in 1969 and there being a recognition from media and spectators that they were watching a real craftsman in action. If Mike England might have made the 1966 World Cup winning team, then Davies was, probably, good enough for England’s 1970 squad if he had qualified to play for them. Despite his height, Davies had a certain elegance to his game, I’m not sure the same could be said about John Toshack, but he definitely could be effective (as, for example, he was in scoring all of Wales’ goals in a 3-0 win over Scotland in 1979). My selection though is Mark Hughes who could make a success of the target man role more through his sheer body strength than any great aerial ability. Hughes was also good enough to have dropped a bit deeper and act as an auxiliary midfield player if required and his fine all round technique and abrasive approach makes him one of the finest Welsh players of the late twentieth century.
The nominations are Ian Rush, Dean Saunders and Craig Bellamy.
There’s some strong competition for this place with Saunders being one of a group of top class players from the 80′s and early 90′s who were denied a place in the finals of a major tournament because we didn’t have enough midfield players of sufficient quality. Although, Saunders didn’t have Bellamy’s knack of attracting controversy, there are definite comparisons between the two players – both quick, skilful and committed, if the older man was, probably, the better finisher, then it’s true to say that Bellamy was, certainly, the more versatile of the two as well as being, possibly, the better team man. Neither player comes close to displacing the peerless Ian Rush though who was simply the best British born goalscorer since Jimmy Greaves. So much of Rush’s game was about his acceleration away from defenders – many inferior players have had that though, but they didn’t have Rush’s instinct to be in the right place when the ball dropped loose close to goal or the ability to stay ice cool when presented with a chance . Add in the fact that his ceaseless closing down of the players meant to be marking him made him an extra defender and you have an automatic selection for this team.
That’s the team then and now would be a good time to acknowledge players such as Paul Jones, Andy Melville, Brian Flynn, Robbie James, Mark Pembridge and John Hartson who just missed out on a nomination. The only thing remaining is to name the seven substitutes who would help to give this team the all round balance that even the best Welsh sides of my time have lacked;-
Danny Gabbidon (cover for all defensive positions)
Terry Hennessey (cover for central defence and midfield)
Craig Bellamyby The other Bob Wilson
Now that Dave Jones’ reign as City boss has come to an end, this seems as good a time as any to try to judge where he stands in relation to the other nineteen managers who came before him in the time I have been following the club. The first thing to say is that I have not considered the first of those managers (George Swindin) for my top ten because I can remember next to nothing about the man. Besides that, I have not considered what the various managers did at other clubs, hence there is no place for Frank O’Farrell or Alan Durban (who, believe it or not, did pretty well at Stoke and Sunderland). As I have mentioned before on here, I don’t think there is a great deal of quality in this particular field and, given the problem I had finding someone to put at number 10, it’s tempting to include Malky Mackay on the basis of his initial press conference!
Before I go on, I thought I’d list all of the managers I have seen at the club in terms of percentage of games won in all competitions because it makes for interesting reading and rather proves the point that results aren’t everything, they need to be looked at in context (e.g. Malky Mackay’s record over the second half of last season);
Alan Cork 51.1
Eddie May 43.6
Dave Jones 41.9
Lennie Lawrence 41.4
Frank O’Farrell 39.3
Frank Burrows 38.7
Len Ashurst 38.1
Jimmy Scoular 36.9
George Swindin 36.6
Jimmy Andrews 35.0
Russell Osman 34.5
Richie Morgan 34.3
Bobby Gould 33.3
Billy Ayre 31.8
Phil Neal 30.3
Graham Williams 29.4
Kenny Hibbitt 28.9
Alan Durban 27.2
Terry Yorath 25.0
Jimmy Goodfellow 15.4
So, on to the top ten and it’ll soon become obvious that I haven’t paid too much attention to the above figures;
10. Bobby Gould
If ever you wanted justification of my oft repeated claim that the quality of managers at Cardiff since 1963 has been very poor, then it has to be the fact that I have had to include him in my top ten. Gould gets in solely because of him being the person who recommended that we bring the likes of Danny Gabbidon, Graham Kavanagh, Peter Thorne, Neil Alexander and Rhys Weston (who were all regulars in the side playing two divisions higher than Gould’s three years later) to the club. His signing of the ungainly, but effective Leo Fortune-West was also something to be put in his plus column, but, in all honesty, someone with a record like his should not be anywhere near a manager’s top ten when you have got nearly half a century’s worth of candidates to choose from – have a look at the ones who missed out on the top ten and tell me who should be in there in his place though?
9. Alan Cork
With his monosyllabic media appearances and his reputation as a long ball merchant, Alan Cork was never able to fully win over City fans. It’s also true to say that the vast majority of the crazy spending that was to bring the club to it’s knees in 2005, was done under Cork’s watch and not all of those big money transfers could be judged as successes either. However, it would be unfair to blame Alan Cork entirely for all of this and, all things considered, he wasn’t too bad a City manager really. He took over in late September 2000 when our season was going nowhere, but transformed it completely by using a three centreback system which revived Andy Legg’s career as he made a great success of the sweeper role he was given – City were also the highest scoring team in the country that season. It shouldn’t be forgotten either that Alan Cork was in charge for that epic FA Cup win over Leeds in January 2002, but it didn’t do him much good because he was out of a job within five weeks after his expensive, but inconsistent, team were thumped 4-0 at Wigan.
8. Jimmy Andrews
Jimmy Andrews owes his place in the top ten solely to the entertaining promotion team of 1975/76. That side always tried to play good, and attacking football and certainly didn’t buckle when the pressure came on at the end of that campaign as they produced a run of six wins and three draws from their final nine matches whilst conceding just one goal in the process. Andrews’ signing of Tony Evans has to be a contender for City’s best free transfer capture ever, with his partnership with Adrian Alston being one of the most potent I have seen at the club and the likes of Alan Campbell and Mike England were also shrewd signings who brought know how and craft to a side low on confidence following their relegation to the third tier a season earlier. However, although Andrews stuck by his attacking principles, it was struggle all the way besides that. A lot of the good work in the transfer market a few years earlier was undone by his failure to utilise the managerial and coaching talents of England and John Toshack and the disastrous signing of Mickey Burns as player/coach and it was no surprise when he was eventually sacked in October 1978.
7. Richie Morgan
I can remember Richie Morgan’s appointment as full time manager (he had initially been given the job on a caretaker basis after Jimmy Andrews’ sacking) being greeted with little enthusiasm and there wasn’t much in his early results to suggest that he could drag the team out of their 1978/79 relegation struggle. However, Morgan used a cold snap that saw us play just one game between 30 December and 24 February well and by the time the team returned to action it was with a remodeled team that featured teenager Lindon Jones at right back and new signings Colin Sullivan and Ronnie Moore at left back and centre forward respectively. The changes worked and City finished the season in great form as a run of eleven unbeaten games saw them finish in the giddy heights of ninth position! Moore, the striker who couldn’t score, rather typified Richie Morgan’s dour but effective teams – there weren’t many goals around in 79/80, but at least it was a mid table season when relegation was never a serious possibility. After being given a fair bit of money to spend during his early days at the club, the usual restrictions were placed on him from 1980 onwards and, predictably, City struggled – it was still a surprise though when in November 1981, he was “moved upstairs” to become general manager while Graham Williams took charge of team affairs. Williams’ appointment was a disaster and he was gone within three months as City headed for relegation – it’s still something of a mystery though as to why Morgan had to be sacked with him.
6. Eddie May
I think there may be quite a few City fans who will think that Eddie May deserves a higher place than number six. My reason for doing that though is that, just like Alan Cork, Eddie May was given an awful lot of money to spend for a manager in charge of a team in the Football League’s basement. May was given a substantial transfer budget in his first season (91/92), but, although Carl Dale and Paul Ramsey were excellent signings, Paul Millar a decent one and the loan signings of Eddie Newton and Gerry Harrison were the catalyst for a good run in early 1992, City didn’t even make the Play Offs despite playing some fine football at times. May got it right second time around though as a more physical and experienced team featuring the likes of Robbie James, Nicky Richardson, Derek Brazil, Phil Stant and Kevin Ratcliffe deservedly won the Third Division (old Fourth Division) title and retained the Welsh Cup. With owner Rick Wright pulling the plug as far transfer funding went, 1993/94 was always going to be a tough season at the higher level and May’s feat of steering the side to a safe, lower mid table position while also beating Middlesbrough and Man City in a run to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup was, arguably, just as impressive as what he had achieved twelve months earlier. However, May never looked like staying long under the newly installed Jim Cadman consortium and he left in November 1994 with City struggling badly, only to return for the last few weeks of the campaign with relegation virtually assured – it was a sad and anti climactic end at Cardiff for someone who always had a pretty good rapport with the fans.
5. Lennie Lawrence
Again, there may be some who feel Lennie should be higher than fifth, but the job becomes that much easier if you have the sort of money he had to spend in the third tier of the domestic game. Lawrence made an immediate impact when he took over from Alan Cork in February 2002 and City went on an excellent run which saw them reach the Play Offs before agonisingly being beaten at home by Stoke having won the first leg at the Britannia Stadium. With expensive new signings Andy Campbell and Chris Barker added to the squad as well as influential midfielder Gareth Whalley on a free, City started 02/03 in fine form, but from the end of October onwards they lacked consistency, struggling particularly in home matches where expectation levels were sky high. City scraped into the Play Offs in sixth place, but to Lawrence’s credit, he got the team defending well at just the right time as promotion was obtained without a goal being conceded in those last three, high pressure, games. I always thought of Lennie Lawrence as a pretty cautious manager and so it was a big surprise to see City playing such good attacking football for much of their first campaign in the second tier in eighteen years. Money problems were beginning to grip the club again though and so it was free transfers and loanees for most of the time as 04/05 turned into a relegation scrap, which City survived by reaching safety in their penultimate game – it was not enough to save Lawrence his job though as the experienced manager who never really won over the supporters left the club in May 2005.
4. Len Ashurst
Len Ashurst managed the promotion Lennie Lawrence did, but with a shoestring budget. Arriving in March 1982, Len Ashurst’s first home match in charge was a remarkable 5-4 win over Cambridge United, but, although there were some other notable wins for him at Ninian Park, he couldn’t prevent a relegation that had been on the cards for much of the campaign. During the summer, the team was completely rebuilt with free transfer signings galore and to general surprise, City were able to win back their Second Division status at the first attempt on the back of Jeff Hemmerman’s goals. Very much a member of the old school in his management approach, Ashurst fell out with a few players (e.g. Keith Pontin and Billy Woof) and left the talented Dave Bennett out at times if he thought he wasn’t pulling his weight, but the winger cum striker’s’ skills were a vital part of a successful team as the manager also coaxed some great performances at centreback out of Phil Dwyer whose City career had looked over a few months earlier. Forced to rebuild his side for life back at the higher level after the loss, for various reasons, of his three main goalscorers, City hardly surprisingly, were not prolific in front of goal in 83/84, but Gordon Owen was another excellent free signing and he gave City enough of a cutting edge to make sure the team stayed comfortably above the drop zone. Given the job he had done at Cardiff, it was no surprise that a top level team picked Ashurst up as his former club Sunderland appointed him in place of Alan Durban in March 1984.
Len Ashurst wasn’t finished with City though as he returned for a second, less successful, spell in charge in August 1989. Ironically, Ashurst was given the transfer funding that he never saw in the early 80′s this time around, but, apart from Cohen Griffith who gave the club years of good service, his buys were not successes and it was free transfer signings like Chris Pike and Gavin Ward that were more notable. City were a poor side that season and were relegated with barely a whimper of resistance at Bury on the final day of the campaign. With the club’s finances now probably in as precarious a state as they have ever been, there was no immediate promotion this time. In fact, 90/91 proved to be a tough season as Ashurst seemed unable to inspire a young side out of a mid table rut and, probably seeing that the writing was on the wall for him, one of the better City managers I have seen quit the club as soon as the campaign finished.
3. Frank Burrows
As the only manager to achieve two promotions at Cardiff in my time, Frank Burrows deserves a place in the top three. Burrows took over for the first time in the summer of 1986 with the club facing their first ever season in the league’s basement. With little money available, 86/87 turned into something of a holding operation, but Burrows demonstrated his knack of finding cheap but good players by signing Terry Boyle, Paul Wimbleton, Nicky Platneaur and Kevin Bartlett with the latter three bringing in much needed revenue when they moved on a few years later. In his second season though, promotion always looked on the cards as bargain buy Jimmy Gilligan supplied the goals and Alan Curtis the class that had been previously lacking – there was the added bonus of a Welsh Cup win courtesy of a 2-0 win over Wrexham at the Vetch Field as well. City comfortably survived at the higher level the following season, but the pressure to sell was always present and when many of the team’s stalwarts moved on in the summer of 1989, Frank Burrows wasn’t far behind them as he left to join Second Division Portsmouth as their new boss.
Just as with Len Ashurst and Eddie May though, there was a second spell at Cardiff for Frank Burrows as he was brought back in February 1998 to replace Russell Osman. Burrows was unable to do anything to turn around the fortunes of one of the worst ever City sides as the team suffered the ignominy of finishing in the league’s bottom four, but he put things right with a vengeance the following year. Fine signings like Mark Delaney, John Williams, Graham Mitchell, Richard Carpenter and the on loan Matt Brazier meant that City were always challenging near the top and with Kevin Nugent recovered from the injury that had kept him out for much of the previous season, City enjoyed a tremendous spell either side of Christmas with a series of high scoring wins at Ninian Park. Life became more of a struggle after the superb Delaney left, but Burrows again did well in the transfer market to recruit Jason Bowen and Andy Legg from Reading on frees and promotion was assured after a tense goalless draw with Scunthorpe at Ninian Park. With a new Board in place and a bit of money to spend, there was much optimism that City could make an impact in the higher league, but Burrows’ three centre back system that had worked so well the previous year was a flop this time as the team played some good football, but struggled to win games at home. Despite plenty of new recruits, City were unable to climb clear of the relegation zone and Frank Burrows’ time at Cardiff ended with a truly dismal 3-1 home defeat to Luton in January as he resigned his post despite attempts by Chairman Steve Borley to get him to stay.
2. Dave Jones
Dave Jones would have been number one in this list if he had left his job at the end of the 2009/10 campaign, but, for me, so much of his earlier good work was undone over the course of the season just ended when a series of poor signings, strange tactical and selection decisions and an increasingly morose and sour public demeanour all played their part in dowsing down optimism and positivity at the club. Allowances had to be made for all that the man had gone through after his loss of the Southampton job of course, but that could only go so far and it was only after the season had finished that it really hit home how bad things had got at Cardiff as far as the “feel” of the club went. Therefore, it’s worth bearing in mind that emotions are still raw as far as our former manager is concerned at the moment and it’s probably difficult to be totally objective in analysing just how good or bad a manager Dave Jones was for us.
He was the man who nearly took us to the Premiership but the nature of those failures pointed to weaknesses at the heart of his teams and, possibly, the man himself. There are two sides to every story though and it has to be noted that many of the criticisms I have outlined here have come about because I’m applying standards to Dave Jones that I haven’t been to eighteen of the others involved in this process – only Dave Jones and the man who finished above him in my top ten have been able to say that they were in charge of teams realistically chasing promotion to the top flight. As I hinted above, the passing of time might well see Dave Jones’ merits being reassessed by Cardiff fans – for example, if the club goes into a decline now, then, surely, he has to be credited more for the three top seven finishes and FA Cup Final appearance we have seen over the past four seasons, but, if, say, Malky Mackay were to get us promoted to the Premiership during his time with us, then his reputation as the “nearly man” would be reinforced.
1. Jimmy Scoular
So was Jimmy Scoular really as good as us old fogeys make him out to be or are we all wearing those rose tinted spectacles that distort so many of the images from your youth? Well, when you look at a record that showed only three seasons out of nine where City challenged for a place in the top flight against four when we were in serious relegation trouble (we were nearer the bottom of the league than the top in his two other seasons with us well) and a pretty ordinary win percentage rate then I can certainly see why younger fans would look at his record and ask what all the fuss was about. What I would say to that is, despite the common perception that we are always skint, there have been times during the past half a century when some City managers have had some serious financial backing – Jimmy Scoular was not one of them. This point is probably best illustrated by what happened after the sale of John Toshack to Liverpool in November 1970 for £110,000. With City second in the table at the time and averaging more than 20,000 per game, you would have thought that much of that money would have been made available to Scoular for the replacement striker we definitely needed. Instead of that though, the Board balked at making less than half of that available to him for six weeks and vital games were lost before they finally relented and agreed to pay £42,000 for the Sheffield Wednesday striker Alan Warboys – if Scoular had been given the backing that some in this list have had, I think there is every chance that we would been playing First Division football in 1971/72.
One of my criteria in picking this top ten has been that the men who gave us a realistic chance of playing top level football have to be numbers one and two, but, even allowing for the criticisms of him I outlined above, Dave Jones’ record looks a better one than Jimmy Scoular’s. The Scot’s achievement in getting us to two Quarter Finals and one Semi Final of the European Cup Winners Cup is cancelled out for me by the FA Cup Final appearance in 2008 and the fact that Dave Jones’ Cardiff teams were decent cup performers during his time with us, so why go for Scoular as number one? I think the best way of answering that is to refer back to the way that five of his former players talked about him at the Supporter’s Trust do on 10 June at the Duke of Clarence. Jimmy Scoular was a competitive player (my parents would replace “competitve” with “dirty” if they were still around mind!) and he certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly – I think all of the players involved told at least one story about being on the wrong end of a Scoular rant. However, I got the distinct impression that all five players would have run through a wall for Jimmy Scoular such was the respect and, I think, affection, they had for a man for whom nothing was too much for his team. Yes, times are different now and attitudes have changed, but, certainly last season, you got the impression there were some in the Cardiff team who were not prepared to break even a finger nail for Dave Jones!
by The other Bob Wilson