Having opened their home Premier League programme with a win over the Manchester City team who were crowned Champions yesterday, City threatened to end it with a victory over the side who finished third during a fairly entertaining first half yesterday. Craig Bellamy’s deflected goal meant that they led 1-0 as the match went into it’s last quarter, but, in the end, the one way traffic towards their goal in the second half wore them down and, despite what may well be the last of David Marshall’s long series of extraordinary saves for the club to keep out Azpilicueta’s header, Schurrle’s follow up equaliser was quickly added to by Torres to clinch a deserved 2-1 win for the visitors.
So, City take their leave from the Premier League after the briefest of stays and, overall I don’t think there can be too much disputing that their finishing position at the foot of the table was not justified. At least the finale proved to be a more watchable affair than I expected it to be and, the performance of younger players like Declan John, Fabio, Mats Dælhi (all of whom I would expect to still be with the club next season) and, provided he stays, Jordon Mutch (more comfortable in his deep midfield role than he was at Newcastle, although I still think were not utilising his main strengths by playing him there) all offered the hope at least that life in the Championship may not be as tough as I fear it might.
There was a definite end of season feel to the game and it wasn’t really the time to get too worked up about things like substitutions, so I found myself smiling rather than scowling at the somehow typically Ole way we ended our season as we chased another losing cause. In fact, I give credit to our manager for blooding youngsters Rhys Healey and Tom James towards the end and I suppose the introduction of Don Cowie when we defending a lead could be understood, but did they all have to come on for Dæhli, Craig Bellamy and Fraizer Campbell, the trio of players who, on the day, represented the bulk of any attacking threat we posed? Chelsea must have been quaking in their boots facing a strike force of Healey and Steven Caulker in the closing minutes with Aron Gunnarsson deployed in the number ten role just behind them!
The game was just a backdrop to the issue which has dominated the last few days though – the decision of Malky Mackay and Iain Moody to drop their litigation against the club while offering pretty humiliating looking apologies to Vincent Tan at the same time.
Yesterday saw owner Vincent Tan have his say on recent developments and a few other issues besides as he gave interviews to Rob Phillips of the BBC and Terry Phillips of Wales Online. The headlines for the first of these talked of our owner backing down over the kit issue and, without checking the interviews themselves, you might have thought that we could be back in blue next season. The reality is though that Mr Tan talked about discussions with fans about a “compromise” in season 2o15/16 if we all started pulling in the same direction and there was also the small matter that it seems we will have to have been promoted back to the Premier League as well!
Encouragingly, Mr Tan was enthusiastic about the idea of a supporter attending Board meetings and he reacted positively to the suggestion that there might be fan representation on the Board. On the subject of debt to equity conversion however, it was more moving of goalposts I’m afraid. To be fair, converting 50 million pounds worth of the money loaned to the club by Mr Tan into equity would be a significant move, but it simply isn’t what was being promised two years ago when a debt to equity conversion was one of the central planks of the club’s bid to win around those who were prepared to live with the change to red if it meant a secure financial future.
Back then, the promise was that we would have a debt free club within weeks, now we are, apparently, expected to react just as positively to a situation whereby we have a debt that is around 250% bigger than the one we had at the time of the re-brand after any debt to equity conversion takes place – it just won’t happen, significant numbers of supporters won’t react positively to this news and neither should they.
The news regarding Mackay/Moody was touched upon in the first interview, but Mr Tan really went to town regarding our former manager in the second one. Having said in my reaction piece on here to Friday’s happenings that “hopefully, yesterday’s news really does signal an end to a dispute that blighted the 2013/14 season.”, it has to be stated that having seen Mr Tan’s rant against our former manager, it’s not going to happen!
The world and his wife have been giving their take on what was said in those statements by Messrs Mackay and Moody on Friday and what unites virtually all of those voicing their views on events is that all they can offer is opinions, not facts. I mentioned on here on Saturday, that my opinion has changed to the extent that, having been firmly in the Mackay/Moody camp for the duration of the dispute, I now feel that Mr Tan’s version of events (£15 million overspend on the agreed transfer budget for summer 2013) is more accurate than the Mackay/Moody one (£4 million underspend).
Others look at those statements and take things further as they see them as tacit confirmation of dodgy behaviour by the two former employees. They may be right and my, more cautious, interpretation wrong, but, although he was pretty scathing about our former manager, Mr Tan limited his comments to the overspend and, yet again, we got to hear about the Andreus Cornelius transfer (but only in terms of how much the transfer fee and wages involved were) and so I have to doubt whether we will ever get the chance to know for sure who is right.
Mr Tan is one of the few who probably does know the facts behind it all, but he was back in opinion territory when he answered a question from Terry Phillips about how Malky Mackay was to blame for our relegation and I believe he is deluding himself if he really believes that one man is responsible for our dreadful campaign – here are some facts that say otherwise.
Our thirty eight game season can be conveniently broken down into sections which enable direct comparisons to be made between the two men who filled the manager’s post for the large majority of the campaign. If you take out the two matches played under David Kerslake’s temporary management, then Malky Mackay and Ole Gunnar Solskjær were both in charge for eighteen games. In the first part of the season (under Mackay) the simple facts are that we did better in terms of points gained and league position occupied than we did in the second part (under Solskjær) – 17 points gained under Mackay easily better the 12 under Solskjær and we were sixteenth when the former left and seventeenth when the latter took over.
Malky Mackay’s team played two home games against teams that finished in the bottom half of the table and won them both. Ole’s team played six home matches against sides from the bottom half and also won two while taking just seven points out of a possible eighteen. Furthermore, the heaviest defeat suffered to a bottom half side under Mackay was 2-0 (albeit the performances were pretty awful in all three games), while under Solskjær we were beaten by three goals or more on four occasions by bottom half teams (three of these being in home games where we never managed a goal).
Are we seriously expected to believe that all that went wrong during that second group of eighteen matches was down to someone who was not employed by the club at the time – it could be argued that it doesn’t take much of a leap in Mr Tan’s logic to suggest that Solskjær was responsible for the good things that happened in those first eighteen matches as well!
In the interests of fairness, it has to be said that Mackay had a far bigger transfer budget to work with and he also had far longer to sort deals out than Solskjær, so allowances need to be made for that, but, even so, the facts say that if Ole had got the same number of points as Malky did, we would have stayed up if we had also hung on to that two goal lead against Sunderland in one of Kerslake’s pair of matches.
Interestingly, Ole says he is to blame for our relegation, but my point here is not to blame him and exonerate Malky Mackay. Whether it be either of our two managers this season, I firmly believe it is completely wrong to solely blame one individual for our relegation. It’s not all Vincent Tan’s fault either – nor Simon Lim’s or Mehmet Dalman’s. Also, no one member of the playing or coaching staff is solely responsible – if only it were that easy to point the finger at one person and say “it was all down to you”.
Sadly, there has been so much wrong at so many levels at Cardiff City since August that it would have almost required a miracle for us to stay up. I would like to think that Vincent Tan realises this – at least I hope he does, because if he truly believes that everyone bar Malky Mackay (and Iain Moody) did a good job for the club during 2013/14 then I fear for our future.
* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/