City linger on.

CoymayI had to have my tortoiseshell cat Tiga put to sleep on Friday, her kidneys had virtually packed up, she was dehydrated and her breathing had become laboured – she was always a very small cat, but she weighed just 2.4 kilos by the end. Tigs would have been 18 in July, so she had a good, happy and long life, but, although she had slowed up in the last year or so, there was no sign of what was to come even a fortnight ago – she only really started going downhill in the last ten days and while hindsight tells me I could have got her down to the vets a bit earlier, at least she didn’t suffer for that long.

I found myself thinking of Tigs during City’s abysmal 4-0 defeat at Sunderland yesterday lunchtime. Her end had been a relatively quick and painless one – unfortunately, the same cannot be said for something else I hold dear. Cardiff City’s demise as a Premier League club has been a painful, long and lingering one (Moodygate and the bonus row in the early autumn were the first public signs of something being amiss and I first thought we could be in serious trouble after the defeat at Palace in early December).

Yesterday’s trouncing at the ground of a club with the worst home record in the division had an air of finality to it, but, such is the congested situation at the bottom of the league, City will linger on as a Premier League club until next Saturday at least.

By the time we get to next Friday, I’m sure we’ll be hearing optimistic noises from within the club about how we can stay up with a couple of wins and there’ll be plenty of fans trying to talk themselves into believing that we can still do it, but I’m afraid this supporter has now given up the ghost. Teams that win relegation battles do not get thrashed by sides around them at the bottom of the table, but Sunderland can now be added to the names of Swansea, Hull and Palace who all enjoyed big wins over us at times when they were right in the relegation mix.

Sunderland players congratulate Connor Wickham after he headed his side into the lead. The goal, like his second one, came from a corner - I remember a time not so long ago when we were very good at both ends of the pitch at them.*

Sunderland players congratulate Connor Wickham after he headed his side into the lead. The goal, like his second one, came from a corner – I remember a time not so long ago when we were very good at both ends of the pitch at them.*


West Ham were a complete and utter basket case of a club when they came to Cardiff and won with ten men in early January, while our first match with Sunderland just after Christmas was one of only two this season where I can remember us enjoying a spell of complete domination (the other was at Fulham) and, even then, we only drew despite being 2-0 up after 83 minutes. Even victories like the ones over Norwich and Southampton did little to convince that better days were ahead for City.

Those last few sentences describe a team that is heading down and, much as it pains me to say it, we are getting exactly what we deserve. I’ve read on messageboards about how some blame Phil Dowd for what happened yesterday, but, as far as I’m concerned, the penalty he gave just before half time when we were 1-0 down was the correct decision, as was the one he made in giving Juan Cala the first red card to be shown to a City player all season.

We were well on the way to defeat before Cala had his brainstorm (he’s like so many of our players in that he can look at home at this level on a good day, but he’s too error prone – you know that for every decent performance he turns in, there’ll be a poor one not too far behind it). While we were able to pass the ball in quite a composed fashion at times, we were, as usual, not doing enough to hurt the opposition in open play and it always seemed to me at least that any further goals were going to come from the home team.

There’s going to be plenty of time for inquests as to why things have ended up like this and, I can’t help thinking they are going to be long and detailed ones because there have been so many poor decisions made at Cardiff in the last year or so, but, for now, I’d like to just concentrate on one of the most galling aspects of the shambles that has been the 2013/14 season.

A year ago next weekend we won the Championship easing up after having promotion confirmed three weeks earlier – even after four consecutive draws to end the campaign, we still finished eight points in front of runners up Hull and fifteen in front of Crystal Palace. I believe those figures offer all of the evidence needed to conclude that we had a pretty big advantage over the two sides promoted with us when the summer transfer window opened – simply put, our squad was quite a bit better than theirs were.

How is it then that on the weekend when our relegation was all but confirmed, Hull were able to get the point which virtually guarantees them another season in the Premier League and Palace were trying to get a win which would take them into the top half of the table?

Steven Caulker, Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Jordon Mutch outnumber Sunderland's   John O'Shea - I reckon all  three of them will be at different clubs come September.*

Steven Caulker, Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Jordon Mutch outnumber Sunderland’s John O’Shea – I reckon all three of them will be at different clubs come September.*

For me a big part of the answer is down to our transfer dealings since our promotion was confirmed. Looking back now, Hull’s squad was better than ours on September 2 last year when the summer transfer window closed despite them having not spent anywhere near as much as we did – where we were going for “eye catching”, record breaking signings like Cornelius, Medel and Caulker, Steve Bruce was bringing in the likes of McGregor, Figueroa, Davies, Livermore and Huddlestone thereby giving his team a spine containing players with extensive Premier/Champions League experience.

With Palace it was different – Ian Holloway went for quantity over quality in the transfer market and ended up confusing himself. It needed the appointment of Tony Pulis to sort the wheat out from the chaff and get the likes of Puncheon and Chamakh performing. When Pulis got the chance to bring in his own players in January, his choices (ironically with the help of Iain Moody) looked better ones than the ones we made at the time and this has been confirmed by the events of the past three months.

That said, I still believe that we are at least the equal of Palace when it comes to talent and technique, but they’ve got us absolutely licked when it comes to organisation and tactical discipline while they also look to have the edge on team spirit – something that was such a plus for us until quite recently.

With Hull also adding to that spine I mentioned earlier with the arrivals of Jelavic and Long in January, it has to be said that the two teams who came up hanging on to our shirt tails are now miles clear of us. Ole didn’t buy well in January (despite the endorsements of Messrs Lim and Tan  and the “help” he had from the latter!), but,  he’s not as culpable in transfer terms as Malky Mackay is because he was only given  a fraction of the budget our former manager had a few months earlier. I still happen to believe that we would not be as badly off as we are now if Mackay had been allowed to get on with his job and was still in charge, but there is hardly anyone who has held an influential position at the club on or off the field in the past year who does not have some blame attached to them for our relegation (I suppose I should still qualify that word with the term “almost certain”, but I can’t be bothered) .

*Pictures courtesy of

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7 Responses to City linger on.

  1. Adrian Lloyd Pickrell says:

    Excellent post again Paul.
    Terribly sorry to hear about your cat. Mine was put to sleep back in 2003, also kidney failure and also 18 years old.

    2003 – Promotion year! QPR Extra time and all the thrills.
    2014 – very likely relegation year.
    There is not much point now in disecting, discussing and looking for positives or negatives. We have simply made a complete and utter hash of it. A Cardiff City that somehow looks and feels completely different to the Cardiff City of not so long ago.

    Best regards as always


  2. Graham T says:

    Yes, but .. and yesterday the better ‘team’ by far won .. but .. when the referee played advantage – I assumne that’s what he was doing, though it went on for ever like increasingly it does in rugby – if the player carrying on had scored, the goal obviously would have been allowed, and I don’t believe there would then have been a sending off for a silly little tug outside the box .. but down we will now go, and off some players will go .. what a waste this season has been .. can anyone suggest any positives?

  3. Dai Woosnam says:

    So sorry to hear of the loss of Tiga. We know in our house what the loss of a dearly-loved cat can mean.
    Not just our cat Jessie dying in December 2008, but LITERALLY losing our cat Millie in Sept 2012…or more accurately having her stolen by some low-life. (And I use that word stolen advisedly.)
    We spent several hundred pounds in poster and newspaper adverts about town…to no avail.
    So sincere commiserations.
    As for the City …
    Well, I cannot help thinking that all that I preach about, was there on display in the debacle at Sunderland.
    And the problems come from managers like MM and Ole obsessed with players making back passes and square passes, and goalkeepers rolling the ball out.
    And managers allowing their players to pull other players back and then NOT fining them 2 weeks wages!
    (Cardiff’s Princip-at-Sarajevo moment, was not the gutless defeat at Palace, but two weeks earlier at Villa Park, where City were holding Villa comfortably inside the last 20 minutes, until the vastly overpriced Medel stupidly pulled back a Villa player. Medel never learned…he did it again just a few games back.)
    Again, no fine from his new manager.
    It is rank bad management.
    Barcelona pull opponents back too. So that’s okay then say the Nou Camp obsessed current bunch of managers!
    This whole trendy nonsense INCENSES me.
    Cala should not be passing that ball back.
    He should be putting it straight into touch!
    Truth is, the whole game itself today depresses me.
    Look at Villa’s keeper with that stupid throw out on Saturday.
    And then the Gerrard slip yesterday!
    What was the point of the stupid square pass to him?
    Modern trendy madness.
    One final point: I was sad to see the City take the field at Sunderland in their unlucky blue strip.
    I had expected them to be kitted out in all daffodil yellow.
    Ah…I should hush my mouth Paul. Now is not the time for my attempts at off-beat humour!
    So I will close now.
    Again, so sorry about Tiga.

  4. Richard Holt says:

    Hi Paul. Sorry to hear about your cat. We’ve got a 15-year old tortoise-shell who arrived as a stray kitten in 1999 and has stayed around ever since. Despite her bad-tempered nature she’ll be missed when she finally goes.
    Your blog piece was bang on as ever. Sad truth is that no aspect of our club is anywhere near ‘Premier League’ in standard except maybe 4 or 5 of our playing squad. What happens from now on will be fascinating to the outsider but could be painful for us fans. Could be time to start writing ‘The Journey Back Down’ !. Richard.

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Firstly, thanks for the comments about Tiga. I’m definitely more of a dog person than a cat one and, being honest, I’m not feeling the loss as much as I do when one of my dogs die. I suppose this has something to do with the fact that my dogs (I’m currently on my sixth one!) have always been around much more than Tiga was – she used to disappear for hours (and occasionally days) on end, but there was definitely a bond with her (especially in her later years as she became more “clingy”).

    Graham, I won’t miss the Premier League refs at all (I hope we don’t see too many “stars” slumming it in the Championship at our matches next season), but I can’t get too worked up about what happened yesterday with the penalty – as Adrian and Richard said, we have cocked things up almost from the word go this season and Dowd only got involved because our centreback made such a dreadful error.

    Dai, I thought what happened with Gerrard yesterday was the sort of thing which makes sport so captivating – he may well have lost Liverpool the title in that one moment and yet this is the man who the whole thing was going to be dedicated to when his team captured the title that had become regarded as an inevitability. I can understand why the Liverpool centrebacks (neither of whom are particularly accomplished passers) would want to play short passes to Gerrard because he has been hitting some terrific balls from that deep position in recent weeks, but I’m more sympathetic with your views when we are talking about City because their attempts to play out from the back this season have been cumbersome and predictable and have generally ended with Marshall having to knock the ball long to Campbell who usually loses possession.

    Finally, City have worn yellow three times in league matches this season and lost them all!

  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Paul for your (as always) generous summing up.
    Re the “yellow vis-a-vis blue” thing: I had figured in advance that would be your response, as I too was aware that yellow had not been lucky once this season (and indeed Medel was wearing yellow when he caused the tipping point in the season with that crazy pull-back at Villa, for which a booking was nowhere near sufficient to correct the man’s ways). And as I said, I basically had the inside of my cheek suffering from bruising as I wrote that thing about yellow.
    But as with all jokes, there was a certain seriousness to it. And I was also implying that blue was hardly Cardiff’s lucky colour (any more than Vincent Tan’s disastrous RED is.) Remember that the boys were wearing blue when they were 91st in the league pyramid.
    Managers are crucial to any team.
    More important than any player.
    This season Cardiff have had two managers who were just not up to the job. And discipline is a VITAL area.
    Do you think Brian Clough would have stood for Dave Mackay pulling back opponents? Not in a million years! Indeed, as it was, he fined players for getting ANY bookings…let alone such criminal irresponsibility.
    And had Malky and Ole drummed it into the players that shirt tugging and passing back to the keeper (and thus putting him under immediate pressure) were just NOT ON …then Cardiff would have had Cala* on the field at half time at Sunderland, and be just one goal down.
    Looking back on the season, both managers bought disastrously. Malky overpaid many millions for moderate players at best. Ole has not had the millions to waste, but judging by what he has bought so far, we should be thankful for that!
    As I see it, only two signings in the past year have been any good: John Brayford (don’t get me started!) and Mats Daehli.
    As you say: they could do a Wolves next season (or a Northampton in the next four!).
    The manager is an affable guy for sure. But I do not like his football philosophy and I am pretty sure he is no motivator of men. Vincent and Mehmet need to realise that celebrity players seldom cut the mustard as managers.
    I would pay him off now…even if he does take the hugely promising Daehli with him. I fear he will become another Alan Durban ( a truly wonderfully intelligent player in his Derby County years, but a decidedly UN-intelligent Cardiff City manager).
    As for other managers…
    Look at Nigel Pearson and Sean Dyche. I will be amazed if they spend as rashly as Malky in the close season. Pulis has shown the way this year with his bangs for bucks.
    What else have those three last-named managers got in common?
    Why…they were only at best JOURNEYMEN players, of course!
    And as for Cradiff City playing personnel: I suggest they let the so-called star names go. Spurs knew what they were doing when they sold Steven Caulker. A nice chap, a real good athlete..but NEVER a top class central defender.
    Apparently Liverpool want him. Vincent should hold-out for the £15m they paid for the equally overrated Joe Allen.
    BTW Paul, any comments on Rudy Gestede? See that hat-trick of headers the other day? Amazing. Shows what a team can do with wingers crossing the ball. How much did City get for him? Seems hard luck really: all those years grooming him in the basics of the “English” game.
    *I subconsciously keep wanting to insert a superfluous R. I am not suggesting he plays like a girl, but pulling someone back by the arm would seem more the domain of a Carla than a Carl !!

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    My reply about the yellow kit was also tongue in cheek Dai – we’ve been so bad in most games that the colour shirts we’ve been wearing makes no difference.

    That leads me on your comments about Medel – there’s been so much wrong that I don’t see the point of pinning all that has happened down to one individual or incident. We’ve not been good enough on the pitch, in the dugout or in the Boardroom and, as I’ve said a few times before, the real challenge is finding someone on the playing staff, management and coaching side and at Board/CEO/owner level who is not culpable – the only names I come up with is David Marshall and, possibly, Mats Dæhli.

    I’d say Malky Mackay was a journeyman player as well and I don’t believe he is too dissimilar in tactical terms from the other three you mentioned. Mackay was given big money to spend last season and, in my opinion, did it well, but when he was given serious funds last summer he messed up. Pulis has done well on the transfer front at Palace, but some of his signings at Stoke when he was given more money to spend as they established themselves in the Premier League were a bit dubious (e.g. Tuncay, Kenwyne Jones, Palacios). As for Pearson and Dyche, well I don’t think the latter will be given big money to spend, but the former might and he may struggle as much as Mackay did – I don’t think buying the right players with an eight figure budget is as easy as it might seem to you and I.

    I think the sort of clubs who come in for Caulker and the amount we sell him for will tell us a lot about how good or bad a defender he is.

    I always fought Gestede’s corner on messageboards when he was frequently criticised as not being good enough for the Championship, but I have never been convinced he could be a Premier League player . Maybe I’m wrong though because he’s got some scoring record at Blackburn – I’d say he could be a better target man for us than Kenwyne “go through the motions” Jones.

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