At around lunchtime today Cardiff City announced on their official site that manager Dave Jones had left the club. What’s struck me about the statement was that there was none of this “by mutual agreement” stuff, the wording used reads like Jones was sacked and, certainly, that’s the way it is being reported in the media. Therefore, it would appear that our former manager wanted to stay, but the decision has been made to pay him off in full so, seemingly, we have already committed ourselves to almost £800,000 worth of expenditure through the next year.
If the news comes as a shock at all, it is because the longer the delay in announcing a decision went on the more likely it looked that we would be going into the new season with Dave Jones still in charge. The fact that he was, reportedly, invited to take part in the post season review into why he had not been able to deliver the promotion that so many employees at the club told us was what was expected in 2010/11 rather suggested that the decision on his future had not been taken yet when he set out his requirements for 2011/12.
If the club were, possibly, still open minded on how to proceed, that’s not the impression I got when it came to how supporters felt. Yes, there were still the Jones loyalists around who pointed out, not unreasonably I suppose, that when you look at where the club had been for much of the past forty years, Jones’ record of steady improvement in terms of league position and how close we have come to promotion in the past three years then it would be an act of folly to sack him. However, it seemed to me that throughout this season the tide had been turning against Dave Jones as it became more apparent that his “best ever squad” were, in reality, just like most of his recent ones – they were too inconsistent and showed a tendency to bottle it on the big occasion.
It only tends to be very good or very lucky managers who are able to leave a club with the praise of it’s supporters ringing in their ears, but, I think Dave Jones could have done if he had left in the aftermath of the FA Cup Final in 2008. As the going got tougher for him in the years following the Portsmouth match, critics tended to write off what happened that season because it was claimed that, Middlesbrough apart, we had no one to beat on the way to the Final – I never agreed with that (if it was so easy to get to a Final, how come we’ve only made it past the Fifth Round just the once since 1927?) and will always be very grateful to Dave Jones for his part in what was an outstanding achievement.
When you consider that Dave Jones was able to develop players like Jerome and bring in the likes of Loovens, Chopra and Johnson (who all made the club much needed millions when they were sold) in those early years as well as getting his teams to over achieve when you consider the squads he had during those first three seasons, I believe it’s fair to say that did a very good job during the first half of his Cardiff career.
It might appear strange when you think that we are talking about finishes of seventh, fourth and fourth here, but I don’t believe Dave Jones was as impressive in the latter half of his time with us. In saying that, none of those three seasons can be termed a disaster by any meaning of the word, but, speaking as someone who blamed the players more than him for the awful end to the 08/09 campaign and thought we were simply beaten by a more rounded and skilful team in Blackpool last year, it is plainly true that those two seasons ended in crushing disappointment and the suspicion that we lacked the necessary mental fortitude under Dave Jones to take the final step into the Premiership was born.
I’ve already given my opinion on here of Dave Jones’ 2010/11 season (suffice it to say now that I think it was his least impressive campaign at Cardiff by some distance), but there is no doubt in my mind that we are talking about one of only two candidates for the title of best Cardiff manager during the near half a century I have been supporting the club. I still edge towards Jimmy Scoular as the best because he was never given the financial backing that Dave Jones was but, in terms of league finishes, Jones never got involved in the sort of relegation scraps that Scoular did so it’s a very close run thing.
I lost faith in Dave Jones over the past six months, but it needs to be said that he was in an odd position in the latter years of his Cardiff reign because, although the club was constantly on the edge of financial oblivion, the way they sought to put things right on the money side was to gamble on the windfall of promotion to the Premiership being achieved. Therefore, for much of the time, Jones was given more money to spend than he should have really and it seems to me that, like a lot of managers, he was less impressive when he had money to spend than when he had to operate on limited resources.
So a genuine thank you and sincere good wishes to Dave Jones in the future. As to who should replace him, I just hope we can get someone who will build a club along the same sort of lines as Blackpool, Norwich and Swansea (who look to be on the brink of promotion as I type this – oh hang on Reading have just made it 3-2!) have done. That is with hungry, hard working, skillful players, without big egos, who play the game in the proper way – there are those who are claiming that one of the reasons Dave Jones left is that the club are going to go on an economy drive with budgets slashed, well those clubs I mentioned (as well as the likes of Watford and Doncaster) have prospered on budgets that were much smaller than ours, it just means that some of the old complacency will have to disappear and people at the club will have to start working that much harder.