Does there really always have to be a price to pay?


And it came to pass that in early November 2015, Russell Slade did climb Leckwith Hill and seek out the Great Football Manager in the sky. When he had succeeded in his quest, he said unto the Magnificent One;-

“Tell me, oh Lord who knows almost as much about football management as Jose Mourinho thinks he does, what can you do about making my Cardiff City team more entertaining to watch? Even I’m bored stiff when I watch them, what can you do to get fans like that b*stard who writes that Puce and Lemon Army, or whatever it’s called, blog to stop saying we are so awful to watch? We can only score goals when one of the opposition puts the ball in the net for us and I’m beginning to think that even Vincent Tan might run out of patience with me if the present situation continues”.

The Deity did not give an immediate reply, but stroked his chin thoughtfully and, about ten seconds later, he smiled suddenly and clicked his fingers. No words had been spoken, but Russell Slade was positive that his problem had been solved – those ungrateful sods who turned up for home games would be watching a different Cardiff City team and he would actually be able to stay awake for the whole ninety minutes when his team played from now on!

So it was that Cardiff beat Reading 2-0 a few days later and, for the first time, young City fans in the crowd that day saw their team play at times with a creativity and attacking flair that they could remember their fathers talking about when they sat on his knee as a child and listened to him rambling on about the team they would spend their lives supporting.

When Reading tried to do something about getting back into the game, an inspired David Marshall ensured they would not do so and, even though, on the face of it, things reverted to normal the following week when an impressive Derby team triumphed 2-0, Russell Slade had faith that the Magnificent One had saved him and his team – the Reading game had proved that.

Seven days later when Cardiff were leading a strong Burnley side 2-0 with five minutes to go having played as well in a home game as his team had ever done, Mr Slade just knew his faith had been rewarded. Even when Burnley got a goal back, he was certain that all he needed to do was make a totally irrelevant and pointless substitution – the Magnificent One would see to the rest. It was, of course, unfortunate that Burnley equalised with virtually the last kick of the game, but it was with such a freakish and unfortunate own goal – there were some things that even the Magnificent One couldn’t control!

The next match surely proved that there was every reason to believe the Great Football Manager in the Sky had not let Russell Slade down. Cardiff kept on playing with attacking verve and no little skill in winning 3-2 at Bolton – they certainly rode their luck at times, but, thanks to the Magnificent One, they prevailed and, once again, no one could complain about a lack of entertainment.

This brings us up to the present day and the home match with Sheffield Wednesday that finished less than a day ago. For a time during this game, Cardiff played as well in an attacking sense as they have done in years and as the match went into it’s final half an hour, the only slight concern was that it had not been rewarded with more than the two goals Russell Slade’s team led by. Never mind, the Cardiff manager reasoned, he could just sit back, make another irrelevant and pointless substitution, and let the Magnificent One take care of the rest.

The trouble was however, Sheffield snatched a couple of goals to draw level and a magnificently entertaining game finished 2-2 with some of the home crowd booing at the end because their team had, once again, let a two goal lead slip.

Russell Slade was mystified after the final whistle as he asked himself why does the Magnificent One give with one hand and then take away with the other? He could not, or didn’t want to, see that the God had delivered all that he had been asked to, but there were still the things in any game that Mr Slade had not mentioned to the Magnificent One to be taken care of every week and there was no one but himself who was going to be responsible for those.

Apologies for the long preamble to this piece, but I thought of it as the best way to attempt to rationalise what I have found to be a truly odd last five games for the City team.

If you’d have told me the day before we played Reading that, within five weeks, Russell Slade’s Cardiff City team would be involved in a game that was as watchable and wonderfully entertaining as yesterday’s turned out to be, I think my response would have been hysterical laughter. However, by the same token, if you’d have told me at the same time that yesterday’s game would be the second successive one at home in which we’d let a two goal lead well into the second half slip away, I just would not have believed you.

After along run in which he went past three defenders, Tony Watt is brought down by visiting keeper Keiran Westwood for the penalty which gave us the lead - Watt again impressed, but after misses at 2-0 and 2-2 probably feels that he should have scored at least two goals for us by now.*

After a long run in which he went past three defenders, Tony Watt is brought down by visiting keeper Keiran Westwood for the penalty which gave us the lead – Watt again impressed, but after misses at 2-0 and 2-2 probably feels that he should have scored at least two goals for us by now.*

That’s the thing about the remarkable transformation we’ve seen recently, while we have found a creativity and attacking verve which I thought the present squad didn’t possess, there has been a price to pay on the defensive side – we are no longer doing what we were good at when we were boring.

Of course, credit should be given to the Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday teams who played their part in making our last two home games such enjoyable, but, ultimately frustrating, occasions.

Yesterday, Sheffield played the sort of neat, patient, passing game you associate with the country their manager Carlos Carvalhal comes from. However, in the first half, after an opening few minutes in which they probably had the better of things, the only time they really threatened was when Joao deflected a cross from the right onto a post .

With the ball bouncing from the upright straight into David Marshall’s hands, City enjoyed some luck on that occasion, but, if anything, it was the visitors who needed to be counting their blessings at the interval because, besides the two goals brought about by City’s more forceful and direct running with the ball, the home side had also seen Aron Gunnarsson waste a chance created by the impressive Tony Watt, Watt foiled by keeper Westwood and then, in the same attack, Kenwyne Jones denied a third City goal by a correct offside decision and Anthony Pilkington, who had scored in classy style to make it 2-0, head wastefully over after Craig Noone, scorer of the first from the penalty spot, had done so well to beat his man and get a good cross in.

There was no doubting that Wednesday were heading for a defeat which could conceivably turn out to be a heavy one. Something had to be done, and Carvalhal reacted by taking midfielder Keiran Lee off and replacing him with on loan Norwich striker Gary Hooper. This change saw Hooper and Joao paired up front and Fernando Forestieri dropping back to play just behind the two of them in a 4-4-2 diamond.

This change left Carvalhal’s team slightly more open to counter attacks and the early signs were that City would benefit more from it as, breaking with surprising pace and skill, they came close to what would surely have been a decisive third goal. During this spell of dominance, Noone, Gunnarsson, Jones and Pilkington all had opportunities of varying difficuly to score and, as Wednesday, began to get their own attacking game together to some extent, it looked certain that the match would not finish at 2-0.

In the first half, Wednesday’s attacking duo had looked a little isolated at times as promising looking attacks were snuffed out fairly easily by the City defence. With Forestieri beginning to pull the strings in a position which enabled the visitors to play to their strengths though, the game was gradually changing and the writing was very much on the wall when Russell Slade decided to make a change.

Earlier on, I mentioned a “totally irrelevant and pointless substitution” made in the closing stages of the Burnley game. This was when Russell Slade took off Kenwyne Jones and brought on Federico Macheda with the score at 2-1 with City, surely, primarily concerned with holding on to their lead for the few minutes that remained. It seemed to me at the time, and still does now, that the better move would have been to utilise someone like Bruno Manga as a third centreback or to use him just in front of the two centrebacks, but it seems Russell, 4-4-2, Slade has to have his two strikers on the pitch at all times.

That central area just in front of our back four was where yesterday’s match got away from us, our central midfield two were often chasing shadows as they lunged at players a fraction of a second after a short pass had been played on to someone else.

This led to free kicks being conceded in dangerous areas and that familiar feeling for any City fan who has watched us regularly over the past seven or eight years of our central midfield being overrun as we persisted with a 4-4-2 formation putting in another showing.

Slade’s reaction was as irrelevant and pointless as it had been against Burnley, but it was also completely predictable – he swapped a striker for a striker.

Before developing this theme further, I’d like to give an opinion about Kenwyne Jones’ display yesterday which, judging by some of the things I’ve read on messageboards in recent hours, I think some will disagree with.

For me, Kenwyne had a so-so first half, but he was well to the fore when we were on top in the quarter of an hour after half time and for Slade to bring him off when he did just seemed wrong at the time – certainly, a couple of people sat by me felt like that, but, possibly because I was enjoying the game so much, I defended the decision mentioning that we didn’t know if the player had been hampered by injury or illness during training last week.

I must say now that, if there was no such injury or illness, then the decision to withdraw Kenwyne made as little sense to me as it did to my two friends, but it was more the introduction of Sammy Ameobi that should be questioned.

Barry Bannan's shot hits the City net and we have lost a two goal lead once again. While it could be dismissed as a one off after the Burnley game, it cannot be dismissed as easily now and, no matter how little time there is left, a one or two goal lead is not going to seem safe for City until we rediscover how to see out games.+

Barry Bannan’s shot hits the City net and we have lost a two goal lead once again. While it could be dismissed as a one off after the Burnley game, it cannot be dismissed as easily now and, no matter how little time there is left, a one or two goal lead is not going to seem safe for City until we rediscover how to see out games.+

While, on one level, I can see that Ameobi’s pace could be effective as City looked to break, the truth, as I saw it, was that Ralls, Gunnarsson and a defence that has now leaked eight goals in four matches needed help forty yards or so behind where Ameobi was stationed.

In my view, Mango or Stuart O’Keefe coming on to ensure that our opponents didn’t always tend to have an extra man in that area about thirty yards from our goal would have been the much more sensible move.

Now, I daresay some would say this was negative, but I’d answer that by saying we were consistently able to exploit a lack of pace in the Wednesday rearguard which makes me wonder about their prospects of a top six finish and I think we would still have had opportunities to score again even if we were operating with one striker or a single winger.

I should say as well, that Fabio for Pilkington with the score at 2-2 hardly seemed like the move of a manager trying to win a game. So it could be argued that, when we needed to look to tighten things up a bit, Russell Slade opted for an attacking, or keep things the same, switch and when we needed a goal, he reduced our attacking options!

All of this means that, while part of me is grateful to Russell Slade for bringing back an entertainment factor which has got me looking forward to games in the hours before kick off again, it’s almost as if he (or the Magnificent One!) is telling us that there has to be this price to pay for this. The trouble I have with that is that I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of managers out there who are able to produce teams that are able to switch between entertainment and a more pragmatic approach easily enough during the course of ninety minutes.

*picture courtesy of

+picture courtesy of

This entry was posted in Down in the dugout, Out on the pitch and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Does there really always have to be a price to pay?

  1. Paul’s ecclesiastical tale of Russell Slade appealing to “the Great Football Manager in the sky”, as well as having a biblical ring of truth is also very entertaining. I particularly like his wit in describing the great deity “who knows as much about football management as Jose Mourinho thinks he does”. Brilliant! But, clearly, our earthbound manger has not travelled very far along the Road to Damascus. In fact, I was reminded of the proverb from Ancient Greece : “Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” And by the end of the game yesterday, everyone associated with Cardiff City must have felt as mad as a rat in a trap. At 2 -1 we could all see “a Second Coming” – in other words, that Sheffield Wednesday were likely to score again. Yet, there had been so much to praise in Cardiff’s original approach.
    Tony Watt, for example, is to be applauded for his positive running. I need to say here that I have been – quite rightly – chastised for making scatological references to his name on this very site. I had occasion to phone a certain Mr Woosnam – no, not the loquacious Dai, but his elder brother, who with scholarly firmness reinforced the sense of embarrassment I already felt in flippantly writing Tony Watt’s name in the way I did. It was uncalled for, and I didn’t even have the excuse of thinking the word I chose actually meant “an Old Nun’s ” hat, unlike Robert Browning when he used the infamous “tw” word which actually rhymes with “hat”. My renewed apologies to all readers of this blog and to Tony Watt himself (and to Robert Browning for drawing attention to his innocent error).
    Moving on from “mea culpa, Tony Watt’s running was a revelation – proof that our beloved team has at last found someone (as with Idriss Saadi) who provides much of what we have been missing all season. (I won’t ask what has taken so long?)
    Craig Noone’s penalty and Pilkington’s brilliant run and composure for our second goal made me feel somewhat akin to another of Browning’s most famous words in “Pipa Passes”, the poem mentioned above: “God’s in His Heaven, All’s right with the world.” But at the same time the ghost of Doubting Thomas began to take hold. As we all suspected, Cardiff let their two goal lead slip away like water from a perforated kettle.
    What went wrong?
    We can all look for reasons, including tactical decisions, a capricious and powerful wind, and so on, but I also feel that our players in general were deficient in basic ball skills (Not another scatological reference, by the way!) With their lack of “touch” they were forced to hit aimless balls into the air, whereas our opponents displayed more obvious skill and some slick interpassing which enabled them to dominate the latter parts of the game. Control of a difficult ball is something that can be improved with regular targeted practice – and I hope to see some brilliant football on Tuesday night, and an impressive victory – for Cardiff, of course.

  2. PS.
    In my haste I left out the word “almost” in reproducing Paul’s early words – and “almost” makes his statement even more humorous and even more telling.

  3. Geoff Lewis says:

    Excellent comments by both of you in relation to yesterday’s game. I missed this one due to the great lord in his wisdom, passing the dreaded man flu to one of his ex catholic boys!
    On checking the score at half time we seemed to be doing well and were in full control, but someone else had said the same thing on one of the message boards and the reply was don’t forget the Burnley game!
    Yes I too thought of it and then it was 2-1, I said to my wife we will once gain throw it away and either draw or lose the game. This is Cardiff, how many other teams in the Football league give away a 2 nil lead not many!!
    Tactical changes do not appear to be Slade’s or his support staff in their personal development plan. He should have brought on Manga or O’keefe and stiffen up the defence, alas he brings on Ameobi a striker to replace Jones. All this hype about this guy at the beginning of the season of how he would be a great asset to the side. He his a load of crap. These so called scouts should go to Specsavers.
    Roll on Brentford game as I hope to make this one.

  4. gale says:

    We a manager who can kick this team into not giving away 2-0 leads my son Anthony a ccfc fan now in heaven must b turning in his grave when he watches games I know we arnt losing but we must hold onto winning scores

  5. Adrian Lloyd Pickrell says:

    Superb Report as always, but this time the opening phase had me falling off my chair with laughter. Really made my day and I would have been quite happy reading on about “The Magnificent One” but I suppose we all have to come back down to earth and discuss the game at some time.
    I remember commenting on this blog before the season started that I would be simply hoping for some more excitement this season; well it took a long while but we are getting some excitement now. However, I would much prefer it if City were the team who, after finding themselves two down, then manage to fight back to 2-2. It would still only be one point and not three but I somehow think we would all feel a little more satisfied. The win last week was quite exciting and three useful Points..but it was still against the bottom Team in the Championship.
    We seem to have gone from “not scoring goals and not letting any in” to “scoring goals and then letting the same amount in”. As Gale said above…now all we need to learn is …how to hold on to a realatively comfortable lead!

    Oh well, next time perhaps.
    In two weeks I will be flying over for the Forest game so I hope it will be a cracker.

    Best wishes
    ps. I liked the white shorts we wore last week .. we should wear them more often.

  6. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thank you all for the replies and the first thing I should do is send belated condolences to gale.
    Enjoyed your message AMO – although I seem to remember that Marcus Browning was an answer to one of the quiz questions once, I believe yours is the first reference to poets or poetry in the blog’s existence!
    You got me thinking with your reference to our players ball skills. I think it’s fair to say that we did suffer in that department compared to our opponents on Saturday. However, I would defend the team to an extent by saying that we looked, and succeeded quite often, to play at a higher pace than Wednesday did and controlling the ball becomes harder when the ball is moved quickly – either way, the contrast in styles between the two teams was, for me, one of the things that made the game such a good spectacle.
    Geoff, hope you make it to tomorrow’s match – the way our last two home games have panned out has been frustrating, but, I must say that they and the Reading game have got me back to the situation where I’m looking forward to games beforehand again, so that has to be progress from last season.
    Adrian, your chances of seeing a decent game in a fortnight’s time have increased dramatically recently, but I’m not sure your chances of seeing us win have! Agree with you completely about the white shorts.

  7. Barry cole says:

    I will be straight to the point, slade is out of his depth, tactically nieve and unable to see an effective substitution.
    We have a team that could easily make the top two but slade has already lost us 4 home points in two games by not managing the game And not having a plan B to counteract opposition changes.
    I can’t believe if tan is a businessman that he hasn’t Sussed the likelihood he could lose a lot of money keeping slade in place

  8. Dai Woosnam says:

    Was it not Chairman Mao who said that the secret of indoctrination was to “catch them young”?
    That is what The Bluebirds need to do, in this age of computer games and a TV in the bedroom of just about every kid these days.
    And I hope that our Great Benefactor, Mr Vincent Tan, will try this idea of mine on for size.
    It goes as follows…
    As I predicted on his appointment, Mr Slade would not pull up any trees. And he has not. That said of course, there are many worse managers.
    And with the affable Russell’s inherent limitations in mind, I see no prospect of any team of his being attractive and successful enough to re-open and fill those red seats that “glass half FULL” people like me think of as VINCENT’S VISION …rather than the hugely negative, ungrateful and insulting description that is TAN’S FOLLY.
    (I fancy the biggest folly of Mr Vincent Tan, was to ever buy into the myth that South Walians are a warm-hearted people…but hey, that is another issue, and not one that I want to concern myself with here.)
    So can anyone suggest a short term plan to fill Vincent’s Vision? (No jokes please, folks! You know, good knockabout stuff along the lines of …”let’s bus inmates from Cardiff Prison.
    Trouble is, that many would immediately file claims with the European Court for Human Rights at Strasbourg, claiming that they had been subjected to a cruel and unnecessary punishment.”)
    I have a suggestion. And this is where Chaiman Mao – from whom I have Daigressed – comes in.
    What is to stop our club deciding to throw it open GRATIS to kids of ages 9-11 for Saturday afternoon matches. The club could provide the buses from and to their schools. Obviously, the kids would need to be accompanied by schoolteachers, and there is a likelihood that many militant NUT members would see it as unpaid work, and not want to attend. But I am equally sure that many schools in our catchment area, would happily go into the hat for the draw for free seats at a Saturday afternoon home game.
    And the same offer of a free seat in “Vincent’s Vision” and buses for MIDWEEK games could be made to all the Youth Clubs and YMCAs in our catchment area.
    That way, catching them young, you will have fans for life.
    Because it is an incontrovertible fact that most things are habit forming…and going to watch a soccer match on a Saturday afternoon is up there with cigarettes, slow horses and fast women, on the Richter Scale of addictions.
    As it is, seeing all those empty seats is as demoralising as playing for Malky’s beloved Queen’s Park must have felt – before one man and his dog – in the old Hampden Park that held 100,000 fans!
    And finally from me, a word about the wisdom (or otherwise) of some people’s shtick of constantly calling for the head of a manager.
    Forget the fact that Newcastle fans look boorish idiots now, when you consider the way they hounded Alan Pardew.
    And forget the fact that those smug Chelsea fans who held those shameful banners calling for Benitez to be sacked, are maybe going to get their karma this season (though I fear alas that Chelsea will not get relegated but finish instead about 7th !)
    Forget the fact that if I want to slit my veins, I can get all the motivational force I require, from my collection of Leonard Cohen LPs…and not need to be brought down to the depths of despair by the “Coco out” brigade.
    That is a given.
    But what I am saying here is this: come on chaps, if you want our MANAGER to raise his game, we must raise ours too.
    And not sound like we are in a direct line if descent from Judge Jeffreys.

    Kindest, as ever,
    Dai Woosnam

  9. Dai Woosnam says:


  10. Dai Woosnam says:

    Oh dear…I did so well avoiding typos…on my dreaded iPad keyboard, to boot !!
    And then go and spoil it all in the very last sentence by saying something stupid like…
    “Direct line if descent”.
    That man QWERTY has a lot to answer for…putting the letter “i” next to “o”, when there are mobidly obese blighters like me, with fingers as fat as Kylie Minogue’s well turned ankle.
    I shall have to invest in a stylus.

  11. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for the further comments and apologies for what is a very brief reply – I’ve got an appointment this morning and, after missing one last week because I got too into my response to one of the messages posted on here, I can’t let it happen again!

    Dai, I should know the exact details about this, but the club had a discount for children accompanied by an adult to games last month – not sure if they were allowed in free or they had to pay a very small amount, but the gates were up by only about a thousand. On Saturday there were normal prices and despite good entertainment from the last two home matches and a big contingent of away fans, the attendance was back to the usual figure – I would expect it to be lower again tonight.

  12. Dai,
    An interesting reference to Chairman Mao. I don’t know if, in his Little Red Book, Mr Corbyn has noticed this thought, but as a good Britisher I need to point out that we got there first (more or less) – or rather, Baden Powell did, in his book ambiguously entitled “Searching For Boys”.

    I was one who took advantage of the November scheme of allowing children of season ticket holders to watch two games for free. All I can say is that my 12 year old and 13 year old granddaughters thoroughly enjoyed the novel experience and would love to see it repeated. Doing it via season ticket holders would also remove one of the objections to Dai’s scheme – namely the likely uproar from season ticket holders who had paid for children’s tickets, on realising that other children would be allowed in free. Also, the additional numbers might have been small, but perhaps the terrible weather also did something to reduce the crowd. At any rate, the atmosphere in both games, especially the first, was to my mind a lot better than usual.

  13. Like Dai, I ‘ve just noticed something worse than a mere typo – Baden Powell’s book was called “Scouting For Boys”. I hasten to add that my error was not a Freudian slip.

  14. Dai Woosnam says:

    “AMO” O’Brien rightly mentions the schemes currently operating. Impressive, but preaching to the converted slightly. Many current season ticket holders have already blooded their children/grandchildren, before the advent of these schemes, and the chances are that those kids could well have been paying customers were it not for a gratis ticket on the day.
    No …what I am talking about is reaching out to those kids/youths who have never been to watch Cardiff City…and that is where the “pulling the name from a hat thing” comes in.
    Do not worry AMO…there would be no objection to them getting free travel and admission, as it would be just the once every season that a school/youth club could be pulled from the hat. They would not be eligible for a second free visit to Vincent’s Vision in the same season.
    And remember the catchment area is huge. From Caerau at the top of the Llynfi Valley down to Porthcawl in the west to the Sirhowy Valley – indeed the Western Valley – down to Marshfield in the east.
    Will sign off now.
    A well-wisher has just been in touch to ask whether mobidly obese is thinner than morbidly obese.
    Oh dear, I am like a boxer who has had too many fights.
    Typos are following me, like knockdowns.
    Oh truly, I need a rest.
    Kindest, Dai.

Comments are closed.