It had to happen I suppose.

Unless you’re lucky enough to born in certain areas of England, anyone who decides when they’re young to support their local club (or takes an illogical decision to stick with an “unfashionable” team they have no obvious connection with) soon realises that they are in for a footballing lifetime where you spend so much of your time disappointed, resigned and sometimes jealous.

That’s the lot of someone who supports a team outside of the select few – the bad/indifferent times comfortably outweigh the good ones, but I would argue that the good ones are so much more enjoyable when they come along because you take them for what they are and you never get blase about them.

So, any Cardiff City and Wales supporter should have been thoroughly pleased with how the 2017/18 season had gone as September approached it’s end – their club was top of the league having just demolished previous incumbents Leeds and their country was coming with a late run which looked like it would deliver the hoped for automatic qualification/Play Off spot.

Since last night’s so tepid 1-0 defeat by Birmingham at St. Andrews, I’ve read quite a bit about what an awful week it’s been for the City supporting Wales fan, but I beg to differ – it’s been an awful fortnight.

Certainly in an attacking sense, City’s performance in the home 0-0 draw with Derby was very poor by the standards they had set for themselves up till then as, a Junior Hoilett shot tipped over the bar apart, they barely put the visitor’s defence under any pressure. Wales’ win in Georgia was enjoyable at the time of course, but those who decide these things had  deemed that it would only be a fleeting (if three days can be called fleeting!) moment of pleasure before inflicting on us the devastation that was Monday’s defeat by Ireland.

Now, four days later, the thought that moods could be improved as City showed those neutrals watching on Sky that they were the real deal and would be up there contesting the top spots for the duration of the season was well and truly extinguished. Instead, we offered those who argue that we will soon fade back into the mid table mediocrity from whence we came, all of the ammunition they needed to back up that argument – on second thoughts, mid table mediocrity is being a bit generous based on our last two games!

That last comment only serves to prove how easy it is for the modern football fan to slip back into negativity after a couple of setbacks, because, by any standards you wish to use, it still has been a very good first dozen games for City. However, the world is full of platforms like this one these days where everyone has the opportunity to get their views across for public consumption if they are so minded.

Of course, taken as a whole, this has to be a good thing, but even as someone who churns out overlong analysis’ of every game City play at first team level and many more at the levels below that, I do sometimes have a hankering for the world of thirty or forty years ago whereby City played on a Saturday, you read about it a couple of hours later in the Football Echo, chatted about it for a while on your night out, read the match reports in the Sunday and Monday papers and then life returned to “normal” for a few days as your football team took a back seat again.

These days with access to platforms where you can talk until your hearts content about your team twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, football seems to be more of the life or death business that Bill Shankly famously spoke about than it was for most normal people at the time the ex Liverpool manager made his semi serious point.

One of the consequences of the increased part football plays in so many people’s lives these days is that it is so much easier for an air of crisis to develop over your club even at a time when they still sit at the top of their league – for a few hours more at least.

Returning to the theme I began with, I know that I should have a sense of perspective over what has happened over the past fortnight because it exemplifies what being a Cardiff City and Wales fan is all about. From a City viewpoint, I should be able to take our loss of form and momentum (I don’t see how you can be said to have momentum when you have only won two out of your last seven games) in my stride, but I find it increasingly hard to do so – it’s so daft a sixty one year old talking like this, but I honestly don’t think I’m alone in feeling like I do.

I’m happy to say that this blog has a dedicated and high quality group of correspondents who provide their thoughts and insights on here on a regular basis – if there are people out there who judge this site a success, then they play a full part in making it so.

However, and I hope I’m not offending anyone here, I think it’s fair to say that there aren’t many of them who’ll see fifty again – nothing wrong with that at all (I’m hardly in a position to say anything different am I!), but it does suggest that it’s not just the young, with their dependence on and knowledge of all of forms of social media, who are contributing to this different football landscape that exists today.

Reflecting on last night’s match, I find myself wondering what I would have said if we had managed to score from one of that series of late corners we forced and so escaped with a thoroughly undeserved point. I mention this because, in this 24/7 football environment, my feeling is that the result has become more all important than it once was, or to put it better, I’m talking about a time when it seemed that it was easier to take consolation in your team’s performance when they had lost.

Because the result is all important these days. I would probably have praised the team’s  ability to eke out a draw when they didn’t look like getting one and that they had shown the sort of resilience that sides need if they are to finish in the Championship’s top six. While those comments would have an element of truth to them, I’d like to think that I would also have been honest enough to say that, draw or no draw, we stand no chance of finishing in an automatic promotion or Play Off spot if we keep on playing like that.

However, wouldn’t I then just be doing my bit to talk up a crisis in the manner I mentioned earlier? Yes, I suppose I would be, but there are some things that hold true whether they happened in the more measured 70s and 80s or in the 2010s where patience seems to be in such short supply.

No matter how you try to dress it up, City were pretty awful last night – not worst performance ever awful or worst performance under this manager awful (think some might argue differently there mind!). However, we were awful by the standards this group of players have set for themselves and by the standards we have become used to under this manager.

A year ago, we beat an in form and high riding Bristol City side in front of the Sky cameras in Neil Warnock’s first game in charge – the wurzels were shaken by the intensity of our play and could have few complaints about the outcome. Last night offered a mirror image of that evening except this time we were the side at the top end of the table up against struggling opponents who were playing for the first time under a new manager.

To be frank, Bristol didn’t cope with the challenge put in front of them very well a year ago, but I would say they made a better fist of it than we did last night. In my piece on Wales’ defeat on Monday, I admitted that I found it hard to write in the same way as I normally do because it was such a woeful game played between two evenly matched, but very poor on the night, sides.

Last night was slightly different because one side played pretty well. Birmingham had the urgency, motivation and power that you would normally expect from us (especially under this manager) and were well worth their win, but they won’t face many sides as listless, off the pace and careless as we were over the coming weeks, so maybe their supporters shouldn’t start talking about things like corners turned just yet.

The only saving grace I can find from last night is that our efforts in the early weeks of the campaign have put us in a position where we can turn in displays like the ones we’ve seen in our last two games without it doing us too much harm, but, with a very tough looking trip to Middlesbrough coming up next weekend, we cannot afford this dramatic drop off in performance levels to continue much longer.

It’s odd, at the levels below the first team, City sides cannot stop scoring at the moment – the last two age group matches I watched finished in 4-3 wins, the Under 18s won their last match 6-2 and the Development team have scored eleven times in their last three outings. However, if you add Wales v Ireland to City’s last two first team games, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times when our opponents will have feared conceding a goal.

In recent weeks, there has been something of a debate about “the Warnock way” as the fact that we are bottom of the Championship stats for passing and possession percentages is balanced against us being at the top of the shots per game figures. Up until the Derby game, our manager has been able to, legitimately, use the latter to answer criticisms of the former, but two shots on target in our last two games tells it’s own story doesn’t it.

Our manager is a throwback in many ways and, while he is right of course, his mantra that we should not get too carried away by our wins or too down about our losses is not, as discussed earlier, one that is followed by too many these days. However, there is a fine dividing line between not being too reactive and allowing things to drift – I believe that there are a few signs that the latter may be happening with City.

It’s ironic that the last goal City scored came from a superb example of pass and move football against Leeds. At the time, it could be seen both as a justification of the Warnock Way and one in the eye for those critics who said we can only play one way, but two hundred and ten minutes of playing time later, the stark fact is that we have not come close to anything that even remotely matches it. The front three that had terrorised defences in August are not playing as well as they were, so have to take some responsibility for our toothless displays against Derby and Birmingham, but ever since that great Zohore goal put us 3-0 ahead against Leeds, we’ve looked like the worst passing team in the league.

The danger is that we are getting into a situation whereby our strikers need better service to get back to form and start producing the goal attempt figures we had got used to, but our passing is not of a good enough quality to provide that service in sufficient quantity – while our front three were on fire we could get away with things, but the potential drawbacks of our manager’s liking for “bread and butter” central midfielders have been brought more into focus recently.

There has been enough proof over the past year that the Warnock Way can be effective, but I’ve always maintained that the type of game that entails becomes very easy to defend against if standards drop in terms of intensity, fitness and motivation. Once “long passes” played with a degree of accuracy turn into aimless boots forward (as it was for too much of last night), then opponents know that a Cardiff midfield do not have a great deal to hurt them with.

To the end, with even the player himself admitting after the Leeds game that he no longer has the legs to play there on a medium to long term basis, it’s hard to see why Sol Bamba is still in our midfield when we had two players on the bench last night who were regulars in that area of the pitch when we were playing so well in August.

I refer to the home game with Villa last season quite often on here and one of the reasons for a win that I believe was a pivotal part of turning around our season was that Bamba was very influential in the sort of role he has been filling in recent games – he was against Leeds as well, but, just as was the case against Derby and Birmingham this season, his further appearances in that position last year were not anywhere near as successful.

Other recent oddities for me include the fact that, for all of the talk about the much stronger bench he now has, Neil Warnock has taken an awful long time to make substitutions among his strikers/wingers in our last two games despite our complete lack of an end product.

Presumably, our manager’s reluctance to make attacking substitutions earlier and the introduction of Aron Gunnarsson for Craig Bryson last night means that he thinks that our midfield is more the problem area, but, in that case, you have to ask why, when we were losing, didn’t he introduce our most creative substitute, Lee Tomlin?

I don’t think Tomlin has done that well in his recent substitute appearances and I realise that Liam Feeney did provide the assist on his debut for Danny Ward’s goal at Fulham, but the continued preference for the Blackburn loanee over a player who was, arguably, the best number ten in the Championship when he was at Middlesbrough baffles me.

Reading this back, I’m struck by how downbeat it is and, as mentioned earlier, I feel I could be accused of trying to create a crisis where there isn’t one, but, about a month ago, I ended one of my post match articles by saying that I couldn’t see this squad going the same way as the one in 06/07 which set a cracking pace at the top of the league only to crash and burn to finish below half way. After our last two matches though, I’m not as sure about this squad’s resilience as I once was.

Eleven years ago, it all starting going wrong in November (Dave Jones’ favourite month of the year!) as our goal attempts figures absolutely plummeted (from memory we had less than ten on target efforts in our five games that month) – currently we’re probably the Championship’s worst for attempts on target, as well being it’s worst passers.







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9 Responses to It had to happen I suppose.

  1. Barry Cole says:

    Paul I think you must have a crystal ball. Firstly I am one of those supporters who could have supported my local team which of course included Man Utd , Man City, Liverpool , Everton and even Leeds yuk.
    No,none of these , held a candle for my sudden move to Cardiff city. My father , a Blackpool and spurs fan , my mother a WBA and spurs fan wondered why I was so interested in a transfer concerning Trevor Ford.
    I would listen initially to the radio and then the football results for one result , Cardiff city.
    Dad decided that I needed to get this out of my system and so on one bonfire night we travelled by bus to the seaside to watch Blackpool versus Cardiff.
    I was placed in the standing location around the centre of the ground in the middle of the Blackpool supporters .
    Within 3 minutes the boys in blue had taken the lead and suddenly I was elated as I jumped in the air then looked around as the eyes of the supporters turned on me.
    That elation didn’t take long to disappear as we capitulated to lose 6-1.
    That set the scene for the next 60 years, with more downs than ups.
    Yes we had a great period at certain times but usually followed by even worse periods.
    So did I see the result coming last night, you would have thought so, but I really didn’t and yet not only were we completely out played but never had a shot on goal.
    Now the comparison with the Leeds game when I am sure that the independent follower would have had nothing but praise for our football would have looked at this and wonder which team in blue was at the top of the league.
    The players just never got going and the passing was atrocious.
    I am not going to delve deeply into the blame culture but whether the team that was chosen was the correct one I have my doubts. What I am not privy too is the internal goings on and my thoughts are just my thoughts without any inside information.
    Everyone seems to be having a go at zahore but to me the service he gets is deplorable.
    Hoilett was not at the races and Mendez Lang hadn’t even got out of the horse box.
    The midfield didn’t get a grip and therefore the service up front was not what needed last night and similar the derby game.
    Bryson was like a headless chicken but the one that was just out of his depth was Bamba and I don’t like saying it. You hit the nail on the head when you state that having a good bench but one that isn’t being used early enough is spot on.
    Bamba should have departed at half time and tomlin put on to provide creativity. His continual bad passing in the second half just did not give any of the forwards enough to create any serious attack.
    I am not here to offer any advice to NW as he will know the position much better but there were a lot of poor performances last night and I hope the players on the bench will now be given their chance.
    Back to Bamba there is no doubt that he is far better in central defence but thinking aloud his defensive midfield role should only be used in emergency.
    I was so pleased when warnock was appointed and that hasn’t changed but he is now in a position where he has to get the players motivated again.
    I know that the right result was a Birmingham win but there were three definite penalties last night and two of those should have gone to Cardiff. We do seem unlucky when the refs call is never going our way in most games, especially away from home.

  2. BJA says:

    Good morning Paul and everyone else – What an awful night, following a personal awful day ( but I won’t go into the reasons why). Since our somewhat lax performance against Derby, I have become one year older, and if the City continue to non perform like they did last night in such a frustrating fashion in the next few months, I doubt that my ageing body will stand up to the woes that such performances will bring. But I really do want to celebrate what will be my ….th.
    You write so much sense. In the early fifties, to cycle down from Ely, leave the bike in a Broad Street garden for 3 old pence and watch my heroes always put in a shift, win or lose, wait for the Football Echo and catch up on all the football news was somewhat magical. Now we have wall to wall football and I can’t wait to catch up on the latest news, even going on various web sites many, many times daily for the latest. And after the great let down of Monday, I was constantly seeking news of not only our lot, but of the Brummies to see what effect Mr Cotterill would have on their under performing bunch. Now we know! But I really did not see that coming.
    From the off we were second best just about everywhere. Slow to react, out of position, little ball control, and back to the hoof it up the middle or wherever syndrome. Mis-directed passes were prevalent and fouls aplenty.
    Almost all were poor, but sadly Bamba was probably the worst and this after being so often a hero on so many occasions. At the base of midfield is not his best position, and Barry is correct in suggesting that he should have been replaced after 45 minutes.
    I continually feel sorry for Zahore. When he occasionally received the ball, and it was occasionally, he offered a threat. But somehow the rest of the team have forgotten how to use his strengths.
    As you allude, two wins out of seven will not see us anywhere near the top of the Championship, and NW and his backroom staff have some serious thinking to do before ‘Boro. He may back the starting eleven again, but somehow I doubt it. I see changes ahead.

  3. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Birmingham’s style of play last night was often reminiscent of “the Warnock way” in the manner in which long and accurate through balls were provided for the striking force. However, Birmingham’s “long passes” (to use Paul’s phrase) tended to be well-timed and well-placed, and were picked up by speedy and skilful strikers. Even high balls were won most frequently against our central defenders by the Birmingham attack force and by their own defenders when free kicks and corners were booted into their goal area. (It perhaps goes without saying that the aerial threat from our own strikers, as usual, was never more than minimal).
    In terms of speed, skill, composure, commitment, energy and perhaps determination, Birmingham were superior. None of our outfield players enhanced their reputation last night and I won’t dwell on our goalkeeper’s unnecessary fiddling with the ball at his feet which put him under so much pressure that his eventual panicky clearance led ultimately to Birmingham’s goal.
    With his habitual perspicuity, our Blogmeister homes in on Mr Warnock’s preference for “bread and butter” midfielders. The game was calling out for a creative general to fire up the Cardiff performance, but the substitutions came too late to work and brought on the wrong man. For all his determination and grit (which probably explains why he was brought on) Gunnarsson was not the man to change our fortunes. We remained pedestrian. And even Gunnarssson’s fabled long throw is less effective these days because he now loops the ball into the goal area instead of the lower trajectory which can be headed with more accuracy and force by Cardiff players such as Morrison, Manga, or Bamba.
    Opposing defenders have clearly “cottoned on” to the best ways to nullify Cardiff’s attacking force, but in addition our front men are not receiving suitably accurate and well-timed “long passes” from the players behind them. By reputation, the Cardiff player best suited to providing such passes is Lee Tomlin. I have to wonder why he has not been given a meaningful chance to show what he can do. As the game progressed last night our need for midfield skill and creativity became glaringly obvious. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Tomlin would surely have been worth the gamble. Is he still not totally fit? If so, what was he doing on the bench?
    Like our Blogmeister, I feel somewhat uneasy at making so many negative comments about Cardiff’s performance. Even so, bad as it was, in the overall picture Cardiff were not totally outplayed and did manage to produce some good football at times. The management and the players will not be proud of the way they played, but as good and determined professionals they will surely have the chance to rectify the situation, not only in time for next week’s game but for the remainder of the season. I really, really hope so!

  4. Jeff Blight says:

    The reluctance to use Tomlin is mystifying. The Bamba experiment has got to end. With the benefit of hindsight perhaps the acquisition of Brayson in preference to Ledley was a mistake and has unbalanced the midfield. Should Gunner continue to struggle with injuries we have no natural defensive midfielder. I would give Damour a try in that role as he is more mobile and is a better passer of the ball than Bamba.

    Peltier brings very little to proceedings and is an average championship fullback at best. Paterson has to be considered for Boro.

    Mendez is a shadow of the player he was earlier in the season and has to be benched. Perhaps a change to the system is required to accommodate Tomlin.

    Substitutions have to be made earlier if we are chasing a game and if we persist with hoofing balls forward in the last quarter of a game, Bogle alongside Zohore would be a better option than Feeney or Ward.

  5. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul for your review you , have summed it up very well .

    I long for the return of that wonderful pink paper each Saturdey and the rebuild of Asteys,the newsagents where you were guaranteed purchasing one and able to buy papers as early as 5am.

    The city have flattered to deceive in thier rise to the top and are only sitting there because of the fralities and inconsistency of others.

    The many local derbies in Yorkshire and Midlands also effects this league and can work to our benefit, the competivness is so strong ,it restricts good sides putting a run togther and putting decent points between us and them .

    We have a team who can battle, however they failed last night and in my view far worse than the Derby game ,who are a decent side , Birmingham are not, which makes last night result an even worrying one.

    Sides have worked us out , proven by not being able force a save from thier keeper who is a very decent one , cant believe how far he has fallen .

    Of the players last night I thought Manga was very good , Bamba was exposed so, a direct swap in positions if Gunnerson is out may help ???

    NW’s substitutions are hesitating ones ,and far too late, he’s too loyal , what’s the French lad done wrong ,why not Tomlin , why not rest K.Z,and Bamba.

    I’m hoping Patterson is close to playing as we need freshness.

    However from this time last year I’m still in heaven albeit a concerned heaven , I look at the points we have got and think they helping us avoid the drop .

    Big choices to come for Neil , he may have to drop some stalwarts, pity we have no exciting young talent to push and threaten the first eleven , the bench we have is very simlair to the first team in my view other than Tomlin ,Ward and perhaps Damour.

  6. MIKE HOPE says:

    Is it possible for eleven players and their manager all to have an off day at the same time? Probably not but it seems to be the most likely explanation for last night’s inept performance which was right up there with some of the worst stuff under our two previous managers.
    If it is the explanation does Warnock and his training staff need to look at how they prepare for matches during and after an international break.
    If the past couple of weeks have been depressing for Cardiff and Wales supporters spare a thought for those of us who also follow Merthyr Town in the Southern league.
    After a 5-0 away defeat last Saturday the team responded on Tuesday by going in at half time leading 4-0 against second in table Slough.Alas final score Merthyr 4 Slough5
    Sometimes life just isn’t fair!

  7. Richard Holt says:

    Thanks for the write up Paul. After disappointments such as last night I’ve become accustomed to reading your wise, perceptive and well-balanced comments and feeling just a tad better with my own gloomy knee-jerk responses being replaced by a more rational perspective. For once, reading your insightful thoughts did little to lift my gloom about last night’s performance.
    Strangely, I had a bad feeling about last night’s match all day yesterday. The memory of that painful televised 0-1 at St Andrews two seasons ago, Cotterill’s first match in charge, the mirror situation of Warnock’s first game exactly one year ago, the thought that we’d be playing in those green shirts we wore at Preston (ok I know we wore red in the end) and our very poor record at Birmingham (2 wins in 60 plus years) seemed too many bad omens to me. In the end though my worry isn’t that we lost it’s how we lost and the thought that the team has suddenly gone off the rails. Memories of 2006 went through my mind too and this thought that Leeds home in 2017 could be the Southampton home of 2006.
    Still, let’s see what happens next. This is football after all. Middlesbrough away next up could be the perfect match to get us back on track. We’ll be expected to lose which always fills me with an irrational degree of optimism !

  8. Clive Rymon says:

    Hi Paul,excellent summary as per,i had a feeling that the game might pan out as it did,firstly another international break,secondly Warnock saying similar situation as per the Bristol game last season,and thirdly the fact that we have only managed 2wins in the last 27 years I think.The problem with the championship s as we know if you don’t put the work in you will get done,nobody apart from Manga really stood out for me,beaten to the ball time and again,not winning second balls,in short a performance to forget let’s move on to the next game.

    A look at the results from today as I type I do not know the Wolves score,but the table says we’re still top no one wins every game but a few more showings like that and we will find that that position will be just a memory.

  9. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning everyone – a great series of replies as usual.

    Barry, what a great story about why you chose to support and, even more amazingly, stick with us after the first time you watched us play! You tackle something which goes to the heart of what concerned me most about Friday – just as with Wales a week ago, I struggled to come up with anyone who had a decent game (Wales Online gave their man of the match award to Zohore with seven out of ten and he was the catalyst for our two or three instances of worthwhile attacking play, but he was pretty ordinary like the rest of them).

    BJA, it’s interesting the way different games start. Generally, I don’t think we start games well, but we tend to stay with our opponents and grow into games – I’ve mentioned before on here that you can often tell from his first touch whether Junior Hoilett is “on it” or not, but most of our players tend to try to keep things simple and become more ambitious as the game progresses, so, although I’ll have a moan when we’re struggling in the first quarter of the match, watching City play for decades has taught me things can, and often do, get better. However, the dye was cast after about ten minutes on Friday – we had nothing.

    Anthony, I think you summed the game up nicely -basically, they outWarnocked us! You hone in on our “bread and butter” midfield and I’ve got to say that a central midfield three of Bamba, Bryson (who has had his moments for us certainly, but can also be a peripheral figure at times) and Ralls strikes me as pretty ordinary by the standards of this league with a big burden of responsibility falling on the last named.

    Jeff, if as I suspect it is, this is your first contribution on here, welcome and please come back. It’s going to be interesting to see if anything changes in the next few weeks as Paterson gets sharper defensively. Peltier is one of Warnock’s favourites, but he’s not been as consistent as usual lately and it may he that we could switch to a back three with wing backs because Paterson and Bennett seem ideally suited to that position, but a manager who likes his wingers so much be prepared to make that change?

    Good point about the number of derbies Russell and I see Mick McCarthy is the latest out of a few Championship managers who have said that there isn’t an outstanding team in the league who are going to run away with it this season – that’s the backdrop against which we have to judge things I suppose.

    Mike, I’ve already mentioned all of our players were under par on Friday and you make are right to say that our manager did as well. That was the most concerning aspect for me, we performed in a manner that is so rare under this manager. I said it wasn’t the worst performance I’ve seen from a City team under Warnock because there were a couple at the back end of last season that were poor (Wolves and Barnsley spring to mind), but they were at a time when the season was winding down – we should never have looked as under prepared and listless as we did against Birmingham. I see Merthyr were four up after just twenty minutes against Slough as well, so, having conceded five the game before as well, they must have been very wary of Saturday’s game with Gosport, even if they are bottom of the league – under the circumstances, a 5-0 win was as good as they could have hoped for and they are still up there challenging for a Play Off spot.

    It was one of those games that was very hard to take positives from wasn’t it Richard. You are right to mention the Southampton game from 2006, because that was the night when I really started thinking we could be on to something.

    Must say that, as much as I have them down as the side I want to see fail most out of those up the top of the League because of the arrogance of their supporters, Wolves looked good on Saturday. I suppose the thing we need to remember is that we made them look pretty ordinary at their place, gave Villa far more of a hiding than they got on Saturday and started Leeds’ run of poor results – despite recent setbacks, we’ve shown that we can take apart good teams in this league.

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