Just when you thought last season was a distant memory.

CoymayFool that I am, I was telling people that last night’s derby game with Bristol City at Cardiff City Stadium just might be the match where we could finally see some football entertainment break out at the ground. I wasn’t convinced we would win, but, if we didn’t, then I thought it would be a watchable draw as I predicted a 2-2 scoreline or a win sneaked by a score of 2-1.

I based my thinking on the fact that recent home matches with the wurzels had seen plenty of goals amid some good Cardiff performances. However, I was ignoring the more recent evidence that says to expect entertainment in a home game under Russell Slade’s management is akin to believing it will snow on Christmas Day – it may just happen at some time, but all logic suggests it will be the same old mild, wet and windy stuff we had last year and the year before that etc, etc.

There have been away matches under this manager which I’ve seen and thought we played well there (our two wins at Forest and the draw at QPR spring to mind), but I can still only think of last season’s league game with Champions Bournemouth as possibly fulfilling that criteria when it comes to home matches with Russell Slade in charge.

That’s not to say that games at Cardiff City Stadium have been totally devoid of satisfaction this season – the matches with Fulham, Wolves, Hull, Charlton and Middlesbrough all had something going for them in different ways, but, largely, if there was an admiration of the team it was for things like their grit and efficiency. We had our moments of quality in some of those matches, but, I’ve always left the ground satisfied with the outcome, rather than thrilled by the football.

It was those qualities of determination and discipline which led me to say in my piece on the Middlesbrough win that our team and manager were deserving of better support this season than they’ve had both in terms of the numbers turning up and the atmosphere within the ground. I stick to that opinion, but last night’s grim 0-0 stalemate offered a timely reminder that any improvement is only a marginal one that, certainly on last night’s evidence, does not stretch to all departments of the team.

The best bit of a miserable night came when former crowd favourite kevin McNaughton was interviewed on the pitch at half time and then spent most of the second half in with the singers in the Canton Stand. his presence probably helped ensure a better than usual atmosphere (must say the wurzels fans helped in that regard as well).*

The best bit of a miserable night came when former crowd favourite Kevin McNaughton was interviewed on the pitch at half time and then spent most of the second half in with the singers in the Canton Stand. His presence probably helped ensure a better than usual atmosphere (must say the wurzels fans helped in that regard as well).*

Even when the display is as poor as last night’s though, there was still some evidence of that improvement. I’m thinking in particular here of the defence where, although all four individuals within the unit fell some way short of some of the showings they’ve put in this season, as a unit they did well enough to earn a third consecutive clean sheet in a match which I believe we would have lost last season.

Behind them, I don’t think we’ve improved on the goalkeeping front, but then we didn’t  need to because, as long as his recent case of red carditis doesn’t become a chronic condition, we’ve got, arguably, the best around at this level. For me, David Marshall was a clear City man of the match last night, with his brilliant first half save from the impressive Jonathan Kodija’s header being the highlight of a performance which, one or two wayward kicks apart, oozed quality.

As for the midfield, well, for the first ten matches of our league season, there were clear signs of an upturn in performance in that area, but the last three games have seen many of the issues which plagued us in the middle of the park in 14/15 return.

Our play in the centre of the pitch was largely shoddy at Preston and we had a long period in the second half against Middlesbrough where we struggled, but last night was another level down from that in as much as that we were served a reminder of all of those awful games in 14/15 where an often outnumbered Peter Whittingham and Aron Gunnarsson laboured away unsuccessfully against opponents they were having the better of two years earlier during the promotion season.

Now, it would be tempting to claim that the dip in the quality of midfield performance coincides exactly Gunnarsson’s return, but, although he didn’t have much to beat when it came to how his colleagues in central midfield played, I thought he was the best out of the trio that also included Whittingham and Kagisho Dikgachoi.

Gunnarsson gave what I would rate as five out of ten performance, while the other two couldn’t match that. Dikgachoi started quite well, but soon faded and looked out on his feet when he was withdrawn ten minutes after half time. Maybe there was an injury or some other fitness related item which contributed to his poor play, but that wouldn’t explain why he still looks to be carrying a few pounds too many to me.

As for Whittingham, I’ve thought that he was beginning to look a little more like his old self over the last few weeks, but, given the type of player he has become, he contributes little to a game if his passing and dead ball delivery is off a bit and, for me, that applied last night. I seem to remember mentioning sometime  last season that I genuinely forgot Whittingham was still on the pitch in one match such was the inconsequential nature of his performance and the same thing happened last night – when he got on the ball with about five minutes left I blurted out “oh, he’s still there is he!”, I’m sure it sounded sarcastic, but I wasn’t trying to be, it was just that I couldn’t remember him being involved in the game for about ten minutes.

After the match, someone made a point that I thought was a very good one when he said he thought sides had now figured out how to play against our lopsided midfield. After all, it’s hardly something that is too complicated to work out and I’m sure it’s not the first time the sides that we play would have faced the same, or very similar, formation.

However, it’s worth remembering that where there had been Joe Ralls in that left sided triple role which involves attacking and defensive duties on the flank and a need to come inside to bolster an often outnumbered central midfield, there has been Whittingham for the last couple of games. Last night, I thought it was noticeable how much room Elliott Bennett was getting on Bristol’s right and how isolated Fabio looked at times (on the other flank, Lee Peltier didn’t get a great deal of defensive help either – from a defensive viewpoint at least, Ralls and Pilkington as the midfield wide men looks a more effective combination than Whittingham and Noone).

So, on balance, I’d say that our recent midfield problems do not necessarily mean that the system which helped bring us some early season joy has been nullified yet – it may be that the issue is more to do with personnel rather than formation.

However, what I found most concerning last night was that the downright poor passing, ponderous movement, with or without the ball, and general lack of urgency which typified our midfield through much of 14/15 was back. Bristol were much more decisive and cohesive in that area than us and I thought they were two or three goals better than us overall.

Whereas, our visitors were able to move the ball quickly and accurately using one or two touches, the poor technique shown in playing what should have been simple passes meant that City players often had to use a touch to control misplaced and overhit passes and so any momentum in the movement inevitably broke down. Not only that though, City players were often also falling down on basic ball control, so, once again, a second touch was needed before the ball was ready to be passed on again – quite why this should be on the sort of pitches we get these days is beyond me.

This lack of basic skills often extended to our defenders and front runners and, in the case of the latter, was another factor which contributed to a showing from Joe Mason and Alex Revell which simply wasn’t good enough, either as a combination or as individuals,

In the case of Mason, I spend a lot of time defending him from criticism, but I couldn’t last night because it was hard to see a saving grace in his display. It wasn’t terrible, but, rather like Whittingham contributing next to nothing if his passing and dead ball delivery is off, Mason really needs to be scoring to overcome criticism about his right to what looks like an automatic starting place.

As for Revell, just as against Middlesbrough, he started well in his aerial battles, but he was unable to sustain his early dominance – he can make a contribution and I certainly don’t think he is as bad as many of his critics make him out to be, but the overall impression I gained from his two first team games in less than a week, in which he never remotely looked like scoring, was that Kenwyne Jones will probably walk back into the side once he is fit again.

Yes, we have injuries, but the fact that we couldn’t name a specialist striker on the bench says a lot about the lack of forwards we have at the club currently, while a first choice combination of Jones and Mason, both of whom have question marks against them that would see them probably left out at top clubs in this league, suggests that we are struggling in terms of quality as well. I don’t see much evidence that we are stronger up front than we were last season.

Rather like his team, it wasn’t a good night for Russell Slade. Predictably, he seized on a third consecutive clean sheet as a positive in his post match remarks, but when he says “I can’t really put my finger on why, but sometimes in football you just can’t find the levels that you’ve set yourselves”, I’ve got to wonder what he means by that.

What are these levels that we’ve set for ourselves? It implies that we were miles off our normal levels last night, but is that really true? For me, what we got last night was certainly worse than what we’ve seen for most of this season, but not that much worse.

A “normal” City performance this season sees us perform diligently and in an organised manner that will, hopefully, see us eventually grind our way to a win (one first half home league goal all season offers the clue as to how tough we find it to wear opponents down). Failing that, we have often been solid enough at the back to ensure we don’t lose.

However, our level of performance doesn’t need to drop by too much for us to produce the sort of dross we saw last night. You would have hoped that a win over a fancied team like Middlesbrough would have seen an upturn in confidence and spirit that would see us go up a level, but, instead, in front of a crowd up a couple of thousand from last week, the team appeared nervous as they looked as if they had been taken by surprise by Bristol’s use of a 3-5-2 formation they employ every week.

I have seen some criticism of the player’s attitude last night in that they didn’t care and our opponents were more up for the derby, but I agree with our manager when he says this wasn’t the case. I feel that, as they always do, this group of players were trying their hardest. However, that’s the worrying thing for me – the players are giving their best and all we are getting is a standard of performance which will almost certainly see us finish no higher than the position we occupy now.

I wasn't in the best place to fully appreciate how awful Sammy Ameobi's late miss that should have given us a thoroughly undeserved 1-0 win was, but this photo shows how it is right up there in the Ronnie Rosenthal class - I assumed he was offside first of all and I still believe he may have been, but the linesman's flag stayed as Sammy proved that striker may not be his best position!*

I wasn’t in the best place to fully appreciate how awful Sammy Ameobi’s late miss that should have given us a thoroughly undeserved 1-0 win really was, but this photo shows how it is right up there in the Ronnie Rosenthal class – I assumed he was offside first of all and I still believe he may have been, but the linesman’s flag stayed  down as Sammy proved that striker may not be his best position!*

All of the teams in front of us have at some time in the season come out with performances which suggest they can improve a great deal on their normal level. What evidence has there been that we can do the same because I certainly haven’t seen any yet – based on what we’ve seen so far, a “good” Cardiff performance sees us probably edge to a win, possibly by a two a goal margin (a thrashing by the standards of this manager!), which has you feeling good about the result, but hoping for better next time.

I used the term “worthy but dull” to describe our team recently and, the more I think about it, the more I believe it to be true. I feel much more of an affinity with this team than I did with last year’s and, although our meat and potatoes manager frustrates me continuously, I cannot say I dislike him -, it’s just that I don’t turn up to matches these days expecting anything more than worthy, but dull, football and tactics.

Finally, a few hours before last night’s match I watched a young Under 21 side lose to 2-1 to Charlton at Leckwith. The make up of the side had me hoping that Matt Kennedy and Declan John may be in the 18 for the Bristol City match, but it didn’t happen. In their absence, we had the better of the first half, but fell behind just after the break as Charlton dominated until the last ten minutes.  The visitors made it two nil with a slightly controversial goal as City claimed the ball had gone out of play before a cross was put in, but another good finish by Eli Phipps gave us some hope only for the visitors to see the game out pretty comfortably.

Best player for me was right back Dylan Rees, but, somehow, I don’t see Russell Slade suddenly turning to youth for our visit to an out of sorts Ipswich team on Saturday!

*pictures courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncandy/albums/with/72157660313041156

 

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19 Responses to Just when you thought last season was a distant memory.

  1. Matt N says:

    Thanks Paul,

    Last night I took my Dad to the game for the first time in about a year. For whatever reason (he’s certainly never lived in London), he’s a Spurs fan and is used to a certain attacking flair. Needless to say, apart from endlessly asking which player was which, most of his comments were negative. I’m not sure he, or many occasionals who went last night, will be coming back any time soon.

    It made me wonder about what City’s current identity is. We’re not physical, we can’t do flashy passing and quick transition counter attack, and we don’t seem to be able to utilise our talented wingers. As you say, when Whittingham is off chord, we can’t even rely on set pieces. I think he was, particularly in the first half, the worst on the pitch. His long exchange with Fabio, I assume, must have been about defensive responsibility and neither looked comfortable with the other’s positioning. In the first half I think the highlight was a bit of twinkle toe footwork from Gunnarson.

    I think last night we may have been better off with a 4-5-1 slotting Whitts to midfield and having a Noone Pilkington wing set up. I know this would be an outlandish abstract concept to Slade, but with the paucity of strike options available (youth obviously not under consideration), some change stares you in the face. Alex Revell (I’ve changed my mind – HE was the worst on the pitch) is not, as Paul Merson would describe, a bag of revels (or if he is, they are all the coffee ones), he’s league one. At best. It took far too long for him to be replaced by Ameobi in attack. Although yes, that miss was awful from where I was in the Canton, he’s just a far far better option.

    But no shots on target for an entire match. That’s Man Utd form! Bristol looked the much more likely to score – I thought Kodjia was a far more convincing target man and shows what is out there if Slade looks in the right places. We desperately need an upgrade from our current options. If we can’t afford it, how about bringing back Healey for a bit of speed? How about trying Eli Phipps? Sadly, I know this will not even be considered.

  2. Iain Stuart says:

    Paul
    I have to admire your almost optimistic outlook on our home games but I’m sorry that I cannot agree with any positive spin you put on things. There’s no getting away from it but that game last night had nothing to offer in terms of any hope in thinking we might scrape into the playoffs. On that form we will be lucky to find ourselves just above the “drop zone”.

    It was dreadful fare at times.Atrocious passing and control on the ball, from both teams at times, meant that it was painful to watch and it makes you wonder what on earth Slade and Trollope do with the preparation of the players during the week. Yes it’s the players on the pitch who are responsible for their own performances BUT they are instructed and dictated to by Slade and his management team and they too must bear the blame for such a shocking, turgid, pathetic and embarrassing display. It was at best a second division standard of play and it’s little wonder that many City fans have turned their backs on the club. Sadly in some respects I don’t blame them.

    We may have 21 points up til now but frankly we have mugged some of our opponents for those points. Slade is dragging us down and we will sink lower and have far fewer fans watching depressing performances during the dark Winter months unless Tan siezes the opportunity to dispose of Slade’s services.

    Can our performances sink any lower?

  3. Cardiff’s humiliation last night was compounded by the fact that their performance was shown on Sky TV. The only solace is that viewers must have stopped watching at a rate of several thousand per minute. We at the ground were less lucky. though some individual performances gave rise to hope.
    In the meantime Tom Adeyemi continues to do well in his MIDFIELD role on loan at Leeds!!!

  4. Ian Thomas says:

    I watched the game on TV last night and managed to stick with it to the end. We are all only too aware that performances have not been brilliant thus far but, hey, if you look at the league, we are not doing that badly (apparently). While we are not scoring many goals, and not setting the world alight with dazzling footy, we at least are scraping points and proving difficult to beat. Therefore, having said that, you cant help compare this team to the Malky team. And this is what I ended up doing for entertainment value last night.
    The current manager has managed to instill a level of committment to the team and this is commendable – they at least seem to be trying this year. But to me the big difference is the structure – under Malky, everyone knew what they were doing and why they did it in a clear (although defensive) formation. Under Slade the sturucture looks “fluid” to be kind, “shambles” if being unkind. At times it reminded me of the under 11 teams I used to manage, with everone running around looking for the ball and then having no idea what to do with it if they got it. Probably the only exception here is the back four who look fairly solid but, with no real midfield cover, end up being restricted to defending – When Fabio goes forward it is hold your breath time waiting for the counter attack.
    Under Malky, the plan was clear – defence first, control the game and if we get a chance, put it away. Under Slade I get the impression that nobody knows what the plan is and, if there is one, are we using the right players to achieve it? There are other options in the squad which he seems awfully reluctant to try.
    Pretty soon our luck will run out and we will start to lose games such as the one last night – we cant rely on Marshall to be at his best every game. Before that starts to happen, please lets have a rethink about formations, personnel and style and not just wait for the inevitable downwards slide.

  5. Adrian Lloyd Pickrell says:

    Oh dear. Last week I contemplated flying over to Cardiff for the “Derby”. However, things didn’t quite work out as planned so I couldn’t make the trip.
    Judging by what I have read elsewhere and now after reading the above piece from Paul… I feel rather lucky that I stayed here.

  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    Paul…thanks as usual for the sheer HARD YARDS you walk in giving us such a detailed report.
    This is why I find your reports offer so much more MENTAL FOOD than those one encounter in our newspapers. Now, in fairness to the print press, one realises that their reporters must conform to set “word total” limits: space always being scarce. And deadlines are often extraordinarily pressing, and thus do not allow for more reflective and considered pieces from those journalists.
    But that is no excuse when it comes to online. These reporters are often paid handsome salaries: they should really EARN their money, by immediately – after filing their copy to meet their editorial deadline – writing a much longer and more thoughtful piece for their newspaper’s online presence.
    But they do not.
    Why not?
    I’d like to think it was because they were lazy, or their editors are lazy. They may be, in some instances.
    But no…it is far worse than that.
    I reckon they perpetually short-change us because they do not respect our intellect. They reckon that we Great Unwashed are largely superficial people, who demand (indeed, maybe also DESERVE) superficial reports.
    They could not be more wrong.
    That is why your CCMaYA blog is so widely read.
    Much more widely read than some might believe. Folk should never confuse readership numbers with numbers of responses: they are not even remotely connected.
    Just look at newspaper circulation numbers. What percentage of those readers bother to write a letter to the editor, concerning something they have read? A half of one percent maybe? And that is probably pushing it.
    But you might say “it is different online. There, it does not cost people 12 bob to send a 2nd class letter.”
    And that is true.
    But even there online, I doubt if it is EVER more than 2 or 3 percent of the total online readership who respond in the comments section below an article or match report.
    So, just because there is a band of about 17 or so of us who respond periodically on CCMaYA, do not think you have 17 readers !!
    Be prepared to put at least a couple of naughts on that figure.
    And you deserve every one of them.
    Right preamble over.
    There are advantages sometimes in watching a game on SKY rather than in the flesh. Last night was a prefect example.
    I submit that the two key late incidents in the game’s denouement were much more visible on SKY than to the naked eye.
    For instance, how many people at the game saw that the Bristol shot that hit the post was actually a magnificent save from Marshy? The tiniest of touches from his fingers definitely saved a goal: that ball was going in, until that whisper of a touch clearly deviated it…as the slowmo shows.
    You were right to call him the Bluebirds Man of the Match.
    And then we come to Sammy’s miss.
    And here I am indebted to our old friend Mr Google.
    I typed in the following
    “sammy ameobi left footed”
    And got this page on an interesting site:
    http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/sammy-ameobi/profil/spieler/92381

    And there we have it. Proof positive.

    Now great one footed players are few. But there are some.
    They used to say Ferenc Puskas was the greatest one-footed player ever.
    And believe it or not, I actually do rate this boy Ameobi.
    But that incredible miss was ALL down to him taking it with his left foot. It was crying out for him to slightly swivel and connect with his right boot, as the ball came toward him from the right. However he lacked the confidence and waited for it to come into the range of his trusted left foot…but alas the angle of the pass was such that he could not shape himself right for the shot.
    As for your report Paul: you are right in your comments on Revell and Mason. Let me add my bit on them.
    Revell is clearly very limited indeed. But he is a trier: if only the languid – no… strike that word, and insert LAZY* – Kenwyne Jones had Alex’s degree of effort.
    When it comes to Mason, unlike you, I have never been a fan. Yet I am aware that many good judges rate him highly. So what am I missing?
    Darned if I can see WHAT he has got.
    Let us look at his features:
    1. Slow. And this manifests itself in his lack of speed getting bad decisions.
    Take last night.
    In the first half, he was wrongly flagged for offside when clearly level.
    But why was he?
    That is easy.
    He had to be so close on the shoulder of the last defender, that he perpetually run the risk of a linesman making the wrong call. When a defence hold a high line – as the wurzels did for periods last night – if he had any speed at all, he could have ensured that he was a yard back from the defender, to avoid a wrong flag.
    2. He is easily shaken off the ball.
    3. Not especially industrious.
    4. No great shakes in the air.
    …need I say more?
    5. Far from having a tenth of the ice in his veins that a great snapper-up of chances has… e.g. Greaves, Lineker, Rush, Keegan etc.
    Aha, but here I feel a big BUT coming on …

    And that “but” is that if we sell him to Wolves in the January window, just watch him score a hatful of goals.
    But that is the present day curse of Cardiff City. Gestede, Conway, Jo Inge Berget, etc.

    What else to say re your fine report, Paul…?

    Well, I think we should pay Bristol City big credit. They struck me as a really good team.
    Big lads all brought up on Farley’s Rusks…and full cream milk.
    So much stronger and faster…and more energetic.
    You would have thought the league positions were reversed.
    If the game were a boxing match of 15 x 6 minute rounds, I would have marked my card as three rounds shared, given three rounds to Cardiff, and NINE to Bristol.
    They were so unlucky not to win.
    And as you rightly say, Kodjia is really some player.

    One interesting footnote to the game: was it not refreshing to see Steve Cotterill for once – after a game at Cardiff – not snarling with a “we wuz cheated” line. But paying proper respect to David Marshall…
    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/football/transfer-news/david-marshall-saves-cardiff-city-10336525

    Will sign off now.
    Oh and I want to compliment Matt on his belting “coffee revels” line!

    * I use that word sparingly, as it is the most damning adjective imaginable to apply to a player.
    53 years ago, when the great John Charles (what a two footed footballer, HE was, incidentally) came home to Wales from Roma, Gareth Bowen (the dad of Jeremy Bowen) wrote a fine piece in the Echo, welcoming the Gentle Giant to Cardiff.
    But he alas marred it with this postscript: “Oh, and can you please put a firework under the feet of your brother?”
    I was outraged that Mel could be accused of laziness, and fired a letter off to that effect.
    To Gareth’s eternal credit, he replied in his next article. He said he was not implying laziness: just a lack of urgency.
    Gareth knew full well that to accuse a footballer of laziness was akin to accusing a kamikaze of cowardice.
    And I feel like Jeremy’s dad did. Except that Mel Charles was twice as industrious as Kenwyne: and Mel scored the greatest goal I ever saw at Ninian Park in the 1962 derby against (ironically) The Swans …so he will always have a place in my heart. A goal not unlike the Maradona second in the Hand of God game, but finished with a blistering shot.
    So Kenwyne, if the cap fits…

    But remember that laziness is not a terminal condition. It can be rectified.

    Kindest,
    Dai Woosnam
    Grimsby UK
    daigress@hotmail.com

  7. Dai Woosnam says:

    Oh and I meant to add one other thing.
    Why baseball caps, and not bowler hats or Stetsons?
    Russell does himself no favours with that dreadful baseball cap.
    One friend of mine says “he has the wrong shaped head for it”.
    Now, I would argue…hasn’t EVERYBODY ?
    The most unflattering piece of headwear ever invented.
    Doesn’t even look right on Tony Pulis.
    Indeed, I would go one further: it does not even look right on a New York Yankee !!
    The only time it ever looks good is back-to-front on Lleyton Hewitt.
    Contrast this with Steve Cotterill.
    Never liked the chap much, but look how well he was turned out last night!!
    You felt a professional was in charge.
    By contrast our two looked like in their scruffy black garb, like they had just arrived from a hard day’s work as binmen.
    Kindest,
    Dai.

  8. Graham says:

    Yes – another summary by Paul which echoes my own reaction – and unlike Matt.N’s Dad I do live in London – the cost in time and money of being a season ticket holder who has to change everything when SKY TV buys one of our games and decides to move it from a Saturday afternoon to a Monday evening, and I have to find and pay for new train tickets and a hotel, might have been slightly compensated for by the mad thought that we would produce a brilliant display and all those missing thousands would watch their TVs and think “Oh yes – I want to be a part of that and next season I’ll be there!” .. well, instead we were terrible and any one of the missing thousands watching would have, before switching off, have said “yes – I was right .. I will NOT be there – perhaps ever again ..!” .. midfield hopeless, attack non-existent – Mason especially .. I see Tommy O’Sullivan scored for Newport .. oh, if only our youngsters were given a chance ..

  9. Geoff Lewis says:

    Thanks Paul,
    Spot on again with your report on last nights dire performance by Cardiff City.
    They lack pace, creativity,awareness, basic football skills and were lucky to get a point.
    Marshall saved us with his outstanding keeping skills and no doubt will go in January!
    Would’nt you?
    There is no forward line, Mason and Revell were useless last night. I was watching Revell, he won a few headers, but on the floor he was unable to control the ball.
    Whittingham, Noone usual dire performances. Full backs had a night off, Central defenders were okay. I will not mention the miss of the night!
    There is something wrong with the club, management, coaching etc where we are left with this shower, when there are 14 players out on loan. I said it before why did Slade by Doyle and then put him out on loan.
    I agree with the dress code, I prefer to see Managers/Coaches dressed in a suit and looking smart out there . The baseball cap and trainers are for the training ground.
    To be fair to Dave jones and Malky they were always well turned out.
    My thoughts on driving home last night to Llandeilo was clear the lot out except for Marshall and start again. If only- my rant is over.
    Geoff

  10. Geoff Lewis says:

    Dai,
    Memories again Mel Charles played well for Cardiff and scored some great goals.
    When I lived in Swansea some years ago , I was a member of the Sketty club and Mel lived in terraced house nearby. It was sad to see him as the later years had not been too kind to him. He was short of cash and sometimes he be outside his house and if you were passing by he would ask if you could spare him a fag.
    Best Wishes
    Geoff

  11. MIKE HOPE says:

    Paul, I hope you will never be deterred from mentioning any positives you see no matter how bad the overall performance.We have enough doom merchants who will never give any credit to Russell Slade.Sam Allardyce has apparently diagnosed Sunderland’s main problem as a leaky defence.Bad as we were last night he would probably describe today’s negativity as an over reaction toward a side with three consecutive clean sheets. I am sure that Slade realises our team has a chronic need for an injection of pace in midfield and upfront. But can he convince the owners of this and if so can he find the right players.I think our prospects for this season and possibly Slades future at the club depends on the answer.

  12. Dai Woosnam says:

    So sorry to hear that Geoff, about Mel Charles. He was a very fine player indeed. Plagued with knee problems, alas.
    Now what I am gonna say next may well be wrong. I have no monopoly on wisdom…and I occasionally come out with total balderdash.*
    But I have read somewhere that when FIFA came up with their usual SELECT Xl at the end of the tournament, the one Welshman who came into the reckoning was Mel, rather than big brother John (who of course had been disgracefully kicked to bits, and put out of the vital Brazil game). But he was shaded out of the All Star Select team, by a Brazilian
    That is just HOW good Mel’s performances were. He played in all 5 games in Sweden.
    And that 1958 event of course was the only World Cup so far where United Kingdom’s Home Nations: Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland all participated together.
    And guess which country provided the only two Brits to make the FIFA All Star Team?
    Well…NOT England.
    Nor Scotland.
    Nor, alas, Wales.

    But a duo from Northern Ireland made it through.
    Harry Gregg and Danny Blanchflower.

    Before closing Geoff, I take your point about Dave Jones and Malky Mackay’s smart apparel.
    But, give me the shabby(ish) green jumper of Brian Clough, or that unfashionable black zip-necked jumper of Fergie EVERY TIME, if being “smart” means that in the case of DJ you are a tailor’s dummy sitting there glowering, arms-folded, and in the case of the admittedly wonderfully animated Malky, someone hellbent on making your boss seem treacherous, in the Court of Public Opinion.
    The good thing about Cotterill is that he is working all the 90 minutes, constantly barking out orders.
    And finally, I did not wish to be insulting about binmen.
    It was not meant that way.
    I have always believed that a doctor and a dustman are EQUALLY important for public health…and that being a binman is a noble occupation.
    But one where you need to wear scruffy clothes…since good clothes will be stained in 5 minutes.
    Hence my reference to the two City managers looking like they had come straight from work for Cardiff Corporation Waste Disposal…still wearing their working clothes.
    *I recently wrote some stuff about Telstar, completely forgetting that ghostly shaky pictures of Calais Town Hall go back to the far earlier Eurovision link being formed, and that the Telstar pictures were of NYC and not Boston, MA.
    But blame such inaccuracies on my dodgy memory, rather than an unwillingness to research my data!
    And BTW, I am hoist by my own petard here (by mentioning Eurovision).
    Some of us are old enough to remember the early years of the Eurovision Song Contest (with Katie Boyle hosting) and David Jacobs doing BBC TV commentary…a role that Terry Wogan and Graham Norton were to emulate).
    Well …that started in 1956 or thereabouts…and so if live broadcasts throughout Europe were available then, so it would have been possible for the Brazil – Wales game to have been broadcast live from Sweden.
    But we only had a radio in our house that summer. So I did not see it.
    However, something tells me that HAD it been LIVE on the telly, I would have moved heaven and earth to see it in the houses of the schoolmates who had TVs.
    Kindest,
    Dai.

  13. Mike Herbert says:

    A Tale of Two Cities

    I thought it was my lucky night last night – City on Sky and a chance to watch them play for the first time this season. I didn’t travel up from Cornwall for one game once last year (though I have done from various places most years since leaving Wales in 1969 ) partly thanks to the advice received from Paul – many thanks Paul for the very detailed insights that I have enjoyed since coming across your blog last year and also to the other regular contributors – especially Dai and AMO. So, thanks to Sky, for the first time I feel able to comment on the current City side. My thoughts, albeit on the basis of just one game:

    • Our passing in the first half was often dreadful – really dreadful!
    • We started better in the second half but then went off again
    • You can get by with willing runners in most positions as long as they can also pass the ball accurately but you do need at least one player in midfield who can receive the ball, control it, look up and make a telling pass. We didn’t have one last night – though we did have willing runners all over the place.
    • Whittingham was not the player I remember at all
    • We worked hard but didn’t ever really look like scoring – and I wasn’t a bit surprised when Ameobi missed at the end.
    • Despite AMO’s views I didn’t switch off – but I won’t be making a real effort to come up for a live game until I get better reports
    • I doubt if Sky will be rushing to put us on again very soon
    • I am glad I spent my money on a season ticket for the Welsh Euro qualifiers – some quality players and great to be part of a full stadium with a brilliant atmosphere. What a contrast to last night!
    • Unless this was a one-off (and from the blog I doubt it somehow) it is going to be a case of one city rising and another falling – though I don’t think Bristol will make the play offs
    • Why don’t we have at least one young Welsh player in the starting line up?!

  14. A short time ago I repeated on this site an anecdote about Mel Charles and his problem with understanding the complexities of “the wall pass”. Having read some of the comments about him above, I’m sorry I did what I did. The man deserves more respect, and I apologise. I remember him playing in a charity match in the park at Pontypridd – don’t ask me when – and he scored four goals and produced an immaculate display of heading the high ball. Which brings me to Alex Revell.
    There seems to be something similar to received opinion that Revell is a poor centre forward. In my opinion he is a very good centre forward. In the first half against Bristol City he was excellent at hold up play with his back to goal, and was virtually dominant in the air. The response of his team mates should therefore have been to get in accurate crosses into the penalty area as quickly as possible, but sadly this did not happen (Not Revell’s fault!). In addition, he continually headed the ball into a space beyond him, again with little support from his colleagues. In such a situation you need someone showing speed off the mark to get onto the ball, powerful running, the ability to hold off tackles without falling over, and determination. Again, this did not happen. Neither did he get any assistance in closing down and harrying defenders, which he does so well – it’s no wonder he grew manifestly tired during the second half.
    Recently, on this very site I think, I saw an absolutely wonderful turn of phrase (sadly, I don’t recall by whom) when the aficionados of Blakey’s Bootroom were described as looking on Kenwyne Jones as if on “the Emperor’s Clothes”. To my amazement, even good judges seem to think that – despite all the evidence to the contrary – a strike partnership of Jones and Mason would work. At the risk of unleashing a torrent of vituperation upon my ageing head, I’d go so far as to claim that, as a centre forward, Kenwyne Jones is not very good with his head. Let me try to explain, before I’m swamped with howls of derision.
    When defending the space at the front of the Cardiff goal against corners and free kicks, Kenwyne’s heading is outstandingly good. I think this is because the position he takes up requires that he attacks the incoming ball with a RUNNING JUMP. As the leader of the attack, on the other hand, he is habitually hounded by large and powerful defenders who force him to take A STANDING JUMP (or no jump at all) to prevent him from heading the ball cleanly, so that more often than not it, at the very best, goes aimlessly up in the air. Contrast that with what I said earlier about Revell’s cute headers into space. To me, in cinematic terms, the nightmare scenario is Freeze-Frame Jones and Joe Slo-Mo as a striking partnership. It would never make for exciting viewing or box-office triumph.
    As a final comment, the contributions to this column, not only from our revered chief correspondent but from all the other contributors, make great reading. One of them, Mike Herbert, is an old school companion, and when he mentioned me some time ago, I sent him an e-mail to what I believed was the correct address – to repeat the gist of that message: like the ex-soldier in “Deck of Cards” , yes, “I was that man!”

  15. Dai Woosnam says:

    Paul,
    AMO has me feeling guilty. Maybe I was a bit hard on Revell. Certainly I never doubted his 100% effort.
    And yes he is right…there is a marked lack of crosses.
    As for KJ…he is a brilliant header of a ball when it is in front of him…thus he needs wingers to go to the byline.
    See that Costa fellow the other night for Bayern Munich? Or closer to home, Jefferson Montana?
    Or back in my boyhood, Brian Walsh and Tony Pickrell.
    Do not forget that brilliant header KJ scored for Bournemouth against Fulham.
    His problem is he is lazy.
    And (“Sir”) Charles Hughes would never bring him back to defend corners…however good he is. That just means one more man in one’s own penalty box to cause confusion!
    Keep him on the halfway line …that means that the opposition need to hold two men back to mark him.

    [Dai thinks...]

    No…strike that.
    Seeing how lazy he is, they would only need to keep HALF a man back!

    Kindest,
    Dai.
    PS – BTW, I salute AMO for ” Freeze-Frame Jones and Joe Slo-Mo”. Priceless.

  16. The other Bob Wilson says:

    I’d just like to congratulate all who have replied for your part in providing the best and most readable set of responses to a piece on here I’ve ever seen. Dai makes some kind comments about the numbers reading this blog – the truth is I haven’t got a clue how many people do read it, but what I do know is that, with the City messageboards not being the power they once were, I can’t think of many better places for City related chat than when the regular correspondents on here get their teeth into something. If this blog is considered a success, then a great deal of the credit for that has to go to the quality of the feedback provided by those of you and others who have replied both here and on other occasions.
    There’s too many good things included in this set of feedback for me to cover it all, so please don’t be offended if I do not mention your contribution this time.
    I did want to give my thoughts on a couple of things though. First, Anthony’s comments regarding Alex Revell and Kenwyne Jones. You only have to read his contributions for a short while to realise Anthony is a big Revell fan – I wouldn’t put myself in that camp, but I can sympathise with what he says. Revell impressed me with his heading ability when he did well against Ben Turner and Sean Morrison down here for Rotherham last season and watching him again in these last two games, he does have what I would say is an old fashioned virtue of being able to be a good passer of the ball with his head. Although not in the class of the great Alan Gilzean (the best at this aspect of the game I’ve seen), Revell is often able to provide the right pace and direction with his headed flick ons for the ball to be instantly controlled – if only some of our players were able to manage that with their feet!
    I agree that Kenwyne Jones is not in the same class when it comes to comes to this and also wholeheartedly concur with Anthony and Dai about his poor heading from a standing start. My mind goes back to late in the Hull game when we finally put in a cross which found Kenwyne in space in the penalty area for an uncontested header – it was the best chance he’d had all night and he mistimed his jump so badly that the ball just looped off his head and dribbled into the arms of McGregor. Contrast that with what he is like when he has got the chance to have a run at the ball. Dai mentions the good header he scored for Bournemouth at Ipswich, but the one he got this season when he powered home Whittingham’s great cross at Forest from about fifteen yards out was a brilliant example of how good he can be in the air. Could Revell match that? Technically perhaps he could, but would someone with his poor goals record have attacked the ball as willingly as Kenwyne did? The trouble is, I’m guessing only about one in twenty of the high balls aimed towards the heads of our two target man strikers are of the quality of that one Whitts sent in.
    The other thing is to say, no Mike, we aren’t always as bad as we were on Monday night, but a point I was trying to make in my piece (not that well I suspect) was that we are so limited in many ways that we don’t have to be too much off our game for the level of performance to plumb the sort of depths we saw against the wurzels. As the dust has settled after Monday and I’ve had a chance to read a lot of the comments regarding the game, I reckon it is one that will have a big impact on how this season’s side is perceived. I believe there were two or three matches last season for almost every fan where it truly struck home just how ordinary and boring we really were (it was those successive home games with Reading and Rotherham for me) and I can’t help thinking that Bristol City will figure prominently in a few months time while discussing when it was that you realised that our season would end in a failure to take a top six place – as it surely must, given the general standard of our midfield and forward play so far.
    Thirteen matches into a season should be sufficient time for supporters to get an idea of how good and bad your team can be – Monday was one of a few examples we’ve had of how poor we can be, but when have we seen anything to give us hope that we can compete at the top of this league when we turn it on? All I’ve seen is a team which is a little bit more worthy and a little bit less dull than it normally is.

  17. Vincent says:

    Enjoyed reading the excellent thoughtful reports and comments, but I have to admit that despite the excellence of the Wurzels centre- half (Flint?) I thought that Revell was out of his depth.
    No inventiveness or guile in midfield.

    I enjoyed the references to Brian Walsh, Tony Pickrell and Mel Charles. For the Cardiff Citylectuals, names from the past to conjure with.

  18. Dai Woosnam says:

    Paul,
    I am glad that our various and occasionally contrasting responses make you feel that your slaving over a hot typewriter is truly worthwhile. As Paul Simon once famously pointed out “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls/ and tenement halls” …and usually of course, those folk get no thanks for their labours.
    But the beauty of the Internet Age is that with a blog like yours, we can all say THANKYOU for your efforts.
    And before closing…
    A thankyou for the stylish, understated way you corrected my error in my last posting. Of course it was at Ipswich where KJ scored that stunning header for Bournemouth… and not Fulham.
    My mistake though was understandable. For I had watched The Cherries take apart the London team last season in an evening game on SKY. Their extraordinary demolition job represented the finest performance over 90 minutes from one team I have seen in several years: the one-sided nature of the game was on a par with that of Germany destroying Brazil last year.
    And so it was, I made my error. “Fulham-Bournemouth” has a place in the back bedroom of my brain, and nothing and nobody is going to evict it !!
    Pity Bournemouth seem to have imploded a bit this year. Mind you, a shocking list of injuries must be a factor. Plus their crazy Polish keeper, and their penchant for the suicidal back-pass…and his for the Cruyff turn.
    Oh golly…
    I can feel my blood pressure rising!
    Ha!
    Thanks Paul, as ever.
    Kindest,
    Dai.

  19. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks Dai. I’ve got to be honest here and say that, far from being stylish and understated, I simply didn’t notice your mistake! By the way, I agree with you about Bournemouth at Fulham – they were tremendous that night.

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