Opportunity knocks for Slade’s entertainers.

CoymayApologies for my lack of originality, but football really is a funny old game. A month ago anyone attempting to analyse the 2015/16 Cardiff City team would have felt they were on pretty safe ground because it was a simple task really.

They were spirited, hard to beat and defensively sound, but this was undermined by a lack of creativity and firepower that left them almost totally reliant on set pieces and opposing defenders for their goals (they hadn’t scored from open play in five matches – in fact, the only goal they had managed in that time had been scored by Middlesbrough’s George Friend) – the phrase I used a few times to describe them was worthy, but dull.

Then, on November 7, City beat Reading 2-0 at home. True, they had to rely on a brilliant David Marshall performance to do so and their goals came from a free kick and a corner, but, uncharacteristically, there was some good, enjoyable football played as well. Following a return to “normality” in a predictable 2-0 loss at Derby in which they barely threatened the opposition goal, they gave the best home performance I’ve seen under this manager last weekend as they were denied a deserved win over Burnley by a freakish own goal deep into added time.

For the second home match in succession, I went home feeling that I had been entertained in a way that I had rarely, if ever, been under this manager before and the loss of a 2-0 lead with 85 minutes played was made more tolerable by the knowledge that we would win a lot more than we lost if we kept on playing like that.

With four goals conceded in two matches amid talk of us actually playing some progressive and adventurous football, things seemed to be changing, but one thing you could still rely on was us not scoring from open play – again, the goals against Burnley came from a free kick and a corner as the run without scoring from open play stretched to eight matches.

So it was that City headed to the Championship’s current crisis club Bolton having not scored from open play in a staggering 805 minutes. Their opponents, beset by a financial crisis which meant that staff at the club weren’t paid in November, had only won once all season, but the fact that they were only four points away from a place outside the bottom three showed that they had picked up more than their fair share of draws over the past four months – they may have only won once at home, but seven draws meant they had only lost the one game in front of their own supporters before yesterday.

Therefore, I confidently forecast that the match would finish as a low scoring draw or a single goal win to either team. However, I was still thinking in terms of the old Cardiff City there, not the new, be bold and go for it, one!

The moment when we remembered how to score from open play again - Tony Watt puts City ahead for the first time as his impressive introduction as a City player continues.*

The moment when we remembered how to score from open play – Tony Watt puts City ahead for the first time as his impressive introduction as a City player continues.*

In the event, I was proved to be hopelessly wrong as an end to end thriller finished up as a 3-2 City win. Not only that, but, thirteen minutes in, Tony Watt beat a couple of opponents as he cut in from the left to score from open play – it gets better though, the goal came at the end of a movement which had seen the number of passes City completed go well into double figures!

Bolton soon equalised and the second half started with the teams level at 1-1, surely the game would now settle down into the tight affair I had envisaged? No, not at all, City scored from open play again and then, when the home side got a second equaliser, they went and did it for a third time as Anthony Pilkington netted what turned out to be the winner, ten minutes from time.

So, it seems that all of the old certainties have fallen away over the past month. Whether they will return is something I will touch upon later, but, for now at least, this Cardiff City team doesn’t appear to be the one we all felt we knew about.

With seven points from the four games in question, the transformation has to be, largely, seen as a good thing, but, as Russell Slade was honest enough to admit in his post match remarks, some of the traits shown in eventually overcoming the league’s bottom side were worrying ones.

For example, our manager was critical of the defending for Bolton’s second goal and it’s now six goals conceded in three matches. The non selection of last season’s City Player of the Year, Bruno Manga, has been justified by the form of centrebacks Sean Morrison and Matthew Connolly and the stats which had City conceding well under a goal a game (it was 12 from 16 matches at one stage), but my guess is that a recall for the Gabon international is as close as it has ever been this season – and I don’t mean that Slade will be going into the next match with three centrebacks!

The manager also talked about the need for more consistency throughout the ninety minutes. let alone from game to game – both in and out of possession, our standards vary too much.

A mad ten second spell just before half time which saw Bolton hit the crossbar, be denied by a good Marshall save and then see the ball narrowly elude two of their players inside the six yard box only emphasises that City rode their luck in getting their win – Bolton being reduced to ten men when José Manuel Casado was shown a second yellow card late on after a foul on Craig Noone also played it’s part in helping prevent another Burnley style loss of two points in time added on.

Nevertheless, the nature of all three of our goals offered hope that, even without reinforcements arriving in the January window, City could already have players in their ranks capable of causing opposing defences far more problems in the second half of the campaign than they encountered in the first.

I’ve already mentioned the number of passes put together for the first goal. Now, passing just for the sake of it can be boring to watch. Opponents cotton on to the fact that you are unable to create much when in possesion and are prepared to let you have the ball in areas where they think you cannot hurt them. However, City showed yesterday that they can inflict damage if they have possession for some time and a few more goals like that will see sides having to think more about getting the ball off us – something which may lead to gaps further up the pitch which we can exploit.

Similarly, having full backs bursting into the heart of the opposition penalty area to score after being one on one with the keeper is not something you would have associated with a Russell Slade Cardiff team in home matches even, but, that’s exactly what happened with our second goal yesterday. Again, there was an element of good fortune involved (I wouldn’t be surprised if the goal is eventually credited as a Dean Moxey own goal), but Scott Malone earned it by being positive and progressive in his play.

It did not go unnoticed by me either that Kenwyne Jones played a prominent part in the build up to the second and third goals. Now, apart from Peter Whittingham, Kenwyne  probably causes more debate among City supporters than any other player – I have tended to side with a few of the correspondents on here who feel he is some way short of being the player some of his backers in the media make him out to be.

However, when you see what he did for those two goals yesterday (was there a handball involved in his contribution to the third one?), my reservations about him have to be qualified by a question as to how (particularly under Russell Slade) we’ve utilised his talents up to now.

It’s generally been accepted that Kenwyne has good feet for such a big man, but, that’s been something of an afterthought as his value to Cardiff has almost entirely been measured by what he can give us when the ball is in the air.

His goal at Forest this season was evidence of what a devastating header of the ball Kenwyne can be, but that came from a Peter Whittingham pass played from a deep position that the striker was able to move on to. Jones’ goal against Wolves was from a Fabio cross also played from a long way away from the opponent’s goal and the other one, against Reading, came from a free kick.

When you look at the man’s fitful contribution as an attacking weapon when, as we always seemed to do until yesterday, we look to him with passes and crosses in the air, it’s tempting to say that Kenwyne’s most valuable contribution to the team comes when he’s back defending free kicks and corners.

However, when you see him creating goals through the ball being played into his feet like Joe Ralls and Fabio did respectively for the second and third goals, you get an idea of what else Kenwyne could bring to the side if he was utilised in a more varied way.

Of course, the target man would need team mates getting closer to him than they have often tended to be in the past, but, when you’ve got full backs bursting into the sorts of areas Malone did yesterday and, according to our manager at least, Aron Gunnarsson is being given more licence to get into forward areas because he has Joe Ralls alongside him in central midfield, he’s going to get that support he needs isn’t he.

Mention of Ralls brings me on to how important the only Cardiff Academy product our manager appears to trust enough to be a regular member of our first team squad (and even he was signed from Farnborough as a 16 year old!) has become to the team. The lopsided 4-4-2 from earlier in the season only worked for a while because of the tremendous amount of work Ralls was putting in as he virtually covered all of the left hand side of the pitch as well as areas of the central midfield.

Anthony Pilkington celebrates his winning goal - the winger was one of a few players identified by Russell Slade at Wednesday's meeting with supporters who needed to score more goals for us - by getting his second of this season (double what he managed in 14/15), he's taken a small step in that direction.*

Anthony Pilkington celebrates his winning goal – the winger was one of a few players identified by Russell Slade at Wednesday’s meeting with supporters who needed to score more goals for us – by getting his second of this season (double what he managed in 14/15), he’s taken a small step in the right direction.*

Now finally put into the central midfield position which he had done so well in as a seventeen year old under Malky Mackay, Ralls is having exactly the impact that many supporters expected him to – significantly, there was, apparently, talk from Bolton fans on their messageboards about how Cardiff’s number eight had “run the show”.

With Ralls and Gunnarsson in central midfield and Pilkington and Noone on the flanks in Russell Slade’s normal 4-4-2 formation, yesterday represented the first time there was no Peter Whittingham in a league side selected by our manager other than for reasons of injury or suspension. Whitts has missed five Championship matches in total now under Russell Slade and they’ve all been won, but, even more significantly for me, we’ve scored thirteen goals in doing so.

Now, it needs to be said that the teams we’ve played without Whitts have been Rotherham, Blackpool and Forest last season and Reading and Bolton this time around. Of those, Reading were riding pretty high in seventh place when we faced them, but the other four were in the lower half of the table and three of them were deep in relegation trouble or had already gone down. So, it’s likely that results should have been pretty good in these games and we should have found goals easier to come by, but fifteen points and thirteen goals means there has to be more to how we fare without Whitts than the fact we have played poor sides doesn’t it?

In finishing, I think regular readers of this blog will realise that, although it’s use has become a bit more justified lately, my use of the word “entertainers” in the title was strictly ironic. As alluded to earlier, just four matches is hardly enough evidence to conclude that the change of approach in the last month is akin to Russell Slade having undergone a Road to Damascus like conversion in his philosophy as Cardiff City manager.

It’s just as likely, in fact it’s probably more likely, that it’s all just some sort of coincidence and we’ll soon be back to the grinding stuff which was proving to be enough to establish us as Play Off candidates without suggesting we would actually obtain that top six finish.

Whether it’s as the nice Doctor Jekyll Cardiff City of recent weeks or the alter ego Mr Hyde Cardiff City of the first year of Russell Slade’s time in charge though, we face a hugely significant six days starting next Saturday as home matches against Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford are followed by a trip to Birmingham. All three of those sides are right in the race to secure that sixth place finishing position and the right outcome from these matches would mean that we could perhaps start to be a bit more ambitious in the targets we set ourselves.

*pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

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13 Responses to Opportunity knocks for Slade’s entertainers.

  1. Judging from the wireless commentary and a glimpse of some very brief goal highlights, plus the shrewd observations of our Blogmeister supreme, Kenwyne Jones did much better than usual yesterday with hold-up play and clever flicks for colleagues to run on to. I ask myself what made the difference? Well, Watt made the difference. This is not the only reason, of course, but Watt’s energy and willingness to run beyond his centre-forward partner may well have been two sides of the same coin. As Kenwyne Jones showed recently with what has been called “A smart flick” for Gunnarsson to score an excellent goal, he does have more ability on the ground and more vision than I have given him credit for. Presumably he did not reveal this talent previously because no-one was running past him to make the space and take advantage of his flick-on. Watt (and Saadi, too) both have this quality.

    I may be totally wrong in what I write next, but I think a strike partnership of Saadi and Watt with Kenwyne Jones in a slightly deeper role (as he did in the last home game) could be an interesting combination. He would be under less pressure for his hold-up play and flick-ons with head or foot, and with Watt and Saadi running incisively forward it might give Cardiff more goal chances and put opposition defenders under more pressure, which in turn would help our midfield and defence, and would allow more accurate passing and more attractive football. It’s only a thought!

  2. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks as ever, Paul…for your insightful comments. And AMO too for his shrewd observation.
    Yes, Tony Watt seems twice as fast as Joe Mason. And that makes a heck of a difference.
    Occasionally, one can find a player who is not the fastest on foot, but who makes up for it with astonishing speed of THOUGHT.
    Teddy Sheringham is a name that comes to mind.
    Not sure that Joe is anywhere near as blessed with such a quicksilver mind, alas.
    If Kenny Jackett comes back in the January window, I have a feeling Russell Slade should say “yes”.
    One other comment from me apropos nowt: something AMO said to me led me to this link…


    Could it be that we will soon be a feeder club for Valencia !!

    I jest of course.

  3. Barry cole says:

    Well I hope you didn’t get as wet as me Paul. It’s a pity that most of the fans had already voiced their opinion on where ralls should have been and it took so long for slade to understand why.
    That’s why I cannot change my opinion that slade is out of his depth and although we have the players to consolidate a top six place but I have always contended that we haven’t got the right manager.
    Back to the match the midfield were very good with ralls and gunnarson outstanding. Watt looks a find and at last we have a bit of pace, 12 months late in slades case.
    Now the defence, what a disaster and having had virtually 6 extra defenders over the last few months as we played containment football, we have come out of the shell that was boring Cardiff. Due to this, the defence have been protected and mistakes hidden. Bolton although bottom of the league found out the defence and just lacked finishing.
    So not as good as the Burnley match it was still was good to watch.

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for the replies. Barry, if I can consistently come out of City matches thinking I’ve been entertained, then a lot of my misgivings about our manager will start to fade – I think you are right to say that we cannot continue to defend like we did at Bolton and that’s why I remain to be convinced that this switch to a more attacking outlook (if there has been a deliberate switch) will be continued with.
    Dai, interesting stuff about Peter Lim, but I reckon us becoming a feeder club for Salford City is the more likely outcome!
    At the meeting on Wednesday, Russell Slade talked about having to “wheel and deal” in the January transfer window. So, if we were to sign Tony Watt (who, as I mentioned in an earlier piece, reminds me of Jay Bothroyd in some ways), I’m pretty sure a striker would leave – Adam LeFondre would be my favourite if his loan deal allows him to be sold halfway through, but I wouldn’t rule out it being Joe Mason (although I got the impression that the manager still thinks there’s a role for him in the current squad).
    AMO, judging by his comments at that meeting, Ken Choo certainly thinks Idris Saadi can add something to the team. I suppose a diamond formation could see us use the front players you suggest while sticking to what seems at times to be the compulsory 4-4-2 formation, but, even if we switched to something like 4-3-3, it might be that we’d have to sacrifice our wingers. I have my reservations as to whether Kenwyne Jones could play in what is now called the number ten role (Tony Watt or Joe Mason seem more natural fits for me), but it’d be interesting to see him given a go there for a game or two.

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    Nice joke about Salford. Made me LOL.
    Talking of things “nice”…
    How nice it was to see Mr Slade look so smart last night and speak so well, from Sophia Gardens.
    He has had to put up with a deal of abuse, and whatever our reservations about his degree of tactical nous, I think we can all agree that he is a fundamentally decent man. And I for one, wish him well.
    You jocularly mentioning Salford City, leads me to this thought. I see a consortium in which an ethnic Chinese man from the Malaysian Peninsula (well…Singapore) is the largest individual shareholder at 50%, took over the club and immediately abandoned their beloved tangerine shirts and switched to red !!!
    Sounds familiar?
    Where are the “tangerine till I die” brigade there?
    Could it be that they regarded it, in the general order of things, as fairly small beer?
    And certainly there are no shouts of “go home foreigner” to Peter Lim.
    Which goes to prove to my mind at least, that South Walians are – capital C political party apart – the most conservative people in these islands.
    And finally, I will take heart from this webpage link below. It shows the financial chaos at Bolton Wanderers.
    I had assumed that as Phil Gartside was said to be “gravely ill”, he had some terminal illness. Judging by the comments below the article, local fans are suggesting that his mystery illness is designed to keep him away from the intense flak that is being aimed at him right now for massive financial mismanagement.
    Now those fans are going to have red faces if Mr Gartside departs this Vale of Tears tomorrow, but what is incontovertible, is the lesson we Cardiff City fans should draw from this whole sorry affair.
    Phil Gartside was a local boy, whose boyhood hero was the Lion of Vienna, Nat Lofthouse.
    To borrow the vogue phrase…they were no doubt at one time singing “he’s one of our own”.
    Let us all thank God then that Mr Vincent Tan is NOT one of OUR own!!
    For his financial input into our club has been fantastic, and we should be hugely appreciative.
    But we South Walians can be an ungrateful lot.
    Here is the link…
    Remember to read the comments below…


  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    Oh dear, that is what comes from copying a link by hand…from my main PC and taking it to my iPad *(as I was writing my last contribution to you on the iPad).

    This time I am sending it the time-honoured way from my main PC…i.e Ctrl + C and then pasting. Here is the correct link:


    * I have never sussed how to keep your blog open on my iPad and simultaneously go elsewhere on it in search of a link. And yes I know…I am a duffer.

    BTW, I can see now what I did wrong when copying that link by hand…I had not appreciated they were not all single underscores…and that two were double.
    C’est la vie.

  7. Dai and his I-pad.
    Did it give him the “Nelson touch”? Underscores! What underscores? I’m damned if I can see them, said he.

    Re Kenwyn Jones in my thoughts above: As I’ve always been so critical of him, I was trying to say something positive about his play – though I believe that, in whatever position, he is not the striker Cardiff need. To me, Saadi and someone like Watt would be a positive combination, provided there would be others to provide the incisive through balls they need – but I’m still not sure there are enough in the present squad capable of providing the necessary creativity for such a two-fold combination to work.

  8. The other Bob Wilson says:

    If I remember rightly Dai, that recent programme about Salford City and the class of ninety two contained a clip where a couple of fans bemoan the change of kit to red. I agree to some degree about the conservative nature of the population in this area, but your implication in saying that is that the reaction in other parts of the country to Vincent Tan’s rebrand would have been different if it had happened to a similar type of club in, say, East Anglia or Yorkshire – my view is that there would have been the same amount of. or possibly more, resistance.
    I’ve often said that if Vincent Tan had been prepared to accept that he didn’t know better than the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people throughout the world that Cardiff City Football Club means something to and had made the right appointments in top business and financial management positions at the club, there may well be a demand for a statue of him to be built alongside the one of Fred Keenor outside the ground now.
    Instead, there is widespread resentment of a man who, as you say, has backed (or to be more accurate, loaned money to) the club on a scale never seen before. And, what has all of that money got us? A season in the Premier League in which, on the pitch. we were relegated with barely a whimper and, off it, we became something of a laughing stock. Mr Tan wasn’t responsible for all of the blunders committed in 13/14, but he made his own significant contribution towards that shambles of a season and, now, as a consequence of what was happening two years ago, we find ourselves with the team in a lower position than when he came on board and with a greatly increased debt (which, of course, has not been converted to the equity we were told it would be).
    You compare our club to Bolton, I prefer to contrast it to the team that currently stands top of the Premier League. Leicester City are a club which I believe we can validly be compared to in terms of potential, catchment area, history and stadium. They are also owned by people who, broadly speaking, are from the same part of the world as our owner and yet that’s where any comparison ends. It took Leicester longer than us to get to the Premier League, but, once they did, they proved themselves to be light years ahead of us in terms of competence on and off the pitch – also, when their owners said they would convert debt into equity, they went ahead and did it to the tune of over £100 million.

  9. Dai Woosnam says:

    We are both civilised people Paul, and what do civilised people do?
    We “agree to differ”, of course.
    Without labouring my point, let me say that the “converting to equity” thing in THIS issue, is almost semantics at best, and voodoo economics at worst. If Vincent Tan cuts and runs, he has lost a fortune. No firesale on earth will retrieve more than a fraction of his investment.
    Regarding the free thinking qualities of South Walians, I wish I could share your faith. Not for nothing were our chapel deacons the most feared in Britain. Why do you think that South Wales has more chemists licensed to sell alcohol than anywhere else in Britain?
    It was because Mrs Jones, Miss Protheroe, Mrs Beynon and Mrs Jenkins did not want to be denounced from the pulpit the following Sunday, after being seen buying booze from the Off Sales counter in their local pub …so they bought it in a brown paper bag from the chemists.
    “Medicinal, you see…for my ailing husband.”
    Okay that was largely on the way out 30 years ago…but you get my drift.
    It is built into the DNA of South Walians. This reluctance to move with the times.
    And so it was with the shirt issue. A daft decision by Vincent, for sure, but fairly small beer to me…and also to people like Dannie Abse who said shortly before he died words to the effect that he wished Vincent had not done it, but no doubt as with most things in life, he would no doubt come to be able to live with it.
    An ineffably wise and good man was Dannie.
    But Paul, after Vincent magnanimously conceded on the shirt issue, we are STILL moving deckchairs on the Titanic.
    Even your goodself who I regard as Sweet Reason personified, scolded the management recently for playing away in red, when they could have played in blue.
    Yet you know full well that MANY teams choose to play in their away strip when there is no colour clash. You were – admittedly unwittingly – just resurrecting the poisonous atmosphere on the shirt question. And those “Tan Out” banners were the extra ingredient that took City down.
    Those so-called supporters supported City that season like a noose supports a hanged man.
    But back to the raison d’etre for away kits…
    Thar is how teams with unusual colours can justify asking their fans to shell out on an away strip…because Newcastle United, for instance, do not really totally clash with anyone in the EPL.
    As for the mistakes you say Vincent made whilst we were promoted, I would say they were nearly all down to two men.
    First, Mackay, who should have been shown the door immediately promotion was won. It was clear that his negative tactics would be found wanting as soon as City started their EPL season.
    Had it been a hard-headed chairman like Huw Jenkins, he would have been.
    And no way would he have been allowed to make the incredibly foolish buys he made. Of them all, only one was value for money…and that was John Brayford, who Mackay quickly took offence at, and “sent to Coventry”…he was missing from the squad for the first half of the season…lost in the Bermuda Triangle of Hensol Castle.
    Then the second culprit was the Smiling (not Assassin, but…) Smiling KAMIKAZE.
    Sent Brayford out on loan to the Blades…where he was their best player in the second half of that season.
    No, I will always defend Vincent Tan. I will apologise though to a Leeds fan I know for saying some years ago to him that his club were followed by obdurate primitives who were always spoiling for a fight.
    I now see them all as free thinkers extraordinaire.
    The way they embraced the change from their beloved yellow and blue to all white!
    Mind you, in Don Revie they had a man prepared to back his chairman’s wishes re the colour change. Vincent had no such luck…he had a manager who in the end would have to write a cringing apology for his disloyalty.

    Had he been playing, and the reliable Matt Connolly* – when fit – at centre back instead of Caulker, I believe they would have survived by the proverbial “skin”.
    *just pre-empting one of your correspondents telling me that he had a lengthy injury that season. I know that. But gee, Connolly has POSITIONAL sense!
    Kindest, as ever,
    PS. Is it not interesting how two people perceive things in different ways? You – or one of your contributors recently – explained Tan’s Folly’ to a Burnley fan as a grandiose and foolish bit of thinking by our owner.
    Instead of which we should offer up,thanks to that very owner.
    Well the seats in our national colour is the clue.
    Trust me, without them, the atmosphere you raved over during the Belgium game, would have been experienced 45 miles down the road at The Liberty.
    Tan’s Folly?
    Some “folly”…and we Cardiff fans have “some NECK” !!

  10. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Dai, I’m going to do something that I don’t do too often and label my points in reply to you.


    You still seem to believe that the only reason the change to red proved unpopular is that the locals are a bunch of behind the times hicks, deeply resistant to change. Developing that theme, are you saying that completely changing a football team’s playing kit represents some sort of cutting edge thinking that we’re too set in our ways to appreciate? If you are, then, surely, you should be able to point to plenty more examples of where teams at professional league level in this country have had a kit rebrand that has been wholly accepted by a fan base grateful for the fact that their club’s owners have the vision and business sense that they clearly lack? No, instead, all you can come up with is the example of Leeds United from a time before even someone as ancient as me had seen his first game “live”. This country was a completely different place in the early sixties, a place where people were more prepared to tug their forelock and accept the actions of their “betters”, it was also a time where any opposition to the kit change at Leeds would have been at the disadvantage of not having all of the means of communication available nowadays to get their message out there to the media and those living in other parts of the world.
    Regarding second strips, apparently, the, idiotic, rule these days is that there cannot be a colour clash of shorts. This, to some degree, explains why City played in red at Preston earlier in the season and why, after Ken Choo’s announcement at the meeting last week that we would be playing in blue at Bolton, we wore the colour shorts we should always have as our first choice.

    Relegation season

    You are completely wrong to say that the supporters didn’t back the team in the Premier League. They did so throughout the first half of the campaign, but things did change significantly around the time Malky Mackay was sacked. You won’t get any argument from me about the poor quality of some of the signings Mackay made in the summer of 2013, but, even so, the 1-0 home wins over Swansea and West Brom (who were both in the relegation battle at the time) offered the clue as to how things might have turned out if he had stayed for the season – after Mackay left we still had most of the teams down at the bottom to play at home and, although it may not have made for the most entertaining viewing, what he had proved in the promotion season and in those two games I mentioned, was that Malky Mackay was capable of producing those ground out 1-0 home wins that Ole was totally unable to provide during his time with us in the top flight.
    As for Malky Mackay’s “negative tactics”, I’m always baffled by the argument which says that, having got promoted, largely, playing a certain way, City should have completely ditched that style and, instead, went out and attacked teams home and away – it was never going to happen and, when we appointed a new manager who was supposed to get us playing a more attractive brand of football, a difficult situation soon turned into a untenable one.
    I can’t agree with your suggestion that everything would have been alright if we had played Connolly and Brayford. I like Connolly and think he is a, largely, effective Championship defender, while I was always banging on about how we should sign Brayford from Derby well before it happened. However, Connolly has I’m afraid got himself a reputation of a promotion specialist – good enough to get you up, but not good enough to keep you at the higher level and I can’t help thinking that all of those managers who came to that conclusion are probably not wrong. As for Brayford, his performances for us when he became a regular last season were pretty good, but not good enough to get Premier League scouts interested in him – in fact, Championship sides were barely interested either. None of this means that I can say for certain that either player is not capable of playing Premier League football on a regular basis, but I honestly haven’t seen anything in them to support your assertion that we would have stayed up with them in the side every week.

    Tan’s Folly

    Sorry, Dai, I don’t trust you on this one at all! Even with the proposed increases in capacity, the Liberty Stadium will not be able to hold as many people as Cardiff City Stadium did before Tan’s Folly was built. Since the new ground opened, only two competitive Wales matches have been played in Swansea, so I’m not sure what makes you think they would have suddenly started getting more of them were it not for Tan’s Folly.
    As for the atmosphere at the new ground, my mind goes back to what I’m pretty sure is the first time Vincent Tan put in an appearance at Cardiff City Stadium for a game. Just as it had been for the Leicester Play Off match about eight months earlier, the atmosphere for the League Cup Semi Final Second Leg against Palace was electric and the reception he and TG got as they walked around the pitch was tremendous.
    I’ve no way of proving this, but I believe that what he experienced that night had a big effect on Mr Tan – what is certain, is that, in a relatively short time, we were hearing that our owner was going to become more “hands on” in his relationship with the club and within four months we had his rebrand. My suspicion is that, having experienced nothing but good will and gratitude from Cardiff fans until the change to red was announced, Mr Tan thought he had City fans eating out of his hand and they would accept anything he said or did.
    In the days before the League Cup Final, Vincent Tan talked about football for the first time since becoming involved with the game and he sounded exactly what he is was – that is, someone who discovered the game relatively late in life who was still coming to terms with what was required to get the best return on his investment/loans. While I accept that it would be a hard task to try to make such a successful and powerful man to change his mind, somebody should have tried to talk him around from his rebrand plans – the club is still suffering from it’s consequences and I feel there is potential for it to be as damaging as the Toshack sale in terms of the club’s standing within the community.
    I’m not going to knock Vincent Tan or any club owner for not understanding the football industry when they first come into it, but, when you don’t (or didn’t), it should become imperative that you surround yourself with people who do. Instead, the strong suspicion remains that people like Gethin Jenkins, Alan Whiteley and maybe even TG are no longer at the club because they put the “football industry” viewpoint forward when they made aware of some of our owner’s plans for the club.
    Malky Mackay may have bought badly, but, for Vincent Tan to say that he and Simon Lim were, to all intents and purposes, taken advantage of because of their lack of football financial and business experience displays a naivety which I find very surprising in someone who has had the life Mr Tan has – what would have happened to the manager whose defence against a considerable overspend was “I didn’t understand the procedures involved and so just signed where I was told to” in another part of Mr Tan’s business empire?
    Andreas Cornelius is usually held up as the signing which portrays Malky Mackay in the worst light and no wonder because, although we did get a bit of the money we paid for him back, the club spent a considerable sum on a commodity which provided little or nothing in return.
    However, it seems to me that exactly the same applies to Tan’s Folly. Now, I had nothing against the concept of ground expansion and I agreed with the original plan which was, essentially, to look at demand levels after a season or two of Premier League football and then decide how to proceed, but, somewhere along the line, that got changed to a headlong rush to increase capacity to a level which has only been reached once in a league game at Cardiff in the fifty two years I’ve been watching the club!
    The decision to build the Folly was taken before, or very early in, our sole season in the Premier League during which we managed to get full houses against the biggest clubs, but most of the time, the capacity of 28,000 was more than enough – would we have got 33,000 against the likes of Man United and Liverpool if Tan’s Folly had been open in 13/14? Possibly, but it would have been nice to be able to point to examples of a demand which justified it before the decision was taken.
    Finally, I’m intrigued by your suggestion that the football visionary that is Vincent Tan decided to build his Folly solely so that there could be 33,000 plus crowds when Wales and Real Madrid played at his club’s stadium and that it’s red seats were installed with this in mind, but I’m afraid the more mundane explanation that the Folly is a, unused, testimony to the mismanagement and bungling that has characterised so much of Vincent Tan’s time at club seems the more realistic one to me.

  11. Dai Woosnam says:

    Very good spirited stuff Paul.
    I’m still standing, even though I have taken a few on the chin there.
    You may have won by a t.k.o. …and hey, I do not mind LOSING.
    I don’t mind the beloved team of my youth, Cardiff City, losing too.
    Far sooner they lose, than gain promotion by parking the bus away and flooding the midfield at home.
    And no one player in a season when they were CHAMPIONS mark you, scores more than 8 league goals…and you say you STILL do not think that indicative of a negative team?!
    Ye gods!!
    Like I say, we must agree to differ.
    MM should have been fired before the first game in the EPL season. Why?
    Here is for why…
    No none of us were that PRESCIENT that we could even HALF have imagined the positively PROFLIGATE waste of Vincent’s money on dud – or at least ovepriced – players.
    But some of us – well me for one – knew from the getgo that Mackay’s dreadfully negative tactics would not cut the mustard in the EPL …and so it proved.
    And talking of prescience, I had a hearty laugh on your low blow on Tan’s Folly as you call it.
    “Low blow?”
    Well, of course it was Paul. You know full well that I was not suggesting that the national team and the Welsh national colour entered Vincent’s head for one nanosecond, when he came to draw up the plan.
    I am simply pointing out that we should all offer him our HUGE thanks that he embarked on it.
    I prefer to call it Vincent’s Vision…no “folly” there at all.
    Trust me…with attendance capacity figures close to identical before the red extension, the Jacks in the Wales set up would have taken our national games down to The Liberty by now.
    Gary Speed may have been neutral on the matter, but dig deep into “Cookie”, and the Swansea boy comes out. And remember how immediately after the referendum of 1997, Swansea’s attempt to host the site of the new devolved government nearly developed a real head of steam.
    There is massive ambition in that fine city.

    However, that is just MY take on the matter…and a child of six will realise that Vincent did not build Vincent’s Vision with the national team in mind.
    But hey, I will take the occasional low blow. After all, I am a big boy and in a longish life, am impervious to most sort of attacks.
    But I don’t think Mr Tan should be getting anything remotely like the stick he and his CEO are getting.
    And you – who I regard as a marvellosly civilised fellow – laying into them over the away strip the other week, actually SHOCKED me.

    What’s the famous quote?
    Something like “those who do not learn from history, are bound to repeat it”.
    In the name of God, let us accept our great benefactor’s magnanimous climb-down on the “colour red” issue…and not see it as weakness (and warranting a further kicking).

    Because trust me, if we do not “move on”, the club will sink like a stone with that colour issue still around its neck!
    How am I so certain?

    What you Paul think was great support in the EPL season, was nothing of the sort.
    Oh yes, fans can have chanted “don’t sack Malky Mackay” till the cows came home…but they had already inflicted maximum damage with a sea of blue shirts meeting all the eyes of the players…and “Tan Out” posters.
    The blue brigade all needed a course in Psychology 101…
    And then they would have realised the results of their prima donna shirt behaviour…viz. if the fans do not believe in the shirt, how can they expect the players INSIDE those red shirts, to believe in themselves?!
    So carry on the shirt thing chaps, and keep calling VINCENT’S VISION “Tan’s Folly”, and you will not be learning from history…simply moving the deckchairs on your own Titanic.
    And sort of adding to the drip-drip, character assassination of the chap as well.
    And a final point…

    It was a neat point of yours to say the world has changed since a strong manager in Don Revie backed his chairman’s wishes on colour change, and suggest that it was so far back that you were still in infant school back then.
    But let me tell you something…the world may change, but PEOPLE don’t.
    And to prove it, like I say, Salford City just RECENTLY switched to red because their new owners – like Vincent – insisted on it…not because any of the fans wanted it.

    But then…those Salford fans quickly had their TEAM’S interest at heart, and were not kamikazes hellbent on being seen standing with their banners on MotD, upsetting the applecart.
    As Rafa Benitez might say…
    That’s me finished.
    Will close now, before my eyes do.

    Ah well, such a debate keeps us both out of bother, eh Paul?
    Stops us becoming superannuated Teddy Boys.

    Yours, as ever,

  12. Dai Woosnam says:

    Oh dear…two typos, I have immediately noticed.
    Strike this sentence…
    Gary Speed may have been neutral on the matter, but did deep into “Cookie”,
    Should have read … DIG deep.

    And I did not close the quote marks on a mention of Tan’s Folly (aka Vincent’s Vision).
    Apols…for any other typos I have missed. It is late at night, and the proofreader in me has gone AWOL.
    My standards are slipping…but then my eyes are like uncut buttonholes.

  13. The other Bob Wilson says:

    I got so into answering you last time Dai that I completely forgot the Vet’s appointment that had been arranged for my cat, so this time I plan to just make a few quick points in reply!
    Since Malky Mackay’s unfortunate texts came to light, there seems to have been a reassessment of our promotion season by many supporters (I’m not saying you are one of them) and they now tell you that we bored our way to the title -to be fair, there were some critics of our style of play around when we were topping the table, but there weren’t many of them. For myself, I’ve said before that winning the Championship didn’t make me feel like I thought it would – it wasn’t as exciting from game to game as I expected and, certainly in the second half of the season, pragmatism, rather than entertainment, was the order of the day most weeks. However, that’s not to say the team didn’t play with style sometimes (especially in the early months of the campaign before we tightened things up after the 5-4 defeat at Charlton).
    When it came to the Premier League, the team did play with a large degree of caution during the period Mackay was in charge, but the facts are that the season was less than half completed and we were in fifteenth position in the table when he left – his tactics might have been proved to have “not cut the mustard” in the Premier League if he had stayed for the full season, but they were keeping us out of the relegation places at the time he left. Mackay has to carry his share of responsibility for the relegation (especially when it comes to his work in the transfer market in the summer of 2013), but, for me. the main on field reason we went down was our failure to get enough of the sort of results Malky’s side had been getting in the first half of the campaign – we won two out of two home matches against sides in the relegation battle during that time and managed two from eight under the management of David Kerslake and Ole.
    To my mind, a lack of bscking from the supporters played little part in the relegation. During the early weeks of the season, the team were doing well and the crowd were right behind them, but, as soon as news of the breakdown in relations between Messrs Tan and Mackay became public knowledge, results started to dip.
    Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single team that has prospered while manager and owner were having public arguments. Now, Vincent Tan clearly believed that he had right on his side, but he was like a child picking at a scab with the matter and, even after Mackay left, he still wouldn’t let it go – it’s hard to say how much harm his public interventions caused when Ole was trying to keep us up, but I fail to see how they did any good whatsoever.
    When it comes to the team’s response to the supporting of Mackay over Tan and the pro blue songs that were sung, they didn’t seem to be too bothered when we were winning the title. Watching games now, the backing the team got was better during the first eighteen months we played in red than it is currently – the crowd were fully behind the team despite the colours they were playing in.
    The players were in an awkward position when it came to commenting on the rebrand, but I find it very revealing that Mark Hudson and Fraizer Campbell went public with their feelings about it virtually as soon as they left the club. I’ve yet to hear a single ex City player who wore red speak out in favour of Mr Tan’s rebrand after they left the club’s employment and, similarly, I’ve not heard anyone who wore blue before the change to red back it either – the only information in the public domain suggests that the players, both old and new, backed the fans’ stance.
    As for Tan’s Folly, I will be going along to another match today where people cannot sit in it even if they were minded to – surely that has to be the be all and end all in any debate as to it’s current worth to the club? Hopefully, there will come a time soon when it will be open for Cardiff home games again, but, even if it is and we become an “established” Premier League team, my strong feeling is that we won’t be getting more than 28,000 crowds against the Stokes, Southamptons and West Broms of this world – if we did reach 33,000 for the Liverpools Man United and Chelseas, then I suppose I’d have to eat one or two pieces of humble pie, but until then I’ll keep on calling it by the name I use now.

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