Russell Slade the new favourite as Gabbidon and Young make their point.

CoymayI daresay there are fans of virtually every other team who say that, too often, off field matters become the main focus of attention at their club, but I firmly believe it happens more at Cardiff City than almost anywhere else. Yesterday morning I found myself thinking about who would be Ole’s successor and some of the truly bizarre rumours as to what the management structure will become in the coming weeks and then there’d be an “oh, and we’re playing today” which would float into the back of my mind.

Given how truly wretched 2014 has been so far in playing terms, I suppose it may well have been a case of what happened between Wednesday and Friday being almost a welcome distraction from the miserable performances City fans have had to endure over the past nine months -actually, make that a year because, once we’d won at Fulham to complete a short welcome to the Premier League honeymoon when we kidded ourselves for a while that we could survive quite easily, it’s been a real grind since losing to Newcastle in early October 2013.

In many of the bad defeats we suffered as relegation became an inevitability, the fact that we were up against good quality opposition could at least act as some sort of salve for the hurt being felt, but Tuesday’s no show against a Middlesbrough team who had to be no more than ordinary to be comfortably better than us, was as poor as anything I’ve seen during our annus horribilis when you consider the league we are now playing in.

So, the thought of City going to a Derby side who, Champions Leicester apart, were the best side I saw in the Championship last season and who looked to be coming to the boil nicely after a draw at leaders Forest and a midweek win at Blackburn was not a prospect to look forward to.

Aron Gunnarsson gets quite a bit of flak from City fans these days, but , although I accept it's not saying much, I reckon he's been one of our better players lately.  Here, he has just put us 1-0 up after hooking in from close range following a corner.*

Aron Gunnarsson gets quite a bit of flak from City fans these days, but , although I accept it’s not saying much, I reckon he’s been one of our better players lately. Here, he has just put us 1-0 up after hooking in from close range following a corner.*

The feelings of foreboding weren’t helped by the fact that the team were in the hands of two men who, as very popular players with the club, would have the goodwill of all supporters behind them, but were, when all’s said and done, complete novices when it comes to managing and coaching at this level.

Those pictures of Danny Gabbidon jumping on Scott Young’s shoulders after the latter’s winning goal against Leeds back in 2002 had been replayed a few times over the past few days – City were big underdogs that day and, in my mind anyway, a City win yesterday was less likely than it had appeared on that explosive January afternoon twelve years ago.

I got a bit more optimistic when I saw the team the caretaker managers had picked – for me, it had a more solid look to it than most of Ole’s selections and I liked the idea of having Anthony Pilkington and a fit again Craig Noone in there to utilise the flanks. The team lined up in what was certainly more of a Malky like 4-5-1 than it was an Ole type 4-3-3/4-5-1 with the main question about it being the one often asked when we played this system under Mackay – did we have anyone in the midfield five capable of giving worthwhile support to our lone striker?

The question became irrelevant during a totally one sided first half because we never had the opportunity to get anyone close to a labouring Kenwyne Jones – we were just concentrating on trying to keep Derby out. Given, the one way traffic towards our goal during the opening forty five minutes, we defended well. When the home side did manager to work an opening, David Marshall made good saves, but, with Bruno Manga and Matt Connolly to the fore, there weren’t too many scary moments when you consider we only had possession of the football for 23% of the time.

That said, the contrast between the two teams was pretty frightening from a Cardiff perspective. Derby wanted to play the game at pace and took quick restarts whenever they could – they passed the ball quickly and accurately and their full backs were playing more like wingers. Now, I know that, as an away side down on confidence, City would be looking to slow the game down as much as possible. However, as you watched our laboured backwards and sideways passing, which would would almost always end  with either a pass back to Marshall or a lump forward from close to our goal by a defender or midfielder and contrasted it with Derby’s crisp passing (albeit their players were never put under the pressure when in possession that ours were), it was hard not to think of an FA Cup match where a bunch of plucky non leaguers are interested in nothing more than hanging on to a 0-0 scoreline against vastly superior opponents.

I don’t think this expensively assembled squad of ours is capable of playing with the pace and urgency that Derby showed and questions have to be asked as to how fit some of them are – yes, Kenwyne Jones had a thankless task yesterday, but I agreed with Radio Wales’Kevin Ratcliffe when he questioned his fitness levels after the game (it says so much that Jones can look so immobile at times and yet you get the feeling that he is quite a bit fitter than he was last season!).

So, City went in at half time having played four halves of football during which they had barely created a chance or forced a goalkeeper into a save (Pilkington had a shot which flew yards high and wide, but I cannot remember another goal attempt in the first half yesterday) and, yet, in another example of what a strange game football can be, they had scored twice before the second half was ten minutes old.

It took the old faithful of a set piece goal to end the drought when Pilkington’s far post corner was nodded back by Connolly for Aron Gunnarsson to hook in from close range and then Peter Whittingham hammered in a second four minutes later when Jones did well to force an error out of a defender and Pilkington was able to provide the scoring pass.

If City could have held on for another ten minutes or so, then, perhaps, Derby heads would have dropped and the game could have been seen out quite comfortably, but the home side hit back hard – substitute Jordan Ibe soon reduced the arrears and there were six minutes left when Craig Bryson’s twenty yard shot flew in via an upright to make it 2-2.

Of course, there was disappointment at City having let a two goal lead slip just like they had done against Norwich, but, all things considered, a draw was a very good result considering the build up to the game and it should be seen as a feather in the cap of the novice managerial combination who certainly improved things at half time by getting their team to stay ten to fifteen yards further up the pitch – there’s still an awful lot for the new regime to do and the possession figures still make for worrying reading, but the second half represented some progress and, hopefully, confidence levels will be lifted a little.

If Internet rumours are to be believed, then City may well have a new man in charge by the time they play Bournemouth in the League Cup on Tuesday. Leyton Orient manager Russell Slade answered “I think they may have requested permission to talk to me. But I’m uncertain. I’m a little bit in the dark.” when asked about reports linking him with the City job and since then there has been Twitter claims by a journalist who has worked for the Times that the deal has been done.

Leyton Orient manager Russell Slade has come in from rank outsider to odds on favourite in the race to become City's next manager in the past couple of days.

Leyton Orient manager Russell Slade has come in from rank outsider to odds on favourite in the race to become City’s next manager in the past couple of days.

If this is the case, then City will be getting an ex teacher who never played the game at professional level and has spent most of his managerial career in the lower divisions. Furthermore, Slade was given one more game to save his job last weekend after his side (who were beaten on penalties in the League One Play Off Final last season), dropped closer to the bottom of the table. Since then, Orient have picked up four points in two matches, but, on the face of it, Slade coming to Cardiff would appear to be another whacky moment in the madcap world of Vincent Tan’s Cardiff City for the headline writers to drool over.

Scratch a little deeper though and it’s possible there might be a little method in the madness this time. Slade is quite highly regarded and, with the spirit in the City camp looking to be very low to this outsider, his reputation of being an excellent man manager and motivator may be relevant. The 53 year old is also someone who has never paid a fee for a player in four years in charge at what I still call Brisbane Road and is someone who seems to revel in that fact. Quite where a philosophy like that would fit in at a club where managers have become used to being given huge sums to spend over the past few years is hard to see.

To a degree, I can see that Slade might be a contender for the “Head Coach” job which involved him working on the playing side of things and leaving transfer dealings to the owner, Chairman and a newly created Director of Football. However, it seems to me that this would be wasting another of the man’s talents – his eye for a footballer. Apparently, in one night Slade found Michael Tonge, Richard Montgomery and Phil Jagielka for Sheffield United after all three had been released by other clubs as youngsters.

It seems to me that there is one scenario whereby appointing Russell Slade makes a lot of sense and that is if Vincent Tan has decided that the spending on players has to stop (or be cut back at least). If Cardiff City are set on “downsizing”, then Slade’s talents look to be very useful indeed, but, to get the best out of him, I would argue that he needs to be used as a traditional manager, not someone who has no say on player recruitment and works to a Director of Football.

*Picture courtesy of





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5 Responses to Russell Slade the new favourite as Gabbidon and Young make their point.

  1. Graham says:

    As always a perceptive, insightful, and accurate analysis – but I would say that since, again as always, I agree with probably every word. I especially appreciated the contrast you draw between “they passed the ball quickly and accurately” and “our laboured backwards and sideways passing .. ending with a lump forward..”. And that has charaterised our play for so long.
    A pity that Daehli and Kim, neither of them on the field yesterday, probably our two most skillful and creative ball-players, are both guilty of taking that extra litle step which gives another chance for big lumbering opposing defenders to jostle our rather frail little guys off the ball.
    I liked the reference to “their full-backs playing more like wingers” and look forward to seeing Fabio take off up the field again.
    And you referred to “our old faithful of a set-piece goal” – but this time it was Pilkington’s corner, not Whittingham’s, which led to the goal – and great that Whitts got back on the score-sheet but did you see how he sank to the ground, presumably in embarrassment or amazement, when the ball went into the net?
    What we’re still waiitng for of course is someone who can mould this collection of individual players into a team that has as its priority getting and keeping possession but only as a means of going forward fast and shooting when they see the goal!

  2. Dai Woosnam says:

    Good morning, Paul.
    Thanks for a very comprehensive report.
    As you will appreciate, I know several Grimsby Town fans, and Slade was manager there from 2004-6. He got the Mariners to the Millennium Stadium Div Two Play Off final where they lost 1-0 to Cheltenham.
    During his first year, a sizeable percentage of fans wanted him out, but here’s the thing: in the 8 years since he has gone, and “Town” have plummeted from those heights of the Millennium to games at Alfreton and Eastleigh, his stock seems to have risen with those fans.
    They certainly felt that his teams always showed method, and as befits a former PE teacher, always looked that they had put in the hard yards on the training pitch.
    Plus they miss him on local TV: he is media-savvy and media-friendly, and reasonably articulate to boot.
    And one other sartorial aspect: if we cannot have the baseball cap of the outstanding Tony Pulis in the City dugout, then we can have one with Russell Slade, as he seems wedded to that dreadfully ugly piece of headgear, even though it does not suit him.
    [Dear Russell: try a barge captain's cap or a newsboy cap. They would suit you down to the ground.]
    To be more serious though: the thing that strikes me is how Vincent has scaled down the salary!
    Here is a man who was paying Dave Jones circa £750K p.a.
    And Malky something also in that ballpark.
    And Ole WAY OVER that sum.
    Yet, Paul Hartley’s people have released info that he was offered £250K p.a. and a big bonus on promotion.
    Any views Paul, on this apparent downgrading?
    It will explain why the potentially outstanding Neil Lennon won’t be bound for the CCS.
    If he plays his cards right, and gets his feet in under the MotD table, he can earn that sum via the good old BBC, who love throwing everyone’s licence fee away.
    Hansen’s £1m a year is still burning a hole in their pocket.
    Kindest, as ever,

  3. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks again for your replies. Dai, as I allude to in my piece, the interest in Russell Slade makes most sense if Vincent Tan has decided to come at things from a different angle. Since he decided to become more hands on in the running of the club early in 2012, successive managers have been indulged by Mr Tan when it comes to playing budgets, but, we are worse off now as a team and financially as a club than we were back then, so I’d say our owner could be forgiven for thinking has all the spending achieved anything? I can’t see Slade being paid much more than the sum Hartley was offered (it may even be less) and, if the intention is to splash the cash again in January, then it seems odd to consider someone like Slade who has no experience of paying big sums for players – his expertise seems to lie at the opposite end of the range.

    Graham, I thought Whittingham may have taken a knock in scoring his goal, but you can never tell with him – Whitts is dividing opinions a bit at the moment (he wouldn’t be in my starting line up at the moment), but, in a side that I’ve seen accused of having no fight in them, you could not complain about his work rate and desire to cover for team mates.

    It’s strange with Kimbo, he seems to have become a forgotten figure here when it comes to Championship football, but he said he’d rather stay with us when Celtic were after him a few weeks ago – maybe it was a money thing, he is probably on more here than he would have been at Celtic? However, I think any new manager/coach has to think seriously about involving him more, because if the new man can get him performing, then he’ll be like a new signing for us.

  4. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks ffor that, Paul.
    Just a thought…but has not Kimbo still got his parents living with him, plus a 24/7 interpreter?
    Or is he alone in South Wales now, with just compatriot Ki at The Liberty for company?
    If the former, maybe they did not want to decamp to Glasgow.

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Possibly Dai, but, watching Kimbo this season, he is going through the motions – I would guess he is on a very good wage here and, by reputation at least, Celtic are notoriously poor payers.

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