Should a boring style of play be enough to get a manager the sack?

CoymayAlthough it was great fun while it lasted, there was something freakish about our thirty one year unbeaten run (there weren’t many draws in there either) against Leeds, but it had to end sometime and, in their heart of hearts, I doubt it if there were too many City fans who were genuinely shocked that it happened last night.

Truth be told, I couldn’t get too worked up about the fact that it was Leeds United, with their laughably poor record against us, who beat us (losing that record means little to me), but I did get annoyed that a club without a home win in eight months were able to end that sequence relatively comfortably.

On Thursday, the Sky cameras were at Elland Road to watch a Blackburn side with just five goals to show from their six away games up to then score twice in the opening six minutes as they eased to one of the most comfortable wins I’ve seen in the Championship in recent years.

That loss was Leeds’ fourth in consecutive matches on their own ground. Surely, even though you would expect a reaction after what was, to be frank, an abysmal showing by the Yorkshire team against Blackburn, if ever there was a side crying out to be attacked on their own pitch it was them?

So, what did we get from City in the opening forty five minutes? One measly goal attempt as the side that has forgotten what it’s like to score carried their shot shy October form into November.

Now, of course, it was hardly as if City were going to blitz Leeds with three goals in the first twenty minutes when it was 445 minutes (now 535 minutes!) since one of our players had scored, but, even so, this was a match between a team without a win in eight matches and one who hadn’t lost in six – by nearly any criteria you wanted to apply, you would have thought there would have been one side going into last night’s match fearing the worst and another one confident of the win.

Was this really the case though? My feeling is that one of the reasons why Russell Slade is coming under increasing fan pressure (I’ll be surprised if there’s much Boardroom pressure mind) in the time since the Bristol City game is that there are many others besides me who suspect that, if there was a team who would have settled for a draw before a ball was kicked last night, it wasn’t the one that hadn’t picked up three points since September 19!

There's a couple of records I wouldn't have thought Russell Slade would have wanted on his managerial CV after last night - the current run of one goal in our past five league matches equals what the 09/10 team

There’s a couple of records I wouldn’t have thought Russell Slade would have wanted on his managerial CV after last night – the current run of one goal in our past five league matches equals what the 09/10 team “achieved”, but at least then, it was a City player (Jay Bothroyd – strangely enough in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at Cardiff City Stadium) who got that one goal. As for going five league matches without a City player scoring, well it looks to me as if that was in September/October 1985 when Alan Durban was masterminding the second of his relegations in successive seasons, but we still need another nil to equal the six the maestros of 85/86 managed.

The evidence, as I see it, of almost thirteen months of watching Russell Slade teams play, at home as well as away, is that caution is the watchword of pre match rallying calls given by our manager. As I said on here last week, whether this is a genuine reflection of his feelings or not, the way Russell Slade’s teams play is suggestive of someone who has been given a chance that he didn’t believe he was going to get and is going to keep risk taking down to a minimum in an attempt to keep hold of what for him must be a dream job.

Now, anyone calling for our manager to be sacked at the moment has to acknowledge a few things;-

  1. The unbeaten six match run I mentioned earlier gives the clue that Slade’s results since he took over would not usually be considered to be bad enough to get a manager the chop - he’s won more matches than he’s lost as Cardiff boss. Dave Jones’ dismissal at the end of a season in which we had reached the Play Offs is proof that this doesn’t always apply and there are always those big fish in any pool who view anything less than winning a trophy as failure, but, generally, a manager with a won, drawn, lost record like Russell Slade’s at Cardiff would have grounds to feel hard done by if they were dismissed.
  2. While there are those who say Slade should be bringing in players on loan to address what have now become glaring deficiencies within his squad, my strong feeling is that this avenue isn’t open to him at the moment. When our manager was first hired, there was much talk about him being someone who was used to working with a small playing budget and what has happened on that front during the summer transfer window, and since then in terms of the loan market, suggests that any spending power he has is very limited.
  3. Last night was another game in which the players appear to have given their all. There were times when it looked like this wasn’t the case last season, but things began to improve on that front in the closing weeks of 14/15 and I think it’s fair to say most would agree that this has continued into the new campaign.
  4.   We are not having much luck on the injury front. Besides long term casualties Ben Turner and Federico Macheda, we have been without Bruno Manga for weeks, Fabio faces a month or more out with the injury he picked up at Ipswich, Idriss Saadi has not been in contention for a first team squad place yet, Kagisho Dikgacoi has been missing for the last two matches and Kenwyne Jones only returned for a thirty minute substitute appearance last night after missing the last three matches with injury – it’s especially galling that Manga and Jones have been missing games because of injuries picked up while away on international duty.

Nevertheless, this is a squad which the powers that be at the club already believe is good enough to make a big impact in this season’s Championship and our manager has always said that a top six finish is the target this season – my feeling has always been that we are a few (maybe as low as one or two) short of having the depth to maintain a challenge for the whole season, but, in his public pronouncements at least, our manager believes otherwise.

So, with the gap now up to eight points from the top five, there is going to come a point (some may think that it’s arrived already) where we are chasing just the one Play Off place – again though, the instinct would normally be to give the manager more time at this time of the season before replacing him.

However, you only have to look on social and print media this morning to see that there aren’t too many willing to defend our manager at this time – Russell Slade has never been a popular Cardiff manager, but he would have hoped he was over the worst as far as supporter criticism goes, now though I suspect the Bristol City match in particular has played a big part in that popularity rating crashing down to December/January/February levels again.

An interesting question occurs to me – would feelings towards our manager be the same if all of our recent drawn matches had finished 2-2 and the Middlebrough and Leeds games had ended 3-2 either way? My feeling is that Slade would not be getting the same level of criticism – our recent lack of goals has much to do with the dip in our manager’s fortunes.

That said, the analogy of matches finishing 2-2 or 3-2 I mentioned is an unrealistic one because, despite us drawing seventeen league matches in the year and a bit Russell Slade has been in charge, only one of them (at QPR) has finished at 2-2, while we’ve managed only one 3-2 victory and have only been beaten 3-2 on a couple of occasions.

No, it’s almost always anything between none and three goals a game under Russell Slade at Cardiff – maybe the figures do lie under some managers and a goals per game rate like that doesn’t have to mean turgid and careful football, but there, surely, cannot be too many City fans left out there who believe that Russell Slade is one of those managers?

Far more high profile managers than Russell Slade have lost their jobs because the football their teams played was not considered

Far more high profile managers than Russell Slade have lost their jobs because the football their teams played was not considered “sexy” enough – in fact, it could be argued that it’s happened to Sam Allardyce at the last three clubs he’s managed.

Sam Allardyce is a much more high profile manager than Russell Slade will ever be who, it can now be seen, worked wonders in his time at Bolton, but his career since leaving that club has been chequered to say the least – despite the fact that he has managed four more Premier League clubs and, up to now, has never been relegated.

However, Allardyce has always had something of a footballing image problem in that, rightly or wrongly, he is perceived as an advocate of a long ball game that has some supporters at any club he may join against him from day one. This feeling that Allardyce teams are dull to watch was, almost certainly, a consideration in the decisions by Newcastle, Blackburn and West Ham to relieve him of his duties.

Now, a personal view is that I’ve, at times, seen Allardyce sides play much more attack minded and attractive football than I’ve ever seen from Russell Slade’s Cardiff. Sorry to trot this line out again, but a year and more into his time here and I’m still waiting to see a genuinely memorable game in the flesh under this manager.

So, is that reason enough to advocate sacking our manager now? My general footballing outlook says that it shouldn’t be really, but I say that with decreasing confidence as boring game follows boring game follows boring game under Russell Slade.

Furthermore, let’s not forget that the word when Malky Mackay was sacked was that the decision makers at the club wanted to bring in someone who would play a more entertaining brand of football. Therefore, although not the whole reason for the decision to get rid of Mackay, essentially the same set of people who have charge of the club these days made a choice to sack the manager two years ago when the style of football on offer was a consideration.

Now, there are those who will maintain that we were very boring under Malky Mackay, but I honestly don’t remember feeling as miserable then as I do now about the type of football we play.

If the top people at the club genuinely were concerned about the type of football being provided by the team at a time when we were in the top flight and playing to virtual full houses every home game, then how can they not be when we are slipping towards mid table mediocrity at a lower level (again!) and crowds are the lowest they’ve been for nearly ten years (especially as the biggest single factor in that drop in attendances is the lack of entertainment in matches if a poll for Wales Online is to be believed)?

I’ve mentioned already that I doubt whether Russell Slade is under too much pressure as far as his job goes. After all, he is Vincent Tan’s personal choice and our owner must, understandably from his perspective, not want to make a decision which would only damage his already battered reputation among the City faithful even further, but, I say that on the basis that I believe his other footballing interests mean that the club does not mean as much to him as it once did – if I’m wrong in that regard though, then Slade could well have grounds to feel his job is under serious threat.





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8 Responses to Should a boring style of play be enough to get a manager the sack?

  1. It is with reluctance and almost a sense of backstabbing that I say “Goodbye Mr Chips”.

    The problems Cardiff have faced go back a very long time – surely long enough for certain obvious steps to be taken to remedy the situation. And as for Mr Slade’s recent results, we should factor in the generous amount of sheer good luck he and his team have experienced in these games.
    Could anyone do a better job? I’m tempted to say, “Yes, anyone” but that would be plain stupid. Nevertheless, the alarm bells are bound to be ringing, even in Malaysia.
    Who could possibly help rectify the situation, play attacking and successful football, improve the crowds, and bring back a “fire in the belly” atmosphere to the Cardiff City match day mausoleum. One name springs to mind, but I won’t potentially embarrass him by directly stating who. Suffice to say that we need a man who can command respect from the players, instil something more positive in their style of play, someone who cares for the club with heart and soul, someone who in our hour of need is a friend indeed, a genuinely FINE FRIEND (coded message here) -and as I’ve recently said, How we’ve missed him!

  2. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks AMO – I see you want Ole back!

    Seriously, I keep on sticking to the line that Russell Slade shouldn’t be sacked because it’s wrong for a manager with a record like his to be dismissed, but that’s applying cold logic to what is an emotional game. Leaving the rebrand aside, Cardiff City hasn’t “felt” right for two and a half years (i.e. since we won promotion), so it obviously isn’t all down to Mr Slade, but what we’ve had under him is a marginal improvement in results at this level, while the enjoyment factor has plummeted at an ever quickening rate (that half an hour when we went 2-0 ahead in Ole’s penultimate match against Norwich was better than anything I’ve seen under Russell Slade).

    As for the man who would be King, I can’t see him working with Vincent Tan, or, to be more accurate, it would all end in tears pretty quickly if he did.

  3. I take your points, and having climbed down from my castle in the sky, I agree with everything you say – though I do think that Mr Slade should have had more impact by now.
    Incidentally, how did you break the code to know I was talking about Ole?

  4. MIKE HOPE says:

    I fondly but probably foolishly, imagine that Mr Tan’s thoughts today are running along the following lines.Yes,I made the right decision in appointing Russell.He has stabilised the club, reduced the wage bill, made the players fitter and more committed and he has improved the playing standards sufficiently to put us in a position to launch a promotion challenge.Unfortunately the improvement in playing standards has reached a plateau-as my mother wisely predicted-and we now need a fresh approach under a new manager before we start sliding backwards.The new manager, ideally must be someone who has already won promotion from the Championship with two clubs without spending too much money.He must also be immediately available as I don’t want to have to pay compensation again.It is also important that he encourages attractive attacking football so that all the ungrateful b——s who haven’t bought season tickets come back to us.I think I’ll ask Mehmet to speak to that bald headed little chap with a wurzel accent who does the summaries on Championship matches for Sky.He seems well informed so perhaps he can recommend someone.

  5. Barry cole says:

    Rather than being flippant slade should not have seen this season. The football is the worst in the 50 years supporting the bluebirds and it’s only the fact that tan has put his name to the appointment that he is still here. We are going backwards and this would have been clearer had we not had a large slice of luck in a number of matches. Luck balances out and it’s clear to see that we have the players , minus a couple of key positions, but not the manager to get us into the top six.
    It will shortly be too late to change if tan does not swallow his pride again and realise another major mistake is in place.
    I cannot believe all the insistence that he has cut the budget, he has got rid of good players and brought in poor replacements. Having had to watch last years pathetic attempts on entertainment , we are now back at that stage.
    If tan really wants to get into the premiership then he needs to make the decision now any longer and it will be too late.

  6. rhondda blue says:

    i agree with everything said, rusty have served up rubbish football from day 1 to match his rubbish signings. act now vincent before it’s to late

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for the further replies. It seems to me that, after a first couple of months or so of the campaign where Russell Slade was coming as close as he has done to being accepted by City fans, our non scoring run has taken him back to square one. Actually, I’m wrong there, I’d say he’s worse off than square one now because, looking at the messageboards and some of the responses on here, people who were quite supportive of Russell Slade are now saying that it’s time for a change – it’s got to the stage where my line about it being harsh to sack someone with the sort of wins to losses ratio he has is one of the most supportive things you’ll read about him!
    As for possible replacements, Nigel Pearson is the one out of those available who stands out for me, but I’ve always believed that the Tan factor would work against us because some out of work managers who would apply like a shot for jobs at Championship clubs that we could be realistically compared to, would be reluctant to work with our owner. Therefore, I think there’d be the possibility that we’d end up with a British manager who we’d be disappointed in or, maybe, we’d try the foreign option and we’d end up with someone we knew little about.

  8. Dai Woosnam says:

    GK Chesterton’s old pal Hilaire Belloc had this cautionary advice to ants-in-their-pants Cardiff City fans:

    ‘Always keep a-hold of nurse
    For fear of finding something worse’

    Like an OGS Mk 2 for instance.

    Sent from a rainy Clovelly.

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