Slade’s shrinking violets wilt in the sun.

CoymayThere’ll be those who’ll probably take me to task over this, but I do feel sorry sometimes for Cardiff City’s beleaguered manager Russell Slade. No sooner had he finished saying how much more resilient his squad had become after a fine Conor McAleny (absent again yesterday, presumably with yet another injury) goal got his side a point they didn’t deserve at Reading on Saturday, than they cave in completely as soon as they conceded a goal in what was a pretty strange 3-0 home defeat in the Easter Monday sun by Bolton Wanderers!

I say strange because I don’t think that at half time anyone would have predicted how the game would finally turn out. Yesterday saw my brother and his son, who live in Birmingham, come along for their once  a season game at Cardiff City Stadium – as an aside, their last match was the 2-1 loss to Newcastle in October 2013, the game which, in my opinion, saw the start of the downward spiral we show no sign of coming out of yet.

I daresay other City fans who have friends/relatives who only get to watch one home match a season hope that the team put on a bit of a show for them so that, firstly, they enjoy themselves and, secondly, you are spared the pitying looks which convey what is not being said – “you turn up every week to watch THIS!!”.

Well, at half time yesterday I was telling the pair of them that they had just watched one of the more entertaining halves of football seen at the ground this season, but, when, with about ten minutes to go, my nephew was asked if this game had been better than the Leicester v West Ham game he had been to on Saturday, he just smiled – no words were necessary.

End of season matches between two sides with nothing to play for tend to go one of two ways in my experience. The large majority of them develop into boring affairs as the two sides, to be frank, just go through the motions as they wish they were somewhere else, but, sometimes, you get two teams who are sent out with not as many orders about what they should be doing defensively as normal and you end up with a watchable match in which the sides  both look more interested in attempting to score themselves than trying to prevent the opposition finding the net.

A craftsman at work - Eider Gudjohnson's makes a difficult skill look easy as his shot flies towards the City net  . A second later his team were 1-0 up and their opponents fell to pieces.*

A craftsman at work – Eider Gudjohnson’s makes a difficult skill look easy as his shot flies towards the City net . A second later his team were 1-0 up and their opponents fell to pieces.*

That’s how the match seemed to me in the first half and a combination of the game being so open and Bolton fielding the geriatric pairing of Emile Heskey and Eider Gudjohnson along with Craig Davies up front meant that there was more room than normal for a certain Cardiff player to strut his stuff.

Peter Whittingham attracts more comment than any other in the current side I reckon and, for a while now, it’s fair to say that, whereas in his middle years at Cardiff it was nearly all complimentary, now it’s at a stage where there is more negative reaction than positive. Yesterday’s match though was set up to give Whittingham the chance to show what he still can do and for thirty five minutes or so he obliged – unfortunately, he disappeared without trace in the second period as his individual performance mirrored that of his team.

Most noticeably, there were far more of the raking, and very accurate, long passes he used to hit so often in his “quarterback” period when he would sit deep and spray defence splitting passes to the likes of Chopra, Bellamy, Bothroyd, McCormack and Burke, It’s a moot point as to whether it’s having the likes of Kenwyne Jones as a target that has brought about the current situation whereby we don’t tend to see anywhere near as many of those sweeping balls from Whitts as we once did, whether successive managers have drilled into him that they see him more as a “continuity” player who is there to, largely, keep his passing shorter and more simple or whether it’s a confidence thing down to playing in front of supporters who are much quicker to respond negatively to a pass from him which goes wrong than they once were.

Before giving my opinion on this matter, I’d just like to draw attention to this piece from last week which highlighted City’s woeful passing accuracy figures over the course of the campaign which I believe needs to be borne in mind when considering Whittingham’s role and effectiveness this season. It came as no surprise at all to me to see Whittingham’s 82% pass completion rate being higher than any of his team mates, but these are the figures of a player who, whether under orders or not, generally takes the “safer” passing option now, so, when you consider his better than average technique, especially when compared to many of his team mates, you would expect him to have such high figures now that there are less longer passes, which carry the risk of losing possession, than there once were.

Anyway, the passes Whittingham was spraying about in the first half an hour yesterday suggested that he’s not lacking for confidence, so my guess is that we saw more of the sort of passes he used to hit because of a combination of him having more time to play them against opponents who, whether through age in some cases, or attitude on the day, were not as quick to close him down as most have been this season and more mobile players in front of him to play those passes into space for than he has been used to this season.

By opting for a largely immobile target man in Jones, often up front by himself or, as has sometimes been the case with Slade, with another target man alongside the Trinidad international, our managers this season have, to some degree, taken Whittingham’s ability to open up defences with his long passing out of the equation. On the other hand, it could be argued that Jones would have been better served by a central midfielder (e.g. Tom Adeyemi) more adept at running beyond him to benefit from headed flick ons than either Whittingham or Aron Gunnarsson are – it all smacks of muddled thinking where teams are not selected in a manner designed to make the most of the talents of the individuals within it.

Yesterday, there was the mobility in front of Whittingham that there often hasn’t been before. Unfortunately, what wasn’t there was the technique in terms of a good first touch to go with that mobility – in that phase when Whittingham was most influential, Eoin Doyle, Alex Revell and, disappointingly, Joe Ralls were all on the end of passes which had opened up the Bolton defence only for them to waste the opportunity because it took too long for them to get the ball under control.

City’s encouraging first half showing wasn’t just down to Whittingham rediscovering his long passing, they moved the ball around in an enterprising manner and created space down the flanks at will – it was all a such a contrast to the awful fare that was being served in the months either side of Christmas. At half time, it was difficult to understand how City had not scored, but, then again, it had certainly not been one way traffic because Bolton had fashioned their fair share of promising situations as well.

The benefit of hindsight now has me thinking that, despite all of their pleasing build up play, City did not force Adam Bogdan in the Bolton goal into a serious save throughout the whole ninety minutes, let alone the first forty five. Doyle had an effort cleared off the line by Barry Bannan, but, in truth, the striker should have buried that opportunity and Whittingham almost ended his two and a half year long scoring drought from free kicks when his shot beat Bogdan but flew just wide, but, for all of the perceived threat of a goal, there was a real lack of a cutting edge up front. Our strikers have, by and large, been spared criticism for our pretty poor goalscoring record because it’s been thought that our misfiring midfield were not giving them the opportunities, but on, yesterday’s evidence, there have to be some doubts as to whether we would have scored more with a more dominant midfield.

I mentioned Bolton’s “geriatric” strikers earlier and I suppose there is no way that such a word can be seen as anything else but uncomplimentary given the context in which it was used. However, while neither of the two players are anything like the forces they once were, Gudjohnson and Heskey were both far more impressive than our strikers on the day.

In terms of trophies won and impact made on the world stage, Gudjohnson has to be the best player to appear at Cardiff City Stadium in a club game this season and his beautifully taken opening goal turned the whole game yesterday. Heskey was never as much of a critics or fans favourite as his strike partner yesterday was, but he was always a real handful for his markers and I thought he gave our central defence (which I believe has been the most effective part of our misfiring team this season) as uncomfortable an afternoon as they’ve had in a while.

It's become a bit of a cliche for supporters to file out of the ground once there team goes 3-0 down no matter what the stage of the game, but it's hard not to feel some sympathy for them in this case, because City have really been put through the wringer in the last eighteen months.*

It’s become a bit of a cliche for supporters to file out of the ground once their team goes 3-0 down no matter what the stage of the game, but it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for them in this case, because City fans have really been put through the wringer in the last eighteen months.*

Bolton’s team selection was certainly an interesting one, with Welsh international Davies up front alongside his more illustrious colleagues. I’ve always thought of Davies as a player who will look back on his career and think he could have done better with all of the natural attributes he was given – he could have been the centre forward Wales have been lacking for the last decade under different circumstances. Although he showed a City like poor first touch in the lead up to his second goal, he was, criminally, given time to recover the ball and then fire in an excellent shot to complete the scoring – the finish for his first goal was also a good one and when put with the fine technique shown in Gudjohnson’s half volleyed shot, had me thinking that we don’t currently have strikers capable of scoring any of those goals.

Only a fine save by David Marshall denied Davies his hat trick against dispirited opponents in front of a disinterested crowd and the game ended with Bolton fans “oleing” away as Bannan went through some of his party pieces. Bannan is a very talented footballer whose career has been blighted to some degree by the sort of thinking that is all too prevalent in the British game which preaches that players who aren’t above a certain height will not make it in the game. Bolton, one of a very, very short list of Football League clubs with a debt to rival ours have chosen to add a player of that quality to their squad despite the fact that, like us, their season has been effectively over for a few weeks now.

However, unlike us, they have chosen not to loan out first team players for “business reasons” and, when you see the way, supporters shuffled out of the ground in a resigned manner at the final whistle (many had long since departed by then of course), you really do have to wonder where this club is headed.

Despite them being so clinical in their finishing yesterday and being pretty impressive in other parts of the game as well, the league table says Bolton are nothing special this season and yet we were beaten 6-0 by them on aggregate over our two games. On the day that Blackpool were relegated, we were given a vision of a future in which it doesn’t take too big a leap of imagination to see us going the same way as them unless those in charge of the club start thinking in a clear headed, joined up and mature way. Yes, there is a need for financial prudence, but the current try to flog or loan out anything that moves approach is as wrong for a club in our situation as the spend, spend, spend philosophy before the summer transfer window was closed – always assuming that the man at the top is still interested in his club’s well being of course.

* pictures courtesy of





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10 Responses to Slade’s shrinking violets wilt in the sun.

  1. Richard Holt says:

    I think the assumption you refer to at the end gets to the crux of the matter Paul. Thanks for the write up. At the last minute I decided against a six-hour drive in bank holiday traffic. It would be nice to regret that sort of decision once in a while.

  2. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Another superlative assessment. To me, the big difference for the first half-hour or so was the novel degree of mobility “up front”. The movement of Doyle and Revell was surely a factor in enabling Whittingham to spray longer and more incisive passes, and had Revell not been injured, I feel sure that goal opportunities would have arisen and been taken. There was no real cover for Revell on the bench and it might have been better to bring on another defender and get one of the centre backs to lead the attack. This was certainly not a role for Joe Mason who ran with intelligence but without any change of pace and was never likely to win the high balls which Cardiff persisted in using. A pity we did not have someone with the energy, experience and physical presence of Heskey (and I don’t mean Kenwyne Jones.

  3. Graham says:

    The 18.25 train didn’t reach Paddington until 23.00 – diversions, break-downs, track renewals, repairs, and maintenance – but I came away not so much depressed but frustrated at a result which was just not a fair reflection of what I’d watched .. the 1st half saw some of the very best football from a Bluebirds team this season – Whittingham back to his superb defence-splitting passing best, although his shooting not back to the quality that a few seasons ago made him the League top-scorer; Fabio some terrific attacking full-back play, Manga wonderfully masterful again, and my only complaint would be that Noone must more often be prepared not to take that extra step and so lose the ball [and he must practise his crossing skills] .. in the 2nd half, they had the luck and took advantage of a couple of mistakes – and we weren’t able to rally and recover what we’d shown in the 1st half we could produce .. perhaps a different half-time talk could have helped – well, no because after the first half display all anyone could say would be ‘carry on’ .. perhaps a more energetic involved Malky-like touch-line involvement from the manager might have pulled the team together, but what we haven’t got is the Bellamy-like on-pitch commitment and example and leadership .. anyway, of course it’s goals that count and we want to watch our team win, but I came away and made the long, long journey home angry at the result but, rather than depressed, glad I’d seen what our team produced during most of the first half – how can we do that again .. and again .. and we supporters need to do just that – support.

  4. rhondda blue says:

    i’m starting to sound like a cracked record now, but how long as rusty been at cardiff, long enough to see some transformation in our club, but as yet i see nothing apart from doom and gloom and possible relegation with this side next year. we have nothing about us, no leadership on or off the pitch,no fight no one rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in. and one of our major problems this season has been in midfield where we have been battered all season, and low and behold rusty picks the same midfield yet again.why did he waste money on o’keefe, he wont play him and to be honest he’s no better than what we got. dalman says rusty will lead us next season, straight to the first division then russ. the quality of player may be ok for you russ because you only know the first division but it’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR OUR CLUB. do yourself and everybody at our club and RESIGN your post, your no better than ollie but at least he done it in the premier.( frustrated renewed season ticket holder)

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    Some interesting posts.
    Rhondda Blue makes good points re the bizarre transfer acquisitions of RS. O’Keefe is as he rightly says, a mystery buy. I might add the name of Eoin Doyle for nearly £1m too, because I only knew of his CHESTERFIELD scoring exploits.
    But dining with some friends at their family home in Edinburgh a month ago, made me realise that I am no longer a student of the Scottish game.
    The family there are all dyed-in-the-wool Hibies, and I knew nowt about Doyle have been a Hibernian player prior to Chesterfield.
    Apparently he started promisingly, but apparently after about 3 games, he could not hit a barn door.
    I wonder if Russell Slade did “due diligence” here?
    But back to Rhondda Blue.
    He echoes the sentiments of the WalesOnline comments from the sans-culottes mob waiting at the guillotine for the arrival of the cart bearing poor beleagured Russell Slade.
    But he expresses his views blessedly free of the disgusting vitriol we see exhibited there daily. And I thank Rhondda Blue for his good grace.
    I often wonder why people say truly hateful things online: things they would never say in a MILLION YEARS to someone’s face.
    And I have come to a conclusion, based in part on my OWN shortcomings.
    And it mostly boils down to the use of an alias.
    What do I mean?
    Let me explain.
    Nearly all my life I have been happy to put my own name to my opinion…in magazine articles/book and live music reviews/ letters to newspapers etc.
    On a couple of occasions though, I have had to adopt an alias.
    WalesOnline being one…when I found they had frozen my email address and I could no longer get my “once every three months” view aired.
    And here is the weird thing: somehow in one’s subconscious, with an alias, one feels one has licence to say something bordering on the outrageous… like as though it isn’t really ME who is saying it, but this PERSONA I have invented.
    So, make me Dictator of the Internet and I would insist that everyone’s full name and NHI number*
    That said Paul, I am conscious of the fact that I am in a minority on this site in that I always sign in with the name I was given when Christened at the John Pugh Presbyterian Chapel in Porth (a place of worship now long demolished). And conscious of the fact that those using an alias here, always avoid spitting nails at one another, even if we fundamentally disagree.
    In this, of course Paul, we are in your TOTAL DEBT, because you lead the way by showing such a good example in civilised discourse.
    And you regard Freedom of Speech as YOUR most sacred belief…so you do not suppress comments…even when they are totally antithetical to yours (like mine on modern tactics and possession stats).
    I keep meaning to write to you on these 2 items, but I keep taking myself down other conversational avenues…like here!
    There is always tomorrow… I guess !
    Graham’s post impressed me in that he went out of his way to be fair to RS, and that is nice to see from anyone these days, as “let’s kick Slade” seems to be the order of the day.
    We all know that RS was never gonna get City promoted: I told you the week he was appointed how three friends here in Grimsby thought it highly amusing: remembering his less-than-brilliant spell here some 8 years ago. But there are worse managers**. So thanks Graham for being fair to him and that first half showing.
    Mind you, I am sure Graham that you won’t mind me pouncing on these words of yours, re RS’s touchline presence:
    perhaps a more energetic involved Malky-like touch-line involvement from the manager might have pulled the team together
    Well Graham…a fat lot of good all that hollering out from Malky Mackay did Wigan, eh? And remember, it is only since Christmas that Malky sold off stars like Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman…he has had some tremendous players in his squad.
    I must confess to an element of schadenfreude here, for I was delighted to hear that that he had been sacked. As delighted as I was that his unpleasant Chairman had been sent on a Racial Awareness course.
    There is karma after all.
    That dear Malky, is what comes from trying to shaft a great and good man.
    You bit off more than you could chew, and Mr Tan said words along the lines of “if you want to play dirty, I can play dirtier”.
    * weak joke on my part! (The NHI number, I mean!)
    ** Like who for instance? Oh too numerous to mention…but one name screams out at us.
    With that Laughing Cavalier at the helm, I submit we would have been relegated by mid March and have been below Blackpool in the table by now.

  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    the sentence “So, make me Dictator of the Internet and I would insist that everyone’s full name and NHI number*” needs two other words that I omitted to include by suddenly scrolling down to add my footnote.

    It should have read “So, make me Dictator of the Internet and I would insist that everyone’s full name and NHI number be included*”

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    I’ve got a busy day lined up, so, as usual, thanks for the replies and I’ll limit what I say to observing that I think Malky must have known he didn’t have long left at Wigan once Dave Whelan stepped down and to pointing out that despite all of the rumours and all the money Vincent Tan has spent trying to turn them into something more than that, there is still no credible evidence in the public domain that Mackay was on the fiddle. Also, I can see where Graham is coming from with his view of the game – maybe it was because the family members present meant I watched the game in a different way than normal, but I didn’t get as angry as many at the ground did – on the other hand, I suppose it could be that the general atmosphere of failure and apathy around the club at the moment means that I don’t care as much as I once did.

  8. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks, Paul.
    I note you say “despite all of the rumours and all the money Vincent Tan has spent trying to turn them into something more than that, there is still no credible evidence in the public domain that Mackay was on the fiddle.”
    Quite right that you say it.
    But the “shafting” I refer to is not that at all, but the deliberate leaking of that private email between Mr T and MM …to make Mr T appear a villain and MM the “wronged party” in the Court of Public Opinion.
    Some of us saw through it straight away.
    As I saw through his much earlier performance with Michael Laudrup on that infamous episode of MotD.
    Thanks again Paul.
    Hope you have a productive day.

  9. gale says:

    So no one likes tan I take it or the new manager u want mm back tan out rumers new manager coming tan selling I would like to know if fans want a ccfc or just to get rid of it my son must b turning in his grave at the lack of support for his beloved ccfc

  10. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Hello Gale and thanks for your comment. I cannot speak for others, but I don’t see my role as a City fan (and I saw my first game in 1963) as being someone who supports the club line come what may. in my opinion the club has been very badly run for years and’ although I would just like to concentrate on the football, the amount of debt accumulated since Sam Hammam arrived in 2000 means there is always another game going on at Cardiff City. Vincent Tan’s money gave us the chance to become an established Premier League club, but a series of very poor decisions taken over the past three years. Whether it be bad signings, disastrous choices of managers, pointless stands, broken promises or ridiculous rebrands have meant that the opportunity has been completely wasted – given that by every measure I can think of except threat of administration/liquidation through the courts we are worse off now than when Vincent Tan first bought shares in the club, I think it is inevitable that people are being critical of him.

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