Sleep inducing win demonstrates differences between professionals and punters.

CoymayI’m pretty sure that the large majority of people who get to read this piece will be united by the fact that they are Cardiff City fans, but ask them what they want from their team and I reckon you’ll get some widely differing answers.

For example, this time last year I was genuinely baffled by messageboard moans about City not being entertaining enough. I just couldn’t get my head around why, in a season that was always going to be a struggle, people would except a team that had got promoted playing effective, but pragmatic football to suddenly transform themselves into great entertainers.

Perhaps my unsympathetic feelings towards those craving Premier League wins and entertainment owed a lot to the sort of supporter I am. I make no apologies for being a Cardiff City fan first and foremost – to me this means that, while I like being entertained while watching us win, it is the win that definitely matters most to me. There are plenty of other games on the television nowadays I can look at if I want to be entertained by a football match, but, when my team is playing, getting the three points take priority.

I guess this means my attitude is more akin to the one you’ll find among those paid by the club when compared to many others in our fanbase in that I’d often look to defend the team against charges of not being entertaining enough. However, even I’ll admit after last night’s mind numbing 2-1 win over Reading at Cardiff City Stadium that anyone complaining about a lack of thrills and spills has a point!

So, in this case, I find myself at odds with the professionals. Now, generally I believe that the opinions of people whose livelihood depends on the results their team get tend to be more realistic and sensible than the punter (many of whom are in a slightly inebriated state when watching a game!) who can, understandably, be guilty of seeing everything in purely black and white terms, but I do wonder if last night it was the pros who were misjudging things and it was the watching public who did a better job of judging what was happening during the half time interval last night.

As Russell Slade gave his half time team talk he did so knowing his team had a 2-0 lead against opponents whose recent away record of only one draw in their last six matches in all competitions is even worse than ours. Not only that, Reading were going to have to play the second half with only ten men after the red card shown to the unfortunate Alex Pearce who had made a realistic claim to being City’s man of the match by contributing an own goal, conceding  the penalty from which Peter Whittingham made it 2-0 and   then being red carded!


Reading's Alex Pearce completes a horrendous forty five minutes by receiving a red card for  a foul on Adam LeFondre.*

Reading’s Alex Pearce completes a horrendous forty five minutes by receiving a red card for a foul on Adam LeFondre.*

With City being the epitome of mid table mediocrity going into the game (six wins, six defeats and a goal difference of 0), it just seemed to me that a Reading team that were probably fearing a thrashing as they had their half time oranges represented an ideal opportunity to boost that goal difference to the sort of levels that might work to City’s advantage in a tight finish to the season. Yes, City would need to be vigilant at the back still, but if they showed belief, decisiveness, a degree of patience and teamwork, then the win would take care of itself and there should have been more goals along the way.

However, it was very interesting to hear our manager use the term “solid, professional performance” twice in the first minute of the post match interview which is on the club’s official site. The “job done” quote that quickly followed only added to my feeling that it was the goal conceded late on, rather than the failure to take the opportunity to really put an opponent to the sword that had been presented to his team, which most bothered him – if the match had finished 2-0, he would have been satisfied.

Now, to be fair to Slade, I can’t say for sure that his instructions for the second half didn’t include something about there being the chance for a really big win for his side if they went about things the proper way. After all, it seems to me that the best way to capitalise on a man advantage you may have over your opponents is to tire them out by switching the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and, generally, move them around – I’d say this is something that we, mostly, tried to do after the break.

Maybe this is showing my different thinking to other fans again, but I have no problem with the moving them around bit if it includes making the other side push men forward by playing the ball backwards. Therefore, I was not one of those who were getting wound up by us not knocking the ball forward at the first opportunity – if the ball had to go backwards or sideways, so be it.


Peter Whittingham comfortably makes it 2-0 from the penalty spot - given the situation City found themselves in after this goal, the game should never have panned out as it did.*

Peter Whittingham comfortably makes it 2-0 from the penalty spot – given the situation City found themselves in after this goal, the game should never have panned out as it did.*

However, among many things that frustrated me last night was that, as we often do, we appeared to run out of patience after a fairly short bout of possession football and then resorted to a “fighting ball” forward – if the plan is to play a certain way, then why don’t City stick to it? Whether it be a long ball game or a more possession based one is not the main issue here in my book, it’s the way we seem to switch from one to the other so randomly – I accept that a team that “mixes things up” can be a successful one, but it always appears so haphazard with us and it seems to me what was needed last night especially was for us to choose the option which best suited the situation and stick to it.

I should emphasise that, despite the poor performance by City, they did have their chances in the second half, but the way they often reacted when they came along only tended to add to the impression that this group of players are not going to be realistic challengers for a top six finish this season. I say that because, whenever a promising situation would develop, the attitude seemed to be “every man for himself” (this was equally true in the first half). All of our front four of LeFondre, Macheda, Noone and Pilkington were guilty of ignoring better placed colleagues and taking pot shots at goal that never looked like going in on at least one occasion – maybe I’m misreadings things here, but that hardly suggests that all is well on the team spirit front at Cardiff currently.

However, given what we are seeing from our two strikers lately, maybe it’s understandable that our wingers are taking things on themselves. Adam LeFondre was given the sponsor’s Man of the Match award and, fair play to him, he did win the penalty as well as make a lot of unselfish runs. This compared favourably with his striking colleague, who I’m afraid contributes very little if he is not scoring. The smaller LeFondre is marginally the more effective of the two in trying to make something of those fighting balls I mentioned earlier, but the LeFondre/Macheda partnership has had seven games together now and I still don’t see any evidence of them developing anything to remotely resemble the Clark/Toshack. Alston/Evans, Gilligan/Bartlett and Bothroyd/Chopra or McCormack type combinations we’ve seen down the years at the club.

There will be those who read this and think I’m being overly negative, but I believe I’m being realistic. The pro’s will talk about taking three more points and moving on from here, but last night was so much harder than you would expect it to by for a side that earns so much more than many other recent outfits that would have have comfortably cruised to something like a 3-0 win if they had found themselves in the sort of half time situation we saw last night. The 12/13 side mastered the art of winning when not playing well and we saw the current side do that last night, but, for me, any resemblance between the two ends there – the Championship winning side did not need victories scraped by an own goal and a penalty against ten men to win while playing poorly, they had a steel and spirit which puts this lot to shame.

If our manager and players really do think it was a case of “job done” last night, then I believe they are deluding themselves – supporters of a team might think and react differently to the same situation, but their instincts are generally reliable and I’m struggling to remember a time when the atmosphere felt so flat when leaving the ground after a win. I still think there are off field matters which are a big contributory factor towards the downbeat mood at the ground these days, but a chance to restore some much needed feelgood factor to supporters of Cardiff City was missed last night through what seems to me to be a combination of a lack of belief and ability.

* pictures courtesy of

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7 Responses to Sleep inducing win demonstrates differences between professionals and punters.

  1. Dai Woosnam says:

    Commiserations, Paul, after having to endure such a 90 minutes.
    The only good thing for me yesterday, was the latest twist to the Wigan affair.
    I do not have more than the usual amount of schadenfreude in my make-up that most other people have, but I have to say that I am delighted that Malky and that ruthless* fellow Whelan are perfectly matched.
    And when Vincent waded in yesterday with his “racist hiring a racist” comment, all my Christmases came at once. I was laughing like I have not laughed in years.
    I salute you. Mr Tan.
    * Do not be fooled by his avuncular air.
    Remember how Owen Coyle was “the perfect fit for Wigan football club”?
    Not many months later, Whelan dispensed with him like so much fish & chips wrapping paper!
    Then after Uwe Rosler gets the club up to challenge for a playoff plce, Whelan says that it is amazing what can happen with a proper manager !!
    But once results started to turn the other way, the ruthless far-from-avuncular blighter, shows Rosler the door.
    Would/will Malky with his brand of negative football have been a success at Wigan?
    Probably, in league position terms.
    But the truth is, that here Whelan and Vincent have something bizarrely in common.
    They both missed a huge opportunity in failing to recruit the best young manager available just 6 weeks ago.
    And Whelan will be reminded of it almost daily …given the proximity to Wigan of Bolton Wanderers FC.
    Bolton may be horribly in debt, and Wigan may be mega sound fiscally, and Wigan have a far better squad, but I tell you now that Wigan will not finish the higher!

  2. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Why do Cardiff persist on making virtually every clearance a frequently aimless high bal? Even Kenwyne Jones doesn’t win them very frequently, and no-one has the speed of thought or body to take advantage on the rare occasions the ball provides an attacking option. And why persist with Macheda who wins nothing in the air, especially as he tends to make half-hearted challenges? I’m also wondering if the manager is somehow embarrassed to make changes in the squad in the fear that he might be compared to Ole the Tinkerman. What has happened behind the scenes to keep an experienced and natural goal-scorer like Guerra completely off the radar? And as a final comment from a grumpy old man, don’t we have in the squad at least one or two midfielders who are both powerful and constructive?

  3. Graham says:

    I’ve never found anything to laugh about when and where Tan is concerned – I just wish he’d shut up .. I assume he stays away from games because he knows what we ungrateful fans think of him .. but how lucky he was to miss last night’s debacle!
    You mention supporters “many of whom are in a slightly inebriated state when watching a game” – I wish I’d been too inebriated to travel down from London to watch our team last night throw away a perfect opportunity to improve our goal difference – something which may come to matter a lot towards the end of the season.
    In his programme notes out manager stated how he was ‘looking forward to the atmosphere .. hearing the passion ..” .. What he will have heard is the gloom descending as we failed to take advantage of being 2-0 up at half-time playing 10 men who looked even less of our team than our lot! And I’m sure our manager, who goes out of his way to reassure us that we supporters do matter, realised what a horrendous and tedious display our team produced and so, for the first time, opted NOT to walk towards each of the four stands applauding us as we applaud him. The only bright spot was seeing Daehli and Fabio come on.
    Of course, a win is a win and that matters, but how we win matters too – it costs a lot in time, effort, and money to support a football team and yes, I do want to see my team playing good and entertaining fooball – that way the train journey home is tolerable.

  4. Matt says:

    My own opinion is that the reason City hit hopeless balls forward after keeping the ball well is that as soon as anyone played a backwards ball, the chorus of boos from their own “supporters” implored them to get it forward as quickly as possible.

    I pay my money and want to be entertained, but at the moment, I’d rather watch the team keep the ball in the 2nd half and see out the win, just in order to get a bit of confidence in the team. Shame so many other people who pay their money don’t feel the same way.

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for all of the comments. Graham, Dai won’t be surprised to learn that I tend much more towards your interpretation of Tan’s obsession with Malky Mackay than his (although I do agree with him about Dave Whelan). Why Tan had to put his oar in I don’t know, but he’s not going to stop – him trying to make out he’s on some sort of crusade to clean the game up is laughable, as was his comment about the world watching the FA to see what they do about the Mackay racism allegations. Those texts were nothing to do with why Mackay was sacked because they only came to light after the event when Tan was trying to find some evidence to make the claims of financial irregularities stick.

    Anthony, I still believe the player we are missing most this season is Jordon Mutch. Medel and Mutch would be a very good central midfield pairing at this level. Medel was never going to stay, but I thought maybe Mutch could have been persuaded to. Dikagcoi is a big miss if he could have repeated his Palace form, but Ademyemi has been a disappointment. With his lower league background, I thought he would be someone who Russell Slade quite fancied, but it doesn’t seem that way – truth is, we haven’t got a midfielder who is powerful and constructive, it tends to be one or the other at this level and Gunnarsson is probably the closest thing we have to an all round central midfield player.

    Matt, I agree with you about those supporters who got on the players backs when the ball went backwards in the second half on Friday – it was a really odd game though because City were comfortably ahead for a large portion of it, but the mood of the crowd was one of frustration virtually throughout the ninety minutes. I think people are going to City games these days with very little sense of anticipation and optimism for a number of reasons, not all of which relate to on field matters – I think the team would have to play really well to completely shake off the negativity in the stadium and the other side of that coin is that people turn against the players quicker because there is very little feelgood factor about Cardiff City these days.

  6. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Hullo Bob,
    Your reply much appreciated. I had Ademyemi in mind as our answer to the lack of creativity (or is it energy ?) in midfield, but I couldn’t remember how to spell his name. Although he may have disappointed, he has the energy and presence which I think would be worth giving him a more extended run-out. More controversially, perhaps Juan Cala could perform the Medel role – anchoring the midfield and starting just about every forward movement, which is what Medel did last year. In the little I’ve seen of Cala, he seems to have an element of creativity so badly needed. Above all, however, it’s the continued absence of Guerra which I find most surprising. By the way, you didn’t happen to be a goalkeeper, did you?

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    I think Cala might be able to play defensive midfield Anthony, but, much like Guerra, I believe his days at the club are numbered and would expect him to leave (on loan, if not permanently) in January.

    The only times I played in goal was in kick abouts with my mates – I used to kid myself I was quite good!

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