I think the fixture computer handed us a very tough August with our first three away matches in particular offering a real test of a squad that has been hit by something of an injury crisis in midfield in recent weeks. When you consider that the squad is reckoned to be too small anyway by our manager, then one defeat in five in the league to go alongside two hard fought League Cup wins has to represent a satisfactory start given all of the upheaval and new arrivals of the summer.
Yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Portsmouth left me with more or less the same feelings I had after last week’s game at Burnley – a draw at the ground of a team I believe will finish in the top ten is a good result which again confirms the suspicion that this side has a resilience that wasn’t always apparent in last season’s City team which is, by common consent, considered to be better than this one (I’ll pass on giving a judgement on that until we know what our squad looks like when we next play in just under a fortnight). In all three of our away games we have gone through spells where we have been put under concerted pressure by the home team, but we didn’t lose any of them and with just two goals conceded, there is a defensive solidity about us on our travels which, unfortunately, we appear to lack at home at the moment.
Of course, consecutive draws will mean that you are going to lose ground to some of the team’s around you, but when looked at in the context of them coming off the back of our one really disappointing display so far, against Brighton, I’d say that the fact we’ve “stopped the rot” at Burnley and Portsmouth is more important than it being three league matches since our last win – obviously, I’ll be thinking differently if we fail to see off rock bottom Doncaster on 10 September! For a while yesterday it looked as if Andrew Taylor’s first goal for the club twenty minutes from time following a neat move involving sub Rudi Gestede, Earnie and Craig Conway was going to be enough to take the points against a Portsmouth side that has been short of goals so far. However, veteran Kanu came off the bench to score only his fifth league goal since getting the winner in the 2008 Cup Final when his close range header beat David Marshall on 80 minutes.
City’s season now comes to a halt until a week Saturday as we have the first of the breaks for International fixtures, but, certainly until Wednesday evening, the focus will still be very much on club football as the summer transfer window enters it’s final few days before closing late on 31 August. For much of the last few weeks it has been hard to avoid the suspicion that transfer dealings (on the incoming side at least) at Cardiff had been suspended until Craig Bellamy’s situation was been resolved one way or another. The former Wales skipper had talked of coming here again after last season’s loan and it’s been pretty obvious that City had been hoping to bring him back through another loan deal or, possibly as a permanent signing in the event of Man City cancelling his contract by paying off a significant portion of the money he stands to earn from the ten months left on his deal.
However, Man City have, seemingly, not been willing to entertain a loan similar to last year’s whereby we paid around £25,000 of his reported £90,000 a week wages – they have wanted any club he plays for to pay all, or very close to all, of his wages and that puts him way beyond our resources. For a long time, Man City were saying they were only willing to let Bellamy leave for a fee widely reported as £4 million, but, they appear to have relaxed their stance in the past week or so and now it looks like they are prepared to let him leave on a free transfer or on loan. Over the past week or so there has been widespread speculation that Bellamy was on his way to Liverpool, but with the player seemingly not prepared to take a significant drop in wages, there have been some reports of their interest in him cooling and now this morning’s Daily Mail has said “yes” to Spurs (quite what this “yes” was in response to isn’t clear mind, there’s no mention of it in the story – maybe they asked him if it was true he was born in Cardiff?).
Speaking as someone who was always optimistic last summer that we would get Bellamy, I believe our chances of getting him aren’t great this time around. If his position isn’t sorted out by Thursday, then we’ll be back in the running, but I wonder if it isn’t a coincidence that stories about us signing Coventry’s Ben Turner (with Jon Parkin possibly heading in the opposite direction) surfaced yesterday? If there is something to these reports, then does it signal an end to our interest in Bellamy as money that had been set aside for him is used to try and bring in other targets? Anyway, 23 year old Turner (who is qualified to play for Wales) is a centre back who was certainly very highly rated by his club who offered him a three and a half year contract last season and he is someone that has attracted the attention of Premiership clubs in his time. However, the fly in the ointment is that injuries have restricted him to just twenty seven league appearances in the past two seasons and he has yet to play a game so far this time around. On the face of it, it appears a bit strange that we would be in for someone with a record like that, especially when you consider that we have four centrebacks already – I can only think that one of Hudson, Keinan, Gyepes and Gerrard would be leaving (the last named is in the final year of his contract with us and, apparently, his family are still living in the North of England).
Finally, a couple of other quick items, Peter Whittingham signed a contract extension on Friday that will keep him at the club until June 2014 and City were the first name out of the hat in yesterdays draw for the Third Round of the Carling Cup. They will entertain mega bucks Leicester City in a match likely to be played on Tuesday 20 September five days before Sven brings his team here in the Championship.by The other Bob Wilson
The busiest week of the summer so far at Cardiff City Stadium saw plenty of new arrivals at the club who I’ll come to shortly, but, before that, a couple of other developments. Firstly, there was a confirmation that we will be going to Spain for a week long pre season training camp, but we will play just the one game, against Charlton in Seville on 15 July, as the rumoured match against a Gibralter XI has been cancelled – this leaves us with four warm up matches which is one or two less than normal, but, given all of the recent changes at the club, that’s hardly surprising really.
Shareholders of the club have also been invited to an EGM on 28 July in which a conversion of some of the club’s debts to shares will be on the agenda. Seemingly, some £9 million owed to the likes of Steve Borley, Michael Isaac, Paul Guy and Mike Hall at PMG and our Malaysian investors will be turned into equity – this is a great show of commitment to the club by all of those mentioned and, although the Langston debt (the subject of an investigation by forensic accountants) and the Ray Ranson loan on income from player sales remain in place, this has to be a big step in the right direction for the club.
Turning to new arrivals, it was announced on Thursday that three of Malky Mackay’s backroom staff at Watford were following him to his new club and a day later this was confirmed on the official site. The first thing that has to be said is a thank you to Terry Burton, Paul Wilkinson and Alex Armstrong for their efforts over the past few years and, in my opinion, the replacement for Burton in particular has a tough act to follow. That man is David Kerslake who, as a player, won what was a record number of England Under 21 caps at the time, during a playing career which took in a lot of top level football at QPR, Swindon, Spurs, Leeds and Ipswich as well as a loan spell at Wycombe – Kerslake’s coaching career started at Forest, before he moved on to become first team coach at Watford.
I remember Joe McBride as a tricky left winger at Everton, but he went on to have a long playing career, mostly in Scotland, before becoming a coach at Albion Rovers (he was also caretaker manager for a short while). His next coaching appointment was at Celtic and from there he had a spell in Hungary with Ujpest FC, before arriving at Watford a year ago. The fact that our new first team coach has spent most of his time since ending his playing days as a youth coach looks to me like a confirmation that the City team will have a younger look to it under Malky Mackay, but I might be adding two and two and getting five there. The role of Richard Collinge is a harder one to define, but, at a guess, I would say that it is one that takes in all aspects of player fitness and conditioning as well as diet and preparation (hopefully, there will interviews with him on the club’s website or in the media soon which will make clear what his duties are). Despite Collinge’s arrival, current physio Sean Connely remains in place, as do goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson and youth team manager Neil Ardley (who will also be in charge of the newly formed Under 21 side).
Before going on to new signings for the first team, I’ll mention the new intake of Academy scholars for the 11/12 campaign – thanks to the official site for this informative piece about the twelve youngsters involved by the way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write some nice things about all of them in Academy match reports during the coming year. As for the first team, Malky Mackay returned to Watford to complete the signing of 28 year old, three times capped Scottish international, Don Cowie on Friday. Cowie, a hard working midfield player who is something of a dead ball specialist, was used primarily on the right at his former club and was believed to have a year left on his contract, but, instead, there was only an option for a further year which came into play once Watford were safe from relegation. A contract was offered apparently, but it had not been signed and so, Cowie arrives on a free, signing a three year deal with us in the process. Watford are not happy about us having taken five members of their staff this summer and while that’s understandable in a way, it has to be remembered that in the case of two of the back room staff involved (and possibly the third as well), Cardiff were offering them a promotion and they have also had something like three months to sort something out with Cowie.
Although I’m always reluctant to mention new signings until the deal has been confirmed on the official site, pieces like this in today’s Wales on Sunday make it fairly certain that Andrew Taylor will become our third new signing of the summer tomotrrow. Taylor, who can play on the left of midfield but will probably be used as a left back by City, chose us despite being offered deals by his old club Middlesbrough and Bristol City (who were willing to pay him more than we are) and this has to be mainly because of his loan spell at Watford during the first half of last season. Just as with Craig Conway and Don Cowie, Taylor has expressed how impressed he has been by Malky Mackay and I think that it’s clear that he has been a major factor in us being able to bring in three players, who have all had generally positive reviews from supporters at their former clubs, without spending a penny in transfer fees.
There are plenty of posts on messageboards saying that David Goodwillie will also be having a medical tomorrow after City and Dundee United have, seemingly, agreed on a deal of around £2 million for the player. However with it being reported that Blackpool and Rangers are still after Goodwillie and that none of the interested clubs will buy him before his “personal problems” are resolved (reportedly, a decision will be made on whether to proceed with the rape case against him next week, while he will be appearing in Court on 11 July on an assault charge), it seems unlikely that he will be coming here for a while yet and that, of course, leaves the field open for others to come in with bigger bids. Most of the other players being linked with us have been mentioned in previous weeks on here, but there is one new name – Coventry’s Icelandic international Aron Gunnarsson, who is out of contract, keeps on cropping up and we do certainly need an energetic central midfield player.by The other Bob Wilson