The week started with an announcement that Simon Lim had become the latest CEO to leave Cardiff City under Vincent Tan’s reign. Lim’s departure prompted a reshuffle with Chairman Mehmet Dalman ending doubts about his future at the club by taking on many of Lim’s old duties under his new job title of Executive Chairman and Ken Choo coming in as General Manager to, in Dalman’s words, run the non football side. The announcement also confirmed the departure of a group of three joining Swiss side Servette Geneva. The identities of two of those involved was not new news because there had been talk of Commercial Director Julian Jenkins and Development team manager Kevin Cooper moving to Geneva for a few weeks, but they will also be joined by long serving physio Sean Connolly – another departure is Dick Bate who was in charge of the club’s Academy.
Following the shambolic situation last year where a series of transfers that Messrs Tan and Lim were very critical of, despite, it seems, them having been signed off by someone in authority at the club (i.e. not Malky Mackay or Iain Moody whose departures were heavily linked to the overspending in these deals), a much needed change of procedure has also been introduced. A four man Committee will now discuss possible new signings before giving the go ahead for the deal to be completed.
Some reports I’ve read say Vincent Tan will be attending these meetings and others that he will have an, as yet, unnamed representative present, but definitely involved will be Messrs Dalman, Choo and Solskjær with it being emphasised that no deal will go ahead without Ole’s approval. For the signings so far this summer it seems Ole has worked in conjunction with Tan and Dalman, but it seems pretty certain that there will be more new players joining the club this summer despite us having bought in a fifth one since the end of the season this week.
Mehmet Dalman mentioned the possibility of another signing before the end of the week when talking about the staff changes outlined above a few days ago and commented that the emphasis would be shifting to the defence and midfield areas following the arrival of three new strikers in the past few weeks. Therefore, it did not come as too much of a surprise when the Bosman signing of Crystal Palace defensive midfield man Kagisho Dikgacoi on a three year deal was confirmed on Thursday.
Dikgacoi had been linked with City in the last fortnight or so as well, but, that said, given that my thinking on possible deals where we are in competition with teams who will be in the Premier League next season has tended to be that we stood little chance of completing them, I must say that the identity of the player did shock me a bit. In this case, the Premier League club involved were Palace themselves who had talked to Dikgacoi about a new deal, but with his agent making some critical comments about the London club’s attitude towards his client on completion of his move to Cardiff, I presume the length of contract offered and and wages agreed were better than theirs.
With the Bosman signing of Javi Guerra completed while we were a Premier League club and now another new arrival where we seem to be paying someone more than a top flight club was prepared to, I’ll admit to a few concerns about the size of our wage bill for the coming season. However, it seems fairly certain that we are going to be losing some high earners in the coming weeks (for example, Dikgacoi would appear to be a replacement for Gary Medel who is, increasingly, being linked to a return to Spain with Valencia), so I suppose the time to try to make a realistic judgment on the wage bill is on 1 September when the transfer window has closed.
One pretty high earner who appears to be close to the departure door is Fraizer Campbell who was reported a few days ago to be in Leicester for discussions with the winners of the Championship about an £800,000 move. If Campbell does go, then, despite the presence of Kenwyne Jones, Nicky Maynard, Joe Mason, Jo Inge Berget and Rhys Healey as forward options to go with new signings Guerra, LeFondre and Macheda, perhaps Ole feels we need still another striker, so maybe the reports of us being one of a number of Championship clubs chasing Chelsea’s Islam Feruz on a long term loan deal are not as wide of the mark as they may appear to be at first?
Another name linked with City recently is Ferencvaros defender Muhamed Besic. Twenty one year old Besic is in the Bosnia and Herzegovina squad for the World Cup and has been singled out by coach Safet Susic as the man to mark Lionel Messi in tonight’s game with Argentina. Besic has plenty of admirers, reported to include Anderlecht, Borussia Monchengladbach and Fenerbahce, so, on the face of it, he’s another who falls into the category of “unlikely” as far as I’m concerned, but, given some of our deals so far this summer, I’m certainly not going to say impossible.
One other bit of City related news, I can imagine how “old school” Cardiff fans will feel about this, but we were voted the best in the Premier League when it came to entertaining away fans last season (I’ll avoid the obvious jokes!) – indeed, only Plymouth Argyle of the ninety two clubs making up the Premier and Football Leagues were rated above us.
Finally, just a few quick words on the opening days of the World Cup in Brazil. Yes, there have been some shocking decisions by officials in the first few games, but, overall it has been a very promising start to the competition. England’s campaign began with defeat by Italy last night, but it was a much more open affair than I was expecting and, as such, continued a trend that has seen twenty six goals scored in eight matches. Chile, with Gary Medel at centreback scored three of them in their win over Australia, but at the moment the South American side that has impressed me the most is probably Columbia who beat Greece 3-0. Brazil were pretty good in beating Croatia 3-1, but they benefited from home town decisions and the scoreline flattered them, while Uruguay came a cropper against unfancied Costa Rica.
Of the European teams, Croatia aren’t out of it by any means, neither are England on their showing last night, but the result which towers above all others so far is Netherlands 5 Spain 1. The Netherlands (who I was pretty dismissive about in my piece on their warm up win over Wales!) were excellent with Van Persie in great form and Robben absolutely brilliant in the second half, but they were helped on their way by a woeful defensive showing by the team that has won their last three major tournaments. Spain looked like a side with important players in decline. Some of them are simply coming to the end of their careers, but others, notably their centrebacks and one or two in midfield, gave the impression that they were struggling to get themselves up for yet another competition after all the success, at club and country level, they’d enjoyed in the past six years – I think they may well not get past the group stage.
* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/
by The other Bob Wilson with 4 comments
Well, they had a good innings, but the bluebird socks I’ve referred to occasionally on here over the past year put in their final appearance yesterday. The socks were a Christmas present two years ago and, after not being worn before May 2012, they suddenly became more important after the change to red. Furthermore, we invariably won when I wore them (before yesterday, we had only been beaten once when I had them on – I had forgotten to wear them for all of the matches I’d seen us lose in that time except for Newcastle in October).
So, City’s 3-0 defeat by Southampton at Cardiff City Stadium was completely down to my socks losing their magic powers then was it? Was it f**k – to attribute yesterday’s awful, but somehow predictable, loss to such a frippery is plainly ludicrous. However, in my opinion at least, it is only slightly more ludicrous than putting ninety minutes which would have sobered anyone up who had been carrying on their liquid Christmas celebrations into a second, third or fourth day down to just one single factor.
I’ve seen and heard our owner, Chairman, manager, the whole team, certain members of the team, our opponents and even the Cardiff supporters being singled out as the reason why we were beaten so badly, but while I would say all of them were contributory factors, no one of them was responsible. For me, what we saw against Southampton was the culmination (it least I hope it was the culmination!) of a process which started (in the public domain at least) with the bonus dispute revelations in early October, was brought to the boil by the Moody dismissal during the international break that month, then simmered for almost two months before exploding with the fall out from Malky Mackay’s statement that he would be looking to bring in three new players in January.
Since then, all attempts to fight the fire have merely had the effect of pouring petrol on it – indeed, you get the feeling at times that some have been lighting the matches and starting new fires in the last few days! The football match which took place at Anfield on Saturday felt like a distraction to me and I suppose that could be tolerated to some extent because we were never going to get anything out of that game anyway. However, it was important that minds at all levels at the club, and amongst it’s support, should refocus on the two vitally important matches at Cardiff City Stadium (the venue where our fate this season will almost certainly be decided) this week.
Well, that manifestly failed to happen in the first of those two matches for all sorts of reasons. However, having already mentioned about football becoming a distraction and with me having barely mentioned the football in my piece on the Liverpool match, I think I should really say something about what happened out on the pitch yesterday at this stage.
First thing is, I reckon that Southampton looked better than us from the first whistle, they passed it far better than we did and I thought captain Adam Lallana showed exactly why he could well be a prominent figure in Roy Hodgson’s team for Brazil in six months time – even when they are playing a huge part in your side’s destruction, it’s still possible to appreciate a quality footballer and I must admit I enjoyed Lallana’s display so much that I almost forgot myself and started applauding when he was withdrawn with a few minutes left!
However, to claim Southampton were the best side to have played here this season like someone did on a City messageboard last night is going some way over the top in my book. They are a side who have impressed me this season and I didn’t expect their recent poor run to stretch much further, but we didn’t half make them look good and the truth for me was that they didn’t have to play that well to record their comfortable victory. Also, would Lallana have been as influential if Gary Medel had been playing – now, I think our Chilean international has been some way beneath his best in our last two away games, but he has tended to be a very influential player at home and, like with so many other good players, you only get to fully appreciate their value to a side when they aren’t in it.
It also should be said that things may have turned out differently if we had taken a glorious chance after around ten minutes when the score was 0-0. When I saw it was Peter Whittingham moving on to Craig Noone’s fine cross, I thought this is a goal in the split second before he made contact with the ball. The cross was hit hard and it wasn’t the easiest ball to stay in control of, but if anyone in the Cardiff team had the technique to deal with it, it was Whittingham – instead, he made a right mess of it, in fact I’m still not sure what he was trying to do with the chance.
It was ironic that the only on goal effort we had after that was a deflected effort by Andrew Taylor which would have gone wide without the touch off Saints centre back Jose Fonte. I say ironic because so many of our problems in our last two matches have stemmed from a left side of the pitch which has been something of a disaster area. I thought Taylor had a good first three months of the season, but he has struggled badly in recent weeks and his cause has not been helped by having Whittingham in front of him because the player who has spent the majority of his six years at Cardiff playing in the left midfield position just doesn’t have the pace to play there at this level in my opinion – if Whittingham is to be in the starting eleven, it has to be in central midfield.
I could go on about others who were poor (e.g. Odemwingie, Theophile-Catharine, Caulker, Turner etc, etc.), but, to defend the players to some extent, shouldn’t it be expected that their level of performance would deteriorate given the complete and utter shambles of the last ten days (not to mention the three months or so since the row over their bonuses)? Back in August when the pundits were giving their opinions as to how the table would look at the end of the season, many of them had us to finish around where we are now, with the ones who didn’t tipping us for relegation. The inference is clear, we were one of the weakest squads in the league and, if this is true (I believe it is), then that squad did not need any off field distractions if they were to prove those predicting relegation wrong.
Instead of that, we have had most of our season so far played against a backdrop of blindingly obvious tensions between manager and owner – not to mention a controversial sacking from and an idiotic appointment in what is a very important position in most modern football clubs. As mentioned before, football has become the distraction, not the off field disputes and I have to say that, although not a major reason for yesterday’s embarrassment, I didn’t think City fans did themselves too many favours in that regard. Having been so impressive and effective with their off the cuff demonstration of support for our manager on Saturday, there was five days to think about what to do on Boxing Day and, to be honest, I’m still not clear what yesterday’s pre-match protest was supposed to be about – inside the ground, I can understand the desire many felt to reiterate their support for the manager and dislike of the owner, but I thought the balance between songs supporting the team and ones about the Mackay/Tan situation was wrong with too much of the latter and not enough of the former.
Truth be told though, what the supporters get up to is fairly incidental stuff compared to the black comedy we are being forced to endure. Since Sunday, we have heard from two of the three main characters in this comedy and what they had to say has made this City fan’s sense of despair and helplessness increase greatly. Chairman Mehmet Dalman’s statement on Sunday that Malky Mackay would remain in charge for “the foreseeable future” felt like good news for a minute, maybe two, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to be something that did not solve the problem, but only added to it – Mr Dalman also expressed the hope that, rather than protest, supporters would urge the two main combatants in the civil war, which will inevitably end in our relegation if it continues, to talk to each other.
Although Mr Dalman could perhaps be accused of sounding somewhat naive in that statement given the depths that the Tan/Mackay relationship appears to have sank to, it was mostly pretty reasonable stuff from our Chairman. However, a bit about I and the board being “handed the responsibility of going out and getting the manager we think is best to take the club forward.” would have left any manager determined to fight his corner and stay to finish the job at Cardiff under no illusions about the nature of his position.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear on here as to where my sympathies lie in the dispute between owner and manager, but, sadly, Malky Mackay’s public comments since he was given his “reprieve” on Sunday have not really struck the conciliatory note you would have expected from someone who sees Cardiff City as the club he wants to be with for the foreseeable future. For a start, saying that he was willing to attend meetings on Monday and Tuesday, but had been rebuffed by Vincent Tan is hardly likely to result in the spirit of reconciliation that Mr Dalman was eager to foster, while saying that supporters had the right to demonstrate at yesterday’s match if they wanted to is hardly putting himself onside with the man he sees as his ally in the Boardroom either.
I should say here that I’ve not seen or heard the full news conference he gave on Monday, so maybe I’m doing him a disservice here, but it seems to me that Malky has taken his eye off the ball in recent days – he has become another of the growing number for whom the football has become a distraction. It’s been said by some who are less sad about the prospect of a change of manager than others, that Malky is trying to engineer his own sacking and, if I’m being honest, some of his recent comments do sound like that.
The third party in the black comedy I refered to earlier has kept a low profile and, if Saturday was a victory in a battle in the civil war for Mackay, then yesterday was a battle won by Tan simply by keeping quiet. In different, less turbulent, times that may go down as a lesson learned by Vincent Tan, but, if what is in the best interests of the club he owns and the team he has helped put together is what motivates him, then it’s gone past the stage where he can afford to play a waiting game and let his manager’s position become untenable because of poor results.
You would like to think that the two main protagonists can see there is a bigger picture here – Vincent Tan’s plans for Cardiff City (I still find it very hard to know what they are) will almost certainly come to nothing if they are relegated this season and home matches against an out of form Southampton and the side who have been bottom of the league for most of the season represented opportunities which, if taken, would have made such an outcome unlikely. Instead, one of them has been blown in a manner which makes taking the second one look very unlikely at the moment because Cardiff City has become a club where football is a distraction.
Now, the real causes of the huge off field problems which are leading to our season imploding are not known and there has to be a chance that they never will be, but I see the main reason as to why football has become a distraction at Cardiff City this Christmas as being the disastrous way Vincent Tan has handled the fall out from the Moody/bonus disputes. Nothing would please me more than Malky Mackay proving himself to be the good manager I believe him to be by him being given the chance to work in a relatively stress free environment and steering us to safety, but I honestly cannot see this happening. Given how bad things have become, the best option would have been to bite the bullet and sack Mackay last weekend because the current situation is doing no one any good – I’ve no great faith in the people at the top at the club being able to pick the right man to keep us up or that such a man would want to work at the circus currently in residence at Leckwith, but football clubs should be about football first and foremost and Cardiff City isn’t at the moment.
pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/by The other Bob Wilson with 3 comments