Ole Gunnar Solskjær must despair – he’s got a hard enough task trying to keep us in the Premier League as it is, without the continuous disruption caused by senior figures at the club doing the very thing they accused Malky Mackay of doing (washing the club’s dirty linen in public) when they sacked him. In the aftermath of Ole’s only league win so far against Norwich, owner Vincent Tan decided to compare him favourably with Mackay thereby deflecting attention away from on field matters and on to the sort of off field rubbish which has made survival in the top flight that much harder than it could have been.
After getting a rare clean sheet and hard earned point against Villa that should have set things up nicely for the FA Cup tie with Wigan (which Ole had made clear he really wanted to win), CEO Simon Lim (no doubt acting as his master’s voice) blundered in a couple of days later with a statement that started by praising Ole before getting on with the real business of rubbishing Mackay through the Andreas Cornelius transfer in particular.
After a demoralising defeat by Hull which left the confidence level amongst supporters and, I would assume, players at it’s lowest ebb of the season, Ole, reportedly, decided to act by tearing into the team after that 4-0 hiding and then by cancelling the warm weather training that had been planned for this week. Our manager talked of a week to be spent trying to put right the glaring deficiencies of last weekend, but it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if attention has been diverted by Vincent Tan’s musings on Cardiff City Football Club as broadcast on Football Focus yesterday.
To make matters worse, what Tan had to say was first broadcast on radio on Thursday, so it was the three days leading up to today’s match at Spurs which were dominated by the interview rather than just the one – the timing of the interview was disastrous and, although owner and CEO both talk about how confident they are about Ole’s ability to keep us up, they do seem intent on making the manager’s task that much harder!
Now I’ll admit I have sympathy for Mr Tan when he talks about the media being “a bit racist”. I believe certain elements of the media took one look at him at the Man City game and decided he was someone they could have a bit of fun with during the season – would we have seen ridiculous stuff about him wanting to see his goalkeeper shoot or him booing his team if he was Vince Tandy from Bridgend? I don’t think we would have.
Furthermore, I fully accept that Malky Mackay did make some poor signings in the summer and I can understand how Mr Tan could compare what Hull and Palace have spent compared to us and come to the conclusions that he has – even though I maintain that his original, and strongest, complaint about the summer spending was more to do with the fact that more was spent than he wanted rather than any misgivings about the quality of player signed.
However, although Mr Tan proves he’s not the brainless idiot that some would have you believe (and I have suspected him to be from time to time), there is nothing else in what he says that I can support him on.
The contention that he can learn about football by setting aside a couple of months to study it is illuminating for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is an arrogance involved which percolates through much of what he says and, second, it shows that he may know more about football than he did, but how much of this is what I would call the really important stuff? By that I mean that I have spent over fifty years watching the game while also reading more than I can remember about it and I like to think I know a fair bit about football by now. However, by and large, I still watch the game as a supporter would rather than a professional – for example, I’m better than I was at noticing what players do when they don’t have the ball and I can judge a player’s all round game better than I could, but I’m sure I don’t have the expertise to earn a living as a professional scout from the game.
If Mr Tan genuinely thinks he can look at a player, judge how good he is and then apply that knowledge to contractual negotiations to a standard which ensures Cardiff City are successful in playing and financial terms after a couple of months of study, then I think he is deluding himself.
Now, of course, it’s only fair to point out that Malky Mackay and Iain Moody proved last summer that the professionals aren’t infallible when it comes to these judgments. The Cornelius deal will always be used against them by those who want to criticise their work at Cardiff, but I have to say that, ordinarily, the purchase of a 20 year old striker considered to be good enough to have already played for his country on a five year contract seems on the face of it to be a better deal than a 32 year old on a three year deal after a career that has seen the player performing at the second level of his domestic league for much of his career. Vincent Tan was keen to use the signing this summer of Javi Guerra as evidence of his new found football expertise, but a three year contract on wages which are, apparently, much more than he earns at Vallidolid, is that really such good business?
Hardly surprisingly, Mr Tan compares what was spent under his watch in January with what was spent in the summer, but the fact that none of the January signings have realistically suggested that they can make the difference between us going down or staying up is conveniently ignored. I really would like to see some evidence that Eikrem, Jones, Zaha, Fabio and the rest have it in them to keep us up, but I’ve seen none so far – based on their showings up to now, the seven of them were correctly valued collectively at around £6 million and, generally speaking, buying players at around £1 million each in January isn’t going to keep you in the Premier League come May.
I could go on for so long about what was said, but will end with three admissions by Mr Tan which make me fear for the future of the club under his ownership and increase my feeling that, very uncertain future or not, I’d prefer to see him leave Cardiff City;
1. Leaving aside arguments about the change of shirt colour for now, the most relevant thing about his views on the re-brand was what he didn’t say – there was no mention of any business justification for what he did. It’s becoming more obvious that the club hasn’t made money from the change to red and that those who said it was all just down to one man’s whim were right all along.
2. His laughable contention that he and his CEO should have somehow been cut some slack when it came to the amount spent in the summer because they, effectively, didn’t know what they were doing is mind boggling. When the whole Moodygate thing blew up I presumed that Tan and Lim would not just have let their manager and head of recruitment do as they pleased – well, it seems that they did! Frankly, that would be a suicidal policy for a team like, say, Chasetown to indulge in, let alone one in the Premier League and it would be hard not to feel that the two of them had got what they deserved, were it not for the fact that, as usual, it’ll be the football club that ends up paying for their ineptitude.
3. Worst of all, I was one of what I would have thought were very many who were prepared to give Vincent Tan the benefit of the doubt nearly two years ago when the re-brand was originally mooted because of a promise that his debt would be converted into equity. Back in May 2012, a group of us were told at Cardiff City Stadium that such a conversion was “imminent” and that, to all intents and purposes, City would be a debt free club. Now, twenty two months later with a potentially devastating relegation, in financial terms, seemingly imminent, Tan is showing increasing signs of reneging on his promise.
Surely this means that anyone who saw themselves as a “reluctant red” at the time of the re-brand, now has to give serious thought to their position because it’s looking like the goalposts have been moved quite substantially – I used to dread what the future would hold without Vincent Tan, but, if he is going to be trying to get his money back come what may, then my attitude towards him leaving has become one of bring it on while we are still receiving the finances (i.e television money and, almost certainly, parachute payments) which will soften the blow to some extent.
* picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/