It was nearly a very good performance today by City as they brought the curtain down on their pre season programme with a 0-0 draw at the Cardiff City Stadium against Serie A side Parma, but three goals from their five warm up matches tells it’s own story. Yes, it is true to say that these matches tend to count for little or nothing when the serious stuff gets under way and that, more than any other time since 2005/06 when Dave Jones first took charge, we have had to start a campaign virtually from scratch because of the number of new players required, but I think Malky Mackay must still be a little concerned about the lack of fire power his side has shown so far.
At least there were some chances created today – not bucketloads of them by any means. but there was enough good passing and movement to suggest that the goals will come once our strikers get a little more match sharp. What was most encouraging for me was that we looked more of a complete midfield than we did at most stages of last season. While allowances have to made for the fact that in terms of general preparedness, Parma were probably at the same sort of stage we found ourselves in for the Celtic match, sides from the continent often prove to be better at keeping the ball than their British opponents, but I thought we were the stronger side in the middle of the park today and from that base we really could and probably should have gone on to win the match.
I thought there were some good individual performances from our midfield four today. Anybody watching Peter Whittingham’s display would have found it unrecognisable from the diffident stuff he used to turn in two or three years ago. It’s becoming clear that Whittingham is going to have a very important part to play in our season and today it looked like he will be up to the challenge – it was a complete performance from him as he worked hard defensively, passed well, showed a few moments of class and fired in a superb shot which the Parma keeper found too hot to handle – there was even a deserved booking for a cynical foul!
A recurring theme from some fans so far has been the lack of width we have played with before today, well that was addressed to some degree by the performance of Craig Conway who looked what we had been told he was – a good quality footballer without scintillating pace, but with the ability to deliver a telling cross. After being slightly underwhelmed by what I had seen of Don Cowie in a City shirt before today, I thought he looked the part against Parma – if you are expecting him to play down the right like Chris Burke did, then you are going to be disappointed because that’s never been his game, but, with Kevin McNaughton seemingly given more licence to get forward from right back, I don’t think we need an orthodox right winger. Cowie covered plenty of ground and did a lot of unglamorous defensive stuff, but he also showed that he is a good technical player who can put in quality crosses when he gets to the byeline – he looks a good “all rounder” to me and they’re hard to come by at Championship level. Finally, there was a bright perfomance playing in an advanced midfield role by Joe Mason – I enjoyed watching him today, he’s a thinking footballer.
With about ten minutes to go, Mark Hudson played the sort of hit and hope pass out from the back that we saw all too much of last season. The ball drifted harmlessly out of play for a goal kick and I found myself thinking how few such hoofs upfield I had seen over the previous eighty minutes or so. Maybe it’s a bit early yet to be coming to too many conclusions, but football under Malky Mackay looks like it could be better to watch than it was under Dave Jones. While the option of the long ball forward was definitely there while Rudi Gestade (who, although not the finished product, looked useful in the air and quite neat with his feet) was on in the first half, the preference seemed to be to play the ball out from the back – David Marshall (who made a superb early save from a close range header) always seemed to be looking to play the ball short or throw it out – the long boot upfield looked to be his least preferred option. With City hitting the Parma woodwork twice (three times, if you include an effort by Earnie dubiously flagged for offside), they were justified in thinking they were hard done by – there was a lot to be encouraged about today, let’s hope the goals start flowing when the real stuff starts next week.
Finally, I should mention the EGM which took place on Thursday in which the conversion of some of the club’s debts into shares was ratified by shareholders. Michael Isaac, Steve Borley, Paul Guy, Mike Hall and the Malaysian investors all waived loans (or parts of loans) to the club in return for more shares (the Malaysian investors now have a 49% shareholding) and the club’s debt level has been reduced by £9 million as a result – more details on the EGM can be found here and here.