Two points dropped late on, but much better from City.

CoymayIt’s probably not really the case, but it’s felt like Russell Slade has been saying Cardiff City was in a transitional phase since the day he joined the club – as dreadful performance followed dreadful performance and loss followed loss, it seemed that one thing you could guarantee was that a faintly bemused looking City manager would be there at his post match press conference telling us about that period of transition.

Now, speaking for myself, I think one of the main reasons we are in such a mess is that there have been so many of these transitional periods at the club  in recent years. I still maintain that, overall, Malky Mackay’s record in the transfer market was a pretty good one, but every summer he was here saw a large number of new arrivals and departures so that there was always a feeling of “rip it up and start again” to proceedings at the club.

This policy continued under Ole during his very busy first month at the club and went on apace with the madcap recruitment up to September of last year – now we have the most mind boggling period of the lot as players who cost the club an awful lot in fees and wages are virtually given away and another seven brought in.

To be fair to Mr Slade, it seems pretty certain that there was a financial as well as footballing imperative behind his frantic transfer dealing last month, but the point remains that Cardiff City seem to be in a constant state of upheaval and the simple truth is that, Vincent Tan’s £100 million or not, we are in a worse state on the pitch now than we were when Malky took over in June 2011.

This has probably been a, fairly small, contributory factor as to why so many, myself included, have been so unsympathetic to our manager’s plea that our period of change was always going to see results suffer. However, there have been those who have made the perfectly reasonable observation in my view that during such phases it’s normal to see at least the occasional reason for optimism as little signs appear here and there which suggest that there is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Matt Kennedy was my man of the match last night, but Sean Morrison ran him close - this fine header from a Peter Whittingham corner should have been enough to give us the win.*

Matt Kennedy was my man of the match last night, but Sean Morrison ran him close – this fine header from a Peter Whittingham corner should have been enough to give us the win.*

Well, after last night’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn at Cardiff City Stadium, our manager finally, finally (!) has something to point to if he is asked to produce evidence that this latest transition is working. I’ll come to just how good a performance it was a bit later, suffice it to say that for me it was far, far better than anything seen from a Cardiff side, in a home game at least, in the last three months – so, why the improvement?

One thing I’m fairly sure of is that our manager will not be given much credit for it. A survey held by Wales Online last week that drew more than 3,000 responses made truly grim reading for our manager. Given the size of the sample, this has to be seen as an accurate indicator of how Russell Slade is viewed by those who still attend games (19,000 officially last night, but I would have put the real figure at about 4,000 less).

I can’t help thinking that, even if he was to take us to promotion back to the Premier League next season, there would be a fairly large proportion of City fans who would give him little or no credit for it. Slade is unique among recent City managers in that significant numbers of supporters were against his appointment right from day one and it must be said that there been very little that has happened since then to indicate that those early doubters were wrong.

Maybe I’m over estimating things a little there and it might be that Slade stays long enough to eventually win more supporters around than I would expect. but I think it’s safe to say that those days, if they ever come,  are a long way off yet. Significantly, many preferred to place any credit that was going around last night for the coaching/management staff at the feet of newly appointed head coach Paul Trollope.

Now, this article shows Trollope has a pretty impressive CV since retiring as a player, but the former Welsh international has, apparently, only taken three sessions since being appointed and I find it hard to believe that he can have had much of an impact when it comes to tactics, style of play etc. However, I suppose it’s possible that Trollope has made a good initial impression that influenced the team enough for them to go out and play with a better attitude than they have been doing. If this is the case, then it’s a very encouraging sign – they certainly appeared more motivated than normal last night.

For me though, I’m going to place a lot of credit for last night’s improvement in the morale stakes on the shoulders of the youngest player in the team. Matt Kennedy has slipped under the radar somewhat since arriving at the club on transfer deadline day with more attention being paid to Conor McAleny the temporary signing we made from Everton, than the permanent one we made from the same club.

Slightly worryingly, McAleny (who has had an awful lot of injuries for a 22 year old) was not fit for selection last night and so Kennedy came in for a first appearance in a Cardiff shirt. Many youngsters making a debut are nervous and so an early touch of the ball is probably beneficial  - Kennedy didn’t have to wait for more than a few seconds for a first touch which set out the stall for what was to occur throughout the ninety minutes.

If there were any nerves from the twenty year old, then they didn’t show as he took on and beat opposing left back Marcus Olsson (the Swedish international fouled Kennedy at least four times without referee Brendan Malone feeling the need to produce a yellow card). Kennedy saw a lot of the ball in the opening stages and it was soon obvious that confidence was one thing he didn’t lack – this takes me on to the part I believe he played in setting the tone for what was a far more enjoyable night than I for one expected it to be.

Kennedy’s faith in his own ability showed in the way he ran at, and mostly beat, opponents and it was soon clear that there was a Cardiff player who was playing well and knew it – when can we have last said that about a City player in the opening minutes of a game? Here was someone who was not weighed down by the great weight of negativity there has been at the club for too long now, here was someone who seemed to be enjoying themselves as they relished the opportunity they had been given.

In fact, there were times when Kennedy even looked cocky as you wondered if he was overdoing the fancy stuff, but one thing that really impressed me about him was that, unlike the widemen used by City recently, he always seemed aware of what was happening around him and retained an ability to take the right option. I got a close up view of this in the second half when he looked to be running down a blind alley and then produced the best City cross of the night to give Kenwyne Jones a headed chance he would have been disappointed not to take.

I think it needs to be said that anyone who is something of a stranger to the opposition benefits from this – players new to Championship level can make a big impact for a while before the bush telegraph starts working and sides get an idea of their weakness so that their effectiveness can be curtailed somewhat, but Kennedy could only do what he could last night and this was one of the better City debuts of recent times

Kennedy’s team mates appeared to cotton on to how well he was doing  slightly quicker than the crowd and I believe this played a bit in the best opening we’ve had to a game in ages. Others looked to gain a bit of belief from this and long suffering City fans were actually able to see the odd flash of good football from their team. So, instead of the normal combination of inept footballers and apathetic spectators which combine to create an atmosphere totally unsuited to successful and winning football, we had the situation as it should be – supporters fed off the improved effort and play of the team and created something whereby both benefited (Fulham for the back to blue match was the only home game since early November where I could remember the crowd sticking with the team throughout, now there are two) .

Now, all of this sounds fine of course, but none of it actually resulted in Blackburn being blown away – in fact, although I thought we just shaded it over the ninety minutes, the stats tell a story of an even game in which a draw was probably the right outcome. However, when you start from a situation as low as Cardiff’s has been for at least  a couple of months, steps forward are going to be small and hesitant ones.

So, while we did not get anything more in terms of points from last night than we did in last week’s boreathon with Brighton, there was still a lot to be gained. For a start, both Peter Whittingham and Aron Gunnarsson played as well as they have done in weeks, both individually and as a pair. With Kennedy’s impact on the right as well, it was only really Craig Noone on the left who showed the lack of confidence that has been at the heart of so much that wrong this season in our midfield four and even he could not be faulted for his effort.

With more of a midfield base to work off, City didn’t lose in the possession stakes – they didn’t win either, but 50/50 is heady stuff indeed by the standards of this season! Eoin Doyle’s selfless running played a part in giving us a front two that looked like it could become a decent combination at this level, while at the back Lee Peltier continues to look a solid citizen at right back and Scott Malone, who had tended to mix promising performances with poor ones, had one of his best games so far.

One of the few times we looked like scoring in open play - Eoin Doyle's volley beats Jason Steele , but an excellent piece of covering by Matt Kilgallon sees him clear off the line.+

One of the few times we looked like scoring in open play – Eoin Doyle’s volley beats Jason Steele , but an excellent piece of covering by Matt Kilgallon sees him clear off the line.+

 

It was also good to see City continuing along their recent path of trying to play a bit more football – they are still direct, but not to the exclusion of anything else as appeared to be the case a few weeks ago and I’d say that they are now getting close to a Malky Mackay City side in some ways in that they’ll knock it long and rely on set pieces, but there is at least some “proper” football being played.

There needs to be realism shown though as well – there were still hardly any chances created from open play, our goal came from yet another set piece and Bruno Manga had a pretty uncomfortable second half as he found marking Josh King a struggle (to be fair, King must be one of, if not the quickest, players in the Championship and Bruno didn’t always get as much help from his team mates as he might have), while on the managerial front, I thought Slade got at least one substitution wrong.

I’ve not seen all of the instances where Alex Revell and Kenwyne Jones have been partnered together up front, but I’ve watched most of them and it’s not with the benefit of hindsight that I say I’ve not seen anything yet to suggest it’s a partnership that can work – I said when Revell came on that I was unsure about the change as I would have preferred to see Doyle stay on the pitch. What we ended up with was Revell struggling to stay on his feet as he failed to make even one effective contribution and the previously influential Jones looking unsure of what his role now was.

I also said at the time that I would have looked to  shore things up as soon as we took the lead. With the amount of time that was left when Sean Morrison’s header went in, we really should have held on to the three points, but, when you’ve won as few games as we have recently, a 1-0 lead with five minutes to go is a very precarious one. Kennedy was beginning to struggle and was unable to react effectively to Olsson’s late run which set up Rudy Gestede’s equaliser as the match went into added time – a win from an improved performance would have made such a difference and, although it might have been a bit negative, I would have got a Connolly or Ralls on there to stiffen things up a bit.

As it is, we have extended our unbeaten run to three matches, but the problem when you’re just drawing matches, especially when you’re winning as few as we are, is that the game that ends the sequence of draws really has to be a win because any slight sense of momentum in your  favour disappears when all that happens in the end is that you’re extending your run of matches without a win.

* picture courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncandy/

+ picture courtesy of  http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

 

 

 

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9 Responses to Two points dropped late on, but much better from City.

  1. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Although greatly encouraged by Cardiff’s display last night I was most impressed by an ex-Cardiff player. I have always maintained that RUDY GESTEDE would be an excellent centre forward and was shocked and disappointed when Cardiff let him go. To me it was an incredibly short-sighted decision.

    Gestede had the great benefit of playing and training with Heigur Helgusson who had a technique for getting to the long high balls characteristic of Cardiff for a number of seasons. He would stand away at right angles from the ball, sometimes a few yards and sometimes much further. This would enable him to take a running jump at the ball and reach it above much taller players. Rudy Gestede was showing signs of learning how to do this during his time at Cardiff, and has clearly now mastered the art, including the innate sense of timimg needed in getting to the high ball. He was accordingly able on most occasions to head the ball downwards and thus find the feet of another Blackburn player. The value of a running jump, indeed, was shown by the goal scored by Sean Morrison).
    Kenwyne Jones, on the other hand, has tended to rely on a standing jump in most games, so that even when he would win the ball it would go back up into the air. Although he did move around much more than I’ve seen him do previously, and managed to lay off some accurate headers, I feel that Doyle and Revell would be a more effective combination, especially as they would certainly live up to the old adage that defence starts with the forwards.
    On another point, I see that the presence of Nigel Adkins at the game has given rise to rumours that he is soon going to become Cardiff’s next manager – ironically at the very time that Rusell Slade’s team has finally shown a spark of ability. To me, it would make no sense to sack the manager at this juncture. Even Ferguson at MUFC, now hailed as a managerial genius, was in a similar boat at one time but managed to survive and prosper (thanks in large part to his continuing stream of above-average players and an excellent backroom staff}. With the arrival of Paul Trollope, it now seems that Cardiff’s backroom staff has been visibly enhanced. I sincerely hope so, but “the proof of the pudding” etc.
    Finally, I meant to mention that whoever was ultimately responsible for selling Rudy Gested surely made a terrible mistake.

  2. Mike Herbert says:

    I have only recently come across your blog and I would like to thank you, Paul, for the encouragement, tempered with realism, in your latest match report. As a City exile living in Cornwall I have been reliant on radio commentaries that have left me somewhat dispirited this season and the snippets on tv have merely confirmed the ineptitude of so much of City’s play. So much so, I have begun to doubt whether I would bother to make my annual pilgrimage up the capital. If the improvement in play continues then I will, indeed make the effort – as not many seasons have passed since 1955 that I have not seen City either home or away. I also agree with Anthony O’Brien’s comments about Rudy Gested as, on the few occasions I saw him (mainly as a sub) I thought he had a raw talent that needed good coaching and time to develop. You might be able to throw some light on the use of City’s parachute payment as I (presumably incorrectly) believed that it was designed partly to enable relegated clubs to cope with the higher wages they would have been contracted to pay to their ex-premiership players. But from the way we have unloaded so many players for so little return then that money must be being used for other purposes? I won’t be able to contribute much to current events on your blog (though I have earmarked City’s away match v Millwall for a possible commentary) but I have discovered interesting pieces that will perhaps encourage the odd contribution – e.g. what constitutes a City Legend and the place of Danny Malloy – but if these are of no interest to others then I will at least enjoy your reflective match reports!

    (Paul, I may have accidentally posted some of this to you earlier in error – fingers too quick for the brain! – if so then this is my final version and you can ignore the other one! Also I am wondering it Anthony is AMO – if so he will have travelled from Ponty with the late Brian Martin and myself to sit in the luxury of the Canton Stand for two seasons when we were in the old first division (just £3 15s for a junior season ticket!) I realize that you do not reveal email addresses on line but if you have any knowledge of Anthony’s background and think that he may be that person – he would be within a year of my age – 67 -and attended Ponty Grammar from about 1958 to 1965 then I would be happy for you to let him have mine so that we might swop some memories)

    Mike Herbert
    mike.bude@btopenworld.com

  3. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Fascinating stuff about Gestede and Helguson Anthony – thank you.

    I’ve had one or two on line conversations about Rudy since Tuesday’s game – he’s certainly a player who divides opinions! Mine is that, rather like Craig Conway, I could see why he was sold, we were in the Premier League at the time, neither player were featuring for us and both players were coming to the end of their contracts. There was still four months of the season left and we were certainly in touch with the rest of the relegation strugglers at the time, so I believe the club had to make decisions based on them staying in the top flight. I’ve never been convinced that Rudy would make a Premier League player, so I had no problem with the decision to sell, but what I should have maybe paid more attention to is the issue you touch upon – that is that, although he is quite old now to be at this stage, Rudy Gestede is still a “work in progress” player.

    I’ve heard Malky Mackay and Nathan Blake talk about how Rudy needed to be taught about things like posture and the most economical way to run. Therefore, besides coaching on technique and understanding the game, it seems Rudy wasn’t at a level athletically that tends to be taken for granted with most footballers. It seems pretty clear to me that Rudy has improved while at Blackburn and with reported Premier League interest in January, it looks like I may have to reappraise my opinion of him – to be honest, it would not be too much of a leap because I always thought he had it in him to be very effective at Championship level -it seemed to me that defenders at that level did not enjoy playing against him at all.

    One thing I will say about Rudy to finish off with is that, based on what I’ve seen of him at Blackburn in the past year, he’d be my first choice striker this season if he was still at the club, but I suppose that’s more of a reflection on how far we’ve fallen than how much he’s risen.

    To be honest, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if Russell Slade was sacked today – normally I’d never advocate a manager being sacked so soon after his appointment, but the football has been so uninspiring and boring for so much of that time that I’d make an exception in his case. To be fair, it hasn’t been so bad in the last few games in terms of the long ball stuff and, anyway, I see the appointment of Trollope as a sign that the Board are behind Slade rather than looking to sack him. As for Nigel Adkins, I see he was a guest of Fulham’s at the weekend, so I’m not sure that too much can be read into his presence at the match on Tuesday night – I’ve been wrong plenty of times before mind!

  4. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Great to hear from you Mike, thanks for your kind comments. My brother lives in Birmingham and he always tries to get to one home match a season with his son and daughter, he’s not been to one yet this year and I’ve been telling him that it’s best he doesn’t bother. After Tuesday, I’m more hopeful that I’ll be seeing him this season, but, for now, my advice to him and others like you in a similar position to him would be to get a bit more evidence yet of an improvement before committing yourselves – one swallow not making a spring and all that!

    As for parachute payments, I’d say you’ve got them right really, although I think that the Financial Fair Play regulations are more the reason behind January’s clear out – Blackburn and Leeds are both currently under embargos for breaches of the rules I believe,

    I hope you will go ahead with your intention of posting more on here, my City memories only go back to 1963 and it’s always fascinating to hear the views of people whose time following the club goes back a bit longer.

    Finally, I don’t know much about Anthony O’Brien, but I believe he may be the age you talk about. Anthony’s become a valued contributor on here over recent months and I’m sure he will get to read what you have said.

    Paul

  5. Graham says:

    Fascinating! And for me, Anthony’s comment on Kenwyne Jones is absolutely spot-on – refreshing to learn that I’m not the only one thinking that!

  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    Dear Paul,
    Just back from 4 nights with my friend and carer, Rosalie, at Pontins in Camber Sands. We paid a fiver a night each for a two roomed apartment…all power for cooking and all facilities (like the swimming pool) totally FOC.
    I mention it only to tell Mike Herbert that the cheap-as-chips items like the season ticket he remembers (I had one too) can be replicated today, though alas not at football stadia here.
    And come to think of it, having just spent two quid for a bag of indifferent chips from The Kettle O’ Fish in Rye, I figure there is a lot of money to be earned from planting potatoes.
    I must just say this to AMO re his comments on Rudy Gestede: I am someone who was banging on in these pages about Gestede’s move to Blackburn as soon as it happened.
    Like you Paul, I saw little in Gusted at Cardiff to indicate what lay ahead. Indeed, I recall his heading was so poor that one almost cried. One great headed chance he had, in one of those near-to-clinching promotion games, he nearly hit the corner flag with.
    You will recall me saying Paul that if only RG had a one-to-one tutor for weekly sessions like the schoolboy John Benjamin Toshack had in the grreatest header of a ball that soccer has ever seen, viz. the late John Charles…well, it could all have been so different.
    And now AMO tells me about HEIGUR H and his oersonal coaching! I confess this was all news to me.
    But here’s the thing…
    I am fairly confident that HH was the man responsible for him hitting the corner flag!
    For I am pretty sure that it was someone not at Cardiff, but at Ewood Park, who taught him how to head a football. Indeed Paul, you will recall me asking you in these pages…who at Blackburn has taught RG to head a ball so well? And I asked why Cardiff cannot coach the best techniques in their players.
    Ah well…c’est la vie, I guess.
    But it is pretty darned infuriating. It is up there with the treatment of John Brayford as an example of absolute managerial incompetence.

  7. Dai Woosnam says:

    Oops..forgot to add…
    Maybe the one person to be worried by the presence in the stands of Nigel Adkins, is not Russell Slade but…(wait for it!)


    …the current Bluebirds’ PHYSIO (boom, boom!).
    Kindest,
    Dai

  8. Anthony O'Brien says:

    First the personal revelation: When I went to secondary school in 1958 I had a satchel with my initials on it viz. AMO. Someone immediately called me “AMO” and the nickname stuck – to this very day among many of my contemporaries, including Mike Herbert of this very site.

    Regarding Gestede, Although his heading has certainly improved at Blackburn I feel certain that he did at least start to LEARN how to go wide and to judge the trajectory of the high ball before running and jumping towards it – a la Helgurson, albeit not to the same level. Nevertheless, the seeds were sown while playing alongside Helgurson (who might be the very person to pass on his technique to some of the players today and even if I don’t remember how to spell his name(s) properly).

    Good to see Dai’s erudition in his use of French, too – I’m told it’s very nice to eat! (Sorry, boys, you’ll have to work that one out for your self!)

    Keep up the good work everybody.

  9. Dai Woosnam says:

    Sincere apols for all my typos above.
    These come from writing straight on to my iPad while in bed, lying flat on my back.
    I will get up and use my PC in future.
    That said, “Gusted” (for Gestede) and “oersonal” (for personal, add a certain surreal “je ne sais quoi” to my otherwise mundane postings!
    DW

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