Before going on to the signings we made during the past week, I thought I’d mention that, no sooner had I said that goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson would be staying at Cardiff in last week’s review, than he was off to West Ham to accept a similar post with them! Margetson hasn’t been replaced yet, but the speculation is that we will want to take another one of Watford’s back room staff to do the job. There are already rumours that their chief scout has joined the exodus from Watford down the M4 to Cardiff and now the name of Alec Chamberlain their highly rated goalkeeping coach is being mentioned as a replacement for Margetson (it has to be said though that Chamberlain is regarded as part of the furniture at Vicarage Road by many Watford supporters who consider it to be very unlikely he will be coming here). One other little snippet, a late, and attractive, pre season friendly match has been added to our itinerary with Celtic visiting Cardiff City Stadium on 20 July – as to what sort of side they’ll field with their league campaign due to kick off four days later at Hibs, I haven’t a clue.
The main news this week has to do with the new signings being made as Malky Mackay continues the process of putting together the squad he wants at Cardiff and I think it’s fair to say that, at the moment, the consensus is that he is not doing too bad a job of it. Monday saw the confirmation of the Andrew Taylor deal with the former Middlesbrough player joining us on a three year deal, but, although there were persistent rumours flying around about him coming back, I think the signing of Robert Earnshaw on a two year contract came as a real surprise to most City fans.
On the day when it looked for a few horrible hours as if Alan Shearer was going to be our new manager, Earnie was saying that Malky Mackay should be given the Cardiff job and this was interpreted by many to be a come and get me plea by the soon to be out of contract striker. However, with nothing to indicate that our new manager was pursuing the player, I think it’s fair to say that most thought that Earnie would go elsewhere with Palace and West Ham being amongst his suggested destinations. Once we were involved though, I would say we were bound to be favourites to get someone for whom the much over used description “Cardiff City legend” actually applies.
It’s now nearly seven years since Earnie left us to join West Brom in August 2004, but his affection for the club and it’s supporters has always been there, be it through his refusal to celebrate goals he scored against us, the way he always acknowledged City fans when playing against us or the way in which he had talked about coming back to play for Cardiff again some day. In return, City supporters have never stopped regarding him as one of their own and he has always been guaranteed a warm reception from them when he was in the opposing team – there can be no doubt that Earnie’s signing has been a very popular one which has pushed optimism levels up a few notches in the past week.
I’ll be honest and say that this is the new signing that has me least convinced. Earnie hasn’t impressed me too much over the past few years, but, just recently, he has been looking more like his old self and the hope that a feelgood factor derived from coming back home can contribute towards him reaching something like the standard he set for himself in his first stay at Cardiff makes me more positive about the prospect of him playing for us again than I would have been three months ago. If he has never really fulfilled all of the potential he showed in the early part of the previous decade, there can be no denying that, apart from his time with a desperately poor Derby side, he has kept on scoring at an impressive rate (sixty two goals from one hundred and forty three Football League appearances for Norwich and Forest). Although he’s now thirty years of age, I’ve seen no evidence of him losing too much of the pace which used to terrorise opposing defences a decade ago and he is a more rounded player now. He may not score at the rate he did between 2000 and 2004, but, despite those misgivings I mentioned earlier, I’m definitely warming to the thought of watching him play in the blue shirt again – anyway, whatever happens, welcome back Earnie!
On Tuesday Icelandic midfield player Aron Gunnarsson’s agent came out with a statement about his client’s future which stated that a move to a new club was likely in a day or two. Although I’m sure that the object of this exercise was to serve as a reminder of Gunnarsson’s availability, the fact that we were the only club named in the statement offered proof that we were definitely in with a good chance of getting him and this was confirmed on Friday when he became our latest signing after agreeing a three year deal at Cardiff. Gunnarsson, an athletic and hard working central midfield player with one of the better long throws around, certainly has a decent pedigree and, at just 22, has already played twenty three times for his country. However, after an excellent first season at Coventry, I think it’s fair to say that his career has stood still over the past two years as he has played in a team that has generally struggled at Championship level and the supporters at his old club do not appear to be too disappointed to see him go. Despite this, I have a good feeling about this one – Gunnarsson is still very young and a change of scenery could be all he needs to get what was a very promising career back on track.
There had been criticism of the fact that, so far, all of our signings have been Bosman free transfers as some demanded that we start splashing the cash. Such sentiments conveniently choose to ignore that we have to pay Watford compensation for Malky Mackay and Coventry will have to be paid a training compensation fee for Aron Gunnarsson, but it’s almost certain that they will be getting their wish soon because of the imminent arrival of young striker Joe Mason from cash strapped Plymouth for a fee reported to be £250,000. Twenty year old Mason appears to be very highly regarded by fans of his home town club and the consensus appears to be that we are getting ourselves a bargain. All of the basic ingredients look to be there for a striker who can eventually become an effective player at this level and the only slight concern I have at the moment is that a deal which we had been assured would be completed yesterday has not been officially confirmed yet – however, I must emphasise that there’s been no indication anywhere so far that there have been any problems in concluding the transfer.
Assuming Mason does sign, he will join the rest of the squad in Spain for a week’s training which will conclude with the game against Charlton in Seville on Friday. Malky Mackay has emphasised though that the search for new players will go on and it shouldn’t be assumed that there won’t be any more new arrivals while he and the squad are away. On that score, although there has been speculation that our interest in David Goodwillie is cooling because the Malaysian investors have reservations about some of his off field behaviour, the fact that he is due to appear in Court tomorrow on an assault charge may bring things to a head as far as his future is concerned. Anything but a custodial sentence would surely see interest in the player revived, but, even if we press ahead in our bid for Goodwillie, the fact that two other clubs who were in for him in have benefitted financially from Charlie Adam’s move to Liverpool should not be ignored. Both Blackpool and Rangers have put in bids for Goodwillie which Dundee United refused, but it could well be that they will be back again with more attractive offers now.
Finally, the one new name we have been linked with over the past couple of days is fifty two times capped Finnish playmaker Alexei Eremenko. Russian born Eremenko is an attacking midfielder who had a very successful loan spell at Kilmarnock last season which led to him being one of the nominations for the Scottish PFA’S Player of the Year award and, apparently, has a host of clubs after him – when you watch stuff like this, you begin to see why.