A few hours after I finished my review piece for last week, a poster on one of the City messageboards well known for his “updates” (which, fair play, are quite often correct) told us we were went entering what he called “good news week” – there would be positive story after positive story regarding City over the next seven days with the prospect of new players arriving as well (some, indeed, were claiming that a couple of signings were already “in the bag”).
Now, I like to think that I’m not a doom monger when it comes to Cardiff City – I may not exactly be a happy clapper either, but I try to be pretty balanced in my thinking and yet at the end of “good news week”, I find myself feeling more downbeat about next season than I did at the start of it!
I’ll admit I’m saying something for effect there a bit because confirmation of the plans to increase the capacity at Cardiff City Stadium has to be seen as a good thing (especially when City supporting non season ticket holders are finding it so much harder to get to matches next season). The announcement that, subject to Council permission, an extra 5,000 seats will be added to the Ninian Stand in time for the start of next season combined with plans to add extra seats at either end of the ground during the following year to take the overall capacity to 38,000 represents confirmation of another part of the investment outlined by Vincent Tan to go with last year’s controversial kit re-branding. It also offers further proof of the level of ambition at the club currently and, once again, I’m left thinking that our largest shareholder would be viewed completely differently by a large section of our support if only he didn’t insist on us playing in red.
As mentioned above, the intention to increase the ground’s capacity had first been mooted last summer, but, previously it had been conditional on us, first, getting promoted and then staying at the higher level for a season. Having now achieved the first part of that, the second has been shelved because work to remove the roof of the Ninian Stand will commence in March when, in all likelihood, it won’t be known what level we’ll be playing at in 2014/15. So, for the last few weeks of next season, I and thousands of others will run the risk of getting soaked at games – I think I can cope with that, but the reason I am a bit glass half empty about work starting on ground improvements while the season is still under way is that the last Premier League side I can remember doing that is Wolves whose supporters are looking forward to visits from Northampton, Crawley and Stevenage along with local derbies against Walsall over the coming months!
The announcement of the fixtures for next season had to be seen as good news surely (here they are for anyone who has not seen them yet – there must be someone who hasn’t seen them out there somewhere!) – you only need to look at those first seven home fixtures to realise that the dream is soon going to become a reality.
The trouble is, if you accept the view that home results are going to be all important for sides predicted to struggle, you look at those first seven games and think where are the points going to come from? Newcastle look to be going through one of their pretty frequent self destructive phases at the moment, the derby against the jacks is winnable I suppose and there may be a point or two picked up from the other five, but there has to be a strong chance that by the time we enter a run of more winnable home games in December, the damage might well have been already done – sides that are in the mire around the turn of the year tend to still be there come May. Trying to be optimistic, that tough looking start at home does give us a chance to get some results which could be a huge boost to morale and would, hopefully, set up a campaign relatively free from worry like Swansea and West Ham, to name but two, have enjoyed in seasons after winning promotion. However, I can’t help thinking that the top heavy nature of our home programme does us few favours – the fixture list could certainly have been kinder to us.
Finally we come to transfers and here good news week provided nothing good – plenty of speculation about who was coming to Cardiff, but nothing whatsoever in terms of hard facts. Former Liverpool player Dirk Kuyt, now at Fenerbache, was the name that got the most mentions from “in the know” posters with a fairly widespread rumour that a local fee paying girl’s school had been approached with regard to a place being provided there for his daughter for the new academic year doing the rounds.
I happen to think that there could be something to the Kuyt speculation because his attitude and work ethic marks him out as a Malky Mackay type player. However, more than two months after we gained promotion, we still await our first addition to a squad which doesn’t look good enough to me to survive in the Premier League on it’s own. Over the last two summers our manager and his recruitment staff have delivered on the transfer front and so I’m not going to start panicking yet (far from it actually) – that said, I do have some concerns about us maybe aiming too high when it comes to transfer targets.
When you think about it, any potential signing should choose one of the seventeen “established” Premiership clubs over one of the three who got promoted, with the only thing they have to buck that trend being an offer of higher wages and bonuses. You get the feeling that offering higher wages has been the Cardiff approach for the last thirteen years (and probably a lot longer than that) , but we now have an opportunity to go a long way towards repairing all of the damage caused by all those years of poor financial management and still, hopefully, put together a squad which could survive in the Premier League next season. A squad built from hungry and ambitious Football League players, one or two older hands with plenty of Premiership experience and some canny foreign buys might not do much more than survive, but it would leave us better placed to gradually develop from then on – I’m not sure that will be enough for Vincent Tan though and so the cycle of increased borrowing and debt will continue, that’s not too much of a problem while Mr Tan is still here, but all of the time we’ll be making ourselves less attractive for new investors if and when he loses interest in Cardiff City.