Weekly review 31/5/15.

CoymayThere’s seldom a summer goes by without plenty of online messages from supporters of football clubs bemoaning their team’s lack of activity in the transfer market during the close season. Well, I saw my first Cardiff City one of 2015 on a City messageboard this week. It matters not that the 2014/15 domestic season only formally ended yesterday with Arsenal beating 4-0 in an FA Cup Final that was even more one sided than the score suggests or that I’m fairly sure that the summer transfer window hasn’t formally opened yet, this person was getting in a right panic about how some of our rivals have already done some good business, while we sit about doing nothing.

Now, there have been some years when we have been pretty busy in the weeks immediately following the end of a season and I think it’s fair to say that the results of this early business have been mixed. For example, I can remember us bringing in Kevin McNaughton, Steve McPhail and Michael Chopra early on during the summer of 2006 and they all turned out to be superb signings who played leading roles in a very strong start to the season that year. Likewise, I can remember us signing David Marshall in 2009 within days of his Norwich side being relegated to the third tier and I think there’d be general agreement now that the £500,000 we paid for him was money very well spent.

On the other hand, I can remember this time last year there were plenty saying how good it was that we had acted so quickly to bring in new players – I can remember because I was one of those saying it! The bookies agreed as they installed us as favourites to win the league (I see we are, predictably, in the middle range of the betting in the, completely pointless, list of odds brought out for the 2015/16 Championship recently). We spent all last summer as the team most likely to be preparing for the Premier League currently - and then we started playing and reality dawned!

At this time in 2014, it was believed that the recently arrived Messrs Guerra, LeFondre and Macheda would help give us a formidable strikeforce that would have Championship defences quaking in their boots. Even if Fraizer Campbell was likely to leave, we still had Nicky Maynard and Kenwyne Jones as well as someone like Joe Mason contemplating another season which would see him loaned out somewhere because he had no chance of breaking into the City side with the galaxy of striking riches we had to choose from – well, we all know now how that worked out.

While I can understand why managers say that they prefer to sign new players early enough for them to have a full pre season with their new club and, failing that, early enough to have them ready for the start of the season rather than when the transfer window closes after three or four league games have been played, surely the truth is that, no matter when they arrive, new signings can simply be broken down into good ones and bad ones? It doesn’t matter one bit when they come as long as we eventually end up with newcomers who can turn us into a better side than we were last season.

No, the only real reason I would have liked to have seen us sign someone by now is because it may have cast some light on something which I believe has become less clear over the past week – just what sort of budget does Russell Slade have to work with this summer?

Given our transfer dealings in January and the way we were loaning out first team players in March, my first assumption was that we would, to borrow a bit from our manager, be shopping in Poundland rather Harrods, but I have been told the names of three players we are chasing this summer by someone who has been a very reliable source in the past and, if he is right this time, then we are, maybe, giving Harrods a miss, but we are still shopping in John Lewis’.

However, if there is any substance to some of the names we were linked with last week, then maybe Mr Tan is still permitting the occasional visit to Knightsbridge!

Daryl Murphy was the Championship’s top scorer in the season just ended – he found the net twenty seven times in league fixtures and every time I watched Ipswich last year he showed there was more to him than just being a penalty box predator. I’ve always liked Murphy, as hinted at earlier, he always puts in a real shift for the team, is decent in the air, yet mobile enough to be used as a wide player and he has a little bit of quality about him that has always made me think he should have played more top flight football than he has done.

However, his goalscoring record last season was something of a one off – his thirteen goals in all competitions in 13/14 was, by some distance, his next highest scoring season. Now, if he was a twenty two year old making a reputation for himself with that sort of increased goalscoring record, then it would be one thing, but Daryl Murphy is ten years older than that and, although I’d say he would, almost certainly, be an improvement on what we’ve got, it seems to me that spending even half of the £4 million valuation Ipswich have, apparently, put on him would be too much for someone of his age.

Peter Whittingham watches on as Darl Murphy scores a great goal from twenty five yards to put Ipswich ahead at the Cardiff City Stadium in October.

Peter Whittingham watches on as Darl Murphy scores a great goal from twenty five yards to put Ipswich ahead at Cardiff City Stadium in October.

By contrast, Crystal Palace striker Dwight Gayle is only 24 and, unlike Murphy, has a good Premier League goalscoring record. It would appear that Gayle is available at the right price, but that price would surely be one that cast serious doubts about how intent the club are on ending the days of £10 million plus annual losses. Reportedly, the deal which saw Gayle sign for Palace could have ended up costing the London club £8 million and, given that he has been far from a flop in the top flight, I would have thought they would want to get virtually all of that back if they sold him.

It would surprise me if there were no Premier League clubs prepared to sign Gayle, but, if he was to end up with us, surely he would be paid for by the departure of three or four of our most saleable assets and so you’d have to wonder about what sort of Cardiff squad he would be joining for the new season.

To be honest, I hope we don’t sign either of these players. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be excited by their arrival, but it would feel a bit like us keeping on digging when we were already in a massive hole.

More likely for me than either the Murphy or Gayle rumours is the one linking us with a £500,000 move for Swindon left back/winger Nathan Byrne who was voted into the League One team of the year by his fellow professionals in April. In saying that, I see speculation this morning that West Brom are going to bid £2 million for Byrne, so, maybe, this is another one that should be filed under “unlikely” – I suppose my point is more that a £500,000 move for any highly rated young League One player has a ring of truth about it that Dwight Gayle to Cardiff does not in my book.

Finally on the transfer rumours front, it’s been reported that Cardiff could be a destination for a couple of young centrebacks that Everton are looking to loan out to Championship clubs. Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway will it seems by playing in our league next season. Browning, who made his first team debut for Everton when he came on as sub in the Merseyside derby match back in September, has  already done so with a couple of appearances for Wigan in a loan spell with them in January 2014, while Galloway, who arrived from MK Dons last summer, started against West Ham and Spurs in the Toffee’s last two matches of the season. On the face of it though, with centreback being the area where we are strongest, it’s hard to see how either of them would get many first team opportunities for us unless we see a few established names leave in the coming weeks.

If you read last week’s piece, you will have seen me discounting Norwich’s chances in the Play Off Final simply because I wanted them to win. However, they overcame this huge disadvantage quite easily as it turned out scoring twice early on to secure a comfortable 2-0 win over Middlesbrough with ex City striker, and my man of the match, Cameron Jerome getting the first one. So, Boro will be one of a few Championship teams looking to do a spot of rebuilding after the loss of some very influential loan players back to their parent clubs – it’s another reason why the Championship is such a fascinating league, the widespread use of loan players by some teams means that there can be a loss of continuity with success one season often not being guaranteed to follow in the next one.


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5 Responses to Weekly review 31/5/15.

  1. Anthony O'Brien says:

    As always, a column based on comprehensive football KNOWLEDGE and incisive INTELLIGENCE (not necessarily the same thing). I agree that early signings are probably best, but apart from facilitating domestic matters such as where the new player (and perhaps family) will live there is little to be gained if the signing takes place at this juncture – before the transfer window opens on 1st July. To me, the crucial time would be BEFORE pre-season training begins or just after, when players and non-players meet together so that the new player could meet his new colleagues and work with them in developing strategies and understanding for the coming season. That is not to deny, of course, that new signings should ever be discounted once the season has started! Signings must surely be in the pipeline even at this very moment and I look forward to see how they pan out.

  2. Dai Woosnam says:

    Yes Paul, AMO is quite right to make the distinction he does.
    And furthermore, is absolutely speaking for ALL your readers in his salute to your erudition.
    Before I sign off: here is a question you may not be able to answer with any real degree of certainty…but I cannot resist asking it.
    And it is this…
    Can you think of an example of a manager who has made several signings in the previous season, and despite his team finishing the season in an underwhelming position (in whatever division), deliberately sits on his hands ALL through the close season…and yet his essentially identical team STORM AWAY with the title the following year?
    My brain – and memory – is SHOT unfortunately.
    (Someone wished me “good morning” two hours ago, and it took me 75 seconds to come up with an answer!)
    But your brain is still in fine working order, thankfully.
    Hope you can come up with an answer…because there must be several such examples.

    I’m not sure what I am trying to say here…
    And no doubt am using a thousand words when I should use ten…
    …I guess that the subtext of what I am saying is this…
    Something in my water – nay my veritable BONES – tells me we are all too obsessed with clubs making signings. There just MUST be examples like I suggest in my question.
    We must never confuse inactivity for complacency.
    Inactivity can be good.
    And indeed, by definition, all signings – even GOOD ones – bring with them time needed for players to gel. And here I part company slightly with your esteemed correspondent “AMO” O’Brien: I am afrraid that pre-season friendlies against non-league teams are hardly the crucible necessary to forge comradeship and footballing grace under pressure.
    Only proper league games make one match-fit.
    So what I think I am saying is that messrs Peltier, Malone, Revell, O’Keefe and Kennedy may have pulled up very few trees LAST season…but in the right hands, watch them GO SOME this coming campaign.
    “Ah yes”…I hear you ask, “but are they the RIGHT hands, Dai?”
    Well, you know what I think Paul, living in Grimsby as I do,
    But all that said, I am simply making the point that the players on the Bluebirds’ books, are MAN-FOR-MAN not markedly inferior to those of say BOURNEMOUTH or WATFORD, just promoted.
    Players like Le Fondre have been loaned out and Lennon got a tune out of him (and just LOOK how Bowyer has transformed Gestede and Conway).
    So, I submit that maybe Russell’s job is less about making new signings than, making his existing signings play a better tune.
    Kindest, as ever,
    Dai Woosnam

  3. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Clearly, there is obviously nothing lacking with your memory or your brain. Perceptive and well stated comments as usual. I venture to say that the players are already there (more or less). It’s now up to the managers and cohorts to get the best out of them.

  4. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks, AMO for your kind words.
    Just to add a further suggestion…
    I would risk the thought of being barking mad with my next statement…but hey, what the heck, I am with friends here on this CIVILISED site of Paul’s.
    And here is my further two cents’ worth…

    No City manager should pay a 7 figure sum for any player!

    There…I have said it.
    Ludicrous amounts of money were paid for the incredibly overrated Steven Caulker – and I regret to say, for your favourite too, AMO – Gary Medel.
    City lost at least a million on the Medel transfer to Inter, and my hunch is at least a similar amount on the sale of SC to QPR …that last transfer fee was officially “undisclosed”.

    It does not have to be this way…
    Take a really great manager like Brian Clough…
    He bought modestly at Derby…Roy McFarland, John O’Hare, John McGovern …all came from lower divisions for a song. And even Alan Hinton only cost £30K …the equivalent of £850K today.
    All four became world beaters.
    So it CAN be done.

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for your replies both which have raised a number of talking points. Here are a few random thoughts in reply;-
    Starting with Brian Clough, while he bought big when he signed Colin Todd from Sunderland (the single transfer which transformed Derby from top six material into Champions?) and future big signings (e.g. Francis and Shilton) certainly proved their worth, I see him as being like an awful lot of managers in that they struggle when they have serious money to spend. In his latter days with Forest, he bought his fair share of duds and at City I’d say Dave Jones was at his best when given a relatively modest budget, while Malky Mackay did brilliantly on the small budget he had in his first season, well when given big money, by Championship standards, and poorly when given a huge budget after we were promoted.
    The two Burnley teams which got promoted (particularly Sean Dyche’s side) are pretty recent examples of the sort of thing Dai talks about. History shows us that, although we got promoted in a season where we were the biggest spenders in the league I believe, usually it’s not a division you can simply buy your way out of – spirit, a great work ethic and a united dressing room can take you a long way in this league.
    However, despite this, I believe there are reasons why City need an injection of new players this summer. I thought I saw a few examples of a united dressing room towards the end of the season, but in terms of spirit and work ethic, I thought we came up short most of the time. Although our games against the top sides tended to show that we did not have the amount of talent in the squad that many still claim we did, I agree that it wasn’t as lacking in ability as it often looked like it was, but I still say that in areas like left back, central midfield and up front we did not generally get a performance level which suggested a promotion challenge was possible.
    Therefore, I think there is a need for new blood for playing reasons, but also because Cardiff City is a club crying for something positive to happen which will get people feeling good about it again. I slagged off the players plenty of times after their performances in home games last season, but, to be fair to some of those who have been with us for a few years especially, they must have found it tough to play in front of such apathetic crowds. I believe there were valid reasons, which have been talked about plenty of times on here before, for that apathy, but the supporters did very few favours for the team in home games.
    Ole never experienced what I would call a “proper” Cardiff City home game atmosphere and Russell Slade hasn’t yet either, because, for about eighteen months now, the bond which existed between club and supporters has been damaged. If season ticket sales are really as poor as we are led to believe they are, then I think the days of “official” attendances of 15,000, let alone 20,000, are numbered and I believe that many of those who still turn up will do so without the passion and sense of enjoyment that they once had.
    A new signing which captures the imagination (e.g. the Craig Bellamy, Jason Koumas type signings we have had in the past) might be able to push that season ticket sales figure up a bit, while also leading to a feeling of optimism come August – I don’t believe the sort of more of the same approach when it comes to the playing squad which worked for Burnley to an extent would work at Cardiff because “the same” here is now associated with failure and there is so little faith in the manager being able to change that situation.
    It’s impossible to tell if Russell Slade is one of those managers who would struggle with a large budget because he’s never had one before. For me, he did okay in January given the remit he was given, but, he’s going to have to do outstandingly well to change perceptions of him among City fans.
    I often think that people who care enough to take to public forums like this one to talk about their club are not really representative because there is a “silent majority” for whom supporting their team is something that, basically, they only do on match days – they do not tend to go too worked up about their football team as long as nothing drastic is going wrong. However, in my experience, even large numbers of that category of fan have little faith in Russell Slade – I’m not saying that this is right or wrong, just outlining the perception I’ve gained from talking to people.
    In many ways it’s not fair, but, under this manager, I fear things will need to be going outstandingly well results wise for the feelgood factor to return if he maintains the approach and attitudes he showed last season – a signing that excites and, from Russell Slade’s perspective, confounds, would help things along a lot on that score.

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