Weekly review 7/6/15.

CoymayThere’s no weekly quiz on here during the summer months, but I’m going to begin with an excellent question set by Richard Holt the co author of the Journey Back, the book you can read about in the Cardiff City Books section on here;-

What happened in 39 of City’s 46 league games during 2014/2015 but only occurred in 6 league games during the whole of the 20th Century ?

I’ll give the answer at the end of this piece, so bear that in mind if you want to give yourself a while to try and come up with it.

As far as the week just ended goes, I suppose the main piece of City related news to emerge from it was confirmation that Aron Gunnarsson (whose deal was due to run out around this time next year I believe) had extended his contract by a further two years. I gave my reaction to this in a messageboard thread discussing this news when it first broke three or four days ago and I’ve not changed my mind since then.

Essentially, I thought it was good news, but noted that, in the view of many Coventry fans, the Icelandic captains time at that club consisted of him making a very impressive impact initially, but then his level of performance gradually tailing off until it got to a stage where there seemed to be no great sadness at his departure to us four years ago – Gunnarsson began his time at Cardiff with a couple of very good seasons, struggled in the Premier League in his third (no great shame in that, there were plenty of others who did as well) and has just come off his worst campaign for the club, so the challenge for him is to arrest a decline that is in danger of turning his Cardiff career into a repeat of his Coventry one.

I believe he is good enough to rise to that challenge, but there were plenty who were not as charitable about the man who is now one of our longest serving senior players (off the top of my head, I can only think of Peter Whittingham and David Marshall who have been here longer than him) – sell him now or just give him a one year deal were opinions that appeared in that thread I mentioned and I have to admit that, even if I don’t support such views, I can understand them to a large extent.

The Whittingham/Gunnarsson central midfield partnership were first choices in the Championship winning team for more than three quarters of that season before the former lost his place for the closing games, so they had a history of proven performance at this level, but if you were to ask most City fans (myself included) what single on field factor contributed to our season turning out like it did, I believe the most common answer would be an under performing central midfield.

Gunnarsson needs to start hitting the heights of his first two seasons with us if we are to fare better than we did in 14/15 – I thought he improved a little in the closing games of the campaign when we were winning more than we were losing and my suspicion is that if the “part of the furniture” central midfield pairing is going to be broken up, it may be Whitts who should be more fearful for his place in the side.

There was also an announcement that we will be playing new Premier League club Bournemouth in what will, almost certainly, be our final pre season match on 31 July and Cheltenham Town have said that they will be entertaining us three earlier (I don’t believe there has been any confirmation of this game from City yet mind).

If that Cheltenham match goes ahead, then it will be following the convention that applies in pre season matches about 95% of the time, whereby the side which plays at the lower level is at home. What struck me straight away with the Bournemouth match was that we, as the “junior” side, were going to be travelling to the south coast, so, it certainly is beginning to look as if City will not have a home match before the league season starts on August 8. For the last decade or more, our final warm up match has been at home against continental opponents and, given the cost cutting seen over the last few months at the club, the thought occurs to me that the decision has been taken that City do not want to risk losing money by paying for a fixture which may well be given a miss by many of the apparently meagre number to have bought season tickets so far given the levels of apathy among the club’s support at the moment.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m adding two and two and getting five because the indications are that Russell Slade could well have a bigger than expected transfer budget to work with in the coming weeks. Before going on to that, I should just mention quickly that there appears to be interest in Adam LeFondre from a few Championship clubs – Bolton manager Neil Lennon has said he would like to have the player back for next season, but the suspicion remains that they do not have the funds to buy him, so Charlton or MK Dons would appear to be a more likely destination for the striker with the latter being the more strongly linked of the two.

Barnsley's Conor Hourihane celebrates a goal one of two draws his team managed against League One Champions Bristol City.

Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane celebrates a goal in one of two draws his team managed against League One Champions Bristol City last season.

On the incoming front, Conor Hourihane of Barnsley is a name that  has cropped up a bit in recent days. The Irish midfielder was signed from Plymouth last season and was a virtual ever present for the Yorkshire side during a season which saw him make a tremendous goalscoring impact early on. That side of his game tailed off during the second half of the season, but, even so, thirteen league goals is an impressive tally that was enough to make him the Tykes top scorer and, on the face of it, the 24 year old looks the type of player who would be attracting interest from the Championship this summer.

Going back to the amount our manager has to spend this summer, the reason why I feel it could be more than many suspected it would be is that, apparently, our interest in Daryl Murphy, the man who scored more goals than any one else in this division last season, is a genuine one. I made my feelings clear on this possible signing last week and the news from the Ipswich end that they, seemingly, value the 32 year old at £4 million only makes me repeat that, surely, this should mean that this is a deal not worth pursuing from our point of view?

On the other hand, this is Cardiff City we are talking about and they are a club where the large majority of transfer deals in recent years have been all about short termism. The only signing Russell Slade has made so far that I can think of who would fall into the “one for the future” category is Matt Kennedy and when you also consider the complete absence of young home grown players from the first team squad for those, largely meaningless matches we played through April and much of March, I find it hard to avoid a feeling that while our manager may trot out the term “youth development” from time to time to keep people on board, in reality, it is low on his list of priorities.

This brings me back to Richard’s question. The answer relates to the number of Welsh born players selected in the team. Last season the only Welshmen to feature in the first team in the league were Declan John, with two starts and four substitute appearances, and Danny Gabbidon with just the one appearance off the bench – there was no Welsh representation in thirty nine of our games and this is more than six times the total number of occasions in which this happened throughout the whole of the last century!

Yes, the game has changed and I think it’s fair to say that it is harder for young players to break into first teams than it used to be, but, for a side that is. allegedly, looking to balance the books these days, I find it baffling that there is an almost total reliance on looking elsewhere for new players when they are needed – it all comes back to the lack of a “plan” which I find so frustrating, it still only seems to be about the here and now at the club.



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9 Responses to Weekly review 7/6/15.

  1. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks, as ever Paul.

    Re your fascinating question, viz. “What happened in 39 of City’s 46 league games during 2014/2015 but only occurred in 6 league games during the whole of the 20th Century ?”… I of course failed dismally to answer it.

    But that is no surprise to me – my own inability to come up with an answer I mean – as a lot simpler Cardiff City questions would also find me bemused.
    (Oh yes, I can correct a friend who wrote recently that the brilliant Maurice Swan “dislocated a shoulder”, when he actually broke his COLLARBONE twice in the same spot in goal for City, within weeks of the first break healing. Scratch me and I can BLEED occasionally arcane information like that…but in truth I flatter to deceive. My CCFC knowledge is B minus at best.)

    So you can guess what is coming.

    I am stunned that Richard [Holt] knows the 6 games in the 20th century when this occurred. I salute him for knowing it.

    And I would love to know the dates too.

    My first hunch was it must be guest Cardiff teams in WW2…but no, strike that, as leagues were suspended.

    I am all ears, Paul. Hoping you can give all your readers this wonderfully esoteric information !!


  2. rhondda blue says:

    I agree Paul, why is rusty shelling out about £4million on a 32year old 1 hit wonder in daryl murphy when we have adam la fondre under conract. he says he’s homesick for the north, but it could be he’s sick of playing hoofball under rusty. Every body could see we were totally outclassed in midfield last season, but we still seem a long way off in looking for a solid no nonesonse playmaker in the middle of the park. I know we are cost cutting but we will never make the premier if we keep looking in the first and second divisions for players, we need to mix it up with a bit of quality, but there you go maybe that’s the only players that will sign for russ. the worry i have for next season is rusty is quoted as saying he will not get hung up about making even the the top six, that says it all for me, hedging your bets then russ. you say you are still the man for the job, i guess only time will tell becase the football played under you so far plus some of your signings have been woeful to say the least. if we don’t hit the ground running i think he will be gone by end of sept and could be another wasted season. many sides have played much better than us and been higher up the league but still sacked their manager.we were totally inept all year and kept ours, the mind boggles. see you next year all true city fans

  3. Richard Holt says:

    I have to confess that I now think there are actually seven occasions not six which is why these are always dangerous questions to set. Anyway – here’s the list.

    9th April 1921 v South Shields Home

    29th October 1927 v Leicester City Away

    18th March 1970 v Bolton Away

    25th March 1970 v Portsmouth Home

    28th March 1970 v Oxford Home

    24th Feb 1998 v Rotherham Home

    28th Feb 1998 v Scunthorpe Away.


  4. Richard Holt says:

    What am I thinking ? Toshack played against Portsmouth and Oxford in 1970 so I reckon that means there were only 5 non-Welshmen league games. I think it’s time I retired as a quiz-setter – how you manage one for every match Paul i’ll never know !

  5. Anthony O'Brien says:

    I watched the Ireland-England sleepwalkers’ game on TV this weekend, and because of the continued rumours of Cardiff wanting to sign Daryl Murphy, I paid particular attention to his performance. Is he really the answer to Cardiff’s dreams? I know it was a game in which no-one shone. but I cannot see Daryl Murphy as any better than the front players we already have. As I’ve said before, I honestly believe that a Revell-Doyle combination would actually work well for Cardiff, if they’re given a run of games together.

    On another matter, Richard Holt’s encylopedic knowledge seems to be on a par with Paul’s, and the mention of Welsh footballers playing for Cardiff was really interesting, albeit somewhat depressing. I seem to remember some talk just after Vincent Tan came on the scene that Cardiff would try to buy Welsh players, but I may be totally at sea on this. How I’d love to see Cardiff with numerous Welshmen in their side.

    Welsh internationals are clearly in our thoughts this week, and I sincerely hope that they get a suitable result on Friday – and more than emulate the great World Cup display of 1958.

    In an earlier post (on 21st March) I mentioned Dave Bowen who captained Wales in 1958 – and as a schoolboy actually lived in my street. Yesterday was his birthday and it would be a fitting tribute to his memory to see Wales do great things on the international scene at long last.

  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    Well Richard…what can I say?
    There is only one word for such as thee:
    thou hast my total… RESPECT.
    And as Hermia says re Helena in the ‘Dream…
    “I am amazed and know not what to say…”

    So I will exit left…pursued by not a bear, but my own bare knowledge !!

    But before leaving …a word on AMO’s reference to Dave Bowen.

    I guess his days as an Arsenal player are largely forgotten. As indeed are his days as Wales manager. But not so his first spell as Northampton manager, when he took The Cobblers from the Fourth Division to the First in just 5 seasons. That is something it would take a fellow Welshman – John Toshack – to better with his fantastic record as manager at The Vetch.

    Bowen finished his first reign as Northampton boss in 1967, and the following year, I found myself managing The Odeon in the Market Square in Northampton.

    And let me tell you, that although the decline had set in with the club (and The Odeon, come to that!), Dave Bowen was still worshipped by the locals.

    And one final note: my abiding memory of Dave Bowen was as an 11 year old watching Wales lose 3-0 to Scotland, in the game that provided the debut of my third cousin, Phil Woosnam, in 1958.

    It was also the game that provided the chance for Matt Busby to give a first cap to a young 17 year old prodigy from Huddersfield Town called Denis Law.

    And who (of those spectators still alive!) will ever forget Bowen frantically clearing off the goal line, and the ball rocketing into the net off Law’s skinny posterior.

    The history books will tell you that Law scored on his debut: but the truth is he knew nothing about it at all !!

    Dai Woosnam

  7. The other Bob Wilson says:

    As always, thank you for your replies – especially Richard for providing the matches in which we didn’t have a Welshman in the team during the last century. On that score, I must say that, like, Anthony, I find the fact that we played nearly eight times as many matches last season where a Welshmen didn’t feature as we did throughout the whole of the twentieth century pretty depressing. As for us looking to get more Welshmen in the team when Vincent Tan first came on the scene, I can remember talk of something like that under Sam Hammam’s ownership, but not Mr Tan’s – maybe I missed it?

    I’ve had my say about our supposed interest in Daryl Murphy on here about ten days ago and I’ll leave that subject now, but would certainly comment on him more if we actually sign him. However, on the subject of rhondda blue’s message, I agree with him about our manager’s comments last week concerning us challenging for the top six or not – I found them very odd and can’t really see what purpose they served. Virtually all of the time during the decade we spent in this division before our title win we were putting in some sort of promotion challenge – they may not have been that strong sometimes, but there was only one season (04/05) where we fought relegation and we never had a season of such mid table mediocrity as 14/15. Russell Slade does not seem to realise, or refuses to acknowledge, that City fans have become used to far better in this division than his team provided most of the time and, rightly or wrongly, the expectation that we should be challenging for promotion next season is a strong one – the stick he received last season will be as nothing compared to what he’ll get if, what will be seen to be his team in a way that the 14/15 side maybe wasn’t, keeps on turning in the results and performances that we saw last time around.

    Finally a few words on Dave Bowen. I’m too young to have seen him play and, to be honest, I can’t really recall Northampton playing in the old First Division. This is despite them being the opposition in my first ever City match in October 1963 (we won 1-0 with a Mel Charles header!) – I think I’m right in saying that 63/64 was a season in which Northampton took a break so to speak in their climb up the leagues and it was the following year when they made it into the top flight. I can remember Dave Bowen as Wales manager and it seemed to me that he hardly did a spectacular job when in charge of his country – decent, but nothing outstanding. However, when you think of what he achieved at Northampton, I’d say it was one of the best managerial feats in the British game in my lifetime.

    Dai is right to say John Toshack bettered Dave Bowen’s achievement at Northampton when he got Swansea into the top flight from the old Fourth Division a year quicker and then saw them prosper for one season at least before falling back whence they came, but I’d argue Bowen outdid Tosh because, comparatively, he had nothing like the transfer budget the ex City man had, nor the sort of connections with a former club which saw a stream of Liverpool players join the jacks during the good times.

    One other thing while I remember, Rotherham in 1998 among Richard’s list of no Welshmen games was the Peter Zois match – just one appearance for City, but he certainly made it a memorable one!

  8. Stephen Fairhurst says:

    Upon hearing the answer to the quiz question it makes the anthemic ‘Men of Harlech’ and telling Welshmen not to yield especially on some occasions when the opposition have more Welshmen in their side a tad ironic. I am one of the new supporters having started when the team moved to the new stadium and my son was an age where I thought watching games would help with his junior football. I have put my money if not my brain where my mouth is and have renewed as I agree supporting a team doesn’t depend on league position and to be honest I am happy to not necessarily gain promotion to the ‘promised land’ as I didn’t enjoy that season and not because of the many defeats. I try to understand the traditions of the club but ‘C’mon support the boys and make some noise’ is a begging plea rather than a ‘call to arms’ I always read the ccmb for the passion of the fans and mauveandyellow for deeper insights into the playing of the games. May you continue to enlighten me in all aspects of Cardiff City FC

  9. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Good to hear from you Stephen and thank you for your kind comments. The more I think about it, the worse that stat about Welshmen in the team becomes – I ‘m not saying there should be some sort of quota system whereby every City first team squad needs to have a set number of local players in it, but it does bring into focus the lack of any inclination on our manager’s part to give youngsters at the club a first team chance at a time when we played a series of matches with not much riding on them. I agree with you completely about “support the boys and make some noise” – it kind of sums up an attitude I detect at the club whereby they now realise they have made big mistakes which have gone a long way to alienating large numbers of the club’s support and there is now a desperation to try and get things back to “normal”, but I”m afraid that’s going to be easier said than done.

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