Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cardiff City: Fade away

So, where to begin?

24 hours since we lost 0-3 to Reading in the Play-Off semi final and time to start reflecting. This is a long one, so you might want to make a cup of coffee or grab a beer before continuing.

I have to say, that in August 2010 I was, like I suspect most Bluebirds fans, full of excitement and anticipation. Not just with the lip-smacking prospect of a new season - that's always there, but with a real belief that having come so close the previous season with the squad we had, the financial troubles fading (if not yet gone), that this was to be our season. I genuinely believed that we had top two credentials, and that if we played to our potential, we'd walk the division. Oh, if only I'd known then what I know now.

It all started so well. Bothroyd scoring goals for fun, Bellamy bringing that feel good factor, the sun shone, City were right up there. The autumn came, and we started towards winter. The 4-0 drubbing of Leeds away was some of the most stunning football I've seen City play in years - ever perhaps.

And then Bothroyd picked up that yellow card against Norwich that ruled him out of the Swansea game. And we all know what happened then. I genuinely believe that was a massive turning point in our season. We lost of course against the Jacks in a lacklustre performance, and capitulated in November, much of December and over the Christmas and New Year period.

Bothroyd went from golden boots to England cap to injury and has never been the same player since. The poor run over the depths of winter saw Dave Jones head called for on many occasions (even by me at one point), although with some additional apparently astute (at the time) loan signings, things gradually started to turn round.

But we never looked like a team that was truly comfortable in it's own clothes. Too often we looked like 11 players on a pitch - all decent players on their day in their own right, but rarely as a "team" playing for each other. When I look as Swansea, Reading, Norwich, Forest and even QPR, they look to me like a cogent, cohesive unit. City didn't. That's not the luxury of hindsight, I've said that several times this season.

Anyway, DJ continued to tinker with a defence that had been ropey all season. He never settled on one unit - partly due to injury, partly (in my view) to stubbornness - his unwillingness to drop Naylor after a string of abysmal performances for example, and some for reasons we'll probably never know.

It looked like we were going to have to settle for the play-offs, then all of a sudden with a handful of games to go, it was back in our own hands.

And we know what happens when a DJ team has their destiny in their own hands. They come up short. A draw against QPR at home in other circumstances would have been a decent result, but not when we needed to win. The hopeless capitulation against Middlesborough who made us look like a third rate parks team (with apologies to third rate parks teams), and then the awful blunders which cost us so dear on Tuesday. more painful for having watched the Swans play their way into the final with such aplomb.

To be honest, I had a bad feeling about the play off game. I didn't think we'd do it.

Is there blame? To be fair to DJ, he has brought the club a long way. Short termists, and the "I want it now" crowd tend to forget that. But every time we get close to something we come up short/bottle it (delete as you see fit). Beaten hammered by Preston to miss out on the play offs on GD, betaen by an average Portsmouth side in the FA Cup final, beaten by Blackpool last year in the PO final, and now finishing 4th and then losing in the semi with a squad that should have walked to automatic promotion.

Yes he's done a lot, but he can't finish the job. Thanks Dave, it's been a blast, but it's time for a change. Will he go? Not my call, but I think he will, and I think he should.

He's got the best out of Bothroyd (well for a third of a season anyway), but I'm getting cheesed off with the number of times he's said things like "we'll dust ourselves down and go again". I'm fed up with his bitching about the fans. We pay well to watch City and we expect them to give everything. Whilst some do, some don't (or can't). Do fans create pressure? Maybe. But you're professionals DJ. Deal with it.

Some of the loan players look uncommitted (more about that in my player ratings in another post to come).

I think it's time for a clear out. I think Jones will go. I think Bothroyd will walk away. Bellamy says he wants to stay. Does he? Really? With the prospect of another year at Championship level? We'll see.

Who would come in? Speculation at best. Who do I want? Chris Hughton is a manager I respect who worked well under immense pressure and speculation at Newcastle, doing a fantastic job.

Whatever comes, I will be there (with my little pick and shovel) next season. Come August I'll be full of new anticipation. I just hope we've got a manager and a squad who can turn that anticipation into a realisation. Meanwhile there will be one eye on the Jacks or Reading who will be playing Man U & Chelsea whilst we're facing the likes of Huddersfield or Bournemouth, or Peterborough or MK Dons.

In my heart and in my head, I think our immediate chance has gone. I said at the start of the season to anyone who'd listen, if we don't do it this year, we never will. I hope with all my heart that turns out to be untrue.

1 comment:

stabber said...

A good reflection on what most people feel right now.

However, in all honesty, you could have written this 12 months ago after the Blackpool game. I take no pleasure in saying this but Jones should have gone 12 months ago... A fact I strongly advocated all season and was at times ridiculed for.

In my opinion, we have wasted 12 months... With the players we had under the guidance of a more animated and passionate manager, we would have walked this division

Signed... Stabber (The armchair pundit)

PS: Anything you say carries more credibility than what I say. You after all have been to every match. I haven't been to one, so I do respect your opinion!