Saturday, August 27, 2005


I'm still in Egypt so, again, this is from FootyMad on

A Cameron Jerome double failed to secure victory for the Bluebirds after Wolves hit back to equalise in the final minute.

Goals at the start of each half had given City the two-goal cushion they needed over a classy Wolves outfit but when substitute Leon Clarke pulled one back, Glenn Hoddle's side piled on the pressure and Joleon Lescott struck the equaliser in the closing seconds.

Cardiff boss Dave Jones gave first starts of the season to Rhys Weston, Glenn Loovens and Joe Ledley while Michael Oakes passed a late fitness test to take his place in goal for the visitors.

The Bluebirds took the lead in the third minute and it came after a storming run by Alan Lee. He won a corner which was fired over to the far post for Lee to head back into the danger area, and Jerome guided it into the net for his fourth goal of the season.

Wolves went straight back on the attack and Neil Alexander was forced to go full length to kick clear before City almost doubled their lead in the ninth minute. A superb pass from Jason Koumas sent Jerome racing away and as Oakes came out to block he slid the ball just wide of the post.The first half drew to a close with City holding on to their slender lead.

Wolves almost equalised two minutes after the interval when Lescott shot towards the corner but Alexander leapt across to turn the ball away for a corner.The Bluebirds flew back upfield and, after the ball bobbed about following a Lee shot, Jerome struck his second with a drive that took a slight deflection.

Hoddle made a double substitution on the hour and it was one of those replacements, Clarke, who brought Wolves right back into the game when he rounded Alexander and slipped the ball into the net from an angle.In time added on Lescott crashed the ball home from close range after a goalmouth scramble to level it up.

Both sides went looking for the winner but it was Hoddle who was the happier man at the end after coming back from a two-goal deficit to snatch a point.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I was on holidays in Egypt so missed this but a professional job well done by the boys.

This report from FootyMad on

Cameron Jerome helped himself to his third goal in as many games as Cardiff City eased into the second round of the Carling Cup at the expense of League One hosts Colchester.

Two goals in a three-minute spell midway through the first half put Cardiff in complete charge and they never looked like relinquishing their hold on this match.

After a quiet first half hour, Cardiff took the lead via the penalty spot in the 31st minute. U's defender Pat Baldwin shoved midfielder Jeff Whitley in the back, inside the box, and referee Richard Beeby was in a good position to award a penalty.Up stepped cool customer Darren Purse and City's defender sent keeper Dean Gerken the wrong way with a precise penalty.

Three minutes later and this cup tie was effectively over. Cardiff striker Alan Lee raced past a couple of Colchester defenders and slipped the ball through for his strike partner Jerome, who rounded keeper Gerken to sweep into an empty net.

Cardiff have struggled in the Championship of late, losing their last two league fixtures to Watford and Derby. Yet Jerome had scored in both these fixtures as well.Colchester could not find any spark and they rarely threatened Cardiff keeper Neil Alexander, who was not actually required to make a serious save until injury time.

Alexander was in the right place to catch an angled shot from Tottenham loanee Mark Yeates. Otherwise, Alexander enjoyed a very quiet evening.Greg Halford was narrowly off target with a couple of earlier shots, but Colchester could not make any serious in roads, with Cardiff content to sit on their two-goal lead.

It was disappointing for the Essex hosts, especially as they'd enjoyed a good run in this competition last season, when they beat Premiership side West Brom and were unlucky to lose in the third run 3-2 at Southampton.Cardiff reached the last 16 of the Carling Cup last term, but they were taken to penalties in two matches. Colchester never looked like threatening them this season.

Saturday, August 20, 2005



The Brand New Cardiff City are fast becoming the Same Old Cardiff City.

Last week they showed that they couldn't follow up a great performance and result with another one but this week showed they are fully capable of producing successive rank bad displays.
This time it was at Derby's Pride Park, their ground name is the only way you can associate Pride with City at present. A 2-1 defeat makes it sound like it was close. Believe me, it never ever was. Just like last week, Cameron Jerome netted a late consolation after a first half battering and second half submission that was no consolation to anyone.

The Rams look a good side who will undoubtedly beat better sides than Cardiff but, even allowing for that, it was a truly sorry Bluebird performance. The team were poor in every area of the pitch and trying to find any positives is too much like hard work. It's hard to imagine Derby will collect an easier three points all season.

Maybe it's still too early to panic although I'm getting ready for someone to tell us to judge them after 12 games. It can only improve (can't it???) and league table mean little after 4 games but, right now, nobody will argue against City 21st place being entirely merited. Increasing fears of another long season fighting relegation appear to be justified on the evidence to date, the only exception to disjointed, uninspiring football lacking in character and passion was that second half display to blast Leeds United. It's fast becoming a distant memory I'm afraid.

Ninian Park to Pride Park is one of the smaller journeys of the season but sandwiched between Stoke and Nottingham, it's still a 325 mile round trip along the M4/M50/M5/M42/A52 for those who went by car or coach. Many opted to take the train.

"Behave yourself with the lady driver", Roger The Lansdowne Landlord was told by his wife as the coach pulled up. The driver however was very much a male and like something from a Spinal Tap movie, the long, blonde silky hair was white and straggly. Add in a coach with the yellow school sign, a tv that was pinched and a toilet that wouldn't have been out of place in Calcutta and you get the picture. Just for good measure, the driver wanted to know where to leave his bus when we got back to Cardiff so he could go on the lash in town. Quality.

Thankfully, it had a good engine. We picked up from The Muni, Newport Road and then Malpas. We were last to arrive at Pride Park but that was on account of a stop in Tamworth. Excellent Wetherspoon's just as you enter its centre with the entertainment facility of climbing the beer garden ladder, don't ask. Sitting outside in warm sun almost made us want to stay there all afternoon. If we knew what was coming, we would have.

Pride Park is close to Derby's centre and, I guess, is the type of stadium City and Hammam strive to deliver to us one day ... the work's going to start before the end of the year seems to be the latest claim on a stadium that would have been built and in use by now according to the original claims. Anyway, Derby have a 34,000 all seater ground, excellent clear view and good facilities inside. Let's hope we see something like that in our City.

Almost relegated two seasons ago but transformed into losing play-off semi-finalists last season, Derby still sacked their manager, George Burley, with rumours of him arriving drunk for training sessions. Maybe Lennie should have tried that. New boss Phil Brown was Sam Allardyce's number 2 at Bolton and has started well. His side are now in 3rd place after draws at home with Brighton and away at Preston and wins at Plymouth and now against us. They showed to potential to stay at that end of the table.

Brown's squad is small so will be added to. One addition this week their old boy from a 4 year holiday at Leeds. United paid an astounding £7M transfer fee and an incredible £7M more in wages, Johnson started just 43 league games and had he started one more, Leeds would have had to pay another £250k so cut their losses and let him go. A sound piece of business by a certain Peter Ridsdale.

He took his place on the sub's bench as Derby were unchanged with Camp, Edworthy-Michael Johnson-Davies-Jackson, Thirlwell-Idiakez-Bolder-Bisgaard, Smith-Rasiak. The Camp keeper(!) is an England Under-21 Premiership prospect whose baseball cap seems to be surgically attached to his forehead. Defence is generally experienced but Andrew Davies is a youngster on loan from Middlesborough.

The foreigner connection with Spanish midfield playmaker Idiakez, ex-Liverpool Danish international Bisgaard and Polish striker Rasiak fresh from netting two for his country in a midweek friendly were the ones to watch. Problem was, too many of our players were guilty of doing exactly that, watching them.

As for City, the chief activity since that awful awful Watford home defeat and live tv shocker 8 days ago were attempts to land a striker. Newspapers spoke of big money bids, loan attempts and enquiries but, at this stage, they all came to nought so DJ had to look to his squad minus Richard Langley seemingly en route to Crystal Palace.

Jones did however spring two surprises - one was pleasing with Jason Koumas starting and Phil Mulryne having to make way, the other more bewildering as he may be the only person around Ninian Park with faith in playing Paul Parry behind Cameron once again. Once again, it just didn't come off and never looked like it would either. What must Alan Lee be thing on the bench and knowing DJ wants two new strikers anyway?

So it was 4-4-1-1 again with Alexander, Darlington-Cox-Purse-Barker, Ardley-Koumas-Whitley-Cooper, Parry, Jerome. On the bench were Margetson-Boland-Lee-Loovens-Mulryne.
And so to the match. I'll keep this part brief, quite easy really as City never made any attack of note in the entire match other than their late goal, no moments of quality and no occasions when they provided any hope. Derby had the game won by half-time and eased off as we provided so little threat, it nearly cost them the result and gained us a point which would never have been deserved.

The game started with a carefree spirit and decent tempo but we soon came to realise it was only Derby who could provide it. First scare came in the first five minutes as Darlington let a clearance go over and the livewire Tommy Smith raced away, fortunately for us, denied by an offside flag. Idakez made Alexander save a long range free kick and other chances went begging before City's gave their first gift and presented Derby with the lead.

The defending was so bad and comical that it should have been accompanied by the 'chase' music from old Benny Hill shows. Think of the tune as you visualise Darlington being turned inside out on the right and, for good measure, being beaten again then when he got the ball, BISGAARD took it away from him,skipped past Neil Cox's attempt at a tackle before angling a shot past Alexander inside the 6 yard box.

The agonies came and the comedy defending came thick and fast. Smith ran though the heart of City's defence as if they weren't on the pitch, Cox desperately tackled and just got a touch which luckily diverted to Alexander who only went and kicked it back to Smith. The striker rounded Alexander but, fortunately, hit the ball too hard and the glorious chance was wasted.

Just before half-time, Purse fell over on the ball and sent Bolder clear on goal. His standards was just as bad, he put it badly wide. And then, it was hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the penalty we conceded, one minute before the interval.

A high ball was hit over Darlington, Alexander ran out then stopped and ran back, Darlington stopped, the ball was allowed to bounce and was taken by Smith who skipped a couple of powdwerpuff challenges before Darlington got everything wrong again and took him down. Neil Alexander was in goal, IDIAKEZ was taking the penalty so the rest was obvious. Ball went one way, Alexander went the other, two-nil. We were lucky to be only two down.

Half-time: DERBY 2 CITY 0

The mood underneath the stands at half-time was complete shell shock at how bad things were, even the optimists amongst our support offered no excuses and no real hope. Quite a few didn't come back from there for the 2nd half, they were joined by many more as the half progressed. If you stayed below or left early, you didn't miss much, if you went back to the game, you didn't see much.

Alan Lee replaced Parry and City went 4-4-2 but without a clue. Derby knew they had the game in the bag so just kept things reasonably tight rather than bust a gut for more goals. Not long after the restart and Derby had missed two more chances, both coming from more basic mistakes, Willie Boland replaced the highly ineffective Cooper and promptly got booked for hacking down a player but the ball ran loose to Idiakez who missed another good chance, poor finishing prevented it being a rout in truth.

Alan Lee tried hard and caused problems but too often down the channels rather than anything in or near the penalty area, he ended up being one of 6 City players yellow carded, just about all of them on niggly fouls or stopping opponents running through them.

A glimmer of undeserved hope came with 7 minutes remaining as we won a corner, the afternoon was so bad that we had to cheer that success. Neil Ardley's corner was won by Lee who headed down and CAMERON JEROME acrobatically turned it home.
City's support urged, City huffed and puffed, Derby showed signs of panic but no further chances were created and the right result was secured by the home side..

It's near impossible to describe any qualities from this performance and, just like last week, it is impossible to name anybody who gave an acceptable performance they could feel justified about. Neil Alexander was lucky to get away with one howler and, with his defence, working on communication and agreeing who does what is now paramount. Chris Barker was ok but rang ragged and made little impression. Jermaine Darlington is struggling more with each game as a full back, he looks like the team bearing his name rather than a Championship defender currently. It comes to something that even Rhys Weston's critics are wanting to see him back in the team.

Our much vaunted centre halves with team captain Darren Purse and club captain Neil Cox with all their experience just is not working. Cox is an ageing pro whose best days are behind him but we surely should expect more and better from Purse, a £700k signing. As Captains, we look to them to set examples, they are not. Both lack pace so struggle badly as a duo when faced with it, it must be time to take a look at Glen Loovens.

Midfield just isn't functioning. Whitley was probably the pick but no better than barely adequate. Like all of City's central players, completely outshone by Idiakez, Bisgaard and co.
Koumas will improve with match fitness and hopefully bring a spark of life and invention but made no impression and was anonymous today. Still, that's more than can be said for Cooper and Ardley. No pace, no tricks, no noticeable guile so no wonder we're not seeing any attacking action. Right now, Ardley is reminding me as John Robinson this time 12 months ago who realised he was on the slide and couldn't maintain standards with consistency. He is struggling but so is Cooper but doesn't seem to be making any telling contribution to a game.

Yet again, both wide men played on their wrong sides and did nothing more than check out, come inside and rolling balls sideways or backwards, not always to a blue shirt either. Hurry back Joe Ledley!

Up front, Paul Parry and Cameron Jerome are being wasted. Both playing alien roles that enables neither of them to display what they're best at. If they're falling short on form and confidence, then why be surprised considering what they're being asked to do? However we can't get the ball forward with any quality and can't hold it when it gets there anyway, it's a huge struggle.

Collectively, it's just a mess. We are one paced and that pace is too slow and one dimensional. When players can't create or inject life into a game, it's worrying but when they can't even send simple passes to one another and make mistakes all over the shop, it numbs you. The players naturally don't look happy but to see them so impassioned and appearing to lack belief is depressing. Yet with all the experienced players we have, shouldn't we expect that as a minimum? They're letting themselves down and they're letting us down too.

It's another tough week ahead for Dave Jones and the team. The transfer window closes in 10 days and we're stuck with what we've got until January unless we strike now. Regardless, tactics have to alter and so must some personnel.

Thankfully, I'm going on holidays and will miss the next couple of games. When I booked, I was gutted to miss matches but circumstances meant I could only go now. Suddenly it doesn't seem such a bad thing to do after all. We must stay patient, we must hope and believe but just two weeks into the season and we're depressed already, it's a sad but true indictment of the football we've seen.

The Cost of Being A City Fan

Match Tickets (with booking fee) £23.50
Transport to/from Barry/Cardiff £4
Coach Travel £15
Coach scratchcards £2
Food and Drink £25
Programme: Didn't see any on sale

Total cost for game: £69.50

Total cost for season to date: £386

Friday, August 12, 2005

And... I guess that's why they call us The Blues
City crash on live tv


What a difference 72 hours and 90 minutes can make.

The same personnel who showed all balls and shafted Leeds United on Tuesday night were castrated and impotent by tonight as they sank without trace 3-1 to Watford in front of Sky tv cameras and just 9,256 fans, City's lowest crowd since returning to Championship action.
Quite a few worried about City producing an "after the Lord Mayor's Show performance", failure to follow up a classic display with another good display has been a classic City theme over the years. Nobody wants to criticise a new side and new manager so early on as we have to realise a new team will take some time to gel and even that the very best teams will have bad games over a season.
However there is no point denying this was a sorry showing, pitiful beyond belief and an absolute shocker comparable with the lowest moments of Lennie Lawrence's tenure. The only positive I'll take from it is that Watford stuffed us 3-0 at home under Lennie Lawrence last season so we must be improving!
Friday night football returned to Ninian Park as Sky tv, for reasons best known to themselves only, decided this was THE game to televise the night before the new Premiership season. If their plan was to get viewers to try out other channels instead or subscribe to Premiership Plus if viewers want to see decent football, Sky would have been delighted. This was a game worthy of the Horror Channel, not a Sports one.
The most ardent football fan must have allowed their partners to turn over to Corrie or QVC (even that must have been more entertaining) whilst they counted down the minutes to Babestation XXX starting or maybe they just went to bed early.
The crying shame was this was a perfect chance for the club to parade itself to potential future spectators, they blew it big time. City fans tuned in from America, Africa and Europe (including my holidaying family and a dozen City followers in Turkey) to watch the boys. If it looked awful and embarrassing to them, they should count themselves lucky that they weren't inside the ground with a shocking but, all in all, quite fitting for the game we endured.
Watford and Cardiff's new managers have adopted entirely different approaches. The Hornets Adrian Boothroyd decided that the only wrinkly needed around his club is Elton John. Youth and pace is the way ahead for him. Dave Jones has essentially opted for age and experience, solid instead of spectacular. The differing policies emphasised by City including ex-Watford thirty somethings Neil Ardley, Jermaine Darlington and Neil Cox.
The average age of City's starting eleven was approaching 29, five of the starters aged 30 or over. Watford's Paul Devlin was their oldest player, six years more than their next oldest, their eleven's average age was 25.
On the night, Cardiff played like old men against young boys and never made their experience or qualities count one iota. Make no mistake, Watford completely surpassed City in every telling factor and every area of the pitch. Their pace, movement, skill, passing, organisation, movement and composure and play at the back, in midfield and final third were all ahead of The Bluebirds. Yet they were still relatively ordinary so how can you begin to describe City's showing?
They were one paced, one dimensional, unable to send basic passes to each other, hoofed everywhere, never put one ball in front of their players and were tactically and mentally bankrupt. There's no question every player let themselves and the team down, the biggest laugh of the night came when Ali announced that there was a City Man of the Match - Cameron Jerome (either for his goal or because he was picked out of a hat). Sometimes it really is best to shut up and say nothing.
Alexander will be one of the few exceptions, it could have been worse but for him. Darlington has his moments but has a worrying knack of being out of position. Purse and Cox has simply awful nights, Cox doing nothing to allay early impressions that he is the new Spencer Prior. Barker couldn't get forward and was one of many to be hitting aimless passes.
The midfield stank. Nobody took on a man, it was all sideways, backwards and moving inside. Apart from Mulryne who didn't even do any of that and just seemed to stroll around in ever slower patterns. Then there's Paul Parry who never got in the game again and Cameron Jerome, an 18 year old with pace and who needs someone to play off having to play with his back to goal and try to compete against two defenders in the air when there's no support if he wins the ball anyway.
For what little it's worth, City lined up with Alexander, Darlington-Cox-Purse (Captain)-Barker, Ardley-Mulryne-Whitley-Cooper and Parry playing behind Jerome as a lone striker. The bench were Margetson-Koumas-Lee-Loovens-Weston. Two surprises were Mulryne starting and Willie Boland not even in the squad. Injury everyone assumed but DJ later admitted it was a tactical choice of his, doh! On the bench, Martyn Margetson was back in from the cold with Tony Warner (the man of 101 mistakes) surprising gone to Premiership Fulham causing an outbreak of Victor Meldrews as City fans exclaimed, "I don't beeleeve it!".
The players undoubtedly let down their manager but a question nobody wants to ask this early on but which perhaps needs to be asked, did the manager let himself and us down as well by over-experimenting? Darlington is new to his role, Cooper is a left winger playing on the right, Ardley is a right winger playing on the left, Mulryne is a wide midfielder asked to play central, Paul Parry a wide man asked to play up front.
Square pegs in round holes everywhere and meanwhile, Willie Boland who hasn't let City down gets dropped from an automatic pick and bombed out of the squad altogether. And what must Alan Lee, who may not be what we once expected but is still a striker fitter and keener than ever, be thinking watching from the bench? All capped off with that 4-4-1-1 used in every match including both home games. You mess around with personnel to that extent and it seems inevitable that, sooner or later, you'll going to be punished for it.
It's early days, too many people have been harbouring the false expectation that beating Leeds suddenly meant we were something special so this was a wake up call needed. Let's hope they heed it or it's going to be another very long season.
Watford's side were Foster, Chambers-Carlisle-DeMerit-Stewart, Devlin-Mahon-Blizzard-Young, King, Henderson. Ben Foster was recently bought by Manchester United, highly impressed with his loan spell at Wrexham last season, and immediately loaned to The Hornets.
Most familiar to us in defence was Clark Carlisle now fully dried from alcohol addiction and the forwards were Marlon King (on loan from Forest) and Darius Henderson signed for £450k in the summer from Gillingham.
City started poorly and it only got worse. The first half was dread, the second just dreadful. The opening action saw nothing but misplaced passes and smack'em anywhere long balls and it just never got better.
Watford were ahead inside 7 minutes and highlighted defensive weaknesses again. A gaol kick from Roberts who could belt a ball should have been won by Cox but he neither jumped or challenged, a flicked head found MARLON KING who was allowed time and space to skip around Purse before unleashing a low cross drive from the outside edge of the area that beat Alexander and ended inside his far post. Excellent finish but the defending ahead of that was poor in the extreme.
City were terrible. Lacking any ability to pass or move, they were static, devoid of imagination or creativty and looked lost. They looked slow, the big screen taking a Sky feed four or five seconds behind real time made it look slower still. Their only efforts of the half were a Chris Barker prod that bounced to Foster, so desperate were things that I have to report that as a shot on target. Whitley scuffed an effort wide after a scramble and the isolated Jerome gave Foster a basic stop.
At the other end, Watford almost produced a replica of Leeds midweek goal as thy broke away in acres of space on the left through Henderson but he cut back, his shot was parried by Alexander and had to be cleared off the line by Darlington. The subdued crowd cheered anyone who could carry the ball 5 yards, they didn't have to cheer to often.
Half-time: CITY 0 WATFORD 1
There was a general air of disbelief in half-time talk that a team who could produce the effort they had earlier in the week could sink as low as this. Some fans were speculating whether City should start selling half price tickets so we could watch 2nd halves only once Koumas is involved.
Back out, Glen Loovens replaced Neil Cox. Cox was injured but nobody, other than Mrs Cox, would have complained had it been tactical. He is slow and his next error has never looked too far away on evidence so far. Loovens got stuck in winning three strong tackles and the crowd were doing their bit cheering on City but that turned to despair when Watford doubled their lead on 52 minutes.
It's not as if City hadn't been warned. Young was only denied bursting clean through on a 50 yard run by Jeff Whitley just nudging him away and Henderson had a free far post headewr that he pout straight at Alexander. Less than 30 seconds later, Devlin crossed again and HENDERSON headed again, Purse missed the opportunity to shut it out and then had the
slightest deflection but enough to beat Alexander.
Just before the hour, Lee and Koumas replaced Parry and The Invisble Man (Mulryne) and did inject some life and interest into the game but it was asking too much for Koumas to completely transform the match again and before they had settled, it was 3-0.
66 minutes, City powerless to stop a move, Purse blocked one shot by Mahon but the rebound fell across goal to MARLON KING who angled home his second goal, again helped in a very large way by a Loovens deflection giving Alexander no chance.
It was game, set and match. Many City fans disappeared to the bars in need of a drink to get over what they were seeing, many more left the ground altogether and just got away. With the game tucked away safely, it was like watching a training exercise with City looking totally demoralised and shell-shocked.
Jokey whispers of "Jones Out" and "We Want Lennie Back" went around but, overall, there was the realisation that it will take some time to get it right. Those who heeded Hammam's internet pleadings to "bring a friend" are probably spending the entire weekend restoring that friendship, it would have been tough going to take an enemy to watch that.
A consolation game came on 80 minutes as CAMERON JEROME got over the immense shock of seeing a ball played in front of him to run onto for the first time all night, Ardley's pass sent him away and his finishing was excellent, holding off one challenge, going around the oncoming keeper and coolly slotting home.
An edge of area free kick threatened to bring more joy but Koumas whipped it over the wall and straight at Foster. That was yer lot.
The good news is that the club have a week to get Koumas fitter and more involved and will surely move heaven and earth to bring in a striker before Derby away next Saturday. Ahead of that, so much coaching, tactical and positional work to be done. It's hard to know where to start as it was a complete mess everywhere you looked but let's hope they sort it out and put that behind us. A "one off" DJ later labelled it. I hope so, I couldn't bear to see that again.
The Cost of Being A City Fan
Match Tickets = 2 in the Grandstand = £40
(I know, took the missus again, bad, annoying and expensive habit but it was enough to stop her thinking of going back for a while so blinding result really!!)
Travel to/from home: £3
Programme: £3
Food and Drink: £15
Total cost today: £61

Cost for season to date: £316 (could have gone to Las Vegas or New York for that!)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


And so lightning does strike twice!

On a brilliant night, memories were evoked of THAT famous FA Cup win as Cardiff City - that's the squad of players unbelievably backed by 15,000 voices and pairs of hands - bounced back from an awkward first half to storm and wrestle a shell-shocked Leeds United into two falls, submission and defeat. EASY, EASY, EASY, EASY!

It had it all. High drama, powerful passion, good play, strong passing and movement, supreme moments, game turning occasions, intensity and thrills and was one of those games of two halves. Leeds United were calm, confident, in control, almost cocky and looked very good value for an interval 1-0 lead. At that point, I genuinely feared for City but how they turned it around as they pushed up, applied themselves, forced pressure and forced Leeds to wilt in the NP cauldron but it needed a moment of majesty form Jason Koumas to score with his first touches, just 2 minutes after his substitution debut and then Darren Purse's unstoppable penalty to floor Leeds. Epic stuff.

After weekend defeat, this was a big game and it brought out a big crowd. It took me almost an hour to get to Ninian Park from Barry, sod's law that lorry would break down on the Culverhouse Cross by-pass so the pre-match bevvy was abandoned and then more havoc as Parc Nin's car park was full to overflowing which meant the game was 2 minutes old before I got into the ground.

It could have been worse. At that point, there was still a 200 yard long queue snaking outside the ground into Sloper Road with "pay on the nighters". With fewer season ticket holders this term, if we're going to be successful and have big crowds, it means more fans turning up on the day and it must be better handled than one portakabin. The club have to accept not everyone will buy in advance. We can't fill our ground anyway so we cannot mess around with support. It's not good enough. Sort it out City.

Team news and, with a certain amount of surprise, Cardiff were unchanged. I think most expected the 4-4-1-1 experiment with Parry playing behind Jerome to be abandoned having caused Ipswich so few problems and looking so ineffective in the final third but DJ stuck with it. So it was Alexander, Darlington-Cox-Purse (Captain)-Barker, Ardley-Boland-Whitley-Cooper and Parry playing behind Jerome as a lone striker. A noticeable bench change though as Jason Koumas was available having recovered sufficiently from a minor groin injury and knocked Weston into the stands so it was Warner-Koumas-Lee-Loovens-Mulryne.

If it's been all change at Cardiff, the Leeds dressing room must have a revolving door as they trade players like Top Trumps. In fact, 32 different players have had Leeds debuts since the start of last season. With Ken Bates now in charge, season ticket prices increased by a staggering 50% in many areas and a strong support, they are straying to flew their muscles. They opened the season with a 2-1 home win over Millwall and were looking for another good result tonight.
Their side are undoubtedly strong with Neil Sullivan in goals - a defence of Gary Kelly - the man mountain of Paul Butler - madman Shaun Derry - and Dan Harding (ex-Brighton). Midfield had quality with American Eddie Lewis (ex-Preston) - Erik Bakke - Sean Gregan and Jermaine Wright and it was rounded off strongly up front with Robbie Blake back in the Championship after a brief stint at Birmingham and David Healy. That is a good side. The bench were keeper Ian Bennett - Einarsson - Kilgannon - Richardson - Ricketts.

The key action (for City anyway) came in the 2nd period so let's keep first half talk brief! City started brightly, Paul Parry making space on the left and finding Kevin Cooper but his shot was hit at Neil Sullivan in the opening 2 minutes but although City showed strongly early on, a pattern was forming with Leeds will a step ahead of The Bluebirds with their passing, movement and ability to find and make space. Leeds got better as the half progressed.

City were more workmanlike and perhaps, one dimensional, and again struggled to make a true impact in the final third. When they got forward, the quality of the crossing or final ball left a lot to be desired. Most crosses were fired in high and without pace, food and drink to the Chaos Bros central defence due of Derry and the impressive Butler. Corners and free kicks came to nothing.

Leeds first moment of danger came on 12 minutes as a diagonal ball behind Darlington in the penalty area wasn't quite brought down correctly, Robbie Blake swept onto it but Darlo recovered enough to deflect his angled shot which still frayed nerves as it looped just over and just wide.

On 22 minutes, Cardiff were caught cold as Leeds opened the scoring with a simple but well-worked work goal. City were attacking but the fell loose on Leeds right. Hunting in packs, Kelly was quickly closed by two blue shirts but the shock was when he hit a 50 yard ball along the touchline, David Healy found himself in acres of space with the back four not having worked things out. No centre half went with Healy, Barker was out of position. Healy had all the time to get wide into City's area and then roll a ball across the face of goal where ROBBIE BLAKE was ahead of Cox and turned it home at the far post.

Leeds fans were celebrating and enjoying the opportunity to take the pee. "Easy, easy, easy" soon went up followed by "1-0 in your cup final" and then "Risdale, Risdale, what's the score?", directed at Peter Risdale widely blamed in Yorkshire for their turmoil of the past few years - all coming after City beat them in THAT Cup game when they were top of the Premiership and City were in League One.

The next chance came from City and should have been an equaliser. Kevin Cooper put over a high outswinging ball to the far post, Neil Ardley excellently outjumoped a man and, of all players, it fell to Willie Boland 6 yards out but he failed to out direction or power on a header as the ball bounced up and sent it straight at Sullivan on his line. It fell to the wrong man but credit to Willie for being there.

Shortly after, skipper Butler got booked after being fouled either for dissent but maybe it was the first yellow card we've seen for the new refereeing directive to book players for excessive swearing or intimidation towards refs. Ref Tanner was pointing out that whatever he did, it had happened a few times.

The rest of the half was frustrating as Cardiff moves broke down, some passes went astray, the ref seemed to be having an intimate love affair with his whistle and Leeds were controlling possession with some ease. Blake had a chance to double their lead right on half-time but fired over from close range. Cardiff certainly needed the interval more than the visitors and there were genuine fears by many around me that Leeds could go onto record a comfortable win.

Half-time: CITY 0 LEEDS 1

The new halfway line supporters shot at goal competition didn't happen tonight but entertainment on the tannoy as Ali played The Clash's "I fought the law and the law won" and an old soul number, "Please Mr Jailer, set my man free". Couldn't possibly connected to incidents regarding Leeds fans at Elland Road last January, could it?

Both sides came back but there was a significant loss for Leeds as Paul Butler who was running the entire show at the back must have been injured and replaced by Kilgannon. They just didn't look as imposing.

The first shot of the half went to Cameron Jerome who wasn't too far away with a 20 yard drive but it was so nearly game over moments later. Jermaine Wright played a superb ball behind Darlington, Lewis burst into the area and cut back to Healy who looked certain to score. Darren Purse performed heroics to throw his body in the way and block the effort but the ball fell to Wright who put a foot wide from 10 yards. He should have scored, he knew it.

It was decisive. City seemed fired up and starting forcing themselves onto Leeds and pushing them back. There was suddenly momentum and life with them. The crowd realised it too as the atmosphere was suddenly building and there was a brilliant noise echoing around the old ground from all sides of the ground.

As seen at Elland Road, Leeds resorted to some cynical time wasting tactics to spoil the game and take the sting out of City. Throw ins were being handed to different players but, once again, the worst culprit was keeper Neil Sullivan who suddenly missed or "accidentally" deflected balls thrown to him by ball boys to waste time, took his kicks from the opposite side of goal to where he picked up the ball and took an eternity to prepare himself for a kick. I actually looked at the clock on the big screen as it happened and saw three kicks of his took between 30-45 seconds to restart the game taking almost two minutes out of the match.

City came close with some great play and one-twos dissecting Leeds through the heart of their defence but Jerome couldn't quite get power to his shot and was snuffed.

It was building but DJ decided it also needed something different and threw Jason Koumas into the action just 10 minutes after the restart - that's the sort of change Lennie Lawrence wouldn't have considered until 10 minutes remained in a previous City life. And what an inspired decision, what a dynamite introduction. Koumas had one of the loudest roars I've ever heard for a sub coming on but even that was eclipsed.

Within 4 minutes and with his first touches, the ball came to Koumas 40 yards out. He ran at the heart of Leeds defence and they seemed mesmerised, either standing off or parting. A couple of touches later and 25 yards out, KOUMAS let fly a low curling left footer that comprehensively beat the flying Sullivan and arrow-like found the bottom corner. The roar that greeted that was like nothing else in ages, spine-tingling stuff. Koumas ran to celebrate with the Grange and ayatollahed as the game restarted. The buzz from that lasted to the end of the game.

All momentum was now with City and powering forward, Leeds were being battered. The pace, the movement, the width, the possession and the territory was all with Cardiff. They were rampant, unstoppable and wouldn't be denied.

Six minutes later, City were ahead. Kelly brought down Jerome wide right, Ardley sent a free-kick over and Kilgannon attacked the ball with his arm. Penalty, not everyone realised immediately but it didn't take long. Skipper Darren Purse strode forward, collected the ball and left everyone in no doubt who was taking it.

The suspense was immense but the penalty could not have been more emphatic. Sullivan went the right way and full length too but PURSE's effort was far too good. He was beaten for power and direction.

It was now full on fiesta time. The whole ground was bouncing and we could turn the tables on Leeds with everyone chanting, "There's only one Peter Risdale", the man himself standing to acknowledge it. It was soon followed by, "you're not famous anymore". Ali announced the officially declared crowd and said Peter Risdale would like to thank all Cardiff fans for their support which brought out another huge cheer. Leeds fans must have been riled, can't have enough of that! The sight of the whole ground clapping hands doing "Easy, easy, easy" was visually awesome too. Cameron was a few inches from finishing it altogether with a 25 yard drive that looped over Sullivan but his bar too.

As time ticked away, Leeds were always going to make a fist of it and they showed that they are a strong side who certainly look as if they will be in the reckoning this term. City get lucky with a couple of clearances, a header ot two that flashed wide and a shot that went narrowly wide. City conceding a number of free-kicks outside the box didn't help the nerves or hearts either.

However they stayed strong and organised and every clearance was greeted as if it was the best piece of football seen in the world ever!

Time ran out for Leeds and Ardley almost finished it in style with a 30 yarder that was inches over. Instead, we had a comic book finish as Leeds' last attack saw Harding play the ball to far ahead for Derry, Jerome cleared but Derry clearly left studs out to catch him. Then he got up and squared up to Harding, his own player, putting his head against him. Apparently, all of that only deserves a yellow card, lucky boy.

Alan Lee was on as sub and winding up Leeds players as well. The Leeds bench weren't happy to see City standing up for themselves and giving it back, complaining to the 4th official. How we loved it when DJ pulled him away and made muppet gestures to the Leeds bench telling them to shut up and stared them out with a look that you could feel from 50 yards away.

Final whistle brought a huge euphoric cheer and celebration. What a night, what a truly brilliant second half of passion, grit and determination. All that from a team still gelling!

There were excellent displays all round from City. Neil Alexander was decisive at the back tonight, commanding his six yard box and coming for crosses. Darlington had a couple of dodgy moments but always seems to make up for his mistakes and looks far better than Weston on current form for that role. Purse is a real leader, a rock. Cox wasn't far behind but almost fatally hesitated a couple of times but got away with it. Barker recovered from a poorish first half to be fantastic after the interval.

Cooper played very well but Ardley did better and it was good to see them changing over and mixing things up. Whitley is everywhere and is a real asset. Paul Parry gave Leeds hell in the second half running from deep and wide whilst Jerome wasn't quite at his best and didn't always make the right decisions but battled and worked for every scrap of possession and how that was needed. Help is on the way for him, then we'll see his best. Koumas got sponsors man of the match without doing much else. He'll probably be embarrassed about that but goals change games and in one moment of brilliance, he turned that match completely on its head.

Next game - Watford home 7:45pm Friday, tickets on sale now. If it's like this one, how could you consider being anywhere else??

The Cost of Being A City Fan

Match Tickets (took the family tonight): £57
Travel to/from home and coach pick up: £3
Car Park: £3
Programme: Sold Out (again!)
Food and Drink: £12

Total cost today: £75

Cost for season to date: £255

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Cardiff City lost their opening league fixture for the first time in 12 seasons, falling 1-0 to Ipswich Town at Portman Road, the teams separated by Nicky Forster's 62nd minute header.
The game was unremarkable. It won't stay in the memory for much longer than the game lasted but, until a late Ipswich assault, The Bluebirds played well against a side who are sure to feature in the Premiership promotion/play off frame and arguably, were deserving of a draw.

A rather dull game but, for Cardiff, encouraging overall. City looked solid and uncompromising with the new faces appear to be gelling quickly. In many ways, they were unlucky to go down but advance fears of a lack of creativity and a cutting edge were sadly proven. Ipswich had few chances but the ultimately made enough to score and win, City were ineffective in that area but there wasn't much between the teams otherwise but the goal which decided to game as another soft set piece give-away by City, carrying on a pre-season theme..

The football season was back and, for Cardiff, it was a rude awakening. The round trip was almost 500 miles and 1,400 travelling fans were up as early 5:30am. Our coach left the Lansdowne at 7:30am, picked up the boys from the Duke of Clarence and we were soon into old habits having a laugh and singing our way along the M4 and M25 with an appalling karaoke video.

Our coach had a single driver who made good time had his tachograph expiring shortly after 11am so he drove to services. Quick negotiations and we assured him that there was a pub up the road - a gamble as we didn't have a clue and he had 5 minutes driving time - but, hallejuah, one minute away there was a Wacky Warehouse. Never have 25 grown men been so happy to see one! Somehow I won at pool again so I'm already unbeaten for the season.

Back on board, refreshed and now really giving the karaoke some welly, we hit Ipswich half hour later, were escorted to within 250 yards of the ground and allowed to roam to one of our tow designated pubs. We went for The Station - it was opposite the, ahem, station but a big pub with a big beer garden too. Although a Cardiff pub for the day, there was a good sprinkling of home fans too and some good banter and chat.

Also a jukebox which, connected to the internet, had 2 million songs. As the ales flowed, I last remember Ray Lewis and myself trying to impress the pub with our favourite obscure punk songs but being the only ones singing them ... appropriate really as Ray was well into The Only Ones' Another Girl, Another Planet.

Anyway, time flew by ... and so did the ales so it was off to Portman Road and my first ever visit to a ground I somehow missed these past two Championship seasons. It was functional and decent. A traditional rectangular shaped ground with stands behind each goal and along each side, some double-decker style. City's 1,500 fans were housed on one side of the pitch facing across the goal that Neil Alexander defended first half and were making an excellent racket - I think the punk anthems inspired them! For most of the game, even after we trailed, Portman Road's atmosphere came almost entirely from the City section.

It was a balmy but not overly hot afternoon - nothing like the 100 degrees temperatures that greeted City's Championship arrival at Costa Del Rotherham two years ago. The home support gave up their usual pursuits - farming, fishing, kissing their cousins, chewing on straw - to provide an excellent 24,292 crowd which was 3,000 more than watched the fixture last term.
Team news and with summer car boot sale of players and then rebuild, City had 5 debutants and, incredibly not a single player from the starting 11 who turned out at Crewe this time last season. The side (playing 4-4-1-1) were Alexander, Darlington-Cox-Purse (Captain)-Barker, Ardley-Boland-Whitley-Cooper and Parry playing behind Jerome as a lone striker. The bench were Warner-Lee-Loovens-Mulryne-Weston. Jason Koumas was surprisingly missing, a late withdrawal with injury but it still meant almost half the 16 squad had only been with the club for 3 weeks and Kevin Cooper was thrown straight in without having even had pre-season with City.

Ipswich were also going through huge changes. Play-off failure for the second successive season costs in many ways. The club may have missed the Premiership but half their players didn't as Bent, Kuqi, keeper Kelvin Davis and Tommy Miller joined Kav, Ginge, Gabbs and Earnie have a footballing life at the top tier. New signings have not been extensive. Their replacements for Bent and Kuqi were Nicky Forster on a free and one-time Lennie target Sam Parkin for around £250k so cash was not splashed but with the club winning the F.A. Youth Cup, a couple of players were also making a step up.

They started with Welsh Under 21 keeper Lewis Price in goals, a defence of Wilnis-DeVos-Naylor-Richards, midfiueld were still strong with Darren Currie-Jim Magilton-youngster Gravan debuting and Ian Westlake and Forster-Parkin in attack. Best known of the subs was Kevin Horlock.

City played in their away colours and must have had the first shot of the season which could have been the first goal too as Paul Parry got clear on an angle from kick-off but fired tamely across goal. Ipswich's first chance came on 5 minutes as Magilton went narrowly wide with a free-kick that Purse conceded just outside the area.

Chances were at a premium in a tight game which I thought City narrowly shaded in the opening 45 with Darlington, the centre halves, Cooper and, particularly, Whitley and Jerome showing well. Problem was, City were struggling to create.

Paul Parry carried on his pre-season form at Ninian in my view. He looked ineffective and anonymous in his natural role but playing in the hole today, he was simply lightweight and anonymous. It meant an already isolated Cameron Jerome was left truly stranded but he worked, harried and worried a good home defence expertly marshalled by another one-time target in Jason DeVos.

Cameron showed inexperience by running with the ball on occasions when a better option was to hold play and wait for others and often tended to take a couple of touches too many but his commitment was excellent. He just needs help and I suspect that, along with more defensive work, are Dave Jones' current priorities for his side. Jerome came close with two headers, one which was narrowly wide early on and another which landed on the roof of the net before the interval but whilst they closed and won ball often winning applause and doing enough to just shade the half, we never got any closer to goal.

Ipswich meanwhile had the games best chance just before half-time. After being subdued by the efforts of Purse and co, a low ball wasn't controlled by the skipper and fell straight into the path of Parkin. The new signing, who failed to score in any of Town's seven pre-season games showed he's lacking confidence in front of goal as he scuffed his effort straight at a relieved Alexander, he should have finished it.


Now attacking towards us, City seemed inspired, took a little more control and were taking a grip on the game which raised the raucous noise already coming from us to greater levels.
After three years of hardly anyone ever singing Lennie Lawrence's Barmy Army, no matter how we were doing, it took just 45 minutes of competitive action to get the Davey Jones Barmy Army routine going. Perhaps the lowered expectations and owners calming down their over-hype help after a summer in which realism finally came out and hard lessons were learned.

Maybe it inspired the lads as, yet again, we had an opportunity literally seconds into the restart. This time it was Jerome but he failed to get a shot away. Set pieces are maybe a problem at both ends as a couple of City corners and free-kicks came to nought although Cooper's 25 yard drive produced some excitement as with deflection en route, it fizzled and looped narrowly over the bar. Overall, it was still hard going for City to produce anything in that final third.

It was a game though which had 0-0 written all over it or a single goal victory if either side could get their attacking acts together. Typical that just as we were starting to get confidence that City could perhaps do it, it was Ipswich who went ahead with another soft set piece, something that happened a lot too often pre-season.

The goal came when Cooper conceded a needless free-kick out wide and level with the edge of the area against an Ipswich player going nowhere. The ball in was admittedly excellent, a whipped ball towards the far post but where were we and why were we motionless? NICKY FORSTER probably couldn't believe his luck as he was allowed unchallenged to turn the ball home from 6 yards. Some will question why Alexander didn't leave his line but surely it was also upto Cox or Purse to have shadowed Forster? Where was the communication between any of them?

Having struggled to make the game happen at 0-0, City were now finding it near impossible to chase it from behind. Meantime, as play became a little more stretched and The Horses gained confidence that leads can supply, they had but missed good opportunities for a second killer goal. The best/worst miss was Parkin whose diving header clipped the outside of the woodwork but it should have been inside. Other chances flew high or wide as City appeared to get a little ragged at the back and were suddenly being beaten in the air after having no trouble at all for an hour. Alexander produced one good stop.

With time ticking away, DJ made changes as Lee replaced Parry and Mulryne replaced Boland. The ex-Norwich player got the sort of response from Ipswich fans that an ex-Swansea player would get at Ninian Park but with boos instead of a venomous chant. They're awfully nice.
Lee so nearly made a name for himself as he brought down an Ardley free-kick in the box, turned an Ipswich player on the outside and looked certain to score with a free shot at goal from 6 yards but was denied by Lewis' fantastic reflex parry.

It was one of those shots that was hit too well and probably at the right height for the keeper. Had it been scuffed or hit low, City would have a point on the board. Instead, they turned out to be one of only 6 losers of the Championship's weekend, five going down by the single goal and half the sides sharing honours.

Ipswich fans were happy. Their side had to dog out that win and didn't show much style but a win's a win and winning those sort of games is a good sign. Cardiff fans were naturally disappointed but certainly not disheartened. City had battled hard and on another day would have got a result. To run play-off chasers close at their home ground cannot be bad especially when we know Koumas will give us flare and creativity if he performs while the club will surely triple their efforts for a striker.

The players were therefore warmly applauded and cheered off. Neil Ardley led the way and brought a few over to us, one of these things so simple to do but so often forgotten but always appreciated.

A big week coming up with Leeds and Watford at home this Tuesday and Friday and every bit as much interest in hoping DJ can weave his magic to find us a striker from somewhere and quickly too.

As for the journey home, zzzzzzzz. We made it quick time but the first trip for 3 months and a 500 mile journey at that made it sleepy and quiet rather than wild and raucous. Like the team, we need a little time to get things going too!

The Cost of Being A City Fan

Mattch Ticket: £25
Travel to/from home and coach pick up: £3
Canton (Lansdowne and Duke of Clarence coach): £20
Coach Scratchcard: £2
The "play whatever you like" jukebox: £4
Programme: £3
Food and Drink: £25

Total cost today: £82

Cost for season to date: £180.