Sunday, August 26, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
City wallking off Ninian Park pitch
looking dejected, a now familiar sight
SATURDAY AUGUST 25th
CHAMPIONSHIP - Game 3/46 - at NINIAN PARK
CARDIFF CITY (0) 0
COVENTRY CITY (1) 1 Tabb 34
I call this one
"Calm before a penalty miss"
CARDIFF CITY again let themselves down big-time and a willing support too as they incredibly conspired to produced an near perfect replica of the season opening Stoke home game. So close was it in all aspects that I could get away with a copy and paste of that report, simply changing player names and be done with it. But here's a couple of thousand new words same the same things said before instead.
It was hot again in the City - temperatures baking in the upper 70's and with no breeze - as a large expectant crowd showed their faith ... so much faith that we tore ourselves away from beer gardens to get to the game. 16.640 gave up a glorious start to a Bank Holiday weekend but which included another poor travelling support, only 500 or so Sky Blues bothered making the short journey from the Midlands.
It may be a new season with new players but the story's the same I'm afraid. Coventry, another average visiting side, managed to ride out City's impressive high tempo opening 25 minute salvo through a combination of staying organised and Cardiff wasting several guilt-edged openings once more. Then it's the turn of City's defence to switch off and assist gift a goal to opponents with one of their very few chances and after that we simply don't appear to have the confidence, belief, stomach and ability to fight back and change the game. Once more, Dave Jones leaves his substitutions until too late and isn't helped by selecting no strikers on his subs bench. You don't count Warren Feeney as one, do you?
I mentioned last week how Cardiff's game increasingly depend on the first goal, City score first and we'll be ok for a point or three, go behind and it's almost game over. It really is as simple as that with us at present.
Opponents, as well as City fans, now know it's over 2 years since Cardiff City fought back from behind to win under Dave Jones (it's only happened once with him, that in his first ever Cardiff home game) and so Cov were more than happy to sit back and try to seal the game on the break taking what little we have to offer.
However, being Cardiff, it still leaves room for more self-inflicted damage and in the desperate last gasp surge, Purse missed a free header, Feeney had miss of the season with an open goal and then they even missed a last minute penalty for the second home game in succession, the hapless Darren Purse being the culprit this time.
Had it not been for Michael Chopra's last gasp equaliser against Stoke last season, Dave Jones' Cardiff City would now delivered 6 straight home league defeats. Every game we've gone behind at home, just once we've shown the balls to right it a little. Just when was the last time City were so shockingly poor results-wise at Ninian Park?
Controversy started before kick-off with City taking the unusual step of naming an 18 man squad including the names Fowler and Hasslebaink. Guess which 2 names were missing once we arrived inside the ground? That's poor practise and whether Dave Jones or someone else at the club chose to do that, with heavy hints dropped to the media of their involvement. The club knew it would swell the crowd but that is cynical, out of order and dubious behaviour which loses respect.
Jones attempted to justify their absence post-match by claiming both would be involved against Orient in the Carling Cup instead - that 3 days will make all the difference - and had he put them on the bench today, he may have be tempted to use them early which could have set them back. Dave Jones and early substations? Who's he trying to kid? For some, he has been showing signs of LennieLawrence-itis for a while.
If Hasslebaink was good enough to play a half and score two midweek, his mere presence on the bench would have been a boost and 10 minutes of him could have been enough. It certainly would have been more worthwhile than Aaron Ramsey, no way would he ever have thrown the 16 year old into this clash. It was a mistake by Dave Jones but he'll never admit to it. It was later learned Hasslebaink and Fowler were training at Treforest on Saturday morning whilst our Under-18 Academy side stuffed Man United 5-1 after trailing at the interval going out live on MUTV as well, how many of is now wish we had gone to that game rather than this one?
After all the talk, City had only one enforced change from the side that won at QPR with Chris Gunter getting a chance to stake a claim whilst Kevin McNaughton is injured for upto 6 weeks. So it was Turnbull, McNaughton-Loovens-Johnson-Capaldi, Sinclair-Rae-McPhail-Ledley, MacLean-Parry. Subs were Oakes-Purse-Ramsey-Whittingham-Feeney with Oakes place assured as Luton's opted for a used Forde, David joining them on a one month loan. .
Coventry under Ian Dowie (owner of a face that almost makes me good looking) have started well, this win made them surprise early leaders of the Championship as they had a superb 4-1 win at Crystal Palace followed by a 1-1 home draw with Hull last week.
His team are attack-minded as he came to Ninian Park with a line up reading Konstantopoulos, Osbourne-Ward-Hall-Borrowdale, Tabb-Doyle-Hughes-Gray, Adebola-McKenzie 7. Greek keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos starred in Hartlepool's promotion last season and was claimed to be a summer target for City. An experienced midfield featured one-time City loan player Julian Gray whilst their attacking duo of Dele Adebola and Leon McKenzie were always like to give us some trouble.
Let's cover off those missed chances as Cardiff were exciting and a joy to watch for 25 minutes all roared on by a charged and willing crowd singing away all around the ground but Groundhog Day was underway as creative build up play created opening which nobody was good enough to take.
Steve MacLean missed a trio of chances, one fired over the bar when well placed, another shot from a Johnson knockdown straight at the keeper and, in from a brilliant piece of play involving Ledley, McPhail and Capaldi twice slicing through a jittering visiting defence, he was given a free header in front of goal but put in the only place he couldn't score, head height straight at Konstantopoulos. Some MacLean brilliance also got him into the area and at the by-line but one of Cardiff's deficiencies is a central midfield that suffers penalty box nausea so nobody was available for him.
Gavin Rae started brightly but why doesn't he go all the way on one of his runs? Three times he charged 30 to 50 yards but then stopped to find someone to pass to. Such was Cardiff's pressure and dominance that we also saw a two (yes, two) Steve McPhail shot! ... ok, one almost went out of the ground over the Canton Stand and the other almost landed on top of the corner flag but shots they were! The visiting keeper was also kept busy smothering to save twice from Parry with a low shot and header but it wasn't entirely one way as Coventry won a couple,of corners and Adebola in particular was having the better of Roger Johnson on their rare forays forward.
On 34 minutes, Coventry had another huge let off as a hanging McPhail free-kick evaded everyone and fell for Loovens 6 yards out but his sweeping leg simply helped the ball to Konstantopoulos and it proved to be one miss too many as the visitors took full advantage. The ball was sent to Adebola his ball upfield sent McKenzie clear down City's right with our defence asleep and hopelessly caught out, the player drew Ross Turnbull and squared across the face of goal leaving Coventry's attacking midfielder (attacking midfielder - there's a term we can't use) JAY TABB to slot into an empty net from 5 yards. Sky Blues rejoiced and sang out their Jimmy Hill inspired Boating Song, City fans hacked off as Cardiff were ready to restart but Coventry's players were all at the touchline drinking water, the ref making a futile attempt to get them back. Coventry were already taking the pace and tempo out of the game.
Sadly, and with great justification, Cardiff followers had that sinking feeling. We've now been here so many times and almost continually in home games during 2007. In fact, Cardiff were lucky not to be two down at the interval as Adebola again exposed Johnson, turning him with far too much ease deep inside the box, his shot across goal only narrowly missing. Cardiff did respond with a double save needed to deny Ledley then Parry, Sinclair's rasping drive was hit straight at the keeper and, when, better placed, Sinclair fed Rae, his effort far closer to the blue sky than the Sky Blues keeper.
Half-time: CARDIFF 0 COVENTRY 1
To call City's second half response as "disappointing" would be some understatement, it was almost enough to have hardened insomniacs contemplating some zzzz's under the sun although, credit to City fans, there were a considerable number still making a noise and trying to help inspire them. It was Coventry who again almost doubled their lead as, once more, poor defensive play saw a throw in intercepted, McKenzie burst away and, like Adebola, shot across Turnbull only to miss the far post by a fraction.
For Cardiff, the first notable action came shortly after the hour and it was a substitution. The disappointing Joe Ledley replaced by the just as disappointing Peter Whittingham. What has happened to Whitts? I don't know if he's moping from not starting but I do know he's really not taking his chances when they come along. I don't recall a single telling contribution from him.
The game drifted along until Dave Jones tried another change with less than 10 minutes when Warren Feeney replaced MacLean. It was just over 5 minutes remaining when Jones finally made the more obvious change with Darren Purse introduced at the expense of Chris Gunter (another who had a poor personal game) allowing Roger Johnson to be pushed up front for some much needed height and battle.
Purse came on at a corner and, perhaps, should have scored immediately as the kick came straight to him, he guided his header towards top corner but it was just over and just wide. "If that was the other end of the park, he would have done far better", I said about our own goal specialist and, as if to prove me right, a couple of minutes later he tried to cut out a cross and headed against the angle of his own bar and post then into Turnbull's arms - a novel way of getting the ball back to the keeper.
Time was almost up but City still twice managed to cock up golden opportunities, the first when Roger Johnson got himself clear but his poor first touch took him wide, his second touch - a shot - was almost as bad as he screwed it across the box but Konstantopoulos spilled it at the feet of then cult Warren Feeney (it sounded like they were calling him a cult) but he incredibly put it 10 yards wide when 6 yards out with the goal gaping in front of him. It was more than enough for many who walked out, more who stayed decided to vent their piled high frustrations of Feeney - to think, we still got him for another two and a half years!
Could it get any worse? Yes it could. A ball into the box, Feeney appeared to trip over his own laces but the ref, presumably feeling sorry for us, awarded a penalty. We wouldn't mess it up again, would we? Oh no, not when Darren Purse, captain courageous dived in, fought for the ball and placed it on the spot. We waited and waited, Purse strode up confidently, he always shoots low right or left and into the corner, doesn't he? Not anymore, he wellied it, smashed the bar, the ball came down wrong side of the line and away. You are now permitted to say 10 expletives of your choice which don't go together but express your emotions and anger as that's what I remember doing at this time!
Keeper goes wrong way for penalty,
it makes no difference!
Two home games, two defeats, no goals scored, loads of chances wasted, tow soft goals given away and two last minute penalties missed. The only time we've cheered a City home goal this season, we needed extra-time and be bored off our tits before seeing off the mighty Brighton late on. That's entertainment.
Dave Jones argued we were good enough for a point at least but when you miss good chances, fail to convert penalties and give away soft goals, then nothing is what Cardiff deserve. It really is time Jones and his teams learned their lessons ... there's already been far too much of this.
What can Dave Jones with this bigger, better, stronger squad of his do to change things. Optimists will say the imminent introduction of Hasslebaink and Fowler could be enough, surely they will convert enough of the chances created in periods when City are dominant but is that enough ... and, indeed, will they work anyway? If those two can't pull it off, we are in trouble. We're reasonably strong at the back but Roger Johnson showed he still has a lot of learning to do. Problem is, Darren Purse is hardly showing up well. Tony Capaldi is adequate, no more, at left back and you really wonder why Dave Jones never rated Chris Barker and he's never got anyone better in his place while Chris Gunter has to improve on today's display.
On a day, Coventry;s central midfielders got forward and supported at every opportunity, it shows where we have a problem with Cardiff's who do anything but that. Gavin Rae must be vulnerable the moment Ricky Scimeca is available. Trevor Sinclair is a great acquisition but can he be more than a 60 minute man? He faded badly today and tired last week at QPR too. I am dying to see Peter Whittingham stake a claim, he's talent going forward and a different option to Joe Ledley but he's not showing well right now. Neither striker did well today but many reckoned the MacLean-Parry combo would only be effective on the break in away games, their point was proved. It is transfer deadline in the coming week and Peter Ridsdale has said no signings unless we move players out, we can but hope and pray.
2 Grandstand tickets:
Sat Sep-1 Barry
Waterfront Free Gig
Wed Sep-5 Bristol
EVAN DANDO (Lemonheads)
Fri Sep-7 Bristol
THE ONLY ONES
Sat Sep-8 Bristol
Sun Sep-9 Cardiff
Uni Solus £20
Fri Sep-14 Bristol
Sat Sep-15 Cardiff
Tue Sep-18 Bristol
BRIAN WILSON (Beach Boys)
Colston Hall £50 (ouch!)
Wed Sep-19 Bristol
Mon Sep-24 Bristol
P J HARVEY
Colston Hall £25
Tues Sep-25 Cardiff
Weds Sep-26 Cardiff
Sun Sep-30 Cardiff
Uni Great Hall
Mon Oct-1 Cardiff
ROGER HODSON (Supertramp)
St David's Hall £35
Tues Oct-2 Cardiff
Glee Club £8
Wed Oct-3 Bristol
Thu Oct-4 Bath
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS
Thu Oct-4 Newport
Thurs Oct-4 Cardiff
Fri Oct-5 Bristol
Mon Oct-8 Bristol
Mon Oct-8 Cardiff
The Point £8
Tue Oct-9 Bristol
Tue Oct-9 Cardiff
The Point £12.50
Fri Oct-12 Cardiff
Sun Oct-14 Bristol
Mon Oct-15 Bristol
Tues Oct-16 Cardiff
St David's Hall £18
Fri Oct-19 Cardiff
HELLS BELLS (AC/DC tribute)
The Point £11
Sat Oct-20 Cardiff
St David's Hall £22
Sun Oct-21 Bristol
Tue Oct-23 Bristol
Tue Oct-23 Bristol
Colston Hall £25
Tue Oct-23 Cardiff
The Point £10
Thu Oct-25 Exeter
Thu Oct-25 Bristol
REVEREND & THE MAKERS
Fri Oct-26 Bristol
JUSTIN CURRIE (Del Amitri)
Sat Oct-27 Cardiff
UK Guns N Roses
The Point £10
Sun Oct-28 Bristol
Colston Hall £25
Sun Oct-28 Cardiff
Uni Great Hall £12.50
Mon Oct-29 Bristol
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS
Mon Oct-29 Cardiff
Tue Oct-30 Cardiff
Tue Oct-30 Bristol
Wed Oct-31 Cardiff
Uni Solus £14
Thu Nov-1 Cardiff
Uni Solus £10
Tue Nov-6 Cardiff
Uni Great Hall £12.50
Fri Nov-9 Bristol
Colston Hall £28
Sun Nov-11 Cardiff
Mon Nov-12 Cardiff
The Point £13
Fri Nov-16 Cardiff
ALICE COOPER/MOTORHEAD/JOAN JETT
Sat Nov-17 Cardiff
Sun-Tues Nov-18-20 Cardiff
Thu Nov-22 Cardiff
St David's Hall £24.50
Thu Nov-22 Cardiff
The Point £10
Sat Nov-24 Cardiff
Sun Nov-25 Cardiff
THE WEDDING PRESENT
The Point £13
Mon Nov-26 Bristol
Wed Nov-28 Cardiff
Sun Nov-11 Cardiff
HELL IS FOR HEROES
Sat Nov-17 Cardiff
Uni Great Hall
Sun Nov-18 Cardiff
Uni Solus £12
Sun Nov-25 Cardiff
THE JAM (minus Weller)
St David's Hall £18.50
Tue Nov-27 Cardiff
Uni Solus £12
Wed Nov-28 Cardiff
THIN LIZZY plus QUEENSRYCHE
St David's Hall £28
Sun Dec-2 Cardiff
Uni Great Hall £12.50
Mon Dec-3 Bristol
Colston Hall £33
Tues Dec-4 Cardiff
Thu Dec-6 Cardiff
MANIC ST PREACHERS
Fri Dec-7 Bristol
OCEAN COLOUR SCENE
Sun Dec-9 Bristol
Sun Dec-9 Cardiff
SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND
The Point £12.50
Mon-Tue Dec-17-18 Cardiff
Tue Dec-18 Cardiff
Uni Solus £17
Sat Dec-22 Cardiff
The Point £10
Sat Dec-22 Cardiff
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
SWEDEN 3 WALES 4 (Under 21)
Last night, the Under 21's fought back from a down and out 3-1 deficit to grab a shock and thrilling 4-3 victory in Sweden. With many Under 21's upgraded t the senior side, it was Premiership Wigan's David Cotterill - whom Tosh seems to be overlooking for whatever reason - who emerged the leader and hero.
City's bright propect Aaron Ramsey, only recently turned 16, was called up late and got 30 minutes of glory coming on as sub and being part of that fightback.
BULGARIA 0 WALES 1 (seniors)
24 hours later to tonight and a highly unfancied Welsh side with Giggs retired and players like Bellamy, Ginge, Robinson, Fletcher and Koumas all pulling out at the weekend and the boys responded again with a terrific 1-0 victory against an in-from Bulgarian side aiming to impress a new boss in 85 to 90 degree heat.
There were several heroes with young keeper Wayne Hennessey once again outstanding in goal (he was man of the match), skipper Danny Gabbidon was superb as were Nyatanga, Gareth Bale and Simon Davies but the headlines will go to debutant Freddy Eastwood who scored a stunning goal bang on half-time.
Toshack's tactics were there to be shot down - midfielder Joe Ledley playing in defence behind defender Gareth Bale in midfield and a lone striker - but he will have the last laugh tonight.
From a City viewpoint, you had to feel sorry for Earnie - on the bench with some harsh words from Tosh and then a thankless 30 minutes on his own up front with minimal support - and for Chris Gunter too as he was called up to the senior side but despuite plenty of changes, he turned out to be one of only a couple of subs not used. Joe Ledley played 1st half and acquitted himself very well.
BBC reports here:
Sweden U21 3 Wales U21 4 http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/league_of_wales/6955612.stm
Bulgaria 0 Wales 1
After all this time, Cardiff City finally seem on the verge of having a dedicated training facility and it's back at The Vale Hotel where the Academy have been based for some time and City intended to use before until planning permission failed.
With new plans set to be submitted, it does however City will have their own training pitches plus office and other facilities to be shared with Cardiff Blues and the Welsh national football and egg chasing sides.
The Bluebirds have notoriously been training at wherever there is available space but it's rarely ideal. It's been Jenner Park, Cardiff UWIC, local parks and even bike rides when no pitches have been available. Maybe ok when we were a Div 3/4 side but it's wholly unsuitable now.
LEDLEY NEW CONTRACT TO BE SIGNED IN DAYS
Joe has confirmed the final details are ironed out and he will sign a new deal on return from Welsh international duty.
It now seems likely that Jimmy will be in the mix for the 16 this weekend against Coventry - probably from the bench - but both Riccy Scimeca and Robbie Fowler didn't play yesterday's friendly at Hereford and need a few days more training. However both could be involved in another closed doors friendly next midweek.
At my company today, a number of us were asked by our training and development team to “name one of two songs that automatically take you back to school and your school days”.
Maybe that is easy for some for whom music is only relatively important but for an eclectic muso like myself, it proved a nightmare.
When I started school, it was “ring-a-ring of roses” and “round and round the garden”. When I left, it was The Damned’s New Rose and Siouxsie’s Hong Kong Kong Garden as I’d discovered punk/new wave (or did it discover me?) but I additionally had plenty of crossover and still do. How can I possibly name just 2 school songs from my myriad of influences? Can you??
As I was pressed, I went for I’m The Leader of the Gang – Gary Glit
Then it was truly time for revolution and punk and I could choose any of 501 here. It was halcyon times when we heard or saw ground-breaking anthem blitzes on Old Grey Whistle Test or John Peel and spoke about little else in break next day. “Amazing” was the buzz word and it was compulsory to describe any group or tune you liked in this way. I chose DEVO’s Jocko Homo as they’re my favourite group to this day and it was just so different to anything else. They w
But I could have gone with anything from T Rex, Squeeze, Undertones, Slade, XTC, Bowie, Clash, Joe Jackson, Pistols, AC/DC, Gang of Four, Third World, Damned, Judge Dread, Elvis Costello, *Blondie, Thin Lizzy, SLF, Specials, Buzzcocks, Ruts, Ian Dury, Penetration, Stranglers, Misty In Roots, Tubes and even the likes of Leo Sayer and 10cc!!! (*I wasn't really into Blondie's music but her picture sleeves made for good schoolboy wank material that you didn't have to hide from your mum!)
Could also have gone for Chuck Berry’s novelty “I want you to play with my ding-a-ling”. That was useful for school disco, it worked a couple of times too!
So what 2 would you choose? Bloody hell, some people hear are going to name current chart acts. This is ageist you know!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The latest surprise news is that Paul Crompton and Lee Robinson (brother of Wales international midfielder Karl) have both left their positions running the Cardiff City Academy.
The Academy has been doing a fine job in recent years either producing, or assisting the developm,ent of, players like Joe Ledley, Joe Jacobsen, Cameron Jerome, Chris Gunter, Aaron Ramsey, Darcy Blake and Matt Smith. The due took over the Academy last season and, to most bystanders, have been doing a fine job.
What's not yet known is what the background is. The club have only confirmed their departures and that they are seeking replacements, the pair apparently left last week during the latest Sam Hammam ding-dong. Nobody is yet sure if they left of their own accord or if the club removed them but I'm sure we'll soon find out.
More info and some tracks from Jihad Jerry's 2007 album can be found here:
Few details exist at present but it appears that Jimmy Floyd-Hasslebaink scored Cit's first two goals which should rocket him into contention for Coventry's visit this weekend whilst the hapless Robbie Fowler was absent which would suggest we're not going to see him anytime soon - that can only be good news for Cardiff publicans!
Hereford, always playing catch up almost levelled it at 3-3 before City broke away to grab the final decisive scoreline instead.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
CHAMPIONSHIP Game 2/46 - at LOFTUS ROAD
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0
CARDIFF CITY 2
(MacLean 29, Parry 59)
Cardiff City enjoyed their first win in 10 Championship games and first away win for 9 months with an excellent victory against QPR side in West London to redeem themselves from last week's opening defeat at home to Stoke, putting the first points of the season on the board and certainly livening the mood of the club and fans alike. With the £30k a week 'Help The Aged' strikeforce of Hasslebaink and Fowler striving for fitness (Jimmy Floyd watching on), it was the more modestly paid Steve MacLean and Paul Parry, our front pair, who bagged the goals. Both had a touch of quality about them, underlining a strong all-round team performance.
They, and Cardiff, also missed other good chances to prevent City returning home with a more emphatic result that it was anyway. No win is easy, especially away from home, but this is as comfortable as it gets at this level of football. The home side were dismal, distinctly second best in all departments all afternoon, and succeeding in giving credence to those who regard them as relegation-type material but City's win came at a cost with both full-backs - Tony Capaldi and Kevin McNaughton departing injured - the latter tore a hamstring that should keep him out for several weeks.
There's always an appeal about City visit's to London. I decided to make it an overnighter, many City fans did the same, and start the weekend by blagging a bargain price for a top 4 Star Kensington hotel (I love the internet!) and a good night out in the West End and Soho bars - pricey drinks but great fun - and a meal in Chinatown. Whilst the bulk travelled up Saturday morning early and heading for Paddington or Shepherds Bush Green, I had a leisurely stroll around Kensington - such a yuppie! - and then met other City fans at a discrete pub near Hammersmith - an excellent country-style pub in the middle of the urban sprawl. Mind you, I was with the missus and it helps earn those vital brownie points for a weekender with the boys in Blackpool when City visit there!
For City, and the fans, it was a welcome break to return to football after off park diversions with Langston/Sam Hammam appearing from nowhere wanting both a legal battle and to make the news. Their claims are vigorously refuted by the club apparently with solid documentary evidence but nothing with Hammam and politics at this level is easy. Hammam, disturbingly described as disheveled, tired and ill-looking in various quarters, seems to have lost the battle for hearts and minds before it started. Even his closet City-supporting allies over the years spoke out against him after he arrived in South Wales for a midweek meeting with them following on some from some bizarre phone calls. There was something classy about the way City and Ridsdale by signing Jimmy-Floyd Hasslebaink next day too.
As far as the team went for this game, one change only as Warren Feeney - a 100% trier but without the necessary qualities and attributes that City need - was dropped to the bench in favour of Paul Parry, the wideman playing as a striker - a role he has tried a handful of times previously with moderate success. The centre-half battle was won by Roger Johnson, the midweek Carling Cup match winner, favoured over club captain who finally showed signs of returning to form in that game against Brighton. So it was Turnbull, McNaughton-Loovens-Johnson-Capaldi, Sinclair-Rae-McPhail-Ledley, MacLean-Parry. Subs were Oakes-Purse-Gunter-Whittingham-Feeney.
QPR grabbed a 90th minute point in last week's opening game in Wurzle-land but were dumped out of the Carling Cup midweek by Leyton Orient who now visit City in Round Two. Rangers, like Cardiff, only rested a couple of first-teamers. Hopes are very high that the club - a Ford Capri of a side it's best days were long ago and gone - are about to be bought by Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Investment is badly needed in the club. .
Manager John Gregory went with Camp, Rehman-Curtis-Stewart-Mancienne, Moore-Bolder-Ephraim- Rowlands, Nardiello-Blackstock. Nobody to fear in particular, Dexter Blackstock is one of 101 strikers linked to us over the summer but showed little in this game. Their leading player Jimmy Cook was recently sold to Fulham, Marc Bircham (the player we love to hate) has fallen down the football ladder to Yeovil and none of the Bluebird connections at QPR were on show as Chris Barker is suspended having been red carded in the final game of last season, Simon Walton broke his leg in a pre-season friendly within 48 hours of signing for the R's (for £200,000 - can you believe that after what we saw of him last season?) and Gareth Ainsworth presumably injured or overlooked.
The average City fan has probably visited Loftus Road many times but for those who haven't, like Ninian Park, it's not particularly in the best area of town surrounded by housing estates but with the BBC a goal kick or two away and of the strangest retail streets you will see anywhere in Shepherds Bush Road. With a market to start, the buildings are like Bessemer Road with doors and windows selling tat and a myriad of fast food shops but it must be one of the most global and cosmopolitan areas you could visit anywhere. Loftus Road is a traditional ground. Four rectangle stands right up to the pitch meeting in each corner so it is fully enclosed. The City end is now called the Sellotape Stand and it looked in part as if that what was holding it together. 1,500 travelled, we were all housed upstairs in the double decker stand. Luxury it ain't, but it does offer excellent views, its front almost hanging over the goal defended by City in the opening period, and atmosphere too with a low roof and Rangers fans close by for a singing contest.
They lost that as well with City fans wasting no time reminding them of our play-off win with gestures to go with "we saw you cry on the telly", and even the haunting "there's only one Andy Campbell"!!! We even went old skool with "tiptoe through the Grange End" and the conversation that Bertie Mee and Bill Shankly once had about the Cardiff a-g-r-o!
It was probably the highlight of a rather dull opening 20 minutes as both sides battled for supremacy, Cardiff with methodical football and good possession, Rangers trying the Stoke method of being physical and wanting to muscle us. There were some poor challenges and early treatment for the likes of Parry, Ledley, McPhail and McNaughton but City were gradually finding their stride and no better than when Joe Ledley burst through three challenges getting into the area but his pass across goal was cut out. Not long afterwards, a great run by the always impressive Trevor Sinclair - what a great signing he is proving to be already - was met by Paul Parry and went wide with Camp scrambling. Rangers responded with their only meaningful attack I can recall in the opening half but a close range shot hit the arm of Roger Johnson - a clear case of ball to hand which the ref acknowledged but it was enough to excite than anger the home support.
Cardiff stepped on the gas, entertained us, and blew away QPR. The goal arrived on 29 minutes after a spell when the home side were being battered. A couple of corners, one from a McNaughton free-kick that evaded everyone that Camp scrambled behind at the last moment. Another shot blocked for a corner and then another escape for the hoop shirts as a corner was nodded across goal, Sinclair's shot bringing a fine save from Camp for another corner but, from that, Parry crossed, Johnson turned towards goal and MacLEAN swept home from 8 yards, Rangers defenders nowhere to be seen. The City end went wild, MacLean himself cartwheel somersaulting.
By half-time, City really should have had the game completely sewn up but MacLean headed wide after brilliantly being set up by McPhail and Parry and McPhail himself headed over but MacLean's miss was an open goal and really should have been buried. In between those chances, City's only problem when Kevin McNaughton pulling up ushering a move away from danger. Obviously in discomfort and clutching the back of hid leg, he had to be stretchered away to a huge ovation as he was carted in front of us getting back to the dressing rooms bringing Chris Gunter into the action..
City were completely bossing the game in a style very easy on the eye from Johnson and Loovens dominating in a non nonsense style at the back, McPhail's passing and Rae's sheer hard work controlling the middle of the park and strikers finding Rangers defence as easy to penetrate as ... well, you can insert your own punchline here. Little wonder they went off to s standing ovation.
Half-time: QPR 0 CITY 1
The interval was entertaining as Rangers had several of their fans spinning themselves 10 times on a sweeping brush then trying to shoot past their mascot. They either fell over, miskicked or missed the ball completely ... not much less effective than their team's first half efforts.
The Bluebirds almost paid the price for not finishing the game off before the interval as they returned a little lethargic whilst QPR undoubtedly had a kick up the R's off Gregory. First chance went to City however as Gavin Rae surged forward through the middle, only a last fraction challenge stopped him as he was ready to pull the pin but, moments later, they nearly paid a dear price as QPR went straight up field, cut across Cardiff's rearguard arguably for the only time all game and Marcus Stewart's drilled low shot cannoned off the far post before Gunter cleared, same feeling Turnbull helped deflect it there. If he did, great save.
Turnbull was having a better afternoon after his uncertain City start, his confidence was better as he came for more balls in the box, his kicking was a vast improvement and he was communicating more effectively with his defence. He still looked nervous at times though staying on his line for balls that were his all the way whilst failing to come out as Loovens marshaled the ball back his way nearly proved fatal as a Rangers player nipped between them, his shot luckily hitting Turnbull's body who then got a shouting from Loovens. A blow in the early phases of the half was losing Capaldi after a clattering late challenge with what initially looked another hamstring but hopefully is not as severe. Joe Ledley dropped back and Peter Whittingham came on in his position but the game restarted in controversial style as Turnbull has kicked the ball out to allow Capaldi treatment but Rangers threw the ball wide of the area making Turnbull come for it with City players moving upfield but the throw-in taker closed him down, it was cleared but very unsporting.
Those nervous times were over before the hour as City sealed the game with a marvelous second goal. A long ball fed down the line by Joe Ledley which Parry reached although his cross was overhit, Sinclair stopped the ball from going out of play far side and worked it back to Rae who passed a player and found McPhail through a gap, the skipper turned it back over and there was PAUL PARRY with a powerful header top corner past a helpless Camp right in front of us and didn't we love it! Great goal and nice to mock Camp who less than 4 months ago in the same ground played an active role in getting Michael Chopra sent off in what turned out to be his final league show for City after Camp goaded City fans at final whistle.
Attention was soon turned to QPR fans with shouts of "you might as well go home", "cheerio", "time to go" and "we can see you sneaking out", a repertoire none of us had been able to sing for almost 10 months on the road since winning at Sunderland last Halloween night - City's only other away victory afterwards was at Wolves when we were banned. It also was a welcome change of fortunes at Loftus Road with City playing quite inept on their previous 3 visits since that play-off and losing 1-0 each time to poor goals conceded and barely a shot mustered in any game.
The final half-hour was played out comfortably. City could have had more and should have had more especially when Rae went on another lung-bursting charge through the middle before feeding MacLean on the edge of the box but he skied over and great Sinclair work saw him beat his man on the by-line and tee up the ball but Parry headed wide when the target should have been hit and McPhail had got into the box behind him and was probably better placed.
It was now time to time attentions to the directors box where Jimmy Floyd-Hasslebaink was noticed and he did the ayatollah so "Jimmy is a Bluebird" whilst Ridsdale had some chants too which he appreciated. Rangers had a couple of late chances for a consolation but Turnbull made one good save whilst another effort was fluffed but that was it.
Final whistle, non-stop singing and an away celebration at long last. It felt great. City players had a standing ovation and responded in kind. In truth, goals apart, there was probably little difference in performance between QPR today and the Stoke home loss last week except the differing standard of opposition but it has to be a great confidence boost and relief.
Defensively we were strong, non-nonsense and never in trouble although we'll come up against many tougher tests than today. Chris Gunter looks set for an extended run in the side but, as we already know, he's more than capable. Midfield did very well with Rae excellent and McPhail quality as well as industrious with Trevor Sinclair shining. Peter Whittingham had a quiet half though. Up front, Parry and MacLean enjoyed themselves and caused problems all afternoon and although Parry often drifted away from the middle of the park, it proved effective today as he took defenders with him that opened space.
It does however seem Cardiff games will often depend on the first goal. Go behind and I'm still not sure we're sufficiently equipped to hit back - it's now 2 years since Dave Jones and City managed that - take the lead and we look well equipped to see it through. That has been the story of last week and this week.
The train trip back was rightly celebratory but I'm not sure it's the wisest thing to tell Cardiff fans the train is not selling alcohol due to a minor egg chasing international in Cardiff. It mattered little, we'd mostly stocked up before getting on board!
We can only wait and see what the next week brings us in terms of off-field politics, progress with the big name strikers and, possibly, another signing. Life's never dull following City, that's the only thing that never changes..
TICKETS (2) - £44 PROGRAMME: £3
HOTEL: - £41
MATCHDAY FOOD/DRINK: £18TOTAL FOR GAME: £160
TOTAL FOR SEASON: £385
Thursday, August 16, 2007
To lift the mood a little, Cardiff City today signed a new striker. It's Dutch international veteran and former Premiership star Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink.
Discarded by Charlton over the summer following their Premiership relegation and declining a trial before a contract with Leicester this week, Dave Jones moved in fast to help in an area where City currently have major problems.
At 35 and giving Cardiff a potential trio of 3 forward exceeding 100 years between them with 32 yr old Robbie Fowler and 34 yr old Trevor Sinclair, jokes have been inevitable. It's Corporal Jones and his Dad's Army, Saga will sponsor City, half-time energy snacks will be Werther's Original and Wynford Hotel will open a VIP Lounge for them.
However Hasselbaink, who has trained pre-season with Chelsea where he made his name in the country, surely has more to offer than or other available forwards although he will not link up with City for the weekend encounter at QPR.
As long as he's good enough and does a job, he'll do for me. After all, at this moment in time, beggars certainly can't be choosers ... even if we'll wonder what is ever going to happen to the Chopra money.
Orient have had a winning start to the season and beat QPR - City's Championship opponents this weekend - at Loftus Road in their midweek clash.
The game is expected to take place Tuesday August 28th.
Does any club year in, year out come with as much politics, agony and posturing as Cardiff City? Just when the club seems to have found relatively stability off the field leaving fans only to worry about our mediocrity on it, here we go again.
Sam Hammam’s time has been and lone gone. I will always be thankful for the football glory and promotions he provided and what he started here but, single-handedly, his lack of business acumen and control single-handedly also created the debt troubles that now underpin our fortunes. Whatever Hammam’s current problems – whether a genuine grievance, jealousy as the new stadium develops that he failed to provide, dislike of the current board and personnel, missing being in the limelight or a perceived opportunity – his behaviour helps nobody, least of all himself.
City’s current board isn’t above criticism by any means. At times, I regard Peter Ridsdale’s brand of transparency to be similar to Port Talbot on a dark morning but, right now, they have been very open, refuted and answered claims against them, produced documentary evidence and attempted to contact Hammam himself.
Sam Hammam meanwhile uses solicitors as an excuse not to speak to the club whilst phoning around and then arriving in South Wales to meet his favoured few friends, calling media for off-the-record chats and ensuring his sound bites get publicised. As is often his way, he says what he chooses but declines to answer valid questions in return.
The irony of Hammam claiming to be currently worried about the welfare of the club, given events during his spell, must be lost on him. (So worried that he happily takes £100,000 a year from the club for doing nothing?) In my view, it is poor behaviour which lacks integrity but, there again, when was the last time Hammam showed genuine integrity towards this club anyway?
When these public spats and skirmishes occur, it is fans that naturally worry. I suggest most of us have now had more than enough of this altogether so I hope the egos and personalities playing out this unseemly spectacle resolve this matter fast. As far as I am concerned, for better or worse, that has to be with Peter Ridsdale getting on with the job he is doing and Sam Hammam staying well away from the club. Quickly please.
BBC update report here:
ECHO update report here:
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Without any warning, a press statement issued 3 hours before kick-off against Brighton by London solicitors representing Langston - a Swiss based Carribean offshore company with whom Sam Hammam only has conducted business and the identity of its owners unknown and steadfastly never supplied by Hammam aka The Buffoon (his description of his business conduct when in control Cardiff City, I'd go further) - want immediate repayment of its monies and making various claims about the club and its Board under Peter Ridsdale and its intentions for its client.
Ridsdale has come back fighting, refuting all claims and putting a lot of information in the public domain. Langston remain silent but it has now emerged that Hammam himself has been speaking and meeting with his chosen few - those fans who jumped when he asked - for the past few days, today included. Hammam claims to act as an intermediary for Langston but has apparently declined to meet or speak with Peter Ridsdale as he says solicitors have advised him not to.
Who knows what has started this off - is Hammam jealous that the club are finally turning a corner with a stadium starting - something he failed miserably to achieve? Does he (or Langston) see an opportunity with City having funds following the £5M sale of Michael Chopra? Has the club done anything wrong? Has he been angered by Ridsdale having repeated public digs at Hammam? Is the favourite conspiracy theory amongst sections of Cardiff fans - Hammam is involved with David Sullivan - about to rear its head again especially as this emerged within a couple of weeks of Sullivan's Birmingham shares being sold?
It matters little right now as it will hurt the club once more, they have had to appoint solicitors and a costly legal battle could ensure.
I'm no Ridsdale lover and as suspicious of him as any City owner. He's anything but as transparent as he promised too. However the outlook, running and professionalism of the club have moved ahead considerably and the thought of Hammam disrupting Cardiff City and maybe having a say again is unpalatable and unthinkable for me.
His mere presence can only divisive. Already keynote fans seem to be acting as his mouthpiece again, one disbanded supporters group appears to have resurrected itself to talk to media, debates and old battles have started across message boards.
There is little good that can come of this but let's hope that it's sorted quickly as I doubt many of us who care only about the football and our club have much stomach for another public battle like this.
Five days into the season and I think I've had enough already!
Some of the press stories and club statements follow here:
BBC stories, top with a Peter Ridsdale interview
Club Statement - August 14th
Club Statement - August 15th
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
CARLING CUP ROUND ONE at NINIAN PARK
CARDIFF CITY 1 (Johnson 110)
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 0
THE COLLECTOR'S EDITON PROGRAMME
(TO BE SEEN ON ANTIQUES ROADSHOW IN 70 YEARS TIME!)
We’re the famous Cardiff City
And we’re going to Wem-ber-lee
Well, Round 2 draw anyway but I’ve had more entertaining evenings watching QVC than tonight at Ninian Park and a game that didn’t finish until almost 20 past 10. Those fans that survived a tortuous spectacle deserve a medal for gallantry.
In all honesty, it was same old, same old. It’s difficult to write about watching the same deficiencies and finding something new to say about it. As seems to be the script, City had almost total domination, territory and possession. If football was about moving the ball sideways and across the park and occasionally down the sides but going nowhere in particular, we would strong contenders for the Champions League but that flatters to deceive.
It counts for little because City are clueless and lacking intelligence in attacking and breaking down sides in the final 30 yards. Creativity is almost non-existent, pace and movement certainly is non-existent, our central midfield seem to have contracts forbidding them getting into opposition penalty areas and it is bewildering to watch a small strike force being fed mostly by high back post crosses. Brighton were very limited, only threatening to score when City made errors but, even so, their keeper never had a difficult save to make all night long until Roger Johnson planted a firm header home breaking two hours of tedium in the name of football. It was celebrated in relief more than joy.
The Carling Cup (or as Dave Jones often treats it “The Can’t Be Arsed Cup”) is, truthfully, as valid to football today as a Leighton James late night drive home is to road safety. Only lower division sides seem to treat it with respect which is a shame really but, let’s be fair, fans now see it the same way too. After Saturday’s sell out, only 3,716 bothered tonight including 200 from the South Coast despite prices of just £10-£12 for adults in all parts of the ground. It was sparse with the Family Stand housing few and Bob Bank seats closed for the night.
However it does offer a Wembley final and European place but, more relevant to us, some decent revenue and prize money and the opportunity of playing Premiership giants with progress. OK, their kids and reserves then. Never mind Dave and Pete, with our bigger, stronger squad and your promotion vision, we won’t be in it next season eh?
Peter Ridsdale’s mind was probably distracted as the latest public war has broken out between Hammam and himself - didn’t you just know Hammam would never go quietly? - rowing over debts, making threats of administration and accusing then counter-accusing each other. Brighton displayed the SKINT logo on their kit, maybe we should adopt it. Ridsdale moved quickly with calls and statements refuting matters but, let’s be fair, did anyone really believe he had cleared our debts just like that? This problem, though, is the last thing City need but here we go again, we should be used to it by now.
PR sat in the Director’s Box at what looked like a heavyweight Politbureau Convention with Toshack, Kinnock, Guy and Borley alongside him but he still found time to shout out despairing comments towards Roger Johnson and other remarks during extra-time. Credit to him for that, I’d almost lost the will to live, never mind shouting at anyone. In front of them was Robbie Fowler, I wouldn’t mind being paid his money to sit in the stands.
However, Team News and it was a surprise to read Corporal Jones claim on the official website pre-game given his past contempt that, “I can only see me making three changes”. It turned out to be 4, a huge improvement on last season’s “third team” put out against Barnet but it emphasised the need for players to learn and develop. He went Turnbull, Gunter-Johnson-Purse-Capaldi, Parry-McPhail-Rae-Whittingham, Feeney-MacLean. Johnson and Purse were having their own play-off cup game – a contest to see which of the faltering season starters would play alongside Glenn Loovens this weekend. McPhail was a surprising inclusion, quickly recovering for his weekend knock. Gunter, Parry and Whittingham were being given a run-out.
With Chops gone, Fowler and Thommo injured, Green and Byrne ignored, the only strikers seen around Cardiff recently have been Post Office workers. DJ persevered with the Feeney MacLean dream ticket(!) and even added a striker to the bench this time in Matt Green.
Brighton have similarities with City. They play in blue and white (colours were swapped for white shirts and blue shorts tonight as they almost played in Cardiff’s away colours as their kit apparently arrived late), they’re spent the few years mostly talking about a new stadium but actually seem to be on the way at last and they opened the season disappointingly. Their being a 2-1 defeat at Crewe with signs that they’ll be making up the numbers again in League One having finished just above the relegated sides last season despite having one of the very best away records. Their Bluebird links are no more with Charlie (Porridge) Oatway having to retire after a repeat serious injury pre-season and Richard “Chippy” Carpenter having moved on to non-league Welling.
Managed by Dean Wilkins (brother of ‘super, interesting, fabulous’ “Butch” Ray), he chose Kuipers, Whing-Lynch-Butters, El-Abd,- Elphick-Fraser-Hammond-Cox and Revell as a rather lonely striker.
With a damp night before, some heavy showers in the day and a couple of downpour in the hour before the game, the pitch looked immaculate and the ball could zip around but someone forgot to tell the City players to do that. “Support the boys, make some noizzzzzzzze” shouted Ali but the only zzzzzz’s back were snores as this “festival of football” unfolded … slowly, very slowly.
The first half set the tone for the whole night with City having the run of the pitch to 35 yards from goal and then, with no pace or tempo, little to get excited about. Kuipers, the Brighton keeper, had only one save - a Parry drive straight at him otherwise it was poor to average crosses finding nobody, shots blocked or nowhere near target. Chris Gunter tried to push forward and press but must have had a mate in the Canton Stand as he sent three high efforts to the back of it but at least he was having a go, more than can be said for most. Warren Feeney hit the bar … the bar guttering of the Canton Stand roof that is. City’s solitary moment of danger came when Turnbull was ponderous on a back pass and came within a whisker of being intercepted in front of goal. Entertainment seemed to be limited to early chants of “we need a striker” and “where’s the money gone?” from the Grange End plus shots of “hi-ho” when Brighton’s mascot/jockey height Cox was on the ball.
Half-time: CITY 0 BRIGHTON 0
As the teams came back, Ali was already praying on the tannoy shouting out,”I don’t want extra-time and I know you don’t either“ but it already had that inevitability about the game.
If the first half was poor, the second was even worse. No complaints at how City play it around in areas of the pitch that present little danger i.e. 40 yards from goal but we completely lack inspiration and quality - the type of quality players like Koumas and Chops provided in the previous two seasons - and also someone to take charge out there. Too many players are nice and compact and lightweight in this “bigger, better, stronger” squad and it‘s a real worry.
There were a couple of minor scares each end, Turnbull let a back pass go under his boot, Purse almost got another o.g. whilst Cardiff’s ineptness and Brighton’s strong rearguard action meant another succession of shots and chances were snuffed, blocked or fired high and wide.
Entertainment this half was provided when Parry and a Brighton player got injured after a poor challenge on Parry on halfway in front of the Bob Bank. City’s physio, Sean Connolly, was straight across the pitch. Brighton’s overweight equivalent lost the dash by 30 yards and hailed with chants of “you fat b*stard”. With little atmosphere in the ground, I also enjoyed Roger Johnson’s occasional abuse to gee up his team-mates.
Final whistle brought a few boos of frustration. Quite a few had seen enough and decided to go anyway …wise people. Those who stayed wished both sides tossed a coin to decide the winners and spare us any more of this agony.
FULL-TIME: CITY 0 BRIGHTON 0
I felt strangely encouraged going into extra-time but only because 3 Brighton players were being treated for cramp, many were sitting whilst Cardiff’s all stood, some stretching and jogging while an animated Dave Jones seemed to be venting his spleen in his own way.
And Cardiff finally started getting some meaningful efforts. A cracking volley by McPhail - one of the few good performers - missed Kuiper’s bar by a couple of inches. An edge of area free-kick was surprisingly taken by Roger Johnson who curled over the bar, Ledley almost got past his marker twice - it was one of the very few times our widemen took on someone as opposed to checking out or moving the ball back. Better but not truly exciting, penalties look inevitable and I think many City fans had a feeling we would blow them.
EXTRA-TIME HALF-TIME 0-0 with Ali playing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. 285 minutes at home with no goal, too true we hadn’t.
It was now so late that a couple of players needed to check with their mothers if they could stay out to play for a bit longer. On the pitch, the action was just as yawn-worthy but City almost scored as a deflected stumble went a few inches wide whilst a corner was won … hurrah! … after a header was pushed wide.
From it, relief at last, the ball swung to ROGER JOHNSON who guided it home missile-like tucked inside the near post from where the corner came. Some kids asked their dads what it was that just happened, their fathers having to explain it’s called a Cardiff City goal and we see them as often as a full moon currently. Johnson himself ran to halfway in front of the Director’s Box and was signalling to someone there but presumably not Robbie Fowler who appeared to have upped and gone some time beforehand.
Aaron Ramsey came on for the closing 5 minutes but barely had a touch. Brighton tried to hit back but it was City who came closest to doubling their lead as a ball ran to MacLean whose screwed shot beat the keeper but also his far post by a fraction.
With only 2 minutes added, one final flutter as Chris Gunter - one of our few players to shine - immaculately headed back to Turnbull, the keeper incredibly messed up for a third time and gifted Brighton a corner who, fortunately, came to nought. Turnbull’s confidence looks very low at present.
Final whistle went afterwards, City are through to Round Two but, by this point, I think I was far more grateful to be finally going home.
TICKETS (2) - £19
TOTAL FOR GAME: £37
TOTAL FOR SEASON: £225
Will McFly bring more shit to Port Talbot than its steelworks chimenys? Undoubtedly!
McFly play Port Talbot ... when they stink the place out, nobody will know the difference.
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PORT TALBOT Afan Lido - Thu 11 October
Monday, August 13, 2007
I've just spotted Dai Thomas, could he help you Mr Jones???
One game in and there's a predictable air of despair from fans and desparation by club in their hunt for a striker ... at the price they're willing to pay which appears to be very little!
With no goals against Stoke, Feeney and MacLean way too lightweight although the latter shows more promise despite his penalty miss, Fowler injured (and some wondering if he'll ever produce much), Thommo pretty much in the same category and Corporal Jones deciding he's rather have no sub striker at all than employ Matt Green or Jason Byrne, Cardiff City have had their wake up call and decided they'd better crack on with bringing someone in.
They still same to be biding their time for Rowan Vine - not in Birmingham's weekend squad - but at their price only. That's a deal unlikely to happen before transfer deadline day, if at all. So Dave Jones remarks how the market is inflated - his sale of Chops may have created that - he's spoken to every club and manager going and current target is Newcastle's teenage striker Carroll who had 7 games in last season's Premiership and scored against Juventus pre-season on loan with suggestions that talks have started..
Do you get the same unconvincing feeling I have? None of this suggests instills confidence and suggests we are hell bent on a promotion challenge?
it certainly dumbs down the claims of Jones and Ridders that we have a bigger, better, stronger squad than last season. As always, actions speak louder than words and, right now, the action is underwhelming.
Hoping for a better week ahead ...
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
CHAMPIONSHIP - Game 1/46 - at NINIAN PARK
CARDIFF CITY (0) 0
STOKE CITY (1) 1
The hype and the talking is over - and there's been plenty of both - now was the time for action and the reality of Championship football to take over, Cardiff fell at the first hurdle and left fans walking away with plenty more questions than they had on arrival.
The three questions seem to be this;
1. After watching City finish in a sorry state with our "best ever" manager
no striker on the bench to bail them out, 4 wingers on the pitch and 2 subs brought on but played out of position, where was this much vaunted claim of a bigger, better and stronger squad that a rather smug Cpl Jones and Lt Ridsdale have been speaking about all summer and all week?
2. Has a summer's worth of rebuilding, to this point, really taken us to a position of not knowing who can score from City apart from Michael Chopra to just not knowing who can score for us at all?
It's early days, there's a very long way to go. The team will have better days, play badly and get results but Jones and Ridsdale had better live up to their promises of a couple more quality additions, target man striker an absolute must, and preferably, spend some of the £5M received for Chops as the evidence today was overwhelmingly clear - you spend nothing, you'll get nothing.
Stoke won courtesy of on loan Man United centre-half scoring a debut goal against the run of play just before half-hour after City were playing beautifully, albeit with a lack of cutting edge. If that was similar to last season, so was City's reaction to going behind. With the wind knocked out of Bluebird sails, City rarely threatened to hit and even managed to miss a late penalty penalty.
It meant Dave Jones has now gone 10 games without a Championship win, 8 of those being defeats. Jonesy must be the only manager on the planet who can somehow be rewarded with an even bigger, better contract for performance like that and barely a few months after he last had a new contract anyway.
The day promised much. Glorious blue clear skies, the anticipation of the start of a new season, several new players to watch, Ridsdale and Jones talking up promotion (again), pubs packed in town let alone Canton and loads wearing the new City shirt, including some grown men, yes grown men, with the name Fowler or God printed on the back of theirs. Robbie Fowler, of course, was injured having missed most of pre-season and now suffering playing 'catch up'. We've been here before with a younger fitter Jason Koumas. It was inevitable but he captured the imagination of the glory-seekers and less committed fans that Ninian Park was sold out to home fans and with a fair red and white deckchair striped following from the Potteries, 18,840 were inside our ground. The new stadium is essential but a traditional ground like Ninian Park is still a mighty fine sight when full, we'll miss it when it's gone.
So to the teams and, ouch, came to mind when Cardiff City's was announced. Two small strikers and no reserve striker on the bench suggested we could have problems from the out. It also tells the likes of Matt Green and Jason Byrne they have no immediate future (the former) or future at all (the latter) when they are not considered in circumstances like this. A great £100k spent on Byrne then, almost as good value as the £75k spent on Feeney this year too. The three into two battle was a comparatively easy choice with Darren Purse struggling for form pre-season but Roger Johnson's display today should mean his absence is should not extend beyond this game. The central midfield battle was identical with Scimeca injured and kids not likely to be used. More squad strength and quality they say?
City lined up with Turnbull, McNaughton-Johnson-Loovens-Capaldi, Sinclair-Rae-McPhail-Ledley, Feeney-MacLean. Subs were Oakes (meaning David Forde has gone from 1st choice to 3rd choice), Parry, Whittingham, Gunter and Purse.
As for Stoke, Tony Pulis is nothing if not predictable. A big physical team who are very well organised who play to contain on the road and if they get ahead, they'll probably strangle you. Pulis also likes loans and experiences and his side were certainly that with Simonsen in goals, a defence of Dickinson-Shawcross-Matteo-Wright, Cresswell-Higginbotham-Delap-Lawrence and strikers Ricardo Fuller and ex-Jack Sidibe. While City struggle for strikers, Stoke started with 3 and also had man mountain Jon Parkin on the bench, a player we showed interest in but never bid for over the summer and who would have walked into our side today.
At 5'11", Liam Lawrence was the only visiting player under 6 foot tall. City had 7 of their 11 the same height or smaller than Stoke's smallest player and we played it right into the visitor's hands.
Cardiff, in fairness, made a blistering and exhilarating start Steve McPhail, Captain for the day and sporting a skinhead cut, was magical with his play, beautiful with his passing and orchestrating the game for the opening 25 minutes. With Rae and himself dominating midfield, Ledley and Sinclair lively on the flanks and Capaldi plus McNaughton supporting well, Stoke were doing all they could to hang on. Sinclair nearly provided an early opener blasting a far post ball back across goal which deflected off a defender only for the impressive Simonsen to react and fingertip away.
Cardiff were winning corner after corner and crosses were flying in but they Feeney and MacLean had little chance of getting them, Johnson and Loovens got forward at every chance but were well marshaled by the visitors towering presence. With a baying crowd behind them, City charged forward attacking the Grange End but had a couple of penalty appeals declined, Rae had tow or three shots outside the box but all were blocked whilst MacLean wasn't sharp enough to turn home another low powered Sinclair cross, the ball striking his leg close range but rebounding away. A couple of edge of area free-kicks were wasted too.
For all this domination, Cardiff looked blunt and simply far too lightweight up front. Stoke's attack provided infinitely more threat with the magnificent Ricardo Fuller (has he ever been less than brilliant against City?) and the powerhouse Sidibe giving our defence more problems and to Roger Johnson in particular. Johnson wasn't alert or sharp enough and frequently found strikers clipping his heels and a ref who didn't really help him but he didn't help himself either and Cardiff were lucky as Johnson spooned one clearance on the edge of his box straight in the air and loose follow up header misdirected across goal - a "trick" he later repeated too. City defenders twice had to scramble away and Turnbull had to save when Fuller weaved around a couple of challenges but his low shot lacked power.
Stoke were now trying to stop City playing and there were some bad challenges flying in, the ref somehow letting many go unpunished, one was damaging as McPhail was taken cynically late by Lawrence and never looked the same afterwards. Ledley and Sinclair were also victims of crunching tackles.
Having failed to make many opportunities or the most of their possession and territory, it was still a shock but, perhaps, no surprise when the visitors forged ahead due to a bad decision and then shocking defending. The shock decision first as the ball ran out of play by the Canton Stand/Bob Bank for a Cardiff goal kick but the lino standing 6 feet away bottled any decision and looked to the ref 25 yards away to help him out. Even though Stoke and Cardiff players were starting to turn and head upfield, the ref wrongly gave a corner.
Stoke, with their height, looked more imposing in these situations but we couldn't have helped them more if we tried. A whipped corner glanced off the top of Feeney's head to find SHAWCROSS standing unmarked by the penalty spot. You couldn't fault his finish though, swept home low tucked inside his far post. You could fault his reaction though, goading City fans in the Grandstand - he deserved a good smack, he didn't even get a card.
The travelling Stokies were bouncing singing Delilah and God Save The Queen (you what?) but another brilliant Simonsen save denied Joe Ledley equalising almost immediately from the restart as he teed an edge of area effort for the top corner. Play halted again as McPhail was caught again and so was Feeney but after seeing many Stoke challenges go unpunished, it was ironic that Glenn Loovens got a yellow card but it was just for a challenge in the Stoke half as he tried to get forward.
Half-time: CITY 0 STOKE 1
Ali, after fan protests, was back on the mic and quite right too. He also paid tribute to a number of City fans - young and old - who passed away over the summer. Jasper of Piss FM was left with pitch duties but ended up doing the best Norman Collier impression since Collier himself as his microphone kept cutting out every second word. Maybe next time, they can just mute him? We also had to endure two mascots as the new City mascot was joined by one trying to get kids to go to Glan Hafren college. Honestly, if our 16 yr olds need a bloke in a furry pigeon outfit to tempt them to stay in education, we're in big trouble!
There's really not a great deal to tell you about the second half as Stoke were content to play the game out and Cardiff weren't good or string enough to prevent that and power back into the match. Stoke nearly doubled their lead as Fuller showed a turn of pace we do not possess currently blistering through City's defence and only denied by a superb last gasp McNaughton challenge as Turnbull nervously advanced.
The big new keeper did little to show he is an adequate replacement for Neil Alexander. For many, that was regarded as a poor decision by Jones, it could embarrass him more if Turnbull does not develop. Today, his communication with his defence was non-existent, his kicking became more and more wayward (three went straight into touch) and he didn't command his area to the extent. When he advanced on a couple of occasions, he elected to punch instead of catch and the punches lacked any height or distance. On another day, he might not have got away with that but today he did. A lot of work ahead for him I fear.
Our balls into the box were not good enough quality and hardly ever varied - lofted to the far post time and again - and the City crowd were subdued to the point of being silent and there was so little to encourage in our forward play which was far short of that seen in the first half.
City were beginning to look sorry and desperate and it showed on the hour as the (again) ineffective Feeney was removed for Paul Parry to play as an emergency striker. It almost worked as Parry nearly broker through but denied by Higginbotham (the defender denied a £2M midweek move to Sunderland) and then he did get a shot off a smart Ledley ball which Simonsen stopped again, the keeper doing even better to turn away MacLean's shot after he twisted and turned several times before shooting.
The Scottish striker summed up City's toil as he twice went down with cramp in the 2nd period, McPhail was never as effective as those heavy challenges eventually limped out of action. His replacement in central midfield? Whittingham, a wide man.
Stoke probably couldn't believe their luck, I doubt they'll get many more comfortable afternoons on the road this season but to ensure victory, Tony Pulis removed Fuller and brought on another midfielder. They almost doubled their lead but Turnbull saved smartly low from a 15 yard goalbound bottom corner shot.
Many Cardiff fans had given up hope and left but with three minutes remaining, another tricky MacLean turn in the box saw him tugged back by Shawcross for a penalty award and a "Get Out of Jail" chance. In truth, City deserved a point overall and this was a guilt-edged chance. MacLean was taking it and had never missed a penalty before, scoring several last season for Sheffield Wednesday. Stoke made sure it was delayed as long as possible by playing up and protesting to the ref, Simonsen yellow carded for his display. MacLean just never looked confident and his penalty was best described later as Andy Campbell-esque. No power, no direction, simple Simonsen save but he had a second chance as he followed up with the keeper prostrate. Had MacLean smashed it, it would have still gone in but he purposely went for placement too but, even so, Simonsen's reflex reactions were astonishing and brilliant.
There was no way back after that. Stoke and their fans were jubilant, City's players trudged off long after many of the home fans had already gone. It left them in no doubt Jones and Ridsdale must act and spend but will they and when?
Never mind, there's always next season eh?
GAME COST: £59.50
2 Grandstand tickets:
SEASON COSTS: £188
Bournemouth beach was packed as usual so I'd recommend going either to Southborne on the east - just as good but more room or private - or millionaire's row of Sandbanks near Poole to the west.
Parking is limited in Sandbanks - and costly at £10 per day - but worth it for its golden sands, blue sea, a beach with space and picturesque scenery. It also houses the most expensive land and properties in Western Europe with many football celebrities.
Last time I went a couple of years ago, a certain Teddy Sheringham only happened to stand next to me having a piss in the public toilets. My knob is bigger than his. It's worth the car park money to be able to claim that!
Here's some pics from our stay this time.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Within half-hour, Katy lost everything she had - house, car, clothes, contents, personal possessions and treasured irreplaceable items. I cannot even begin to imagine how that feels but she's shown great strength but she has great friends and a great family.
The story is here:
Monday, August 06, 2007
Haverfordwest took the lead through a own goal by the hapless Darren Purse, his second o.g. in pre-season!, who really is having a tough time at present. However Matt Green equalised within 2 minutes and City moved ahead on the hour, and they stepped up a gear, as Green completed a double. The game was clinched later on via Jason Byrne'as strong finish after a mazy run..
The stars of the show acorrding to feedback by City fans on www.cardiffcity.com were Parry, Whittingham and teen star Aaron Ramsey although Purse was strong and commanding.