Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The "luxurious" ice rink
overshadowed by the new swim complex
For longer than I care to remember, there's been talk of an International Sports Village appearing at Cardiff Bay. Once upon a time, it was even mooted as the future home of Cardiff City - thankfully, that passed.

The plans and facilities have been dramatically scaled down and the only signs of activity over the past year or two had been a Morrision's Supermarket, a Toys'r'Us and a Harvester restaurant ... very international and sporting.
Is it Woolie's Warehouse?
No, it's the ice rink
However, this year saw the arrival on an ice rink, hopefully temporary. With an essentially wooden structure, covered by industrial UPVS sheets and everything plastic inside, it is as cheap as chips as these things get. Talk is, however, the ice rink will move back to the city centre ... and away from the sports village.

Arise new swimming pool ... awaited since 1998!



However, a far more impressive sight emerging - at last! - is a new 50M metre pool and modern swimming/leisure complex. Not before time as it's now 9 years since our council cocked up big time and lost us a key facility in the city with Swansea then being awarded a national pool. A replacement has been far too long in the making but, from its outside, it looks as if Cardiff will finally have a state-of-the-art venue.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

CARDIFF HAVE A POINT (just!) AT PLYMOUTH


SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 15th

CHAMPIONSHIP - Game 5/46 - at HOME PARK


PLYMOUTH ARGYLE (1) 2
Ebanks-Blake 30, 60


CARDIFF CITY (0) 2
Rae 71, Thompson 87

Cardiff fought back from a self-inflicted 2-0 deficit on the hour to incredibly grab a late point and Plymouth with goals from unlikely heroes in Gavin Rae and Scotland's no 9, the man from nowhere, Steven Thompson who nobody even knew was involved until today to grab a draw at pasty loving Plymouth and mean City are still unbeaten and have taken all their points so far this season on the road. After throwing away a 3-0 lead late on at Home Park last season, it felt almost fitting to take revenge in similar style this term.

Five weeks into the new season, just 4 Championship games played and then a fortnight's break - it almost felt as if the season was starting again. So, after no City games for 14 days, this was the first of 5 in 15 days and we're live on Sky this and next weekend. The fixture list is difficult at times.

To accommodate the whims of Sky, this was a game starting at the odd time 5:20pm. I guess it meant an easy journey. For the first time this season, I gave a City game a miss. With all the hassle you get off Devon plod, the insistence on membership cards and the general hassle you get everytime in Plymouth, Sky was a blessing. So, instead of a 310 mile journey down the M5, I had a haircut, went for a stroll around Cosmeston, popped into work (anything to avoid watching rugby!) and settled down for my shortest trip of the season - that 18 inch stretch for the remote control followed by a 24 inch reach to grab the first tinnie and a sandwich (prawn of course!).

Not that a fortnight's break seemed to have done City much good. Joe Ledley had only sufficiently recovered from a dead leg with Wales in Slovakia to be a City sub and miss his first Championship start for 92 games (a Sky stat!), Steve MacLean was out for three months with an injury in a reserve game, Ricky Scimeca is absent for longer still with an injury in the same game, Robbie Fowler was on the bench with a back problem, two of our three centre-halves - Loovens and Purse - were absent and Dave Jones and City had done nothing to bring in any loans during the break.

So "our bigger better squad with 2 players in every position" - that's Dave Jones saying that, not me, set off to sunny Devon on a glorious mid-September day with temperatures in the 70's needing several rolls of paper to cover our cracks. To compensate all that - sorry, I should really say that because of all that - there were shock returns for Kevin McNaughton (looking splendidly grey-haired on telly) who wasn’t expected back for a couple more weeks but came straight in as an emergency centre-half and a bigger shock again seeing Thommo on the sub’s bench as he wasn’t expected back before Xmas.

It meant City went with Turnbull, Gunter-Johnson-McNaughton-Capaldi, Sinclair-Rae-McPhail-Whittingham, Hasselbaink-Parry, Subs were Oakes, Fowler, Thommo, Blake and Ledley. Plymouth are your archetypal mid-table side and have started the season in that vein with a win, a loss and 2 draws, those draws in both their previous home games so today made it a hat-trick for them, lovely.

The opening phase of the game was Plymouth pressure but scrappy with little flow or quality on show and it really didn't get any better all half. The start was almost exclusively in Cardiff’s half with some deep defending but it was 8 minutes before the game’s first shot, Norris blazing well over from a difficult angle. City, playing in black but for no apparent reason, had their first attacking a couple of minutes later as Sinclair won the game’s first corner but it came to nought.

City had a better chance shortly after Parry got behind the defence but, in teeing up JFH, City couldn't get a shot away. The atmosphere sounded good, Tony Capaldi getting boos and abuse any time he touched the ball visiting his previous club but City fans responded by chanting out his name which got a God Save The Queen anthem in response - yuck! It didn't change all game.

With the game getting no better past the mid-point of the half, it remained hustle and bustle but draw as real entertainment. Neither side were able to put more than two passes together and continually finding opposition players, Cardiff had no tempo and unable to move out of their gear, not helped by umpteen offsides going forward, I knew I could safely go to the bog - one with The Echo inside - far more civilised than Ninian Park but City were starting to show some more threat as a Sinclair cross went unchallenged across the face of goal, McPhail fired a rising drive wide and Gunter scuffed an effort straight at McCormack, the first on target from distance by either side and nothing to get excited about.

On the half-hour, disaster for City just as I cracked open another tinnie and sent a text to a mate saying, “it’s not good but I think we’ll do’em” - premature etextulation! Another soft goal from Plymouth’s tactic of bombarding crosses to the City box. By hook or by crook, Cardiff had been clearing but a poor header out under pressure dropped in the box, the dangerous EBANKS-BLAKE probably couldn't believe how easy it was as he chested down, was able to take a stride or two forward unchallenged deep in the box and place home high past Turnbull, Poor defending. Who was supposed to have been marking their main man? Replays suggested McNaughton but coming back from a lay-off and playing out of position, mistakes were inevitable to some extent.

City had a chance 9 minutes before the break with a 20 yard free-kick in the centre of goal, JFH and his Power Boots lined it up but he opted for curl and direction, the only thing rattled was the plastic seats hit high in the stand behind. Five minutes later, Plymouth had a free-kick in an identical position which hit higher and wider into the opposite stand summing up what was a half of crap to be honest. So poor that all bar watching City and Argyle fans were probably turning over and watching You’ve Been Framed or re-runs of any old rubbish on UK Gold, anything had to better than this.

It was the usual story with Cardiff - quite a bit of possession and threat but nothing at all to show for it at one end and letting themselves down at the other as Argyle led with the only meaningful shot on goal by either side - enough said. At least I could pop to the garden for a bit more sun, there;'s a lot to be said for armchair supporting sometimes!


Half-time: PLYMOUTH 1 CARDIFF 0


CITY started the second half with more intent but were soon looking sloppy again and a mess at the back, Plymouth’s first ball into the box saw another inadequate header and Cardiff players not reacting and Timor only just being denied with a blocked shot when he was 3rd or 4th favourite, at least, to get there. Back came City with, at last, a shot in earnest as a chance fell to Whittingham but on the right, his decent drive was blocked by McCormick .

Moments later, City broke with purpose but Parry’s ball to Whittingham in space was miscontrolled. If I ever doubted staying at home and not going to Plymouth, those doubts were further removed (at first anyway!) as Ebanks-Blake got his second and Plymouth doubled their lead.

Three minutes before the hour, a superb home move starting deep in their home half swept forward but Hayles’ header after a 6 man move was straight at Turnbull but seconds later, they broke forward again with City’s defence standing off, BUZACKY shot unchallenged, Turnbull did well to get down and block but EBANKS-BLAKE swept home the rebound, yet again, with no challenge. Not getting a loan centre-half was now hurting and costing City.

The hour saw me starting to get ready to go out and Robbie Fowler come on for Whittingham to join JFH with Parry going wide. A half chance arrived as Johnson crossed, the keeper flapped but atoned by charging out to block Parry for another unproductive corner kick.

A couple of minutes later and our legendary hitmen looked as lethal as a goldfish as a mix up in the Pilgrims defence presented the ball to Fowler in the box but he failed to be alert enough to take the ball past or around the keeper then with the ball loose and the goal open, Hasselbaink swept wide of an inviting net. Gavin Rae’s effort was so high and long that I stood outside my back door in Barry waiting to catch it.

From nowhere, with Cardiff pushing on but looking desperate, a lifeline and goal, a good one too. Sinclair, switching sides with Parry, pushed the ball to JFH, he turned and played the ball across the box, Fowler skipped, Parry hit a superb low drive which was blocked by McCormick but GAVIN RAE was on hand to prod into the unguarded net from three yards for his first Bluebirds goal and second goal of any sort in three and a half years.

Cardiff were now pouring forward for the equaliser and taking chances, Hasslebaink‘s acrobatic thump was blocked, Fowler trying all sorts of flicks but few any good and a series of crosses but, compared to the home side, of much poorer quality. Ebanks-Blake was just denied by McNaughton as Plymouth got away on a rare break. City came within a whisker of equalising with 7 minutes to go as the next generation Sky Masters combined as Sinclair fed JFH, his turn and cross in the box beat the keeper but glanced off Fowler’s head,

For the final six minutes and final onslaught, on came Thommo as a third striker. Back with his beard, looking like someone out of Lost but infamous for his lack of goals, he must love Plymouth as he netted home and away against them last season and was back for more. Within moments of his introduction, he turned and shot on the edge of the box but straight as McCormack but next attack, incredibly, he levelled the game and sent my can flying into space ... well until it came back down on me head anyway! A ball from the left broke right, was played back to McNaughton, he swept it back to the box, McPhail flicked and THOMMO the PREDATOR was there at the back post to squeeze home between keeper and his post, a quality finish.

For a moment, I thought I was dreaming. There were three minutes left, with four added, and the momentum's was City's, Dave Jones even went for it throwing on Joe Ledley for Gunter but it was the Pasty Biters who almost stole it with their own sub, Chadwick, firing just over. A point was acceptable at the start of the day and more acceptable given how the game panned out but you can't help feeling it was two lost overall as the looked the better and stringer team but were awful at the back and really started too slowly ... although not as slow as Devon's police getting City fans out of the ground, they could still be seen there long after final whistle on Sky.

However, even they were happy and had bragging rights overt the home fans so even they wouldn't have minded too much. Unfortunately for Sky viewers, Cardiff City are back on there next Saturday. It has to be better than this but I doubt they'll be in a hurry to find out.

GAME COST:
Ticket: FREE
Programmes: None on sale outside my front door
Travel: Free again!
Food/Drink/Misc: £12
Total: £12 - £50 to £70 cheaper than a normal City awayday but not the same experience

SEASON COSTS:
£580.50

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

EURO 2008 SHOCK: SLOVAKIA 2 WALES 5 (FIVE!)

Ain't it sod's law?

The current stresses of the finance market - no I won't bore you with it - made me shelve plans to be in Bratislava tonight and after last Saturday's feeble showing vs Germany, I felt quite relieved ... although gutted to miss a night or two on the lash n Slovakia.

However I didn't count on work now being so crazy that I would be stuck at work unable to see or listen to the game too. I can't even remember the last time I've not followed a Wales international in some shape or form.

So I jump in my car just after 7 to hear Rob Phillips on Radio Wales creaming as The Mighty Red Dragons had taken a 4-2 lead and, 5 minutes and a couple of minutes later, the icing on the cake as the boys sealed the night with a 5th too! You bloody what!!!??? This, to a team, we lost 5-1 in Cardiff too a few months ago.

So sorry if I can't give my own thoughts as I missed it all ... maybe I should do it more often .. but I'll certainly celebrate it and be thinking of the boys out there - almost 700 apparently who will come back with 700 stories each of their exploits that I'll be gutted to have missed!

Qualification is long gone and has never even been something to consider for a single mment after the first ball of the qualification games was kicked but the boys, amazingly, could yet finish third in the group which may, just may, give us a better chance of a kinder draw for World Cup 2010.

I know, I know, dreams are all we ever have.


But congrats tonight to Toshack, Bellamy and the bioys - they've taken some stick and deservedly too so you have to congratulate them when they do the business. This is a stunning result.


Link to BBC report plus Toshack & Bellamy audio interviews.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/internationals/6985879.stm

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Roberta Savage at it again

Trailer Trash Robbie Savage
..... or is it Britney?
I can't tell'em apart, honest!

The limited footballer (but didn't we miss his no nonsense biting against the Germans!) and motormouth that is Robbie Savage is back for an attack. Some things are so predicatable!

A couple of (half) decent results and he has nothing to say, the first reverse and he's back to have a pop at Toshack and Wales. The truth of the matter is that some of his points are valid but it will be lost on Wales followers as is their respect for Robbie

"I speak as a Wales fan" Savage apparently told (Un)Real Radio this evening - it's a curious sort of fan who turns his back on his country and never bothers watching them me thinks.

The biggest irony of all is Savage's quote about more chance of him "flying to the moon". For the man whose limited vocabulary has seen him "over the moon" for a decade, you think he's aim his sights higher and be going for Mars or, more fittingly, Uranus by now!



Link to Savage being Savage
http://www.sportinglife.com/football/international/wales/news/story_get.dor?

SUPERBAD (not that bad at all)

Went to a preview tonight of a new film, Superbad, due to be released in UK in a couple of weeks brought to the screens by the same production team behind "40 year old virgin" and "Knocked Up" amongst other recent comedy movies.

The film sets itself up with a title like Superbad and the legend, "the most fall about laughs in a movie" but in truth, it's neither.

It did have a few funny moments, maybe helped with a full audience, not sure many would have laughed at all in a smaller crowd. It also went on for 2 hours, at least 30 minutes longer than necessary and, boy, did it drag in places.

The plot we've seen 1,001 games - American college boys trying to lose their virginity, get the best girls but it's done with a twist as this is about 3 geeks and loners who keep pretty much to themselves. With some fine acting moments away from the mirth, it was part gentle, part humourous and a decent interlude for those young at heart and open-minded with their humour that, I'm sure, brings back some memories of our own fumbling first love attempts ... and attempts at buying booze ... and drawing pictures of penises (whadya mean "I didn't do that!". For my generation, it's not as funny as Porky's or Animal House but it's certainly far better than most recent lame attempts at this genre.



Official site:
http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/superbad

American critics site:
http://uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/superbad/







Monday, September 10, 2007

Koumas Quel Surpris!

After a lead to the Germany game where John Toshack publicly ridiculed Koumas' reasons for dropping out of Welsh squads with "we always look forward to the different reasons he gives us each time" JK playg piss poor against Germany and walking off straight down the tunnel wehn he was subbed, there's a shock to learn he's injured, hasn't gone to Slovakia and gone home instead.

Yeah, right!


Link to story:
http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5jQ9N5UHSKejETmgm8s6haSfuLjjg

Saturday, September 08, 2007

MORE WAILS! Wales 0 Germany 2

An unbelievably boring and uninspiring night for Welsh fans as Germany won 2-0 at a canter, treating the game almost as if it were a training session. Without question, Germany are one of the very best nations in the world and should be expected to beat Wales perhaps as often as 9 times out of 10 but you also expect our boys in red to create a few scares, show their passion and go down fighting. I came away feeling none of those at all. This was piss poor, not even worth trying to defend it.

If Mark Hughes was the manager and Toshack, our current manager, was still a tv pundit, then Tosh himself would be the first in line to slaughter this performance. He knows it too. We know a few stars choose not to be involved and Wales were further rocked as Craig Bellamy was forced to drop out before kick-off (due to his daughter being ill in hospital) but Germany had several key absentees too and how can anyone even begin to defend Tosh's bland and negative 5-4-1 tactic which often saw us overrun in midfield and left Freddie Eastwood condemned to being a spectator.

Most criminally and depressingly, the outstanding German #7, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was allowed to boss the entire game from start to finish. Welsh fans could appreciate he is an outstanding talent as well as many of his team-mates but can rarely recall one man influencing an entire match to that extent, but what an easy game it is when nobody challenges you, closes you down, lets you know they're on your case and puts themselves about. Cardiff City's Steve McPhail must have looked at that and cursed. He often looks highly impressive for Cardiff but it's always a matter of time before he's closed down or the victim of roughhouse challenges. Some of the Welsh fans were closer to Schweinsteiger than Welsh players!

As for as tonight goes, there's few Welsh positives - only those in despair will find any worthy ones - and plenty of negatives. Jens Lehmann was another who must have had one of the easiest nights of his career, any of us could have kept a clean sheet for Germany. He had one very simple late stop from a speculative Ricketts shot late on straight at him.

Tosh finally woke up to 4-4-2 second half as Earnie came on and tried his hardest but there was no spark between Eastwood and himself but the game was killed altogether on the hour as Miroslav Klose got his second at corner to go with his just as simple opener on 5 minutes. The sight of Jason Koumas, who had a poor game but so did the rest, departing for an early substitution marching straight down the tunnel probably spoke volumes about the morale and passion with our national team, at present.

Only 25,000 bother to support Wales playing world class opposition on a perfect day. After this evidence, we'll do very well to even see that sort of crowd again in the foreseeable future.


BBC match report appears here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/league_of_wales/6975038.stm

Tosh's reaction is here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/league_of_wales/6984854.stm

My photos appear here:
http://tinyurl.com/26ytqe

Friday, September 07, 2007

CARDIFF ANNOUNCE 100th STADIUM DELAY, QUEEN SENDS TELEGRAM

It's been rumoured for a while but now comes confirmation that Cardiff's new stadium - that was due for January 2009 - won't now happen until the start of the following season in July/August.

A delay is always a setback but this one seems more tolerable than most as the physical work at Leckwith is well underway and already substantial with the new athletics track and facilities, if no stands yet, in place and major work taking place preparing land and roads at Leckwith. Also, to many fans, it seems preferable to move to a new ground to start a season not halfway through one.

Wonder how long it will be before the next delay is announced?



Link to BBC Story:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_east/6983963.stm

Thursday, September 06, 2007

CARDIFF CITY CASUALTIES ON EMERGENCY WARD 10!

Somehow, you knew Dave Jones preaching how Cardiff had a "bigger, better squad" was not just pushing reality a tad but was always likely to smack him back.

Not yet 1 month into the season and City have not only an injury crisis but few options in key positions.

DEFENCE
At left back, Tony Capaldi appears to be making progress from an injury which has forced him out of current Northern Ireland squads but City are struggling for cover if he is unavailable next week. On the right, Chris Gunter has been out of sorts covering for Kevin McNaughton and found himself hauled off at Norwich to be replaced by midfielder Darcy Blake.

At centre-half, Darren Pure is absent injured having had an operation and news is awaited on whether Roger Johnson could be absent too after a knock at Carrow Road. There are no other recognised first team sqaud centre-halves at the club.

MIDFIELD
A huge blow as Riccy Scimeca limped out of a reserve friendly comeback game against The Wurzels on Tuesday, straight back to the operating table, and out for another few weeks. This is now the 3rd(?) breakdown Scimeca has had with the same problem. Is it time to start worrying about his future altogether? Let'as hope not but playing a handful of games through the pain barrier in March remains Scimeca's only meaningful action in almost 7 months. It leaves Gavin Rae and Steve McPhail and the only specialist central midfielders with just kids to cover them.

STRIKERS
Steve MacLean, like Scimeca, hobbled out of the home 5-1 reserve crushing against a more experienced Tractor Driving team in the first 15 months before with a more severe injury, ankle ligaments. He is expected to be absent until December which leaves Dave Jones with no reserve strikers either available or he would like to use. Thommo, still officially transfer listed, is another month away, Feeney is at The Jacks (and should stay there!) whilst Byrne and Green are players he wants away, permanently or on loan at present.


DJ has hinted that he will have to find emergency loan players but, unless he does that, our back up strength is as bare as ever.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

NO GINGER LINGER

Me? Back to Cardiff???

You're 'aving a laugh!









The following message is in ginger-vision, I thank you.


From last Saturday’s “100% done deal and this comes from the club” rumours being speead by excitable “In The Knows” to other City fans at Norwich comes confirmation today that 100% no way will Ginge aka James Collins be coming on loan and back to Cardiff.

City have problems at centre half with Darren Purse recovering from an ankle op, Roger Johnson awaiting scan results on an injury sustained at Norwich, Glenn Loovens passing fitness tests before each of the last two Championship games and no other centre half on the books so it’s only right they must get cover and Ginge would be superb.

However, whilst not in the current West Ham line-up following a summer of huge spending that has seen him pop down the order for now, Ginge is still higher rated by the Fruit Throwing Hammers, recently had a contract extension until 2011 and wants to fight for his place in the Premiership at the club rather than be away and not under consideration at all. An understandable choice but a brace one too when he may see himself totally frozen out of first team football for some time to come.

Meantime, Cardiff find themselves stuck with a few players they’d rather not have around and who seem unlikely to play for them anytime soon such as Matt Green (a prospect but needs a loan to help him get games), Jason Byrne (not a prospect at all with Cardiff) and Kevin Cooper (our 5th or 6th choice wideman) amongst others. It is believed that being unable to move some players out has prevented arrivals.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Warwick Castle

Spent the day at Warwick Castle, "Britain's best medieval experience" according to the blurb ... they've obviously not been to Chesterfield or Swansea then!

Owned by the people who bring you Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park, I feared it could be an experience at its tacky worst but was pleasantly surprised.

The castle well preserved and restored with plenty of places to visit, the events entirely in keeping with its surroundings including hawking, jousting, launching a Trebauchet (the catapult-like device they used to launch missiles at castles), longbows and more. Certainly very different to most family days out but very rewarding for it and great to do something different.

Pics below:
http://tinyurl.com/2asqwc

Saturday, September 01, 2007

SWAN-SEA FEE-NEY


Cardiff City’s Warren Feeney has joined the Jacks on loan until January – the only player move in and out of Ninian Park in the final week of the transfer window which is now shut until January. Only emergency loans and transfers can now be authorized.


Feeney has also been a dubious signing for The Bluebirds. He was hardly a regular and certainly failed to score for now relegated Luton in the Championship so eyebrows were raised were Dave Jones not only paid £75k for the player but also handed him a 3 yr contract. Those suspicions that it was bad business were, I’m afraid, only heightened and confirmed by his appearances in a City shirt. Not really deemed good enough to get much action for Cardiff, wholly unspectacular when he did get It, his work-rate and enthusiasm alone but not make up for the impression that he was simply not good enough to help City, the final nails in his coffin seemed to be confirmed with the arrival into the team of Robbie Folwer and JFH leaving him with an even more limited future at best.

His choice of club was a surprise, he turned down offers to go elsewhere, but his young family are settled in the area and his grandfather played for The Jacks and you can only wish him well but it’s a move that has a definite “out of the frying pan, into the volcano” feel about it. For now, the joke that the extent of his effectiveness has been proven as it enabled then to call off a game this week against Cheltenham as he became their third international player needs to be won over for the player’s own good and Cardiff’s too. After all, if that loan doesn’t work out, we get him back!