I’m not ready for this, I still haven’t got over Wembley and those B words … Bloody Blackpool. And the Summeris Horribilis at Cardiff City fires nobody with enthusiasm and passion to get going again but here we are, still in July (but a cloudy Cardiff day) heading to CCS to watch City take on one time Spanish wonders Deportivo La Coruna.
And what a dreadful summer it’s been, the only comfort is that finally (I hope) we have investors looking to run the club as a viable business but that means a sorry mess for the time being as they attempt to unravel the untold damage caused by and Messrs Hammam and Ridsdale. When I saw certain noteworthy fans (and the usual suspects) were meeting Hammam and laughably drumming up support for him to re-enter the club, it was one of the few times in my life I seriously questioned why I bother with City. How desparate.
To date, a number of deadbeats have gone (half of whom should never have been here in the first place – yes, I mean you Feeney!) and the local hero left midst acrimony as Joe Ledley opted for instant riches - and no compensation for his hometown club – and forgot what he really wanted was Premier League football – as he joined Celtic. Their Champions League embarrassment and imminent exit before the season starts does feel like good karma but best wishes Joe and thanks. Others may want to leave (Chopra) or may yet leave (if the club are offered enough cash upfront).
The tax man is owned money, Sunderland are owed money, Charlton are owed money, Motherwell are owed money, former and current players are owed money so City find themselves under transfer embargo unable to sign anyone, unable to confirm new contracts for existing players. I’d far prefer it if the embargo just meant that we weren’t allowed to play Mark Hudson until Charlton were paid off. However City are now able to play Man U loan man Danny Drinkwater simply because the squad is below 20 players.
It’s unhealthy but it’s clear to see why the Malaysians need and deserve time to undo the endless wrongs. We may have to accept patience and consolidation for a while but, nevertheless, the football side cannot be neglected in the meantime as the club is nothing without that.
Canton pubs quiet pre-game, plenty of pavement room walking to the ground and the club not announcing the attendance were all give away clues of a crowd of 5,000 or less (hard to tell what it was from my seat) with Ali booming out his usual request to make some noiiiissssseeee met only by muted responses and seagulls circling.
Jay Bothroyd has missed most of pre-season but declared his readiness 24 hours earlier yet he was absent again, a worry with the season 8 days away for such a pivotal player. For most City fans, it was the first sightings of the shaven headed Drinkwater who impressed in patches (but still needs to learn how to ayatollah – just resting your hands on your head isn’t quite right Danny!) but, the question was, who was the tall Jason Fowler left back lookalike?
Thanks to mobile phone technology, we soon discovered it Toni Kallio (a 32 yr old Swiss player just released by Fulham who played 8 times for Sheff Utd last season on loan – was he Swiss Toni??). The player showed a couple of decent touches but was either well off the pace or had no pace (I suspect it was the latter) and was caught out quite easily.
City’s first half side was
For the opening segment, they acquitted themselves well. Competent at the back, Rae and Drinkwater doing well in the middle and a bit of zip up front. The Spaniards, rather predictably, liked to have the ball, pass it around without great purpose at times as long as they kept and bided their time for openings. City tended to be a touch more direct and break and that nearly produced the opener as Ross McCormack was clear but never quite looked confident enough and sent his effort bouncing narrowly wide.
The pattern of the game established from the start, the only thing that really changed after the midway point of the first half was a drop in pace and intensity, typical pre-season fayre so, sure enough, we got to the interval without either keeper having a single piece of work to do other than the odd goal kick. The only mild entertainment was the “Los Herculinos” keeper doing passable sounding impressions of cartoon character Mexican Roadrunner as he barked occasional instructions to his team-mates. Anyone got a pillow?
Half-time talking point amongst the faithful was the catering and beer prices being put up again. £3.30 for a pint FFS, £2.60 for a Clarks Pie. That’s enough to ensure I’ll wait until after the game unless gasping during the season. When the newly approved pub is built outside, I’m quite sure several of our flock will leave at the interval and head there for a drink instead.
The teams returned for the 2nd half with City changing Marshall for the ultra vocal Tom Heaton (quiet Tom, some of us were trying to snooze as the sun came out and glowed on us) while triallist Kallio must have got three X’s from the judges and the next audition contestant was sent on.
We now had Gregory Vignal (29 year old Frenchman who has been a bit part player in the past few years for Liverpool, Rangers, Southampton,
The game was now at complete stalemate with Cardiff with neither side really creating anything but the Spaniards getting a couple more shots in (but wide) while a procession of changes took the last remaining flow out of the contest. Over the next half hour, City also introduced Gerrard, Gyepes, Matthews and latest Academy prospect Nat Jarvis.
City fans were now just chatting amongst themselves paying scant attention to proceedings on the pitch but out of the blue, the Spaniards pinched a win in the final 7 minutes with a very well worked goal in which City’s defence were carved wide open.
The one big name in Depotivo’s team, Juan Carlos Valeron, has come on as a late sub and immediately made impact as his pass found City (and Vignal) nowhere on the left, three lightning passes saw Caleron in front of goal and certain to score yet he laid it across goal for another sub, DIONI, to do that at the far post instead.
Some City fans headed for the exits (it wasn’t to beat the crowd away) while those who stayed on saw City almost level it as a cross from the left (Vignal?) evade two defenders in the middle and fall perfectly for Jervis (serenaded by some fans with ‘Are you Bothroyd in disguise?’) but he wasn’t expecting to get it, the ball hitting his shin and then side netting.
That, thankfully, ended City’s worst pre-season for many years. Hapless was not the word. Having to arrange a camp and friendly last-minute in
Next week, we’re off again with a tough home opener on Sky to Sheffield United and fears of a rough old season could be founded even if Cardiff are effectively only Ledley (and, arguably) Kennedy down on last season’s team which was good enough to be at the top end all season.
It’s clear City still need cover for Jay, a central midfielder of some substance and a left back for starters.
They may yet have to accept having none of those at all.