Cardiff City: Premier League glory to Championship mediocrity
25th August, 2013: a tangible mood of optimism, excitement and jubilance pervades as the home crowd flow out of the Cardiff City Stadium. Manchester City have fallen victim to the insurgence, determination and sheer will synonymous with a newly promoted side. Goals from Icelandic Aron Gunnarsson, and Fraizer Campbell ensured an unexpected and historic win for the bluebirds against would be title-winners. 18 months later: Russell Slade’s men have finished an underwhelming and disappointing 11th, some distance off the play-off spots: a myriad of factors have contributed to this fall from grace.
Any ardent football fan will be no stranger to the controversy that surrounded the Bluebirds during their first season in the Premier League; thus, a re-telling is unnecessary, but its implications would far transcend its immediate effect: the sacking of the then adored and respected Malky Mackay. What ensued was an enigma of uncertainty, an absence of confidence and lack of direction that cascaded from the boardroom to the pitch. Solskjaer’s appointment was met with hope: his attacking mind-set as a player would materialise into attractive and match winning football. Hope in football is a fatal, depressing thing: ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ failed in retaining the Bluebird’s premier league status. Cardiff’s 3-0 defeat to Newcastle signalled their relegation; the dismal and melancholy inducing performance would, unfortunately, set the tone for the 2014/2015 Championship campaign.
By the 18th September, Solskjaer had been relieved of his post as City manager. ‘A difference in philosophy in running a football club’ was attributed to his departure. Once more, it was apparent that Vincent Tan’s tendency to interfere and dictate resulted in failure. An unlikely candidate for the new job emerged in Russell Slade, causing a few raised eyebrows, to say the least. Supporters expected a proven, successful manager to direct the club back to the Promised Land. Instead, Slade was elected for his so-called ‘transfer market shrewdness’ in bringing suitably talented players for relatively little. Thus, it became evident that Tan was focussed more on balancing the books and offloading players with inflated wages; the real effect of this policy will be seen upon the opening of the transfer market.
It was painfully evident that Slade was not the man to bring glory back to the CCS within a few months of his arrival. The Welsh capital witnessed dull and tedious football, with results reflecting this. The lack of passion and spirit demonstrated by the majority of Cardiff players soon infected the support. Some semblance of the fervour and unflagging support, intrinsically linked with this football club, was sparked with the return to a blue home strip, but this fizzled out into an atmosphere of apathy. Inevitably, the jury called for Slade’s head; yet, Tan has persisted in renewing confidence in the former Leyton Orient manager. The season’s ending saw a turn in fortunes in the Bluebird’s away form, and once more, that fatal optimism emerged, only to be eroded with a string of defeats at home.
The Bluebirds have an endured a tumultuous couple of years; the instability has had a very obvious impact on the club, not just at board level. The thought of Premier League football is still one that entertains the imagination of City supporters; yet, it would be unwise and reckless for Tan to reach for his cheque book and spend extortionate amounts of money for players, in the quest of promotion. Financial stability should top the Cardiff City agenda. This, in the long term, will be the back-bone of future success. Sensible, shrewd and tactful signings are required, alongside the implementation of attractive football. This, coupled with a long-term plan, will set the club on firm standing to return to the money encrusted Premier League.