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FA Cup Final 1925 – Sheffield United vs Cardiff City

FA Cup Final 1925 – Sheffield United vs Cardiff City

In 1925 the FA Cup Final was between Sheffield United and Cardiff City. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph published a wonderful spread of pictures on Cup Final day. These are those pictures.

FA Cup Final 1925
FA Cup Final 1925

Not particularly diplomatic from the Sheffield Telegraph, dropping the “United” from Sheffield. You do wonder what Wednesday fans felt of this oversight in 1925. 

Sheffield United players training before their big Cup Final
Sheffield United players training before their big Cup Final

Running on the spot? Jumping up and down? It’s hard to tell.

Cardiff City training
Cardiff City training

Part of Cardiff City’s intensive training was a game of leap-frog. 

Pen pictures of the two teams
Pen pictures of the two teams
William Gillespie
William Gillespie

In the 1920s footballers sometimes wore their international caps. It’s a sad indictment of modern day football that players wouldn’t dream of doing so, and even if they did it’d be one ironically.

Sheffield United's terrifying mascot
Sheffield United’s terrifying mascot

The Sheffield United team pictured with some supporters and a terrifying club mascot. Some sort of soft toy black cat.

Football facts
Football facts

Interesting fact from this cup final with two sons of fathers who also played in a cup final also playing in the ’25 Cup Final. Has this happened recently in modern day football?

Cardiff City's less scary mascot
Cardiff City’s less scary mascot

Fred Keenor, who would go on to captain a Cardiff City cup winning side in 1927, with the club’s mascot. A real live cat.

Sheffield United would go on and win the cup final that year. 1-0 with a goal from Fred Tunstall. 

Images from the excellent British Newspaper Archive

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2018 in Club

 

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Cardiff City back in blue

Cardiff City back in blue

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

– Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

In 2012 I was a Cardiff City supporter. I was a season ticket holder and made the two hundred and sixty mile round trip for home matches. I don’t mention the distance to paint myself as a martyr. I never used it as an epithet introduction for banal conversation on sports radio station, for example. I attended matches for the reason that everyone else does. Because I enjoyed it.

When Vincent Tan made the decision to change Cardiff City’s traditional blue to red it flicked a switch within me. My visceral reaction was that I wouldn’t be able to support the football club if they weren’t wearing their traditional blue colours.

Explaining the decision to withdraw your support for a football club is not easy. Your reasons sometimes sound more like justifications, and the justifications are often appear weak under scrutiny, as many of them existed before the club’s re-brand. The change of colour brings into sharp focus thing like ticket prices, the unsustainable model of business the club is running and the fact the club had become a plaything for a rich bloke. However, these things have been true of Cardiff City for around a decade. Add the fact that there’s always been a violent element within Cardiff City’s support (something that was evident when those who wished to protest against Tan’s plans were threatened) so perhaps I should have quit my support long time ago? However, the re-brand felt different, the club’s change of colour to red appeared to break the spell in a way that all the other things couldn’t.

“So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain”

— Taylor Swift, 1989

I can understand why many would view the decision to stop supporting your football club as an odd stance to take. After all, it is only a colour. And one colour is not measurably better than another when it comes to playing games of association football. Essentially, it has to be admitted, that my decision to stop supporting my football club was irrational.

When I e-mailed the football club asking them to cancel my season ticket they sent a reply asking me to “think it through” and to “not make a knee jerk decision”. These are two things football clubs should never ask you to do.

Firstly, if you think it through, supporting your team of mercenaries against another team of mercenaries is a pretty silly thing to do. It doesn’t take one long, if you think it through, to realise you’ve been a fool. Secondly, knee jerk decisions are what football clubs are based on. That knee jerk decision to buy an overpriced programme, a cold pie, a lager in a plastic cup or an away ticket for a second flight game that costs over thirty pounds.

So much did the decision affect my support of the club that I never once felt as if I was missing out, or that I should go back and watch a game. Amazing when you consider that in those two years since the re-brand the football club won the Championship and played in top flight for the first time since the early 1960s. My general feeling towards the club was that they need Vincent Tan out and a return to blue. The way to achieve this would be to lose as many games f football as possible.

Just think while you been getting down and out about the liars
And the dirty dirty cheats of the world
You could have been getting down to this sick beat

– Taylor Swift, 1989

One of the wonderful side affects of Cardiff City’s rebrand is that it has allowed me to experience a life outside of the loyal support of one football club. I’ve been able, for example, to use non-blue toothbrushes. And when given the option to choose from identical products in different colours I’ve had the opportunity to experience green trainers and yellow t-shirts. And in that time I’ve not noticed any colour being more lucky than another.

Not being tied to a season ticket has also allowed me to further indulge in the delights of non-league football, the exhausting satisfaction of running half-marathons and the confusing world of Six Nations rugby and test cricket. It’s very difficult to not sound like a spurned lover, but it’s tough to think I’m not genuinely better off without Cardiff City Football Club.

People like you always want back the love they gave away
And people like me wanna believe you when you say you’ve changed
The more I think about it now
The less I know
All I know is that you drove us off the road

– Taylor Swift, 1989

A few weeks ago in the midst of rumours surrounding terrible season ticket renewal figures and a record low crowd for the visit of Colchester United in the FA Cup Vincent Tan made the decision to revert the club colours back to blue. It’s a sad state of affairs that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Russel Slade did more with their inept management to return the club back to blue than any fan protest did.

Now the boys are back in blue the option of returning has arisen. But if a week is a long time in football, then two years is an eternity. I’m sure I’ll get to a Cardiff City game before long, when an opportunity arises but I’d certainly not go out of my way to attend a match. There’s no hurry. Even for those who followed the club during its time in red the football club in its current state is a very hard beast to love. All of us , from boycotters to reluctant reds have seen the man behind the curtain, and for many it will never feel the same again.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Club

 

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Premier League 2013/2014 – a graphical review


The BBC website produces match reports for all of the games every single Premier League side plays during the season. From Premier League and FA Cup, to Champions League to League Cup ties the BBC reports on them all. I thought it would be interesting to compile all of these reports for each of the twenty Premier League sides, and to produce word-clouds for each side. If a particular word is used more often, then it is shown on screen as larger than the other less used words.

I created one for Square One Football Radio, and felt I should create word clouds for all twenty clubs. I used the excellent online tool wordle.net to create the word clouds. Please feel free to use these on your blog or website, but I’d appreciate a link back.

To see a higher resolution image of the word cloud, click on it.

Arsenal

Arsenal

astonvilla_20132014

Aston Villa

cardiffcity_20132014

Cardiff City

chelsea_20132014

Chelsea

cyrstalpalace_20132014

Crystal Palace

everton_20132014

Everton

fulham_20132014

Fulham

hullcity_20132014

Hull City

liverpool_20132014

Liverpool

manchestercity_20132014

Manchester City

manchesterunited_20132014

Manchester United

newcastleunited_20132014

Newcastle United

norwichcity_20132014

Norwich City

southampton_20132014

Southampton

stokecity_20132014

Stoke City

sunderland_20132014

Sunderland

swanseacity_20132014

Swansea City

tottenhamhotspur_20132014

Tottenham Hotspur

westbrom_20132014

West Bromwich Albion

westhamunited_20132014

West Ham United

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Club

 

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Championship: Doing the Double


The following list shows the number of times each club in the Championship won home and away against one of their rivals during the 2012/2013 Championship season. Every single one of the 24 clubs managed to achieve this feat against at least one of their opponents during the season.

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7

  • Cardiff City: Millwall, Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United, Blackpool, Birmingham City, Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday.

6

  • Hull City: Millwall, Derby County, Huddersfield Town, Ipswich Town, Leeds United and Birmingham City.

5

  • Watford: Huddersfield Town, Leicester City, Birmingham City, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest.

4

  • Birmingham City: Bristol City, Peterborough United, Leeds United and Middlesbrough.
  • Crystal Palace: Peterborough United, Derby County, Wolves and Charlton Athletic.
  • Leicester City: Bristol City, Huddersfield Town, Burnley and Middlesbrough.
  • Nottingham Forest: Peterborough United, Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic.

3

  • Burnley: Bristol City, Derby County and Wolves.
  • Charlton Athletic: Bristol City, Blackpool and Leicester City.
  • Huddersfield Town: Bristol City, Burnley and Wolves.
  • Sheffield Wednesday: Millwall, Barnsley and Charlton Athletic.

2

  • Barnsley: Millwall and Middlesbrough.
  • Blackburn Rovers: Bristol City and Barnsley.
  • Bolton Wanderers: Bristol City and Blackburn Rovers.
  • Brighton & Hove Albion: Huddersfield Town and Burnley.
  • Bristol City: Peterborough United and Middlesbrough.
  • Derby County: Bristol City and Leeds United.
  • Ipswich Town: Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers.
  • Millwall: Leicester City and Middlesbrough.
  • Peterborough United: Barnsley and Cardiff City.
  • Wolves: Bristol City and Birmingham City.

1

  • Blackpool: Millwall.
  • Leeds United: Bristol City.
  • Middlesbrough: Blackburn Rovers.

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  • No side did the double over promoted Hull City or play-off finalists Crystal Palace and Watford.
  • Cardiff did the double over seven other sides but relegated Peterborough were the only side to do the double over the Dragons.
  • Ten sides did the double against Bristol City which may explain why the club finished bottom.
  • The three sides who did the double against only one other club finished in 13th (Leeds United), 15th (Blackpool) and 16th (Middlesbrough)
 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Statistics

 

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Cardiff City: What’s in a colour?

Cardiff City: What’s in a colour?

A few weeks ago I was flicking through the channels on my TV and came across Sky News. They were showing brief highlights of a game from earlier in the day and I didn’t initially recognise who the teams were. It wasn’t until I’d seen a team score a couple of goals that I realised that I was watching Cardiff City. Not being able to quickly identify a club that I had supported for almost twenty years was strange and it made me feel more correct in my decision to cancel my season ticket this summer after the football club scrapped its century old tradition of wearing blue shirts.

Identity is important to football and Cardiff City appear to agree as they ordered the change to red not only as a mechanism of looking more like Liverpool and Manchester United (as they sell shirts in Asia) but also to:

“..actively grow the brand and drive the brand in all its aspects…. Vincent Tan can see the red brand as driving the awareness of Cardiff City and he can use it to open a series of internet cafes or sell Cardiff City products through his retail outlets then great.” – Alan Whitely CEO Cardiff City

Cardiff City turn their back on south Wales based supporters in favour of advertising to Malaysian insomniacs.

Cardiff City turn their back on south Wales based supporters in favour of advertising to Malaysian insomniacs.

What is baffling for many is that the re-brand has been so poorly implemented. If a football club were to take the unprecedented move of re-branding after wearing colours for over a century then surely the new kit would be a brave design, something to set it apart from other teams in their division and country. Instead the club chose a standard red Puma template and created a badge using free clip-art images on-line. The stadium seats remain blue in colour. Cardiff City in their new red guise are not even the most famous red sporting team to play in the city. That honour goes to the Wales rugby union side who remain the biggest draw in the capital. The new badge of a Welsh dragon is equally as baffling. The motif taken directly from the flag of Wales is unsurprisingly ubiquitous in the country and can be found on many products from biscuits, to tea-towels to t-shirts. Rather than the re-brand setting Cardiff City apart as something special or something new, the club has effectively faded itself into football’s background.

After the club announced it’s intention to re-brand as a red club many journalists and football fans have been quite surprised at just how little opposition their appears to have been to the change. There are a few reasons why I believe fans have been so acquiescent:

Promises  – The owners have promised that alongside the change of kit colour they will invest £100m into the football club. It’s irrelevant as to whether the owners are being truthful or not. We’ve all seen enough evidence over these past few weeks that football fans often leave their brain at the door when the subject of their football club arises. Despite having both Sam Hammam and Peter Ridsdale in charge over the past few years, many Cardiff City supporters are still willing to believe any snake oil merchant who promises the earth.

Status – The Premier League being viewed as the “promised land” is a theme that is familiar to most involved with football. But with Cardiff City it is goes far, far deeper than that. It’s an obsession. There are three reasons for this:

  1. The football club hasn’t played in the top flight for over fifty years. There are few clubs of the size of Cardiff City that have spent that long in exile.
  2. The elephant (swan?) in the room is the club’s local rivals Swansea City who have not only won promotion to the Premier League but have also been praised for the way they’ve played once there. Status envy is prevalent within football and merely supporting a football team isn’t enough. It has to be a Premier League team. In addition to the desire for a Premier League team a culture of entitlement reigns in Cardiff, a city that has been gifted (amongst other things) the Welsh assembly, FA Cup Finals, Cardiff Bay, the Millennium Stadium and Doctor Who. Yet what many Cardiff City fans crave most is what their poorer cousins have, the golden goose: Premier League football.
  3. With the club losing £1m a month and being over £50m in debt it appears that the gravy train of Sky subsidised top flight football is the only way that the money can ever be recouped. What is most terrifying about this is that it’s probable that even the riches of Premier League football will not be enough to pay back the vast amount of money owed. Swansea City, a supposed shining example of how to run a football club, “only” made a profit of £14m in their first season in the top flight. To put that into context at a club like Cardiff City it would take them five years of excellent financial management and prudence in the top flight to just break even, never mind make a profit.

Silent opposition – Just as the zombies head to the mall in Dawn of the Dead because that’s what they always used to do, so Cardiff City fans head to the stadium every other weekend. Many people who attend games are very unhappy with the change to red (certainly no one has ever mentioned it as a good idea in the past!). However, following a football team is a habit that can be hard to break, especially when it’s a primary route to spend time with your father, your brother, your son or your friends. And it’s also unfair to expect people to do so.

 

One of the most fascinating aspects of the re-brand is Cardiff City effectively turning their entire supporter base from fans to customers. Despite the club spending over £10m in the summer (including signing local hero Craig Bellamy) and winning their first seven home league fixtures, attendances are down on last season. That’s despite most of those attending fixtures having already bought their season ticket before the re-brand took place. The walk up crowd to Cardiff games has been very low so far this term (though this might have something to do with the £32 match ticket prices – but that’s another issue altogether). Additionally offers such as guaranteeing FA Cup Final or League Cup Final tickets have led to the club having an artificially high number of season ticket holders over the past few years and a failure to get promotion will inevitably lead to significantly lower crowds next season. The club is at a crossroads like no other in its entire history.

There are a few possible outcomes, amongst them:

  1. Club succeeds on the pitch – It’s almost certain that Vincent Tan (Cardiff’s Malaysian owner) has no intention of making money from Cardiff City, you can’t make money from a club like Cardiff,  instead it’s a tool for his self promotion in Malaysia. The club has to be successful or it reflects badly on him. If the club do well it can market the change to red as justified (the local press are already perfectly happy to bang the drum in support of red) . After promotion Cardiff City increases its links with Malaysia and the Far East and attempts to become the first club to play in a “Game 39”. Tellingly when asked over the summer whether or not the club has plans to change the club’s name, to Cardiff Malaysia or Malaysia FC the answer hasn’t been “We’ve absolutely no plans to.” but rather “The FA wouldn’t allow it.”..
  2. Club fails on the pitch  – If the club fail to get promotion and Vincent Tan loses interest, the club fails to pay back its debt, goes into administration and ultimately liquidation. I believe that the likelihood of a phoenix club emerging from the ashes of the current club is very unlikely. The fan-base is riven with discord – the Keep Cardiff Blue meeting that was scheduled to organise a protest about a change of kit was disrupted by other Cardiff City supporters threatening to “bury” any fans who protested against the colour change in the stadium. If the club do go bust then I think Cardiff may be the first liquidated club in British history that opts not to re-emerge as another entity. There’s certainly demand for a Premier League club in Cardiff, but not a non-league one, especially not within a supporter base that’s so split in its feelings.
Unfortunately I don’t foresee a happy ending at Cardiff, if the club is successful then the owners will complete the re-brand into an entity for Malaysia, if the club fails then it’ll drop into oblivion. Even promotion to the Premier League (which seems very likely) won’t be enough to repair the damage that the re-brand has caused to this football club.

 

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Club, Featured

 

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CHAMPIONSHIP 2011/2012 SEASON REVIEW WORD CLOUDS

CHAMPIONSHIP 2011/2012 SEASON REVIEW WORD CLOUDS

With the new season upon us we at Spirit of Mirko are continuing our retrospective on the 2011/2012 season. Following on from our Premier League word-clouds we’ve now constructed twenty-four clouds that represent each Championship club’s season via the words used in their respective BBC match reports.

If you wish to use one of these images for your own site, then feel free. Just ensure you set up a link to this page and also give full credit to tagxedo (the wonderful site that these images were created in).

Barnsley

Barnsley

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Statistics

 

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Foreign players in the Championship 2011/2012


Of the 699 players who appeared for Championship clubs during the 2011/2012 season 387 were English. As you’d expect the other nations from the British Isles also featured heavily with (and no, this isn’t a joke) 52 Scotsmen, 50 Irishmen, 28 Welshmen and 19 Northern Irishmen.

The table below shows data on each of the twenty-four clubs in the Championship and the nationalities who played during the 2011/2012 season. The columns are as follows, Nats: number of nationalities used, Plyrs: total number of players used, Eng: Englishmen used (Sco, Wal, NI, Ire self-explanatory). %Eng is the percentage of the total number of players used who are English whilst %B&I is the percentage of players used who are from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Whilst I understand that Ireland is a foreign country I feel that this metric is useful as players from the Republic of Ireland have been integral parts of squads in the football pyramid for many years.

Championship nationalities 2011/2012

Championship nationalities 2011/2012

Relegated Portsmouth are the side that can most adequately be labelled as the division’s “foreign-legion”, though it has to be said that the term “foreign legion” exited the football lexicon a few years ago. I think it dropped out of common usage at the same time that the goalkeepers union was finally disbanded.

Doncaster Rovers’ (Willie McKay inspired) policy of recruiting anything that moved during the second half of last season leaves them having used the most players in the division (41). Play-off semi finalists Birmingham City used the fewest players having only used 22 during the season. It’s a real credit to the Blues as they also had a gruelling (and very fun) sojourn in the Europa League to navigate.

Peterborough United fielded the highest percentage of English players (79%) but it was Barnsley who used the most (28). In fact the only player that Barnsley used who originated outside of the British Isles was Ricardo Vaz Te, and he signed for West Ham during the January transfer window.

Blackpool used the most Scottish players (7), Crystal Palace used the most Welshmen (4), Burnley were the club who fielded the most Northern Irish players (5) whilst Palace and Ipswich Town fielded the most Irishmen (5).

In 2011/2012 an incredible sixty-seven different countries were represented in the Championship. They were Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Iceland, Brazil, Netherlands, Denmark, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Spain, Senegal, Grenada, Zimbabwe, Portugal, Trinidad &Tobago, France, Mali, Slovakia, Malta, Jamaica, Slovenia, Serbia, Ghana, South Africa, DR Congo, Finland, Australia, Cote d’Ivoire, Bulgaria, Japan, Latvia, Poland, Israel, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Curaoao, Czech Republic, Malawi, Morocco, Guadeloupe, Chile, Comoros, Argentina, Cameroon, Algeria, United States, Belgium, Estonia, Honduras, Hungary, Barbados, Switzerland, Fiji, Canada, Mexico, Croatia, Italy, New Zealand, Turkey, Austria, Sweden, Germany and Burundi.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Statistics

 

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The Carling Cup, perfect goals and Tom Bombadil


It’s an oft quoted phrase in football “A penalty shoot out is the worst way to lose”. But I think you have to have seen your side ship seven goals at home to Cambridge United or to have seen your club lose 2-1 to an amateur side in the Welsh Cup Final to realise that’s not necessarily true. There are worse ways to lose.

I saw my side (Cardiff City) lose to Liverpool on a penalty shoot in the Carling Cup Final on Sunday 26th February, yet my overriding feeling on leaving Wembley wasn’t of disappointment, but of pride in a set of players who simply could not have given any more to the cause of their club. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that many of the players were more gutted than the supporters. Cardiff City have now lost in an FA Cup Final, a Play-off Final and a League Cup Final within the space of four years but I think it would be very harsh to pejoratively label them “nearly men”, I think most fans would rather support nearly men than never men. After all, Cardiff lost to a Liverpool side where each starting player (excluding Steven Gerrard) cost the Reds more than the entire Cardiff City squad combined. There’s no shame in that.

The final will live long in the memory of neutrals. The game will probably be remembered a lot more vividly by TV viewers than the entire seasons of Burnley, Hull or Bradford spent in the Premier League. Yet many of these viewers will probably feel in hindsight that Ben Turner’s 118th minute equaliser was in vain, a pointless act that merely delayed the inevitable defeat for Cardiff. I think that opinion misses the point slightly. When analysed deeply many moments in football are pointless, Ronnie Radford’s 35 yard strike for Hereford United was in vain as the Bulls didn’t win the cup that year and David Platt’s winner against Belgium in World Cup ’90 was pointless as England failed in the semi finals. Sport isn’t really like that, sport is about moments of perfection and Turner’s goal was just that, a moment of total footballing beauty.

It may seem odd to call Ben Turner’s scrambled equaliser a moment of perfection, but from a supporter’s point of view it was just that. It may not have had the technical excellence of a long distance strike or the tactical beauty of a sweeping passing move but it had all the ingredients of a wildly celebrated goal. Let me explain. The problem (if there can be one) with many goals is that they either catch the supporter by surprise – a long distance strike – or the supporters are expecting it -a penalty. Turner’s goal fell into that beautiful median where the fans were excited by the prospect of an about to be taken corner, then had the build up of excitement intensified by the ball bobbling around in the six yard box before the jubilation of the ball nestling in the back of the net. It was, in my opinion, the perfect supporters goal. It simply wouldn’t have been as marvellous a moment had the goal been scored via a long range shot or a penalty, despite the outcome being the same.

There’s an obvious gulf between clubs such as Liverpool and Cardiff City that extends beyond the fact that Liverpool can afford to spend £35m on Andy Carroll (Cardiff City spent a similar amount on their new stadium and it’s about as mobile as Carroll). The mentality of the clubs are polar opposites. Liverpool’s very existence appears to rely on the accumulation of trophies. Similar to the Tolkein character Gollum the club lust after precious trophies, their continued status as a club threatened by attempting to match their “history”. Cardiff City are more like the ebullient Tom Bombadil (“his shirt was blue with piping of yellow”) who was unaffected by the temptation of the trophy’s power. Just like Bombadil, Cardiff City would still have been same old Cardiff City even if they had taken the trophy home last Sunday, they’d still be the greatest team in football, the world has ever seen. But only ironically, obviously.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Club

 

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Championship Champions 2011: Reading


The following tables show the number of points earned by teams during 2011.

It’s very tight at the top of the Championship table for 2011. Reading have the best points average yet it’s Middlesbrough who picked up more points during the year. Both these sides are closely followed by Cardiff City who finish the year having picked up 82 points, an identical tally to Reading. It might be slightly controversial as Boro picked up more points during 2011, but I feel the trophy should be awarded to Reading who achieved their points tally playing one fewer matches than Middlesbrough.

Forest’s struggles are emphasised in the table below. Despite qualifying for the playoffs in 2010/2011 they find themselves languishing in the bottom half of this table. Three managers in 2011 tell its own story for the Midlands club. It’s Doncaster Rovers who end the calendar year rock bottom; no other side lost as many Championship games during the calendar year.

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

The following table includes all sides that spent any time in the Championship during the 2011 calendar year. It’s Southampton who end the year on top of the table (in average points per game terms). The south-coast club picked up an incredible 105 points during 2011 (58 in League One, and 47 in the Championship).

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

Championship: Calendar Year 2011 (sorted by average points per game)

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Club, Statistics

 

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An evening with Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay


A night with Malky Mackay. 1927 Club Q&A Session at Hammersmith Working Men’s Club, West London.

It’s taken me some time to transcribe much of this Q&A. I think I’ve represented what was said pretty accurately, however if there are any errors please free to point them out to me.

Date: Friday 18th November 2011, 7:30pm

In attendance:

  • Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay (MM)
  • Cardiff City director Alan Whiteley (AW)
  • The Cardiff City media team Barrie et. al were in attendance, I believe they were filming the proceedings for “Cardiff City Player”.
  • Approximately 60 Cardiff City fans, just over half who were 1927 Club members.

The night began with an introduction from 1927 Club Chairman Matthew Gabb who talked about who the 1927 Club were (London and South East branch supporters club) and what the night would entail (Questions to Malky Mackay and Alan Whiteley).

Matthew Gabb kicked off the questions by asking:

Q – What were your first impressions of Cardiff and the football club?

MM said he was very excited to take up the role at Cardiff and that he was very impressed with the training ground at the Vale and the new stadium. He said that he didn’t really know Cardiff that well as he’d only really been in the city for play-off finals in the past, but he was pleasantly surprised by the area and could see that money had obviously been spent on the city recently. He feels that he sees a lot of similarities in the Welsh to the Scots, as both are warm and passionate people.

Malky outlined what a threadbare staff (playing and technical) he started with when he took over by saying that his reaction at the first training session was “Oh Dear” when he saw just how few players were there. He told us that ten players and seven members of staff were brought in before the first game of the season. The focus on technical staff was a subject he referred to continually throughout the night and it’s obviously of vital importance to him.

Q – How have the directors backed you since you took over at the club?

MM said that the directors were happy for him to change the structure of the club from top to bottom and he was almost free reign to change what he felt necessary to do the job. He mentioned that he felt a few minor changes were required at the training ground and he was permitted to make those by the board with very few difficulties He said he was also allowed to employ the staff he felt he needed, and that one of the most important roles to employ was the head of recruitment. He also talked about the importance of long term sustainability at the football club and that this was one of the most important things to consider when signing a player. Malky said that the club had signed 5/6 players in the summer on free transfers that could now command a decent transfer fee should the club feel the need to sell (though he did quickly add that they had no intention of selling any time soon!)

One of the recurring themes of the night was “dossiers”, Malky said that whenever he wished to sign a player that he would build together a dossier of information about the footballer, this dossier would be handed to Alan Whiteley and the other directors so they could make a judgement call on whether the signing would be good for the club.

AW stated that this dossier approach was new to the club and gave a full audit trail of all signings. He said that this wasn’t really the way in which the club had operated in the past few years.

MM added that whilst this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a bad signing being made it does allow everyone at the club to see a full audit trail being the signing of each player.

Q – Were there any players who you wished to sign who you didn’t get this summer?

Malky began by joking that the board hadn’t supported him in his quest to sign Lionel Messi. He then added that he was backed to sign every single player he wanted. The only players he didn’t get were ones he called “doublers” – i.e. players who play in a position who we’ve already managed to sign someone for. He stated that the two players who didn’t come through the “dossier” approach were Rudy Gestede (who was recommended by an agent) and Kenny Miller (who became unexpectedly available in Turkey).

MM pointed out that the only player who he couldn’t sign who he wanted was Craig Bellamy. Malky said he played with CB when Bellamy was a “chippy, mouthy, 19 year old brat” at Norwich and that he once locked him in a coach toilet for four hours on an away trip.

MM said that CB was only ever available for transfer on deadline day and that Cardiff were up against a couple of clubs who wanted to sign Bellamy that there’s no way we could compete with. One was Liverpool, who Craig ultimately signed for.

Q – What is your philosophy and how do you like to set up your teams to play?

MM said that despite the type of player he was that he had always played in sides like Celtic, Norwich City and West Ham United who all liked to play football. When he took over at Watford he realised he had two choices. He could sign a group of experienced Championship journeymen or he could create a young, athletic, vibrant squad. Malky pointed out that signing a group of journeymen would have made Watford look like any one of ten other clubs in the Championship, all of which tend to struggle in the bottom half. Instead Malky decided to go for the young, vibrant, youthful approach and attempted to get his side to play football, despite the poor pitch at Vicarage Road.

MM made it clear that ball work was an integral part of training at Cardiff City and that the ball was included at all times as it was vital that players were comfortable in possession. He added that he wanted his side to be hard-working and as fit (if not fitter) than all of the other clubs in the division, and that if you can “be competitive” then you’ve always got a chance. The phrase “be competitive” was probably the most used phrase during the Q&A session.

Q – Is there a “new Aaron Ramsey” coming through our youth academy?

MM made the obvious point that players of Ramsey’s calibre don’t come along often, but that he was totally dedicated to youth and brought up his experiences at Watford as proof of that. Malky said that if you have an excellent youth system and a pathway to the first team that you can encourage players to stay with the club, rather than leaping at the first top-flight offer. He used the example of Ashley Young who graduated from Watford’s academy and stayed with the club for a few years before finally moving on.

Malky talked in length about the idea of “a pathway to the first team”, and that academy players must see that it’s possible to break into the first team if they perform to a high enough standard. The example of Joe Ralls who’s been dipped in and out of the first team in League Cup ties (and recently Championship games) was used and said that academy players should use Ralls as an inspiration to see what can be achieved if they do work hard.

MM said that there were a lot of good young players at Cardiff and that three or four of them played in the U16 Wales side that beat England (Malky being a Scot seemed to enjoy this). Malky covered the well known idea that football fans like to see local boys coming through and playing for the first team, he also added that the club would look for youngsters from all over UK if they were of the sufficient quality (i.e. Ralls is from Hampshire).

Malky also talked about the Football League rule change in the summer that reduced the number of substitutes in League games from seven to five. He said that this decision could affect youth development all across the Football League, that many sides would use the 6th and 7th slots for youngsters, and if they were leading three or four nil then they could be introduced to first team football. Malky said that he thought every single manager in the Football League thought that it was a terribly short-term decision to make.

Alan Whiteley reiterated that the Academy was vital to the future of the club and it was fundamental to the club’s success.

Q – A question was asked concerning the new “EPPP” rules. Will they be to the advantage or detriment to Cardiff City?

AW said that most Football League clubs were still trying to assimilate exactly what the EPPP rules will mean to them. He refused to say whether or not the club had voted for or against the proposal but he made clear that he felt that most Football League clubs had no choice other than to sign up to the ruling. [I personally believe this means the club did vote for the rules, but I obviously can’t say that for certain].

MM talked again about his time in charge of his previous club, saying that Watford had Academy One status as the club had a school attached to the academy. Despite this he said that the Premier League at no point contacted the club asking questions about Watford’s academy when drafting the new EPPP rules. He seemed quite annoyed about this.

Malky said that the rules “didn’t sit right with him” and that all clubs can really do is to work hard to ensure that young players stay with their club and don’t move as soon as a top flight club come knocking with “their club captain and a shiny tracksuit”. MM said that Ralls being put into the first team would be his “sales pitch” to any youngster at the club thinking of leaving, as Ralls’ experience suggests there is a “pathway into the first team”.

Q – A question on centre halves, related to Darcy Blake’s recent performances for his country.

MM said that he and his coaches had spent a lot of time with all the centre halves and that they all felt that at the start of the season Hudson & Gerrard was the best partnership, and that their partnership was working fine. He added that Ben Turner had been a target for the club from day one and that the only reason they hadn’t signed him earlier was because he was injured. Malky felt that if the club had waited for Turner’s injury to fully heal before signing him that another club could well have snatched him from us. MM spoke highly of Turner. He obviously feels that Turner has a lot of potential and could become a very good player.

MM said that Darcy Blake had not called for “showdown talks” as a local paper had suggested this week, that his door was always open and that no one had walked through it recently. MM added that he had talked to Darcy six weeks ago and that Darcy knows “exactly what he needs to do” if he wants to figure in the first team.

Q – How does Cardiff City’s scouting network operate?

MM talked of Ian Moody who is the new Head of Recruitment at Cardiff City. Under him are seven regional scouts who work across the country in each region. Malky said that each of those scouts needs to know everything there is to know about the players and clubs in question, that if one of these clubs goes into administration (for example) that we are ready to move to sign any available players.

MM added that all these scouts were exclusively employed by Cardiff City and had their own badges, ties etc. and that they feel wanted by the club. This scouting network is new to the club this season. Mackay talked through the different stages the scouts would go through when identifying players. I won’t attempt to transcribe exactly what he said here for fear of misrepresenting him but what I will say is that it’s remarkably thorough and involves watching a player many times. MM said that Danny Graham at Carlisle United had been watched for over a year before Watford signed him.

Malky talked about the signing of Rudy Gestede, who was recommended to him by an agent (“a rare trusted one” Malky called him). MM said that Gestede was offered to the club on trial and that they took him on and were very impressed by his attitude, and felt that he had many attributes that could be improved on and that the club had signed a good (if a little raw) player in Gestede.

MM moved onto talking about Filip Kiss. The club has an option to buy Kiss and they will be taking up that option“very soon”. AW was (understandably) very coy when asked what the fee would be.

Q – Question to Alan Whiteley, why did we not change the manager sooner after the failure of last season?

AW talked of what a great job Dave Jones had done at the club in his five/six year reign. AW said that the board of directors felt that DJ had had three good cracks at it and ultimately not been promoted so it was time to freshen things up.

MM said that change for changes sake was pointless, and that Cardiff City Football Club should be given a lot of credit for giving a manager time to build a team. Malky said that it wasn’t until a manager’s third season that the team was a true representation of the manager, as it takes that long for a manager to put his stamp on it.

Mackay said that the “Sackrace” on Talksport on Saturday evenings had a lot to answer for as he felt that boards often listen to that (and other types of negative media), and that many boards across the country aren’t very strong and don’t have the “guts” to stick with a manager when things aren’t going too well.

Q – What were your expectations at the start of the season compared to your expectations now?

MM said that his aim was to make his team”competitive” and that he’d LOVE to get the side promoted (obviously). He played down talk of promotion a little and talked of the big spending of other clubs in the division as well as their squad sizes, Mackay obviously feels they are the ones that will be fighting it out at the end of the season.

However, Mackay did underline the importance of momentum, bulding confidence, consistency and belief – and he feels his squad is doing that at the moment as they learn about one another. Mackay said he had recently made the point to the squad that they had been good enough to beat the teams in first and second this season, yet the reason the team’s in first and second are where they are is their consistency of performance.

MM moved on to talk about player recruitment saying that although he felt the club needed a bigger squad, he felt that January is often a poor time to make signings in comparison to the summer when a lot more players are out of contract. He said that there are often two types of players available in January, ones that clubs are trying to cash in on, and others that clubs are desperate to get rid of. Mackay said that these types of players aren’t always good value for money, or worth getting. He did go on to say that this didn’t mean that the club would not sign a player in January, just that the club are unlikely to be going mad post-Christmas and that it takes a manager longer than two transfer windows to build a squad.

Q – Cardiff City’s Malaysian owners are still quite mysterious, what are their motives for taking over the club?

Alan Whiteley said that the Malaysian owners were interested in aligning Cardiff City along with the nation of Malaysia, and it was their ultimate goal to achieve Premier League football. He added that they wished to run the football club in a view of long-term sustainability rather than throwing money at it.

Q – Considering that QPR are now also owned by Malaysians is there now a rivalry between the clubs?

Alan Whiteley said that Cardiff’s Malaysian owners were probably more high profile in Malaysia than QPR’s and that it’s possible that Cardiff City’s name is currently better known in Malaysia despite QPR’s Premier League status. He went on to talk about the investment they had made into grassroots football in Malaysia (youth football schemes etc.)

Q – How will you approach the Blackburn Rovers League cup tie?

Malky said that this year’s League Cup run had been very strange and that in the first round game against Oxford he had five U18 year olds who he’d only ever seen play once. Mackay said regarding the quarter finals that he wanted Palace at home and that he’d throw everything he had at Blackburn in order to get through to the semis. He added jokingly that he wanted Palace in the 2 legged semis if City were to get through.

Q – How is your relationship with the local press?

MM said that he felt that the relationship with the local press was vitally important as it gave the football club a conduit to communicate with the fanbase. He said it was a little different in Cardiff (two papers a day) to Watford (one a week) but that he was used to close media scrutiny after playing in Glasgow for Celtic.

Q – What is the debt situation and what is the budget this season in comparison to last?

Alan Whiteley said that the only outstanding legacy debt remaining was the Langstone debt and that the wage budget this season was roughly the same to last, and then added “maybe it’s a little less this season”.

Q – How do you prepare for a fixture?

Mackay went through in great depth how the club prepare for fixtures (like the one the next day against Reading). The club have employed Martin Hodge (a former goalkeeper) to do opposition analysis for every club City face through the season. The reports (or dossiers as Malky loves to call them) are presented to Mackay by Hodge in the week leading to the game. Hodge will also present the information to the players for about 15/20 minutes on the day before the game in order that the team know their opposition inside out.

Malky made it clear that Hodges’ role within the club was to prepare analysis on the opposition and had nothing to do with scouting or player recruitment or identification. He added that he felt every club in the Championship should be doing this as he felt this approach could win you games. Martin Hodge’s position at the club is a newly created one this season.

Martin Hodge works in an identical role for the Welsh national team.

Q – It’s been noticeable that Team Spirit is better this season and the team is “greater than the sum of its parts” than last, how is that achieved?

Mackay was quick to state that the players the club have now are very good and that Bellamy aside he would back his current players to be competitive in the division. Mackay said that all players had to “leave their egos at the door, and pick them up when they leave to go home”. He went on to say that fans can accept mistakes, but they won’t accept lack of effort. Mackay talked for a while about the supporters and how he loved to watch them “go bananas” at a “wet Tuesday night in Burnley” when City scored. He said he was watching back footage of Miller’s goal at West Ham and noticed the City fans all start to stand, bobbing up, like meerkats as Rudy Gestede moved down the line with the ball, before feeding Miller. Mackay is certainly a manager who likes to involve the fans where possible.

Q – How did you go about setting Watford up against Cardiff City at Vicarige Road last season? Did you target our left back?

Mackay laughed at the suggestion of targetting Lee Naylor and then said that his team went out to play against City at a high tempo/ get in Cardiff’s faces as he felt that City could control the game if they were allowed to play at their own speed. He did add that he tried the same approach at Cardiff a few weeks later and it didn’t work at all (Watford beat Cardiff 4-1 at home, and lost to Cardiff 4-2 away).

Q – Considering how Cardiff City have finished the last three seasons do you feel that Sports Psychology is an important aspect of the game?

Mackay said that he was a true “believer” in sports psychology and that he had used one himself throughout his whole career (since he was 20 years old). He went on to say that the club have brought in sports psychologists, used acupuncture, motivational speakers and have gone on team building days in recent months in order to get that extra one percent out of the team. MM said that some of it might not work on any players, but if even a little bit sinks in or is useful then it could make an important difference.

Q – Do you think Kenny Miller is starting to hit form?

Malky said that he felt Miller was just about getting up to speed with the squad as Kenny had experienced a pretty difficult pre-season. Mackay said: “I don’t know if you’ve tried, but it’s not easy getting out of a Turkish prison.” He went on to say that he felt Miller was a big game player and would produce the goods in big games (as demonstrated by goals against West Ham & Southampton)

 

Overall it was a night of few revelations but did give some insight in what goes on behind the scenes at a Championship football club. Malky Mackay strikes me as a real “details man”. If the club are to fail it won’t be due to lack of preparation or from not being thorough.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Club

 

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