Though their season got off to a shaky start, Cardiff City look like a team brimming with confidence and passion thanks to the fresh approach by manager Malky Mackay.
What's going right?
With a new management team and, practically, a new squad, the season got off to an inconsistent start. But since September, the team has grown in stature and confidence and they are finally gelling. We could have stuck with Dave Jones but we were stagnating and the danger of a new manager coming in is that he tries to change too much, too quickly. Malky has got the balance absolutely right and we are now defensively sound as well as dangerous going forward. Plus, it's the most enjoyment I have got out of a season in such a long time. The pressure is off and the players all love playing for the club.
Our strikeforce is still dangerously thin. Kenny Miller is a fantastic striker; intelligent, committed and is scoring goals. But past him, Earnshaw's homecoming has been as flat as Dave Jones' post-Cardiff City career, Rudy Gestede is too raw and prone to injury and whilst Joe Mason is an electrifying prospect, he can't be relied on yet to score goals consistently. If Cardiff City are going to continue their promotion push, we desperately need a quality striker to provide back up for King Kenny. If he gets injured, our promotion push falls flat. Simple.
Got the right manager?
Yes we have. He's a breath of fresh air in comparison to Dave Jones. Passionate, tactically astute and he has more of a rapport with the fans than Dave Jones could muster in five seasons. Beyond the comparisons to last season, on the pitch, the players are committed and skilful whilst, seemingly, incredibly fit and the football has been scintillating at times.
The obvious choice; Peter Whittingham. The second obvious choice; Aaron Gunnarson. Whittingham has been a class above at this level for two seasons now but even this season, it seems he has stepped up again. Everything runs through him and he's even added a defensive edge to his game by tackling, occasionally, and heading the ball more than the usual, three times a season. Gunnar, on the other hand, has been a revelation. Steely determination in the midfield with a classy edge; several goals have been made by him winning the ball in the middle then threading a ball through. He's added another dimension to our midfield; something we haven't had for seasons. Honourable mention to Don Cowie; a player who is in perpetual motion and a bloody good footballer. Plus his name is Don! DON!
Who would you like to sell in January?
The deadwood. Gabor Gyepes, Solomon Taiwo, Jon Parkin, and Dekel Keinan are all twiddling their thumbs behind the bench and could do with being shifted on. With our plethora of centre-halves, I can't see Gyepes or Keinan breaking the Hudson-Turner-Gerrard monopoly. Parkin, as much as he's a cult figure, just won't cut it at this level and has been on loan at Huddersfield whilst I think Solomon Taiwo has forgotten who he is, considering his anonymity at Cardiff.
Who do you want to sign?
A quality striker and another winger. If we are being ambitious, I would love to see Marvin Sordell follow the other Watford exiles down to Cardiff. Perhaps more realistically, Lukas Jutkiewicz could be swayed to try for the play-offs rather than League One. With Coventry at Cardiff City levels of money problems, a cut-price deal could be in order. In terms of a winger, Paul Anderson from Nottingham Forest would be an ideal buy. Tricky, quick and creative, he could provide a foil for Burly Scotsman Craig Conway's hard-work on the other flank.
Best chant so far?
Predictably, the “you're getting sacked in the morning” to Blackburn's poster boy for hopelessness, Steve Kean. His demeanour on the side-line prompted my girlfriend, attending her second game of football EVER, to comment “he just looks useless, doesn't he?” Kicking a man when he's down? Certainly. But that is what football is about, eh?
Best opposition player/team you've seen?
Middlesbrough. I had to think long and hard about this. Brighton were good earlier this season, beating us 3-1, but their brand of football was so negative, it bored me to tears. Middlesbrough were swift in attack and strong in defence whilst employing the kind of time-wasting tactics that would grace the Premier League. They showed tenacity to fight back from a goal down and in Faris Haroun, they have a star at this level. They will almost certainly be battling with West Ham for the top two spots.
Biggest **** of the season so far?
LINESMEN. I refuse to call them assistant referees as they lack any type of bollocks to make a decision. Officiating this season has been poor at times. At Hull, we were awarded a penalty when Kiss was felled in a box only for the referee to consult with his lino'. The lino then said Kiss had strayed offside despite having not flagged for it previously. Against Middlesbrough, Kevin McNaughton is absolutely pole-axed by the 'Boro keeper. The referee thinks it's a penalty but looks to his lino who shakes his head. Not because he doesn't think it's a penalty but because he doesn't know. So Mr. Referee, lacking the courage in his own decision making abilities, doesn't give the penalty. Surely, and accuse me of having an obscene amount of common sense, if the referee thinks it's a penalty, then it's a penalty? Not in this case. Failing that, Jay Bothroyd's comment about “Nike balls being better than Mitre” surely makes him a colossal ****?
End of season prediction?
If I am being optimistic, top two. We genuinely are two or three signings away from being a quality outfit and were unlucky against 'Boro. A bit of luck and a bit of conviction from the officials would have seen us come away from that game with three points. We have already beaten West Ham, Southampton and have to play Hull and Reading at home. The Riverside has been a happy hunting ground in recent years so I can see us getting a result there. Failing that, I reckon the top-six is definitely there for the taking. Despite our play-off record of the past two seasons, I would be optimistic going into them under Malky. His steely determination and will to win, along with the skill-level of our team, would make us a match for anyone.
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