Monday 6th April 2015
Cardiff City 0-3 Bolton Wanderers
Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff.
[ENGLISH PYRAMID WARNING: The match report and blog entry below is based on a football match that occurred in the English Pyramid, in Wales]
Bank Holiday Monday started in glorious fashion. My wife and I spent the afternoon browsing around some of Cardiff’s record shops, unashamedly spending an hour in Retro Vibe on St. Mary’s Street browsing the shelves before making a list and buying what we fancied on eBay for a fraction of the price (I feel terrible doing this, but it feels like it has been an age since pay day!)
A quick stop in Wok & Go on St. Mary Street for a quick spot of sustenance made for an excellent meal.
Wok & Go is a modern and clean noodle eaterie, similar in style to a similar restaurant we regularly partake of in nearby Cathays (NoodleBox), which always have a good variety of options for vegetarians like us.
This afternoon we order the ‘Veggie Box’, a £6.20 bucket of tofu, chow mein, asian vegetables and sweet chilli sauce which more than fills a small hole.
Well the 31st March deadline to renew our season tickets at the Cardiff City Stadium came and went and I decided to not re-new my season ticket for next year.
I have my own personal reasons for deciding not to renew next year. I don’t feel I need to justify them, as I will still be attending the odd home match next year and I fully intend to probably attend about ten away games or so. However, I will expand on the reasons why I chose to take a year out next year.
I fully underestimated how much I would enjoy going to all of the Welsh pyramid matches I’ve been attending this year. I’ve enjoyed them so much that I have even started forgoing Cardiff City matches in order to attend them (I missed the home game vs. Charlton Athletic to take in the first day of the Ceredigion League Groundhop in March, and I missed last week’s 2-0 victory at home to take in Port Talbot Town’s defeat against The New Saints).
I can handle Cardiff City being crap, of course I can. I’ve supported the club since 1990 – we’ve had more than our fair share of crap teams over the years. It’s not about that at all. It’s about effort.
For long periods of my twenty five years following the club, we’ve always had a core of players at our behest who may not have been the most skillful in the land, but always came off the pitch every single match having left gallons of swear on the field.
Cohen Griffith, Jason Perry, Phil Stant, Damon Searle, Scott Young, Carl Dale, Jason Koumas, Robert Earnshaw, Stephen McPhail, Mark Hudson, Chris Burke all spring to mind. Players who were never going to set the world alight with their blistering pace, dazzling skills or (except in the case of Robert Earnshaw) sublime finishing skills.
What these players never lacked was those ‘old school’ skills of effort, passion and determination. Maybe I’m an old-school romantic about the whole thing, I don’t know?
People nowadays want a Messi, a Ronaldo, a Bale in their side. The idea of signing a dependable and reliable midfield nobody who will cover ten miles in a match, break down every single opposing attack and come off the field with lumps, bumps, cuts and bruises and sweat is laughable to most.
You can always forgive a poor result if you can see your players have given their all out on the pitch. What you can’t forgive is a poor result when it’s clear for all to see that the players have given little effort.
Malky Mackay, for all his latter sins, created a side that were determined and put in a hell of a lot of effort. A back four of Andrew Taylor, Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson and Ben Turner would come off the field game after game limping and breathless.
In our promotion year we signed the ‘always promoted’ Heidar Helguson, who despite his 5″8 frame was a vertical genius. If Helguson went up in the air against a 6″4 centre back, nine times out of ten Helguson would win the ball – against all odds.
My favourite memory of Helguson was his goal against Hull City in a dogged 2-1 victory in November 2012 in our promotion season.
Helguson went into a challenge with Hull keeper Ben Amos as second favourite. He got his head onto the ball and slotted it home from close range, taking a massive goalkeeper glove to the face that required about eight minutes of treatment. There were concerns he had actually been knocked out during the incident.
Helguson returned to the pitch with two bandages stemming the bleeding from his nostrils, looking somewhat groggy to say the least. Five minutes following this, he was again beating taller Hull City defenders on corner kicks.
Sadly, Helguson retired at the end of that season and returned to Iceland. In his place we now have the likes of Kenwyne Jones, Federico Macheda, Eoin Doyle and Alex Revell. All four are very casual players who more often than not fail to impress in the ‘effort’ field.
Over the preceding seasons since our Mackay side, gradually the side he built has been decimated and replaced by a team of players with a lot of promise, but little in the way of determination. This probably explains why we have lost so many matches this season in so many one-sided games.
This afternoon’s match saw us take on Bolton Wanderers, a side who too had failed to impress this season. One of the few sides in the league to sit in a lower league position than ourselves. So most Cardiff fans would be forgiven for at least entertaining the hope of a win this afternoon.
To be fair to Cardiff, their first half performance wasn’t that bad – in fact you’d probably argue on the face of it, that City had ever so slightly the better of a fairly uneventful first half.
Eoin Doyle came closest to scoring for the Bluebirds, his effort was saved off the line, somehow, close to half time.
The returning Joe Mason, a first half substitute for the injured Alex Revell, brought the biggest cheer of the day for Cardiff fans.
Mason, a sharp and pacey striker, has spent the best part of the last season and a half on loan at today’s opponents Bolton Wanderers. He was unfancied by both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Malky Mackay in the Premier League and was shipped out to Bolton to get some football under his belt.
For a lot of Cardiff fans, myself included, Mason sort of embodies and represents the type of character we’ve been missing since the Mackay promotion squad. A player who perhaps isn’t the greatest player to ever adorn the Cardiff City Stadium, but definitely a player who will fight for the cause until he doesn’t have a single bit of energy left in his body.
It was refreshing to see Joe Mason chasing down every ball, pressuring the Bolton goalkeeper and forcing Bolton defenders into making mistakes with the ball at their feet. Such is the comparative laziness of Kenwyne Jones, that I’d almost assumed City strikers didn’t chase down the ball anymore.
The game came alive in the second half. Sadly, it was the impressive Bolton Wanderers who took the impetus and went on to take all three points. They scored three goals, but by the end of the match they could have scored eight or more if they really wanted to.
Bolton’s experienced ‘Premier League Years 2003/04’ duo of Emile Heskey and Eidur Gudjohnsen combined early the second half, leaving the Bluebirds defence in a confused haze. Gujdjohnsen clinically fired a ball across the box and into David Marshall’s right corner to give Wanderers the lead.
Only three minutes later, City were stunned when Heskey again turned provider – this time finding Welsh international Craig Davies. The Bolton forward made no mistake sliding the ball across Marshall into the far corner to give his side a two goal cushion.
This was too much for some Bluebirds fans around us in the Canton Stand who started to leave in their numbers, perhaps looking to get an early start on a couple of pints in a Canton beer garden on this warm and sunny afternoon.
If people weren’t tempted to leave after this, their patience was tested further on 73 minutes when Craig Davies stole in on the edge of the box and put a placed effort past David Marshall into the top corner to send the Bolton travelling support wild.
The match closed out in an undramatic fashion. Bolton truthfully could have increased their lead by a few goals, wasting a few chances in front of goal.
A spot of gallows humour injected some laughter into the Canton Stand when Ali Yassine, the stadium announcer, no doubt following instructions as per standard protocol, announced today’s attendance as being 20,219 despite it looking like there were no more than 8,000 people in the stadium at the end of the match.
Like a veterinary surgeon putting a family’s ill eighteen year old Golden Retriever to sleep after an excellent life, the referee humanely blew the final whistle about two and half minutes into the allotted three minutes of injury time signaled by the fourth official.
As the final whistle blew, a confused mesh of booing, ‘Slade Out!’ chants and traditional groans filled the Leckwith air.
Some City fans were heard to be saying ‘This is just a bad season” around January time. I’m not so sure that is going to be just a one season thing. Especially if the club continue to labour on under the charge of Russell Slade, who sadly looks well out of his depth at this level.