Cardiff City have flirted with the play-offs each of the past few seasons and whilst we have stabilised and become a potent force in the division we have continued to sell players and began to stagnate. Many blame the manager for our lack of progress (in terms of league position) and it must be said we never have a plan B and lack consistency over a season.
Every year we have one or two long unbeaten runs where we outplay our opponents and rack up the points. Unfortunately we are also sure to endure one or several poor runs, where we look lacklustre, fail to create chances and slide down the table. This happens every year.
In the past we have had a threadbare squad, who remembers the likes of Ndumbu-Nsungu, Luigi Glombard, Malvin Kamara, Jason Byrne etc. None of these players, who all were regular substitutes in their time, would get near the first team squad this year. The likes of Capaldi, Scimeca and Darren Purse rarely made the bench last season and that shows the increase in quality and depth in our squad. I concede that in past seasons, Dave Jones had few options to shake up his squad. If McPhail, Parry or Thompson was playing poorly – we had few options and were forced to continue selecting these players low on confidence.
However, that was not the case last season and yet Dave Jones remains a consistent manager, unwilling to chop and change and always preferring to give his preferred XI the chance to re-find their form by playing through bad patches. Virtually every player went through a bad patch last season (though I can`t remember McNaughton having a bad game) but retained their place in the team. Roger Johnson post hospital, hobbling Michael Chopra, static Paul Parry and absent Peter Whittingham should not have been in the side – but were.
This has inevitably led to Jones being accused of having ‘favourites` and being too loyal to under-performing stars. This too is the reason that Ross McCormack so assiduously desires a move away from Cardiff City – he fears that he will start behind Chopra, and remain there for weeks/months on end before getting a chance, but by then Chops is likely to be scoring again. Add to that McCormack is likely to be playing on the left at times, his claims for a starting position up-front diminish further still. Ironically, on the rare occasions Jones does instigate a starting XI overhaul – we do improve quickly. Darren Purse and Stephen McPhail are good examples of this, both were un-ceremoniously axed and found it extremely difficult to get back in.
Unfortunately, this division is unyielding and unforgiving. A team can survive with one under-performing player on the pitch – any more than that and you`re staring at a likely defeat. You cannot afford to get behind, and lose ground in a hugely competitive division – any play-off aspirations can be seriously dented within the space of a month. For this reason, you cannot afford to allow players like Whitts or Parry to play themselves into form. Chris Burke should have had more game-time, Capaldi should have replaced a clearly tiring Kennedy, the McPhail/Rae partnership should have been axed earlier.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, it doesn`t get us anywhere in terms of last season`s disappointment but sure as hell can improve our performances and fortunes for the coming campaign. We simply must start learning from these mistakes and base a team around current form/quality and not history or loyalty. Players can be blamed for poor form, lack of commitment etc but only one man put them on the pitch, and he can keep them off it too. We have run out of excuses, the time is now for Cardiff City.
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