Vital Cardiff City reviews the season on a player by player basis. Today it’s the turn of midfielder Stephen McPhail
Steve McPhail is a difficult player to assess. What is obvious however is that he is integral to the team and Dave Jones has chosen to build a team around him and his style of play. McPhail is creative and can pass brilliantly at times although he can often become lost in games and bypassed too easily. At the start of the season, we lacked a killer instinct up-front and failed to put away chances, that was worrying. What followed was more worrying as the chances dried up and McPhail was unable to control games or open up defences.
A great deal of McPhail`s weaknesses only show when the team is low in confidence and playing poorly as a whole – again emphasising his importance to the team. With good running up-front and defenders overlapping – McPhail can excel in the added space and cause real problems to teams. When we play statically and opposing teams close us down, McPhail reverts to a timid role, passing backwards and sideways or hitting hopeful high balls forward.
A major criticism of his game has been a lack of goals, he was defended for creating many of Chopra`s goals but without a proven goalscorer this year the midfield had to chip in. To everyone`s surprise, McPhail did too! After amassing the total of zero goals last year, the delight was obvious when he threw himself to bundle home a Hasselbaink cross against Scunthorpe United. Anyone who thought the floodgates would now open was wrong (and quite frankly deluded!), we had to wait 5 months for another but when it came it was exquisite! A cross from the left was headed down to himself before a hooked volley flew in off the underside of the bar from 20 yards. A month later, even better, a screaming rising shot from well outside the area hit the net to bring the season`s tally up to 3. Not great – but a certain improvement!
As usual there were good points and bad points for McPhail. For me, his place in the team is still far too secure and we do have other players to use when dips in form occur. As a team we had a decent season, and McPhail`s performances mirror our own. He led the team efficiently in Purse’s absence and returned to the Republic of Ireland squad.
Season rating: 6