After an up-and-down season, Cardiff City finished comforably mid-table. A scintillating start was followed by a dismal end and the same players looked half as effective as previously.
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10 – STEPHEN McPHAIL
The talented playmaker arrived on a free transfer from Barnsley with a good reputation and pedigree. He started the season in central midfield and was immediately at the heart of the fast tempo, passing game favoured by Cardiff and which gave them the breathtaking start. McPhail controlled midfield and showed genuine quality and vision in his game, he pulled strings rather than finding the killer pass but drew plaudits from Chopra as they forged a good understanding.
McPhail was given excellent protection and license to probe by midfield partner Riccy Scimeca, however, McPhail never became an attacking midfielder and was reluctant to run with the ball or shoot. The Irish midfielder was taking attacking free kicks for the side but was relieved of this duty after persistently chipping the ball gently towards goal – a complaint mirrored in his shooting from open play. Several excellent opportunities presented themselves but McPhail looked short of confidence and lacked any clinical edge. He was dismissed twice despite not committing himself to too many midfield scraps, although one was rescinded on appeal.
As the season progressed, and teams learnt not to under-estimate the Bluebirds, McPhail was hurried and lost effectiveness. His passing game suffered as he was closed down, and he seemed unable to adapt his game. Towards the end of the season, McPhail was a shadow of his former self and became very negative. Passes went misplaced and mostly sideways or backwards while he never looked likely to break his scoring duck. In a disappointing end to the season, he was eclipsed in midfield by Joe Ledley and was put to shame by the youngsters energy and drive while McPhail looked unlikely to spark any meaningful attacks.
A difficult first season for McPhail and he needs to re-prove himself to the fans. It is obvious that McPhail has talent and quality with some magical passing skills. He must contribute more to the team and continue his natural game even when things are not going right. He has Dave Jones` backing but will need to work harder to maintain a starting berth next season.
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