Apologies for starting these weekly reviews later than normal this year, but, although I will address the subject to some degree later, transfer rumours (which have been the main element in these reviews in the past) have been so plentiful and, in my view, fanciful, so far this time around that I decided not to bother with them yet and, instead, concentrated more on reflecting further on our promotion.
It is that promotion I suppose that we have to “blame” for the plethora of stories we’ve seen linking us to anyone and everyone who has kicked a football at some time in their life over the past three weeks. We aren’t yet Premier League when it comes to websites still running on 17/18 placings, but when it comes to transfer gossip we are and that means that people who’d barely given us a minute’s thought during the four seasons since we left it are now giving us the benefit of their opinions on who we should sell, release or buy.
So, I decided to wait until there was something concrete to write about when it comes to Cardiff City this close season and on Friday we got it with the announcement of some at least of our pre season fixtures.
The build up for the new season will start in the same manner as it did last year then with a game at Taff’s Well, followed by a week in Devon and Cornwall. Hardly typical Premier League then, but, with the Taff’s Well match being played a week earlier than in 2017 and our competitive games starting a week later, there’ll probably be time to take in a few matches in the Far East or the USA as well.
If I had to guess, I’d say that further trips to the likes of Shrewsbury and Plymouth would be more likely under this manager, but I seem to remember him saying something about us wanting to play some foreign opposition in our pre season games and, although it’s not mentioned in the piece from the club website I linked to, it has been reported that there will be a home match against Spanish opposition somewhere along the line.
Will we be getting the chance to maintain our 100% winning record at home against Real Madrid as Gareth Bale plays only his second game against Cardiff in the city of his birth (quick quiz question, when was his first?) then? Almost certainly not and, anyway, if you go by his post match comments after he become one of the leading figures in the Champions League Final last night, there has to be a good chance that Bale will be playing his football elsewhere come August.
There are some City fans who think that we may see Gareth Bale returning to play for us some time in his career. I would suggest that, after his exploits last night, that day is still some way off yet. When and if he does arrive, is there really any chance that Ryan Shawcross will be one of his team mates? I hope not, because it seems to me that it would be one of those transfers which just wouldn’t work out for reasons other than how good or bad a player Shawcross is.
Bale, who had been looking more like his old self in recent weeks as he mounted a late bid to claim a place in the Real starting line up against Liverpool, came across as not being happy at all by his place on the bench despite having just scored what I think is the best goal I’ve seen in a major Final. Pele against Sweden in 1958, Villa against Man City in 1981, Van Basten against Russia in 1988, Zidane against Leverkusen in 2002 are four I can think of off the top of my head as contenders for that honour, but Bale’s incredible overhead kick beat them all in my book.
By adding a second to seal his team’s, deserved, 3-1 win, Bale, arguably, did enough to have a Final named after him in the manner of Stanley Matthews following that FA Cup Final from sixty five years ago, but, sadly, he has a rival for that “honour”, because as with Arsenal’s Welsh keeper Dan Lewis, when we won the FA Cup more than ninety years ago, I can’t help thinking that his wonder goal was scored against a goalkeeper whose career will be forever defined by what happened to him in a major Cup Final.
Jimmy Scoular, infamously, was true to his word when he said Bob Wilson would never play for City again after the keeper’s last minute blunder had led to us losing in the 1968 European Cup Winner’s Cup Semi Final against Hamburg. The truth of the matter though was that we would never have got so far in the competition if it were not for Wilson’s heroics in earlier games – will Jurgen Klopp do the same with Loris Karius after his two howlers last night?
In my opinion, the Liverpool manager would have far more right to do it than ours did half a century ago – I daresay that 2018 will become the Bale Final to Real fans, but for Liverpool supporters, it will always be the Karius Final.
A couple of hours before Bale brought the house down, Fulham had clinched the third promotion place from the Championship with a hard earned 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Play Off Final at Wembley, thereby prompting stories about how two of the three teams to come up will breath some much needed life into the Premier League next season with their pleasing way of playing the game – all very nice of them, but a little unfair on Wolves I’d say.
Although I’ve read City fans saying that they wanted Villa to win, because it would increase our chances of staying up, I’m pleased to see justice being done – Fulham were the side who came closer to getting automatic promotion than any of the others involved in the Play Offs did and, anyway, despite us being most people’s tips to finish bottom of the league again, I’m fairly confident we can survive with the right type of summer recruitment.
I’ll finish with some words on that subject. First, I’ve heard from a few people that another season in the Championship will lead to some serious cost cutting at Villa Park because of the threat of FFP sanctions. Therefore, a few of their higher earners and bigger names may have to leave over the next few months – I’m not saying that we’ll be in there leading any chase for Jack Grealish, but maybe the speculation linking us with Sam Johnstone and Robert Snodgrass (especially when you consider that the former could well be available on a free with his Manchester United contract expiring this summer and the latter looks likely to drop further down the pecking order at West Ham following their announcement that new manager Manuel Pellegrini will have a bigger transfer war chest than any previous boss of that club) could possibly be correct?
One other name I’d like to mention is Ryan Shawcross. Now, I believe that he is one of a few players destined to leave Stoke after their relegation and the Premier League, rather than a move abroad, would seem to be the destination for a player like him. However, with his previous as the man who broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg and someone who turned down advances from Wales (he was qualified for us as well as England) early in his career, I can’t help thinking that we would be landing ourselves in another Tony Warner situation.
Warner was never accepted by many City fans after his signing in 2004 because of his actions in a notorious City v Millwall match at Ninian Park on the opening day of the 1999/2000 season – the keeper, then a Millwall player, tossed a plastic drinks bottle into the crowd and was subsequently charged with assault.
Although Warner was later cleared of any wrongdoing, this did not stop him receiving abuse from sections of the home crowd in pre season matches shortly after he had been signed by Lennie Lawrence. Whether Mr Lawrence would have signed Warner if he’d known about what had happened before with him, I don’t know, but the keeper was never really made to feel at home at Ninian Park and spent a large portion of his time with us out on loan with Fulham – I’m not a great fan of Ryan Shawcross the player, but that is not the main reason why I hope there is no truth to the speculation linking him with a move here.