Weekly Review 29/7/2018

Last updated : 29 July 2018 By Michael Morris

C:WindowsTempphp49F5.tmpAs the summer break starts to come to and end we get the latest weekly review from Paul Evans.

What will probably be the last of these weekly reviews this summer is dominated, as it should be at this time of year really, by the warm up matches being played by Cardiff City at senior and Under 23 levels – there have been some stories in other areas, which I’ll come to later, but it’s on field action first and foremost this week.

I say that despite acknowledging the received wisdom that pre season games count for nothing in the grand scheme of things. However, within that definition, I would still say that, especially for a team whose prospects for the new season appear to be as dependent on things like spirit, belief and camaraderie as City’s are, a run of poor results going into the competitive stuff can be a concern.

City’s senior team had begun their pre season programme by filling their boots in predictable fashions against Tavistock and Bodmin with a combined aggregate of 17-1 in their favour, but their final game in the south west saw them draw 1-1 at Plainmoor against Torquay United. The former Football League club represented a pretty significant step up in terms of ability from the the two Cornish sides, but will be competing in the Vanarama National League South (the level below what I still call the Conference) in 18/19, so there will have been a few eyebrows raised at that outcome.

When a Premier League team follows a result like that up with what was generally regarded as a deserved 2-1 defeat after scoring first at a newly promoted Championship club, then I believe that, while not exactly setting off alarm bells, there would be a desire to get back on track, so to speak, in their next game.

Last Wednesday City went to Rotherham, took the lead through Josh Murphy, but were then caught, and eventually overtaken, by the home side amid a general consensus that the result was right. Like every team we’ve played up to now, Rotherham were a week closer to the start of the “proper” stuff than us, so that needs to be factored in, but it was a second consecutive performance which would have to be rated as disappointing.

Just one last thing about Rotherham, young midfielder James Waite played for the first forty five minutes and did pretty well by all accounts. As someone who is always banging on about the lack of first team opportunities for young players at Cardiff, you’d think I’d be pleased about this news and I am to the extent that it’s better than nothing. However, Neil Warnock’s post match comments made it pretty clear that Waite’s selection was little more than an acknowledgment of his good attitude during the week in Devon/Cornwall – listening to our manager, it seemed fairly clear that Waite would be back with the Development squad for the next game and he duly was.

About ten days ago, Club director Steve Borley answered questions from members of a new(ish) Cardiff City messageboard (which is well worth a visit if you’ve not done so up to now). Thanks to Steve, and to Steve Davies who helped set the whole thing up, for this – it’s great that there is someone in  the Boardroom willing to do this.

However, for me, the one disappointing answer that Steve gave was the one concerning the club’s Academy. It’s not so much that I disagree with his views on what I see as the failure of the current system on a national level or that it has to become harder for young players to break through the higher up the pyramid we go, it was the air of inevitability about it all he conveyed with the impression given that there was nothing that can be done about it all.

For about ninety per cent of it’s existence since becoming a Football League club in 1920, Cardiff City made the second tier of the system their “natural home” with a policy of giving young, locally produced players a chance. Many of them were still teenagers when they were given their debuts, but enough of them were able to swim, as opposed to sink, to give the club a history whereby they spent far more time in the upper half of the four division system than the lower one over a period of ninety years.

During this decade however, the conveyor belt which gave local youngsters a route into the first team has virtually stopped. Has the quality of young players being produced in Cardiff and it’s surrounding areas declined in that time? Qualification for and success at Euro 2016 isn’t conclusive proof that the answer is no, but it is suggestive of it and yet you look at what has been happening at the nation’s capital city club since 2010 and you’d have to conclude that the answer was yes.

I’ll finish this semi rant by saying that a situation has been allowed to develop at Cardiff City where the divide between Academy and first team now looks to be an almost unbridgeable one. Despite talk of a new start at that level a couple of seasons back, the Development team still strikes me as a kind of waiting area where nineteen year olds with their first pro contract go to pass their time for anything up to five years before their almost inevitable release by the club. It would be so great for someone to break through to prove my assessment wrong, but, despite what Steve Borley says, there is still that progression at many other clubs – yes, the Academy system nationally can now be viewed as a failure in my opinion, but Cardiff City’s Academy is even more of a failure because it just does not do what it is supposed to and hasn’t done for years.

Anyway, sorry about that, back to the first team’s preparation for the new season! This continued at Burton yesterday and, on the face of it, that need for a performance and a result was answered with a 5-1 win against a side who were in the same division as us last season.

True, Burton were missing eight players with injury and they were worth the lead they held for much of the first half following a slightly harsh early penalty award against Joe Ralls, but City were ruthless once Junior Hoilett’s free kick was headed into his own net by home captain Jake Buxton.

Further goals followed before half time as Kenneth Zohore’s netted for the first time following his belated introduction to the Devon/Cornwall tour and Nathan Mendez-Laing scored a beauty from over twenty yards with one of those shots which start out outside the upright by some way, but curl back in to leave the best keepers helpless.

Bobby Reid capitalised on hesitancy by former City men Ben Turner and Stephen Bywater to notch a fourth after the break and the scoring was completed by sub Callum Paterson with a twenty five yarder which found the bottom corner.

Mention of Reid brings me on to a mistimed tackle on him by Buxton which sent him up into the air to land on the back of his head. It looked frightening, but, thankfully, Reid recovered and was able to carry on and get an hour’s more game time in before he became one of a raft of players to be substituted.

Lee Peltier wasn’t as lucky though after a sickening clash of heads in which no one was to blame as committed players challenged for the ball in the air. Apparently Peltier remembered nothing about the collision and so was sent to hospital for further examination – there is no news yet as to the extent of his injury, but you’d like to think that this is a case which falls into the no news is good news category.

In his post match press conference, assistant manager Kevin Blackwell brought home how serious Reid’s injury might have been when he talked about the conditions caused by the prolonged spell of hot, dry weather which has occupied so much of summer 2018. The pitches are so hard at the moment and this probably explains why one of the first things Neil Warnock has emphasised in all of his post game sessions with the media this year has been that his squad had not received any significant injuries.

Other sides have been less fortunate. Burton have cancelled their final warm up game in a few days time because of all of their injuries and City scheduled visit to Morton on Tuesday has also had to be be cancelled because the Scottish team have so many unfit players. Blackwell mentioned that a behind closed doors game at the FA’s St George’s Park complex on Friday against Ligue One side Amiens (I think that’s who we’re playing anyway – it’s hard to be certain without having what he said confirmed in print) had been arranged as a replacement for the Morton game.

The reason Kevin Blackwell was answering the questions yesterday was that Neil Warnock had left the game early to catch a plane which was taking him  to see a transfer target. I should say here, that I’m not going to waste much time on the Marko Grujic situation this week – suffice it to say that it’s still ongoing and I’m now trusting that the reason City are  pursuing this deal is that they have assurances that once a hold up regarding a new contract for the player between Liverpool and his agent has been sorted out, Grujic will sign for us for the season.

All of the signs were that we were only looking for a new midfielder (Grujic) and a striker, both on loan, but, after the Rotherham game our manager stated that he had a back up for Grujic who he wouldn’t mind signing even if we do finally get the Serbian. So. it seems we are after three players now and my feeling is that it is this mystery second midfielder who Mr Warnock was going to see yesterday – I also got the impression that the trip was for a meeting with the player, rather than to watch him play,

The aforementioned James Waite was in the starting line up yesterday for what was a very strong Development team which took on Hereford United at Edgar Street. The home side have done superbly since starting from scratch a few years ago after the old Hereford club was wound up and will be competing in the Vanarama League North in the new season.

Hereford competed well in the first half and could have been ahead at the break, but had their work cut out in the second period as a City team including Lee Camp, Cameron Coxe, Matt Connolly, Stuart O’Keefe, Anthony Pilkington, Lee Tomlin, Omar Bogle and Kadeem Harris began to get on top – Bogle, Pilkington and sub Rhys Healey all scoring to secure a 3-0 win.

With Premier League managers having to name twenty five man first team squads just before their first competitive match (home grown youngsters can also be included), you have to think that not many of those I listed in the last paragraph will make it into the twenty five at Cardiff – in fact, it might be right to say that all of them are available for at least a loan move, but, as yet, I think I’m right in saying that not one City player has gone out on loan. Now would seem to be an appropriate time therefore to mention that goalkeeper Ben Wilson, who was released by the club at the end of last season signed for Bradford this week.

Before leaving the Development team, I should mention a couple of players who came here as trialists, but may well have signed contracts of some sort with the club for the coming season. Brayden Shaw was not involved yesterday it seems, but he featured extensively in the south west last week and was referred to by name rather than by the much used “a Trialist” designation by the club website, while Jacob (Jake) Evans, who played a number of games at Development team level last season, played the second half at Hereford.

Finally, although I suspected the plans for a new training complex for the club had been shelved, they are still ongoing and, in fact, took a significant step forward on Friday – I’ve questioned whether such a step was necessary, but, having seen that line about fifteen pitches, I can appreciate more why the club feel that they need a step up from what they have at the current Vale complex.