Weekly review 7/6/24

Last updated : 09 June 2024 By Paul Evans

Just as they did last year, Cardiff City waited (or, maybe, were forced to wait might be more appropriate this time around) until the first week in June , that’s a month since they last played, to confirm who their manager would be for the season which will be starting in two months time.


There were times when I was pretty sure that Erol Bulut would not stay at Cardiff beyond the one season, but, recently, it seemed pretty clear that City wanted him here for 24/25 and it became a case of the longer it was taking to get an announcement, the more likely it became that Bulut was staying – if he was going to leave, surely an announcement would have come within days of our league season ending?

A resolution where both sides can say they got the outcome they wanted can also enable the line to be spun that the plans for the upcoming season were continuing as normal (i.e. when we do have a contracted manager working through most of May with a definite plan as to what the future holds). Of course, it might well be that this has been happening, but nothing will ever convince me that having. your early bird season ticket sales taking place during a period of inertia (it seemed like that from the outside at least) is a good look designed to fire up supporters who have barely seen anything resembling winning and enjoyable football from their team since 2020.

There I go again moaning about the fare served up by Cardiff City in recent seasons! Based on what much I read and hear about on social media says, someone like me, who would have been quite happy to see Erol Bulut leave, are in a small minority. Indeed, from much of what I see on platforms like Twitter (I’ll always call it that!), there are great celebrations that Bulut has signed a two year contract extension. Let’s not forget either that even when we were being trounced 5-2 by a Rotherham side that finished up with just five wins all season, the choruses of “Erol Bulut, we want you so stay” could be heard from our travelling support.

Bulut has also had a local mainstream media that was firmly behind him – I think he has been very good at handling the press in the past year or so. These are a group of almost entirely men who had got used to having to deal with the ultra prickly Steve Morison in the recent past, so they must be grateful now to be dealing with someone who comes over as friendly and good humoured in his dealings with them and I believe this has been reflected in the gentle ride Bulut’s been given by the men of the press (and local TV and radio) over the last twelve months.

There really have been very few dissenting voices among media folk when it comes to, first, whether our manager should have been given a new contract, and, second, the view that Bulut staying is a good thing – I remain firmly in the it ain’t necessarily so camp though.

While I accept that, perhaps, there may not be too many who agree that Bulut should have been let go, it is very noticeable how many supportive opinions on the man are prefaced by an acceptance that the style of football was, to use the word I see so often, “turgid”, and an opinion that there has to be a more expansive approach next season.

So, I’m not sure the many declarations of support for Bulut are quite as wholehearted as the person responsible for them makes them sound.

For my own part, I’m going to try and approach our 24/25 season with an open mind, fully prepared to give Erol Bulut credit when it’s due (I would argue that I did that much of the time last season mind). Although I suspect that it won’t take much at all to make me slip into a critical mode again, I’m going to try to write, as far as I can, as if last season hadn’t happened when it comes to our manager.

I’ve mentioned before that Erol Bulut had indicated that he wants additions to the coaching and analytical/recruitment side of things and there have been reports that James Rowberry, who was a very highly regarded coach at City between 2013 and 2021 when he left to become manager of Newport County, has been in talks with the club regarding a return to coaching duties.

Rowberry did a reasonable job at Newport in his first season with them after taking over from Michael Flynn and they finished the 21/22 campaign in eleventh place, but when 22/23 started poorly, he was sacked after thirteen matches with County in eighteenth position.

Rowberry had won twenty one and lost twenty two of the fifty two league games he took charge of in what was just under a year at Newport – that’s not a bad record and it seems his spell in management did him no great reputational damage.

Indeed, Rowberry’s return to Cardiff City is not thought to be an inevitability as he currently is working for the Welsh FA and, reportedly, talks between the three parties are ongoing to see if someone who I’d say would be a very good addition to our coaching ranks, will end up back at Cardiff.

With the managerial uncertainty over, it should mean that I will have more chances to indulge in my favourite part of these weekly off season reviews – speculating about new signings!

There seems to be general agreement that we need at least one new striker for the upcoming season (I can only think of one or two summers in the last decade when this wasn’t being said mind!) and it shouldn’t be surprising that the first player I’m going to mention this time around is a forward.

Following Ike Ugbo’s loan spell with us last season, there’s now another Canadian international striker being linked to us in twenty four year old Theo Bair who is six foot three and was born in Ottawa. Bair started off with Vancouver Whitecaps and was loaned out to Norwegian team Ham Kam, he then signed for St Johnstone and when his contract with them was cancelled last summer, he joined Motherwell on a two year deal.

The glass half empty version of Bair’s career is to say that until last season, he had not pulled up any trees during his career – he scored just eight times in eighty eight league appearances for his first three clubs. Therefore, Bair has had just the one big season so far, but the glass half full crowd will say that fifteen goals in twenty eight Motherwell appearances sounds like someone who could perhaps become a regular scorer in the second tier.

As is nearly always the case with a forward we are linked with, there is a video doing the rounds designed to show them in the best possible light – with allowance for the usual line that anyone can look good in one of these videos, Bair’s for the season just ended, has him showing the expected ability in the air for someone of his size, decent speed and good feet.

There’s still football being played – with the Euro’s almost upon us, there are a host of international friendlies being played and last night Wales travelled to the stadium in Portugal where City beat Celtic in 2008 to win the Algarve Cup to face a Gibraltar team they’d beaten 4-0 in Wrexham back in November.

Up to yesterday, the disappointment of that penalty shoot out loss to Poland which cost us a place in Germany in the tournament which starts in a week or so’s time had not really hit home. However, watching Wales struggling to a 0-0 draw against a team that had lost its thirteren previous matches and was ranked 203 in the world in a game that seemed a pointless exercise really brought home that, having almost become used to having us in the finals of these events, watching Euro 2024 will be like every major tournament since I was two had been before 2016.

Understandably, only drawing against international whipping boys is being called a national embarrassment and a contender for Welsh football’s worst ever result, but, while I can understand the frustration because i feel it myself, I think just seeing it in terms of Robert Page’s worthiness or otherwise as Welsh manager is a mistake.

In that game back in November, Page picked a team that more than justified the description experimental and they won at a canter in front of an enthusiastic crowd – there was also the carrot of a possible place in the squad for the Play Offs in March for the youngsters selected that night.

This time around, it was a nothing game at the end of a long season with what looked like a decent sized Welsh support occupying a small portion of the big stadium – from what I could see or hear, there were very few, if any, Gibraltar fans present.

The side Page picked might not quite have been a third team, but it wasn’t fair off one. Wes Burns was in from the start, as was experienced keeper Adam Davies who I believe has just been released by Sheffield United, Josh Sheehan of Bolton was captain and Swansea’s Ben Cabango was one of the centre backs.

The next most experienced player was probably City’s Rubin Colwill who was making his first appearance for the senior team since his sabbatical with the under 21s. In the event, Colwill did his full international prospects no favours with a four out of ten type showing which saw him substituted after about an hour. However, in truth, that four out of ten rating could have been applied to most of Colwill’s team mates because I didn’t see anyone in the starting line up who put down a marker to Page saying pick me for your strongest side.

The introduction of senior team regulars Kieffer Moore, Brennan Johnson and Dan James for the last quarter of the match made a difference to the extent that Wales looked slightly more dangerous in the closing stages, but that probably had a bit to do with Gibraltar tiring and dropping ever deeper as they sought to cling on to what was their best result in almost two years.

You put the selected team up against a limited, but tactically disciplined, and hard working side that played with two banks of five throughout in a game that means nothing with little in the way of atmosphere and is it really that much of a surprise if it ends in a very boring 0-0? Wales are not good enough to field such under strength sides and expect to win against weak opposition as a matter of course and the truth is that for all that they had seventy eight per cent possession, Wales did very little with it, as a total of just four on target goal attempts, none of which overly troubled the Gibraltar goalkeeper, suggests.

Although it was understandable to a degree, it was also a bit depressing to hear Robert Page talking about players not doing enough out of possession – while there was often a lack of movement to make life easier for the man in possession, the Welsh players should have been able to have been a lot better on the ball than they were.

At the final whistle, there was a noise that I’ve not heard in ages at international matches – boos for the Welsh team. However, although this result puts Page under more pressure, I’d still be looking at one point out of six against Armenia as more of a reason to sack the manager/coach than a 0-0 with a far below full strength side against Gibraltar played in the circumstances yesterday’s match was.

If Page blundered, I’d argue it was in agreeing to this fixture, and the one against Slovakia in a few days time – I can remember Chris Coleman would sometimes organise a training camp rather than play friendly matches at the end of a season and this strikes me as an occasion when we should have done the same thing.