Many Cardiff City fans were left disappointed at not gaining automatic promotion last season, especially with the wealth of talent available at their disposal. Dave Jones trusted his own judgement by signing seven players on season-long loan deals; this was the defining season for him to try and get Cardiff over the final hurdle. The media spotlight was on Cardiff in particular due to the marquee loan capture of Welsh international Craig Bellamy. It sent out a signal of intent and gained headlines all over the world as there were many top clubs interested in acquiring his services after excellent form for Manchester City.
The end of season play-off semi-final defeat to Reading left a sour taste with many Cardiff fans calling for Jones’ head. Twelve first team players ended up leaving the club, including England one-cap wonder Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and the seven loan players – Bellamy included – re-joining their parent clubs. After much deliberation, Cardiff decided to part company with Jones after six steady seasons.
After assessing several candidates, Watford manager Malky Mackay was appointed the new manager. He signalled his intentions from his first press conference and gave positive vibes which would give Cardiff fans a lot of belief. He proved to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market with Watford by signing hungry, professional players on a shoestring budget. The budget at Cardiff was much tighter in comparison to the season before and Mackay had to assemble a brand new squad capable of competing at Championship level.
Mackay brought members of his backroom staff from Watford with him including David Kerslake and head of medicine Richard Collinge. He signed Don Cowie, one of his former players from The Hornets who is proving a huge hit with Cardiff fans due to his huge work ethic and never-say-die attitude. The signing of Kenny Miller from Bursaspor raised the profile of the club yet again and he repaid the faith by scoring the winner at Upton Park in the first game of the season. Other signings included bringing back cult hero Robert Earnshaw on a free transfer much to the delight of many Bluebirds fans. Further arrivals such as Iceland international Aron Gunarsson, Craig Conway, Andrew Taylor, Joe Mason, Slovakia under-21 captain Filip Kiss and Rudy Gestede have all played their part in a good start to the season. Ben Turner also joined from Coventry City days before the August deadline but is yet to make his debut. Despite these signings, Mackay still has the smallest squad in the league, where any injuries would leave the team threadbare and he has signalled his intentions to utilise the loan market for further reinforcements.
The first ten games of Mackay’s tenure as Cardiff boss have been positive with five wins, four draws and one defeat in all competitions so far. With his management methods now starting to get through to his squad, as well as the players starting to gel, things are looking positive at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Mackay is not afraid to change his tactics for games either, something the fans aren’t used to due to Dave Jones usually sticking to a rigid 4-4-2 formation during his time in charge. A recent 4-5-1 system deployed away at Blackpool worked very well, with Miller operating as a lone striker and even if the game finished 1-1, Cardiff amassed 26 shots on target away to a team who have just been relegated from the Premier League.
After the recent 0-0 draw with Leicester, Mackay’s squad has beem depleted by injuries to Andrew Taylor, Craig Conway, Robert Earnshaw, Mark Hudson and Rudy Gestede. With Southampton coming to town on Wednesday, Mackay has been provided with his most difficult task to date as he prepares his Cardiff squad for the home match against the current league leaders.
The big difference this campaign compared to previous seasons is the team spirit and togetherness Mackay has instilled. Every player sings from the same hymn sheet and all egos from the past few years have been abolished. Every player gives their all and runs until the final whistle has been blown, which makes us Cardiff fans proud.
Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger
Richard tweets at @RichJBlake