The end of the Jones era, the start of the Mackay era is what Cardiff fans had to get to grips with at the start of the season. Many thought Dave Jones’ time was up at Cardiff and were very interested to see who was going to be appointed as his replacement. Alan Shearer publically turned the job down, and rumours were rife that Chris Hughton and Roberto Di Matteo (at the time both out of work) were both in contention.
But along came Malky Mackay. He plied his trade at Watford with some impressive league finishes, especially with a shoestring budget. He was ready for a new challenge, a challenge with more pressure and higher targets and an expectant fan base.
With more than ten players leaving the club including big names such as Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and Chris Burke, he had the difficult task of rebuilding both the playing and non-playing staff of the club. He brought in players including Don Cowie from Watford, as well as Andrew Taylor, Aron Gunnarsson, Kenny Miller, Ben Turner, Joe Mason, Craig Conway, Filip Kiss, Rudy Gestede and fans favourite Rob Earnshaw.
Mackay instilled a hardworking and never say die philosophy into the football club and made sure every player who stepped out on the field gave nothing less than 100%.
Much different viewing in comparison to the players of the previous season, who were often lamented by the fans for not trying right up until the final whistle. This combination as well as excellent coaching methods with the involvement of up to date sports science made Cardiff more of a force than most pundits and football fans in general were thinking. A mid table finish many predicted within the Cardiff fan base, some being bold and predicting a possible playoff finish.
The league’s best midfielder Peter Whittingham, who always has speculation with a move away from the club lingering over him, was given a deeper role by Mackay and everything went through him. He was a joy to watch and when he was on song, very rarely did Cardiff lose. Many people would say that if you have lost the least games in the division (nine), you should be nearer the top. But the eighteen draws proved costly this season. The inability to turn draws into wins was an annoying obstacle on times, but the effort throughout the season by all involved should be commended. West Ham, with a wage bill more than likely to be three times the amount of Cardiff’s, proved too much in the playoffs but Cardiff will come back even stronger next season and the fans will always be there to support them home and away.
A place in the playoffs as well as very successful run to the final in the Carling Cup – taking Liverpool all the way to penalties in the final, Cardiff deserve a lot of credit.
A lack of squad depth ultimately cost the Bluebirds this season, but the players and staff had exceeded the expectations of all the Bluebirds fans with the league finish and cup final place.
Mackay has handed his retained list into the football league already and with the addition of Joe Lewis from Peterborough, this is only the start of what will be a very busy summer for Cardiff. Many more faces are expected to move to South Wales and join the likes of Cowie, Taylor, Gunnarsson, Miller, Turner and the very talented Mason to make us even stronger next season. We will be there or thereabouts next season, as we always are, whether we can make the final push time will tell, but our time is going to come very soon.
Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger
Richard tweets at @RichJBlake