Filed: Saturday, 3rd March 2012
By: Preview Percy
After he managed to upset all 350,000 inhabitants of a certain London borough last week we weren't totally sure about letting Preview Percy loose on a whole country. However, since we couldn't find anyone as cheap at short notice to do a Cardiff preview we thought "what the hell, it's only Wales". John Northcutt restores some much-needed sanity with his stat round-up...
Next we go all international as we cross the frontier to Wales where Cardiff City will be our hosts for Sunday’s 12.45pm kick off in a match that nobody is referring to as "The Gavin & Stacey Derby".
If you think such early kick-offs are a pain in the proverbial when we’re at home, just wait until you look at the fun and games required to be at the ground in time for this one. Firstly, train travel. You’ll require an early start to get to Paddington in time for the 07.57 which is the first train of the morning to Cardiff. The usual journey time for the trip by train is a tad over two hours. However, on Sundays they close the Severn Tunnel, presumably in an attempt to stem the constant cross-border flow of human traffic heading west to east.
The diversionary route goes via Gloucester and, as if the added mileage weren’t enough, the train stops at places so obscure that even the people that live there are barely aware of their existence. 'Kemble', anyone? No, Me neither. This means that the 7.57 will arrive in Cardiff at 11.06. Which, even allowing for the annoyance of being diverted via Chigley, ought to be enough time for a pint or two. Er, no, the authorities have other plans for you.
You see back in August, on the opening day of the season Cardiff’s supporters were made by the authorities to go on some sort of magical mystery tour culminating in a trip to South Mimms service area on the M25 in order to pick up their match tickets for the fixture at the Boleyn. The local Heddlau have decided, in their infinite wisdom (irony fully intended) that we should be treated in identical fashion. We will therefore be required to meet up with representatives from the local constabulary at Cardiff West service area at Junction 33 of the M4.
Tickets will be distributed between 11-11.30 so, if you’re arriving by train on the 11.06 arrival, you’ll be pushing it to get to the “RV point” (as the ticket vouchers call it) by the cut off point of 11.30, bearing in mind that that the service area is about 5 miles from the city centre. When you get there, distributing 1800 or so tickets in 30 minutes means that they will have to knock them out at a rate of one ticket a second, which is some going. If you’re driving, there will be the added expense of the £6 toll payable to enter a pretend country that you could probably buy on EBay for £4.50. All in all one could be forgiven for getting the impression that the authorities would rather we didn’t go at all.
Our opponents are currently in sixth place as I write this, though there may be changes by full time on Saturday night as other fixtures are completed. They are currently in the final play off place on goal difference over Brighton and Boro', both of whom also have 53 points. That’s 8 points behind us at present. Their current form is best described as 'variable'. Their last six in the league have seen them win two (3-2 at home to Pompey and 3-1 at home to Peterborough) drawn one (1-1 at the Tom Daley Diving Academy or “Southampton” as they are known) and lost three (3-1 at home to Blackpool, 2-1 away at Leicester and 3-0 away at Ipswich).
Some of the blame for this form (or lack of it) has been placed by those who like to place blame for such things on the fact that their minds may have been otherwise occupied on the then forthcoming trip to Wembley for the League Cup final. It’s an interesting theory and, certainly, their only win since beating Palace in the semi final was the home victory over Posh. However it should be noted that the six matches immediately prior to the last six weren’t exactly postcard to the folks territory either, with two each of wins, losses and draws.
It remains to be seen how much of a hangover their Wembley exertions will have left them with. It was certainly a spirited performance against a Liverpool team who got more than their fair share of the rub of the green over the course of the afternoon, though the Bluebirds will have cause to rue late chances of their own. If they have – even unconsciously – had that cup mentality it may be difficult to change that mindset now that league points are the priority. Though of course that may all be amateur psychology twaddle and I may be talking out of my backside (or “doing a Dalglish” as it is generally known”.
Goalkeeper Tom Heaton was nearly the hero in what, in all honesty, must go down as one of the worst penalty shoot-outs of modern times. His save from the obnoxious Steven Gerrard was one of the high points of the day and the look on the midfielder’s face was even more sour-faced and miserable than usual as he trudged away in search of a pick-me-up. Heaton has been the usual first choice in goal for the League Cup side, though David Marshall has normally got the nod in the league. Elliot Parish has also been on the bench for the league side in recent weeks, with Heaton having suffered from an ankle injury that threatened his participation in the final.
It was, of course, another member of the Gerrard clan that effectively decided the destination of the League Cup. Cousin Anthony’s spot-kick miss was the last nail in the Cardiff Cup coffin, though he will have at least have the consolation that nobody from the rest of the family will be coming around to inflict 'self defence' (as a beating from the Gerrard clan is legally known) on him.
Cardiff’s current owners have brought much-needed stability to the club. Admittedly this was not a hard thing to do in the light of Peter Ridsdale’s previous involvement, after which a drunken week wearing roller skates on an Italian cruise liner would seem quite stable. However, it’s clear that the Malaysian interests now at the helm were willing to back manager (and ex-Hammer) Malky McKay in the recent transfer window. Bids were apparently made for Blackpool’s Matt Phillips, Brighton’s Craig Noone and Watford’s Martin Sordell. Blackpool rebuffed the Bluebirds’ bid for Phillips on the grounds that Cardiff wasn’t a big enough club to sell to. Brighton rebuffed the Noone bid on the grounds that they just didn’t want to sell, whilst Sordell ended up going to Bolton.
In the end the only window arrival was Kadeem Harris who came in from Wycombe Wanderers in return for either £150,000 or £300,000, depending on which version of the so-called “undisclosed” fee you believe. The 18 year-old (real surname Mathurin-Harris double-barrel fans) is presumably being looked at as a future prospect, though MacKay is not averse to giving youth a run out as evidenced by the progress made by young striker Joe Mason, who netted their first at Wembley the other day.
There’s a bit of quality in the midfield in the form of Peter Whittingham who, in my opinion, is one of the classier acts in this division. Joint top scorer with 10 goals, he has a way with a dead ball and has a decent pass on him as well. One that we will need to keep an eye on.
The other top scorer is Kenny Miller, whose late miss on Sunday is one that every Cardiff supporter will be mentally replaying until their dying days. Miller also missed one of the penalties in the shoot-out and, though he did have good news in the form of his international call-up, that had to be tempered (in classic 'good news/bad news' style) by the realisation that he is still Scottish. Still, it could be worse. Had he not left Ibrox for Turkey a while back he could now be on a Glasgow street corner selling the Big Issue, as I believe the Rangers match day programme is now called.
Admirably, McKay merely requested that those players called up for international duty were spared overwork from International managers this week, as opposed to inventing fictitious injuries and withdrawing his players in the style favoured by Man Utd, Liverpool and the like over the years. In the case of Miller, it was a call that was heeded by Sweaty boss Craig Levine, who gave Miller a wee bit over 15 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Slovenia.
And so to us. On his own admission, Mr Allardyce made something of a selection error in sticking with the Blackpool side against Palace last weekend. This error was twofold really. Firstly there was the fatigue factor – three hours or so of ten-man football was bound to take its toll eventually and so it proved. Secondly the selection of Maynard as the sole striker didn’t really work for me.
Up at Blackpool the home side’s somewhat cavalier attitude to defence allowed Faubert & Vaz Te to continually bomb forward to make up the 'three' that the management insists our 4-5-1 actually is. It worked because Maynard almost always had support and someone close by to whom the ball could be laid off. However Palace’s game plan meant that the idea of those two pushing forward was stifled, leaving Maynard isolated. It was noticeable that when we had two up front in the second half (Cole/Maynard and later Cole/Baldock) things improved to the extent that we were by far and away the more likely winners in the second half.
This being an away match against one of the better sides in the division I’d expect the solo striker system to be employed once more. If that’s the case Cole ought to get the nod if fit. I still maintain that it’s not the best use of Cole to employ him in this manner. However, his form in the role has improved enough in recent weeks to suggest that if we really have to play with just the one up front then he ought to be that one - he’s certainly a better option for the job than Maynard.
Injury news is that Carew is still struggling with some unspecified knock, though quite how far up the pecking order he would have been anyway is a question to which I reckon he doesn’t want to know the answer. Demel? The usual. Winston Reid is another worry having bashed his bonce during New Zealand’s midweek match against Jamaica. Rob Green had a night off and was therefore safe from the injury blitz that took place at Wembley the other night. Otherwise, those members of the squad not involved on international duty went off to get a spot of sunshine in Dubai, a venue considered ideal for preparation for a trip to Wales, presumably on the grounds that it’s abroad and broke.
Prediction? Well I usually weigh up the pluses and negatives for each side and base my guess, er, I mean highly scientific consideration of the prognosis, on that. However, each positive angle for either side could also be looked at negatively. For example, the fact that they lost the League Cup final could either be viewed as a negative point (damaged morale, extra-time induced fatigue etc) or as a positive (minds now focussed on promotion –or “able to concentrate on the league” as it used to be called). I’m therefore tempted to put absolutely no money whatsoever on a 2-2 draw which is a result that will do nobody much good unless you are one of those who still sends money off to Littlewoods every week.
Enjoy the game!
When Last We Met: Lost 0-1.
Referee: Chris Foy. When he incurred the wrath of the Spurs support earlier this season loads of them decided to bombard him with 'Tweets' on his Twitter account. Of course the collective vacuum between the ears that seems to be a prerequisite to be a Spurs supporter meant that it was poor old Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy who got it in the neck from the hard of thinking rather than the referee. Hilariously, they carried on with the abuse long after anyone with half a brain cell might have realised the error. Foy has his unreliable moments and, if he displays too many of these, I shall be straight on to twitter to complain to Victoria Pendleton who, whilst not having nearly as many medals as Sir Chris Hoy, is at least a lot more pleasing to the eye.
Danger Man: Peter Whittingham – arguably one of the best midfielders in the division. It might be interesting to see where he is this time next season should there be no promotion for Cardiff.
Daft fact of the week: Despite the claims by its inhabitants to the contrary Wales is NOT a proper country (look, really, it isn’t – come back and debate the point when you have a Queen at the top rather than a mere Prince who, in any case, is more interested in Cornwall).
Wales does, however, have its own language. This was invented in the 13th century by sheep farmer Owen The Snotty, who, suffering from a near permanent cold caused by the perpetually lousy weather that exists west of Offa’s Dyke, successfully passed off the sound of a sneeze whilst simultaneously clearing his throat as a word meaning “Overjoyed” in a game of Scrabble.
His opponent and wife, Gwyneth The Slightly Suspicious, went along with the charade once she realised that a) her husband’s sneeze had knocked all the tiles with the vowels on them down the back of the sofa; b) replacement tiles might be difficult to come by what with the game still being seven centuries away from being invented; and c) the perpetually lousy weather that exists west of Offa’s Dyke meant it highly unlikely that the word 'overjoyed' would otherwise evolve naturally in that part of the world.
Stat Man John: Northcutt's Corner
Pld 48; West Ham Utd 24, Cardiff 9, Draws 15.
25th September 1920: Cardiff 0-0 West Ham Utd (Ninian Park, Division Two)
Last Five Meetings
7th August 2011: 0-1 (Boleyn Ground, Championship)
6th February 2005: 1-0 (Boleyn Ground, Championship)
2nd November 2004: 1-4 (Ninian Park, Championship)
28th February 2004: 1-0 (Boleyn Ground, Football League Division One)
25th October 2003: 0-0 (Ninian Park, Football League Division One)
Just the one: 17th August 1988. We won 4-3 (a) with goals from Kelly (2), Slater and Keen.
They Played For Both
Clive Charles; Craig Bellamy; James Collins; John Burton; William Charlton; Ian Feuer; Danny Gabbidon; Jobi McAnuff; Keith Robson; Bill Stephens.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
10:00PM 3rd Mar 2012
''Your knowledge of history is truly lamentable, Wales was ruled by princes long before your German ancestors had even set foot on these islands. Celts are the true British, you lot are just a bunch of illegal immigrants...''
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