Filed: Friday, 16th August 2013
By: Preview Percy
Like the club's search for a new striker, our search for someone less annoying to do our match previews has proved to be somewhat frustrating. So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back, if you must, our very own Preview Percy.....
Did you miss me? Tough.
We open our season with a home match against Cardiff City. Kick off is, unusually for this fixture, at 3pm. The Met have, though, applied their usual rule for this match of making the visiting support pick up their tickets up from a shed at John O’Groats 15 minutes before kick off. Ok, for John O’Groats read South Mimms and they’ll probably allow them just enough time to get to the ground but even so it’s another restriction on travel that, were the Met to apply it to a group on the basis of their ethnicity, say, would cause uproar. Sorry Cardiff fans– not our fault. Perhaps you could claim anti Welsh discrimination against the boys in blue?
Travel? Well if you’re coming in from Central London, Jubilee line to West Ham is your best option – the District is closed between Tower Hill and West Ham. As usual.
Cardiff arrive having been promoted as Champions from the Championship, which was where we last encountered them. Since we last met them there have been a few changes thereabouts. For a start the Malaysian owners, having threatened to do so in the past, finally got around to changing the club colours from blue to red. As you’ll be aware if you’ve read any of this stuff before, we’re nothing if not traditionalists here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered and we don’t much hold with clubs changing colours on a whim. At one stage last season we were watching their home game against Forest on the box and, with Cardiff in red and Forest in blue, you can only imagine how confusing it got for those of us who are of advanced years. We nearly ran out of medication that night I can tell you.
Still at least the Malaysians brought some sort of financial stability after a period when the likes of Sam Hamman appeared to be milking the club. One is, therefore, not entirely sure how the faithful will react to the news then that Hamman is back as part of a deal that effectively wipes out a reported £24m of debt owed to a company for whom Hamman was described as “spokesman”. Hamman’s return is one of a number of changes in the boardroom and his new role is that of “Honorary President”, a title that suggests that he won’t be quite as involved in the running of the club as he perhaps would like to make out. Still it’s early days and there’s scope for lots of fun unless the owners are careful.
It’s not many clubs that can emerge unscathed from the involvement of Peter Ridsdale in its affairs. Ridsdale, who is to football clubs what necrotising fasciitis is to human flesh, famously introduced a Willy Wonka type scheme called the “Golden Ticket” – anyone buying a 2010-11 season ticket by the end of January 2010 would see all funds used for player purchases. Or not as it transpired. Ridsdale did, in fact, use most of the cash thus raised to reduce the club’s debt, leaving them just about enough to bring in one of Wonka’s Oompa Loompas on a one month loan deal. I guess after that sort of stuff going on you’d be grateful if all you have to moan about is a kit change.
The manager is ex-Hammer Malky Mackay Malky was also in charge when we last met in the Championship play-off semi finals, which were memorable for the attempted mind games he tried to pull. I suppose the “all the pressure is on them” stuff was understandable before the first leg but, it got a bit silly after we’d outplayed them for the third time that season (albeit somehow losing at home to them on the first day of the season). Claiming that we’d REALLY be feeling it. having turned them over 2-0 at their place was a bit daft and we suspect that Malky’s comments were more for their benefit than ours. His recent comments suggested that he would be using us and Southampton as role models for life in the top tier. I’d just try Southampton Malky – we don’t want to run before we can walk do we. (Though if you could leave out the Southampton diving habit until you actually play them we’d all be grateful!)
Whatever happens in the future, as the first manager to lead Cardiff into the top flight since before BBC2 was invented we suspect that Malky won’t have to buy too many pints in the pubs of Cardiff for a while.
They have had to spend some dosh in the close season – as any newly promoted side needs to do really. First to arrive was striker Andreas Cornelius who came in for a reported club record £7.5m from FC Copenhagen. The signing of a 20 year-old might be viewed as a bit of a gamble, though the Danish international did top the scoring charts in the land of bacon and Lurpak last term netting 18 times in 32 matches.
That club record didn’t last too long with Stephen Caulker coming in from Spurs for £8m to bolster the defence. Bit of an odd one that. You’d have thought that they’d have wanted to hold on to a young England international. Still I don’t suppose Cardiff are complaining.
They also had a bid of a reported £8m accepted by Blackpool for Thomas Ince. However Ince turned down the move, citing something about wanting to be certain of first team football. Or, to put it another way, if he was to sit on the bench anywhere he’d rather it be at Liverpool.
Talking of Liverpool brings us to Craig Bellamy who spent time with the scousers in between spells at much better clubs, like us. The circumstances surrounding his departure from the Boleyn were far from satisfactory, with nobody coming out of it particularly well, Man City and Spurs appear to have had an agreement that Spurs wouldn’t bid for Bellamy in return for City staying away from Defoe. That sort of arrangement is probably illegal, which, no doubt is why Spurs reneged on the deal and bid for Bellamy anyway.
Certain elements within the club (cough Duxbury) encouraged a bidding war between Spurs and City, all of which ignored one minor detail: by all accounts the player didn’t actually want to go anywhere. We were at that period when we were virtually living hand to mouth, and there was a serious point to player sales. Unpalatable as it might seem, such sales were keeping the club afloat. Whilst I can see that we didn’t want to alert the world to a possible fire sale, covering that fact up by planting fake stories in the press that the player was “on strike” and had “walked out of training” went beyond what was acceptable in my opinion.
Bellamy is, of course no angel – witness the unorthodox golf shot played during a round with John Arne Rise a while back – something that lent false credibility to tales of his unrest. However it soon became common knowledge that the player had pretty much been forced out against his will. Arguably, he’s the sort of player that we still haven’t properly replaced, the sort of nippy, skilful type that can run at people and has a neat line in finishing. A combination of a Bellamy type and Carroll in partnership would fair make the mouth water.
Another ex-Hammer in the ranks is Nicky Maynard. Maynard arrived at the Boleyn in the January 2012 transfer window. Although he signed on a two and a half year deal he lasted precisely seven months, the inference being that the management were not convinced of the player’s ability to cut it in the top flight. In truth he was a bit-part player in the promotion side as well, though he cropped up with the odd goal here and there, including the final goal in the 3-0 demolition of his current club in the playoff semi final, Since signing for the Bluebirds he’s not had the best of luck, a knee ligament injury keeping him out for most of 2012/13 so he’ll be keen to make up for lost time.
They’ve moved to strengthen the defence further by picking up Derby right-back John Brayford. Brayford has been a long-term target for Cardiff and came in for a cut-price £1.5m, with him being out of contract at the end of the coming season. They’ve also trawled the lower leagues whence Brentford ‘keeper Simon Moore arrived to add some depth to the custodian department.
More recently they have seen the arrival of Chilean midfielder the oddly-named Gary Medel. The 26 year-old has come in from Sevilla on a 4-year deal subject to work-permit. At Sevilla he managed to get himself sent off 7 times in 90 games, That works out at about once every 13 matches or so. The nickname of “pitbull” that he earned at in Spain was not entirely ironic then. If the reported fee of £11m is correct, Medlin’s arrival represents the third time in he past month or two that their transfer record has gone.
And so to us. I suppose looking at the new signings is a good place to start. Between the sticks we have picked up Adrian from Real Betis on a free. Adrian’s full name contains “San Miguel” much the same as most of us do after a night out in Majorca. The indications are that he’ll be second choice to JJ – at least to start with so look out for him in the League Cup.
In defence we welcome Razvan Rat who, let’s face it, is destined to be called “Roland” by everyone around here. Rat comes in from Shaktar Donetsk and is likely to be first choice left-back. We had our problems in that area last season, with Linda’s injury keeping him out of contention for most of the time. Joey O’Brien performed admirably in the role but we were short of cover on that flank and Rat’s arrival gives us a proper full back in the position.
We also bid welcome to Stewart Downing from our feeder club Liverpool. I have to admit this was not a signing that I found to be overly inspiring. I know Mr Allardyce has done a nice line in taking talented players who have seemingly been ruined by that two-bob outfit and restoring them to better form (see Cole J, Carroll A). However, if I’m honest I could never see what all the fuss was about even when Downing was at Boro’ and Villa. I’ll just trust the manager’s judgement on this one and hope he can bring out the best in the lad.
Not a new signing, but beginning to have much the same effect as one is Ravel Morrison who appears to have returned from Birmingham with a new sense of purpose. A shedload of goals in pre-season and, by all accounts, a complete change of attitude, bodes well for the player.
Of course the big signing this summer was that of Andy Carroll on a permanent deal. He impressed enough last season in the periods when he wasn’t actually injured and it’ll be good to see what he can do if he can keep off the treatment table. Of course, in typical style, as is traditional whenever we make summer signings at least one picks up a pre-season knock and Carroll has been a doubt for this one, with a heel injury that he picked up in the 4-2 defeat of Reading in the last game of the season in May.
Carroll’s absence in pre-season makes him doubtful for this one. Carroll apart, it’s beena frustrating summer for the club in trying to bring in another striker. Downing’s arrival also means that players will have to be moved on before anyone else can come in, thanks to the new fair play rules. At time of writing this hasn’t yet happened.
Predictions for the first game of the season are always tricky coves. Although our form in pre-season has been decent, I’m always cautious of placing too much reliance on such matters as a guide. There’s always a bit of a buzz about a newly-promoted side. However, I reckon this effect is more pronounced when that team plays its first match at home so I’m glad this one is at the Boleyn. With that in mind I am going to plump for home win. The Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for The Bewildered’s summer winnings from betting on the Bangladesh Premier Cricket League (£2.50) will be going on a 3-1 win to us.
Enjoy the game!
When Last We Met At The Boleyn – Won 3-0 (Play-off semi-final second leg May 2012).
Collison’s double in the first leg teed us up nicely for the return match. Nolan’s opener on 15 minutes effectively sealed the tie. Vaz Te’s piledriver doubled the score before the interval. A trip to Wembley was confirmed when current Cardiff striker Nicky Maynard made it 3-0 with a few minutes left
Referee: Howard Webb Matron here at the AGORHFTB was at Spurs the night that Fabrice Muamba had his heart attack and points out that, for all his erratic behaviour over the past few years, Webb did not get anywhere near the credit he deserved for his handling of that terrible situation. I’m happy to rectify that. Refereeing-wise, when we last saw him at the Boleyn he seemed to lose count of how many yellow cards make a red, with Dembele getting away with blue murder before being substituted after his 6th cautionable offence.
Danger Man: Craig Bellamy Yes he may have seen better days and yes some of his off pitch antics may have left a lot to be desired in the past but the fact remains that he is still a class act, despite his advancing years. Cardiff must be thanking their lucky stars that he wasn’t a Swansea supporter as a kid.
Daft Welsh Fact Of The Week: Ninian Park, Cardiff’s old ground, was built on an old rubbish tip. On one rather wet and muddy day during the early years a game had to be halted as an old bedstead became uncovered in one of the goalmouths. The bedstead was later signed by Spurs.
Stat man John: Northcutt's corner
Head to Head
Pld 42; West Ham Utd 19, Cardiff 14, Draws 9.
25th September 1920: Cardiff 0-0 West Ham Utd (Ninian Park, Division Two)
7th May 2012: West Ham Utd 3-0 Cardiff (Boleyn Ground, Championship Play-Off SF)
24th March 1928: Cardiff 1-5 West Ham Utd (Ninian Park, Division One)
2nd February 1966: Cardiff 1-5 West Ham Utd (Ninian Park, League Cup SF 1st Leg)
12th March 1949: Cardiff 4-0 West Ham Utd Ninian Park, Division Two)
August 1988: Cardiff 3-4 West Ham Utd (Kelly 2, Keen, Slater)
They Played For Both
Nicky Morgan; Craig Bellamy; Clive Charles; James Collins; Ian Feuer; Danny Gabbidon; Jobi McAnuff; Gary O’Neil; Keith Robson; Bill Stephens; Nicky Maynard; William Charlton.
The former Hammers who have been managers at Cardiff City are Bobby Gould, Frank O’Farrell, Jimmy Andrews and current manager Malky Mackay.
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.
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