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Cardiff City’s embarrassing Premier League season

Before the season started, fans were asked to vote on the colour of the shorts the team would wear.

Before the season started, fans were asked to vote on the colour of the shorts the team would wear.

There was a period in the second half of Cardiff City’s penultimate Premier League game away to Newcastle when their only chance of avoiding relegation went something like this:

– Manchester United needed to equalise at Old Trafford in their game against Sunderland.
– Sunderland needed to lose all of their remaining games
– Cardiff would need to beat Chelsea on the final day of the season by a score of 20-0. Or 21-1. Or… well, you get the picture.

It seemed fitting that after two seasons of witnessing things that you didn’t think could ever happen at a football club, that this ludicrous scenario was the only way to escape relegation. Half an hour later though, the noose had been tightened and the chair kicked away – at least, that’s if we’re going to subscribe to the absurd idea that playing outside the Premier League is equivalent to footballing death.

Manchester United never did get that equaliser, Sunderland won again a few days later to continue their ‘miracle’ escape and as for beating Chelsea at Cardiff City Stadium? After a season of off-field insanity and almost weekly morale-sapping performances on the field, even an apathetic Chelsea at half strength gave Cardiff more than they could handle.

‘Embarrassing’ is the first word that comes to mind. As Jacob Steinberg had put it in the Guardian, this was “a thoroughly avoidable relegation“. As often as David Marshall rescued points for Cardiff with wonderful saves and as laboured as the rest of the team had looked for large parts of the season, they could ultimately have survived simply by turning the embarrassing home defeats to the two teams who were promoted behind them (4-0 to Hull City and 3-0 to Crystal Palace) into wins. Seeing Hull and Palace stay up with games to spare was humiliating, given how much weaker they had been than Cardiff the year before.

On the final day in Cardiff, there was no resentment towards the players whatsoever. As Craig Bellamy and Mats Daehli were substituted, they were given standing ovations. The expectation being that neither would be seen in a Cardiff shirt again.

The seething resentment was reserved exclusively for the owner Vincent Tan. Far too late to make any real difference, Cardiff City Stadium was once again overwhelmingly blue. A plan to cause disruption by releasing a large number of blue balloons onto the pitch eventually succeeded at one point in the first half thanks to a swirling wind. It felt like an amusing, but ultimately impotent gesture.

The end of the match was quite distasteful. On the 80 minute mark, a ludicrously-large police presence was rolled out in front of the Canton Stand (and part of the Ninian Stand) with holstered batons and pepper spray clearly on display. A team of attack dogs were deployed on the pitch as soon as the final whistle blew. It was a perfect illustration of the disdain in which the fans were now held. Dissenters were to be treated like animals who needed to be restrained.

Contrast that with the first home game of the season when Manchester City were beaten. As most of the home fans in Cardiff City Stadium were doing the poznan after going 3-1 up, I had the feeling we should make the most of it in case this was as good as it got. Sadly, it was.

And in the season’s aftermath, Vincent Tan is not only publicly blaming Malky Mackay for the relegation, despite sacking him in December, but is also claiming that it was his money and not the efforts of the players and management that got them out of the Championship in the first place. Trying to tell Cardiff fans that Dave Jones was a better manager than Mackay illustrated again just how tenuous Tan’s grasp on football’s intricacies remains.

Contrast that with Leicester’s billionaire chairman┬áVichai Srivaddhanaprabha who has made it clear he doesn’t expect to be in the top five of the Premier League next season.

Interestingly (and this bit will have Cardiff fans rolling their eyes) he’s also explained why he bought the Foxes in the first place: “After spending time studying many clubs, I fell in love with Leicester. One reason was the team’s colours, which were the same as my company’s”

If only he’d looked a bit further south.


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