Cardiff City : A Look At The Premiership’s Newest Club
Bookmakers have already placed newly promoted Cardiff City as favourites to go down next season. But can they follow in the footsteps of fellow Welsh team Sweansea City and not only survive in the Premier League, but thrive?
The English Premier League next season will have two Welsh teams for the first time in its history – or, as the running joke goes – three if you include Tottenham, whose dependence on Gareth Bale qualifies them as an essentially Welsh team.
The achievements of Cardiff City in securing automatic promotion to the Premier League four weeks before the end of the season is nothing to be sniffed at, with their two veteran strikers Craig Bellamy and Heidar Helguson providing the lethal ammunition in what has been a surprisingly easy campaign for the Bluebirds (who now, ironically, play in red), despite the claims by many pundits that the standard of the Championship this season has been somewhat below-par.
Cardiff City were famously taken over by new Malaysian owners, Vincent Tan and Chan Tien Ghee, in 2012, who, seeking to obtain some much-needed publicity and increase the club’s profile, decided to rebrand the club and change of the club’s home colours and crest. Whether the controversial move has helped the club expand their appeal is still up for debate, but what unquestionably has helped is the club’s performances in the Championship this season, so far winning 25 out of 44 games and with a hefty 7 point advantage over their nearest rivals, Hull City.
Bellamy and particularly Helguson have indeed been imperious this season, contributing to some magnificent victories, highlights of which include a 3-0 drubbing of fellow contenders Nottingham Forest earlier in April, and a 1-2 away win at Wolves, also one of the traditionally strong Championship sides. They haven’t been completely consistent, though, often following an impressive victory with a home draw to mid-table sides, and some suggest their squad is rapidly aging, needing a substantial overhaul if they are to compete in the Premier League next season.
Their leading scorers and best players, Bellamy and Helguson, are approaching their final days in football and are unlikely to be able to make an impact in the top flight (although people have said that about Craig Bellamy before, and he usually delivers). The manager Malky Mackay will almost certainly receive a decent cash injection to freshen his squad, but it must be invested wisely – QPR are an excellent example of improperly targeted investment gone horribly wrong.
The Cardiff City squad does include a talented spine of players in their mid-20’s however, such as Ben Turner, Andrew Taylor, Aron Gunnarsson and Kim Bo Kyung, but given the intensity and difficulty of surviving in the Premier League this probably won’t be enough. Co-owner Vincent Tan agrees, suggesting in the media recently that “We need to strategise well and we’d like to spend some money – maybe 20 to 25 million. Others have spent a big amount of money and don’t do well, so we will try to spend smartly.”
Possible transfer targets that have been suggested for next season include Salomon Kalou, Adam Le Fondre, Bobby Zamora, Chris Eagles, and Will Buckley, although as Swansea have discovered, buying onshore is not necessarily the smartest strategy, as one of the most remarkable buys of this season – or indeed of any season – in Michu was discovered for just 3 million pounds on Spanish shores.
It will be Cardiff’s famous rivalry with fellow Welsh team Swansea City that will probably attract the most attention next season – supporter clashes following the 2006 Football League Trophy final between Cardiff City supporters and Swansea City supporters were well publicised by the media, and relations between the two clubs have not been rosy as of late, and the derbies to come next season will only serve to further stoke the flames and – hopefully – further reignite interest in football in traditionally rugby-dominated Wales.