With the transfer window just four days away from slamming shut, Kev talks us through what this period is like for players – and just what the first game of the season feels like…
With 9 days left of the transfer window, Cardiff’s business so far has been good. They’ve got the right types of players in there. The players they’ve signed have shown a lot of promise in the Championship and will be hungry as they make the step up. The boy from Bristol City – Bobby Reid – he’s a good acquisition. He tore the Championship apart last year and it’ll be good to see how he does in the Prem.
In terms of what’s left? The only gap is someone with a wee bit more experience at the top level. I would say they are shy of one or two players and then Warnock can say his business is done.
They really need a striker with Premiership experience. Though it’s not going to happen now, I can see why Warnock wanted Deeney. He’s your typical Warnock player and would fit the system. He was a bit of a bastard to play against, and all. I played centre-back against him and he’s a canny player. Permanently leaning into you, all elbows and arms. He’s really hard work for defenders and would use all his strength to get the better of you – even before the ball has been kicked.
I get why £15m was being bandied about for him – to get Premier League goals, you need to spend Premier League money. But the wages may have ended up being a stumbling block.
When I was a player, I never saw other players wages being a problem. I’m the kind of guy who thinks that players have to do the best for themselves. I was pretty happy with my lot – I got myself some good deals in my time – and I’m sure other players were happy with theirs. The one thing we did get to negotiate as a dressing room was our bonuses for the season.
A committee of players would go in and see the manager and chairman and discuss what bonus pot was on offer and how we’d want to split it. We’d always want to prioritise things like getting to the playoffs ahead of a cup run – though we were kicking ourselves the year we got to the FA Cup final. The year before, they offered us silly money to get to a cup final – and if we’d taken it the year we did, we may have put the club out of business!
It was always good having some of the Scottish lads on the committee – they knew a good deal and never wanted to let money go. The only year we had a wee issue was the promotion year. We got a decent bonus for getting promoted – and then wanted to negotiate a decent bonus if we stayed up. The chairman wasn’t budging. He said we had our bonus for getting there and wouldn’t have one for staying up. To be honest, fighting to stay up was always incentive enough for me and as a player, you’re probably doing something wrong if you need that financial push. But it really is the same at every club all over the country.
In the final week of the transfer window, it’s always an uncertain time. In the dressing room, you’d always get an inkling that a player might be leaving. The summer Ross left, there was loads of speculation. And it got to him, to be honest. He didn’t train that well and you could see it affected him.
Certain players – usually strikers – always got attention but the big bucks are never mentioned for hard working fullbacks like yours truly. I always just switched my phone off on deadline day and ignored the chatter; I always preferred not to be bothered.
To be fair to Dave Jones, he was always really good at replacing the big names he lost. I came in with Chopra, Roger Johnson, and Joe Ledley was on the rise. And in my time we lost those players but Dave always replaced them and replaced them well.
Joe Ledley was the one who really upset Dave. He moved to Celtic on a free and due to a loophole in the ruling, Cardiff didn’t get anything from a tribunal for him. Dave was pretty annoyed at that – especially because we’d been joking in the changing room earlier that season about driving him up to Stoke and collecting the £6m for the club.
But Cardiff got lucky with me in that sense. When I signed, Cardiff City paid nothing because of the same loophole – so the club got a bit of a Brucey bonus! When you look back at that photo of me being unveiled, you can see the boot polish in my hair. I think I was 22, coming up to 23, and my hair was a lot darker. The battle’s been won by the grey now, unfortunately.
That first part of the season was the best football I’ve been involved with. The game that always sticks out is that Birmingham home game. The place was rocking, and we beat them 2-0. It was at that point people started looking at us as promotion contenders. Jonesy motivated us that season by putting the list of odds up of who was going to get promoted – we were about 16th and we started the season really well but a few players got injured, and we had no-one to replace them; the boys were out on their feet. There was a run of 10 games where we drew four and lost the rest and that was the turning point that year.
First Game of the Season
With the boys playing Bournemouth on Saturday, the players will be looking to the game ahead. It’s odd to say but training tails off in the week before the game. Pre-season is high-intensity that when it comes to game prep, it just becomes more about shape work, the bits and bobs that players don’t really enjoy.
The manager will be doing all he can to keep the players relaxed, chilled out, before the game. Some managers will announce the starting line-up the night before, like Dave Jones did, while Malky would do it an hour before the game. You’d get an inkling if you were going to be involved but he never gave it away. I’d like to know the night before. You can get your head screwed on, get yourself prepared properly.
There’s always more excitement, more buzz around the first day of the season. And that’s what you miss. Friendlies, pre-season, none of these can replicate that buzz on the pitch. The excitement coming into the stadium, the crowd, the expectation. And when I was at Cardiff, we always seemed to have a good start to the season. We’d hit the ground running, and I think we went four, five years on the bounce where we won. Let’s hope Neil replicates that against Bournemouth on Saturday!