Cardiff fans certainly have a type and if you’re not that type, you’re destined to be in for a rough ride.
I remember Gareth Ainsworth (I’m showing my age here), who is now the manager of Wycombe Wanderers, making his debut for Cardiff. He was a balls-to-the-wall right winger and chased a bouncing ball and as the defender was lining up a volleyed clearance, he put his head in and won the ball, a boot in the face, a free kick and the affection of all Cardiff supporters. It was as easy as that.
There are shared traits that all supporters go for. Everyone loves a trier or a player that looks like he gives a shit about the club, which is rarer than you would like to think. Undeniable quality, in any field, is also a universally attractive trait. Some manage it by just hanging around long enough. Sometimes though, it’s just a matter of collective and individual taste.
The archetypal Cardiff player would probably be someone like Michael Chopra. A heart on the sleeve, working class sort that’s a bit of a rascal, but will give his all, no matter what. The closest we probably have to Chopra now is Lee Tomlin and there is an ocean of goodwill for him, despite him being, by any chosen metric, a major flop. Sometimes the narrative wins out over logic and I, like everyone else, is desperate to see him succeed. It would mean a lot, to us and him.
Stephen McPhail is another interesting one because there has been a lot of revisionism applied to him and he is now viewed as a firm fan favourite, but that was never really the case at the time. He divided Cardiff supporters, with half admiring his cultured influence and the other half questioning what he actually did half the time. His struggles with illness probably changed his fan narrative, but he was always a player’s player. If you want a glowing reference, read our Chopra interview, where he claims that he was the best he played with at Cardiff.
One player currently getting it in the neck is Leandro Bacuna, who is not your stereotypical Cardiff player. The general consensus currently seems to be that he’s lazy, disinterested and a waste of money. A bit harsh for a relatively bit part player, but fans often make a snap judgement and are then not for turning. His card is now marked. Unless he pings one in against Swansea of course.
There is no longer any patience and everything is black or white. You’re either good or crap. Immediately. I personally think Bacuna is underrated. He is technically very good and a smart operator, but I admit that he may not be the best fit in a midfield that enjoys very little possession and is constantly fighting fires, but that’s not his fault. He’s also a bit too casual for traditional Cardiff tastes and that is something that will not change any time soon.
Even Will Vaulks is getting it in the neck, after one half of football. I’m pretty confident that a fair few people will end up eating humble pie for that because he is, in contrast, very much a Cardiff player and once he gets a run in the side, charging about and crashing in to people, I think he will set about changing some minds very swiftly.
Sometimes your face fits and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works for you here, but not over there. In the race to be the first to say that someone is either great or rubbish, there are lots of casualties and it’s not a particularly healthy situation for anyone.
Some people just treat footballers as other, rather than someone like you or I, but with a particular talent. There is no consideration for how hard they have worked to get where they are or their personal circumstances at the time. You’re just hot or not. It’s like pressing the red button on your remote.
Remarkable talent jumps off the page and is plain to see, but others are more of a slow burn and need time or more consideration. Whether or not they ever get it is another matter, but the very least they deserve is our support. We are supporters after all.