When being asked by VFTN which managers we would like to write about for this feature, I made up my mind pretty early on who I wanted to choose. Malky Mackay.
Possibly because his signings following our promotion to the Premier League caused so much controversy and debate at the time. Maybe secretly I had an urge to try and re-balance that view slightly and showcase some of the more interesting, lasting signings and highlight some of the shrewd bargains that made real impact, some way beyond his own controversial departure.
He will always unfortunately be linked with the much publicised and criticised signing of Andreas Cornelius. But Malky Mackay won us the league and he made some really great signings before it all went wrong and I hope that is reflected in my choices for his top five Cardiff City signings. It’s not been an easy ride, much like 2013!
5. Heidur Helguson – Free transfer, 2012
Okay, this one might surprise a few people and I’m prepared to cop some flak for it, but good signings don’t have to be all out guns blazing new talents who are going to score a million goals a season. Ask Manchester United fans about Henrik Larsson’s impact. Sometimes a great signing can be a 34 year old striker, for an undisclosed fee, who will do a very consistent job, link up play and be everything you need them to be at that moment, on a 1 year contract. Helguson was an excellent signing by Mackay, who had no questions about his abilities after working with him during his Watford days. Heidar was a focal point for our attacks and played a crucial role in helping Cardiff City to the 2012-2013 Championship title, finishing our top scorer in all competitions.
4. Fraizer Campbell – £650,000 from Sunderland, 2013
Okay, this one took some deliberating over. Jordon Mutch, Craig Noone, Craig Bellamy could all quite easily have a shout at taking this spot for me. All great players. But I decided to go with someone who made a real impact upon his signing, Fraizer Campbell. Signed in January of 2013 for just £650k, Campbell gave Cardiff City a massive push towards the title, scoring 7 goals in 12 games. Bearing in mind that our top scorers that season were Helguson on 9 with Whitts and Gunnarsson just behind on 8, it’s clear that Campbell would have been likely to get, or would have got close to, 20 goals or beyond if he’d been with us longer in the Championship. He also scored some memorable goals in the Premier League the following year despite the circumstances and turmoil going on. One of the most natural finishers at the club since Chopra, I’m sure he would have gone on to score many more goals again in the Championship if he’d stayed with us longer.
3. Gary Medel – £11m from Sevilla, 2013
This choice might also cause some controversy but I’m in no doubt that Gary Medel is probably the highest quality footballer to ever play for the club, despite what happened after December 2013. We are talking genuine World Class. At the time, he was capable of playing in any top half team, in any Premier League, in any league across the globe and we somehow managed to sign him at Cardiff City. He was always available for the out ball, always kept things ticking over, was always cool and calm on the ball, he oozed class and he was hungry in the tackle. But unfortunately, in my opinion he got massively overexposed by Solskjaer’s change in tactical approach in the second half of the season. The little flames he was more than comfortable putting out in Malky’s defensive tactics suddenly became engulfing flames that he just could not handle any more and, like many of the players and the fans that year, he seemed to become increasingly lost and crushed. Following our relegation, he showcased his exceptional talent again though in a phenomenal World Cup with Chile and left Cardiff City to join Inter Milan.
2. Joe Ralls – Free Transfer, 2011
Okay, okay. Technically Malky didn’t sign him. But he signed 17 year old Academy graduate, Ralls, to a professional contract and gave him starts in the Carling Cup. Effectively, he helped kick-start Joe’s involvement and for that reason, I’m having him as my number two. There is absolutely no doubt about VFTN’s player of the decade and his development into a seriously consistent and smooth midfield operator. Had he knocked about in the youth system for any longer, who knows if he would have stayed with the club? Mackay asked Academy Manager, Neil Ardley, who might be ready to step up to the first team and after only a few minutes against Oxford in the cup, he was handed his first start against Huddersfield and the rest is history. Now at over 200 appearances and still only 26 year old, Ralls is a firm part of the Bluebirds and it’s history already, with plenty more room for even more history to be created. He’s a midfielder that all Championship and many Premier League clubs would love to have in their ranks.
1. Aron Gunnarsson – Free Transfer, 2011
I was never ever in doubt about who my number one signing was going to be during Malky Mackay’s time at the club. It was always going to be the Iceman. It’s absolutely staggering to think that we managed to get this man on a free transfer (technically a compensation payment of £350k to Coventry) and he’s one of my favourite all time City players. Always a fierce warrior in our ranks willing to throw himself in front of anything to help us win, Gunnarsson was simply an outstanding signing and in both promotion seasons in particular, he was immense. In his earlier days with us, he was all action at both ends of the pitch. As he continued with us, he showed us huge loyalty despite the fact that there were probably chances for him to leave at various stages. Later on in his Bluebirds career, he grew into more of a General and Commander. A leader we missed massively after he left for Qatar. Another genuinely World Class player who not only helped lift us up, but he also helped lift his nation up at the same time. A Viking Thunder Clap of a signing.