Was playing for Cardiff in the Premier League a dream come true and if so, how did the dream compare to the reality?
I thought we were going to go down! I knew it was going to be tough. It was going to take a big overhaul of players, but is that fair on the players that got you promoted? We were able to stay in touching distance until Christmas, picking up points at Fulham or home to West Brom, giving ourselves a chance, but squad-wise, it was always going to be a difficult ask.
It’s gradual and you just need to stay up that first year. If you don’t, try and keep the group together and bounce back, but round about Christmas, it all imploded. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in and it was a difficult role at that time. Also, we were a new club that hasn’t been in the top division for 50-odd years and we were on the front and back of national newspapers. It was not a good look for us. This is not the type of people we are and what we represent.
I know if I was in an opposing team, I would be thinking; ‘who do this lot think they are? They’ve been in this league a strawberry season and they’re doing live interviews on Sky Sports News! We’ll put these lot to bed on Saturday.’ It didn’t sit well with me because it was not the club we were. We were a hard working team with honest players.
From the outside, Solskjaer’s time in charge was a disaster. Going from Malky to him felt like such a massive stylistic difference, especially with the same group of players.
When Solskjaer took the job, I was surprised. Did he know what he was coming in to? Did he know about the group of players? Surely he’s done his homework? Don’t just take the job because you might not get another chance. He wanted to play open football, which I adore, but you’ve got to have the players to do that or you coach it, but that takes time. When you’re fighting relegation, you don’t have the time. You need results fast. I think he got caught inbetween.
I remember you scoring against Norwich and shushing the fans. Was that in relation to general supporter impatience, or something specific?
If you give it away, get it back. It doesn’t matter if the crowd are on your back, so what, that’s the game. Keep showing. Crowds shouldn’t dictate how you play. There was one reason why I shushed the crowd and that was when Peter Whittingham got substituted, he got cheered off. My heart was broken. We’re cheering off someone that is one of the most talented players we’ve ever had and whatever you think, he deserves better than that.
People will say I shouldn’t do that, but I’m playing and I have feelings as well. You can’t do that. I can’t allow it because it hurts all of us. It was unbearable to see him like that after the game. I sat with him and told him not to worry about it. You have to try and pick him up after what he just went through. Someone that had been there for so many years and produced high-quality moments that will live forever. He deserves more than that, surely?
If I raise my finger to tell you to be quiet and that upsets people, that’s nothing compared to what happened to Whittingham. I don’t think that can happen. I was only there a couple of years, boo me if you like. That’s not just now looking back because we tragically lost him, he was a huge figure at the club, who had plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere, but stayed. I didn’t like that.
I like it when the crowd turns because then you see who your good players are. Are you still willing to go and get the ball? That’s a real footballer. Are you willing to get on the ball when the fans have turned on you? Are you still willing to try something? You then see the ones that hide. Whittingham never hid. He got substituted early on, that’s a manager’s decision, but sarcastic applause? This can’t be happening.
I agree. At the time, it was probably tied up with the rebrand and Malky’s sacking, but it was totally out of order. It still happens though. Josh Murphy has had it a couple of times fairly recently. It’s just about the worse thing you can do to one of your own players.
You’re not helping. I know you pay your money and can say what you want, but these days you have enough avenues to be able to voice your opinions. Message boards, Twitter, but at the time, it’s surely best for your team to try and get a result. Maybe Josh hasn’t performed as well as he would like and maybe he’ll come good, but there are certain players that have a certain stature over time and I think, to some extent, they should be untouchable. Maybe they’re not playing well, but you never get sarcastic with them. They should always have our respect.