Over the course of 12 hours, Cardiff City fans have gone from blind optimism and hope to a new level of pessimism, as Neil Harris departed and the Mick McCarthy era was ushered in.
Who can blame Cardiff fans for feeling so low? The Harris era didn’t work out, after an exciting summer where the club just missed out on the play-off final and Premier League football. Now Harris is gone, many fans saw it as a chance to usher in a new era, a new ethos and a new philosophy, under a progressive and forward-thinking manager.
Instead, Cardiff being Cardiff, they have plumped for the uninspiring option once again, taking a manager who knows his way around the division with attritional football and not much imagination. Firstly, on a personal level, I like Mick McCarthy. He’s similar to Warnock in a sense. He’ll give you a fun quote, jab with the press somewhat and will show some anger on the sidelines. He can get teams out of the Championship, but his last few jobs – most recently being sacked by a Cypriot team after taking them backwards – suggests he might not be the same manager he once was.
As much as Cardiff fans hoped for change, it feels natural the club would gravitate toward the easy choice. After all, who else were we going to get? The fact the club approached Mick and, if reports are to be believed, Paul Cook with initial six-month deals suggest the club weren’t thinking long term. Or they don’t trust a progressive, long term appointment to come in and steady the ship now. So, the question is; are they going for the easy option to keep us in the division with a plan for the future in motion?
I’m putting a lot of trust in the board by saying I hope so, but we’ve been here before, haven’t we? It’s hard to see the logic in only offering managers six-month deals. If you’re a manager with any self-belief, you wouldn’t be too pleased that a club like ours wants to, essentially, give you a trial run before committing full-time. Indeed, short contracts open you up for the possibility of signing a manager who’s been there, done that and sees six months as a chance to put himself back in the shop window.
A six-month deal is illogical in isolation, but when it comes to Cardiff and the way the board think, it begins to make a bit more sense. If you consider that Vincent Tan still hates Andreas Cornelius and holds him in nothing but disdain, perhaps we need to look back to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment to see why we’re only willing to dish out a six-month deal at this time.
Ole came in during a January window of great upheaval. He was backed with transfer money, wages and a brief to change the way Cardiff played in a bid for survival. We went from being a well-drilled, defensive side, into one that wanted to attack and play good football. When Ole was backed in the summer, he only lasted another month before the club chopped his 12-month rolling contract and sent him packing. By the time he’d left, the club had been under his leadership for eight months.
More recently, Neil Harris was given a three-year deal and has left 14 months in. He could have left two months ago and that probably would have felt right.
Perhaps Tan now thinks we don’t need to offer managers long term deals if they aren’t going to stick around? The board and the way this club is run is clearly risk-averse. We seem to lurch from one appointment to the next, without the hint of an original thought. Even Warnock – which was a big pull and one most fans agreed with – was a relatively safe appointment. He took us up but that felt like a real overachievement and testament to the job Warnock did with the squad he had.
Being realistic, the club was never going to take the tough option this time around. Bellamy was my dream with a real plan to push this football club on over the next two to three years. A progressive, obsessive manager who would have put the proverbial bums on seats, especially at a time when season ticket renewals may be round the corner. It was a chance to make a statement but the club have shied away from it once again.
If this is a short-term appointment – and I’m really hoping it is – then the club needs to communicate that to the fans. With the news of vaccinations and hope that fans could be back in the grounds next season, the club needs to give the fans something to cling on to. A season ticket for a Mick McCarthy side doesn’t really excite me, but a season ticket to a new Cardiff City era, led by Bellamy or Hudson or someone I’ve never heard of but can get excited about does.
The board have gone quiet. Mehmet Dalman was happy to battle for the league in the summer, but where is he now? For once, this football club needs to look beyond the present day. If it’s McCarthy now and someone else in the future, tell us. Equally, if McCarthy is this clubs future, the board need to take a look at themselves and they owe it to the fans to be upfront about it.