A look at why Premier League followers should keep an eye out for Cardiff City FC’s manager Malky Mackay and players Craig Bellamy and Andreas Cornelius
Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Hull City have successfully gained promotion to the Premier League season 2013-14. All the smart money is on them falling flat on their behinds and going right back down. In recent seasons though, this hasn’t been the case; out of last year’s promoted teams, only Reading went back down, while 2011-12 was only the second season in Premier League history that all three promoted teams survived. In fact, in the past few seasons, teams like Swansea City, Southampton and West Brom have made a surprisingly strong case for themselves, finishing mid-table on the same year as their promotion.
This year, if there is one team that seems to have the makings of a team that will challenge the more established clubs of the Premier League, it is Cardiff City. Here’s a look at some of the big reasons why you need to keep an eye on the new Welsh club in town:
Manager ‘Malky’ Mackay
Cardiff City is only the second club Malcolm George “Malky” Mackay is managing, after Watford. He is a young manager who has just started his career, but he has already been linked to managerial vacancies in Norwich City and Everton in this time. Malky Mackay is a real tough nut. He’s not one to put a lot of stress on beautiful football or possession stats. Malky builds strong minded teams that step on the pitch with one aim in mind: to win. It won’t always be the most intricate passing or the most skilful displays on show but, more often than not, they get the job done. Last season, they topped the Championship with a 8 point lead on second placed Hull; this after a run of draws near the end when they lost steam after being comfortably in the lead.
Team mentality and discipline are key to his teams. Talking about the differences in Malky’s regime when compared to his previous stint at the club, this is what Craig Bellamy had to say:
“Discipline was better. Malky was hard line. We each worked. There were no exceptions, no prima donnas, no one excused when it came to tracking back. We were a team. We were in it together ….” – Craig Bellamy
Bellamy & Cornelius: Something Old, Something New
The 20-year-old Danish International, Andreas Cornelius, arrives in Wales after his only season with the senior team of FC Copenhagen, in which he scored 18 goals in 32 games to finish top scorer in the Superliga. With the record £7.5 million transfer (rumoured), Cardiff City have made a strong statement of intent. Corenelius will also be important as a replacement for Heidar Helguson who has left the club upon expiration of his contract; he was the club’s highest goal-scorer with his tally of 9. Cornelius will be able to replace his physicality and the aerial threat he presented. However, strength and heading aren’t the 6’4” striker’s only asset; he is good with the ball at his feet and a clinical finisher with his favoured left foot. When Cornelius helped beat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde last season, Solskjaer had this to say about the possibility of the striker playing for the likes of Manchester United in the future:
“Cornelius has speed, skill and, of course, he’s good in the air… He has the qualities needed to play at the top level if he continues his development” – Solskjaer
At 34, Craig Bellamy has gathered a fair collection of incidents of infamy. Sir Bobby Robson, who managed him at Newcastle United, once referred to him as “a man who could start a fight in an empty room”. But he has come a long way from his bad boy days. He is a lot more responsible and a lot more tempered. Brought in on a free transfer from Liverpool FC, he has taken a major wage cut to play for his home-town club. He has been a great addition to the team; his 10 assists and 4 goals were essential last season, but it is his experience and winning mentality that are truly priceless. Captain Mark Hudson had been full of praise for the man during the run up to their table topping season:
“…Craig is being a leader on and off the pitch. He is a great character to have around and he is hopefully going to help us get to where we want to be…. The way he talks to everyone, particularly the younger players, means everyone looks up to him.” – Mark Hudson
South Wales Derby
2nd November 2013 is a date that will go down in footballing history books. For it is the day on which, for the first time ever, the South Wales derby will take place in the English top flight. The two teams have faced off 105 times (for Cardiff, 43 wins, 35 losses and 27 draws), with the most recent one being a 1-0 win by Cardiff in the Championship (Swansea City gained promotion at the end of that season).
The rivalry between the two clubs has traditionally been very intense. An extreme example is December 1993, when hooligans ran on to the pitch and violence erupted between groups of rival fans – the Football Association of Wales banned away fans for several years after that.
With still a month to go till the season, members of both camps have already started preparing themselves for the coming event, with Michael Laudrup declaring the matches comparable to the Rome derby and Bellamy adding some spice to the mix by stating:
“Swansea have done brilliantly and I have always been vocal about how much respect I have for them, but we are a bigger club by miles.” – Bellamy
£25M Transfer Kitty, still not fully used
Cardiff City owner and Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan has made a £25M transfer kitty available to Malky Mackay. The signing of Cornelius is a good start, but he is by no means done. Cardiff have already failed in a bid to land Blackpool FC’s Tom Ince, Celtic’s Victor Wanyama and Le Havre’s young Frenchman Benjamin Mendy. Names like Oscar Cardozo and Javier Saviola have come up, but spending on a striker now seems unlikely with Bellamy, Cornelius and the excellent Frazier Campbell (7 goals in 12 appearances) already in the squad.
Other names like Scott Parker seem more relevant, as the Englishman is still a top holding midfielder, and could provide a wealth of experience to the side. You can rest assured that there will be more arrivals at the club before the window shuts.
Promotion to the Premier League is the greatest achievement of Malky Mackay’s career so far, but next season will be the biggest test of his career. He has proven himself in the Championship, and has the faith of owner, players and fans alike. But his legacy will be depend a great deal on how he handles the challenges that come his way in the coming year.
If he can hold his nerve and rally his team, he may become a hero in Cardiff.