Cardiff’s Crucial Month That Could Define Their Season

First published in the 1st edition of the South Wales Disclosure. Read it here – http://www.swdisclosure.com

Cardiff City face a critical run of fixtures in December that could make or break their season.

The Bluebirds go into December off the back of a tricky month where they faced pre-season favourites Newcastle and Aston Villa and unexpected promotion contenders Huddersfield.

But now Neil Warnock’s men will be looking to build on encouraging performances against some of the division’s top sides.

Cardiff ended November with a 3-1 loss away to Aston Villa. The Bluebirds will feel aggrieved by the result as it doesn’t truly effect how even the game was. That result now leaves Cardiff back in the relegation zone but the performance and the fixtures ahead fans can still remain positive.

Cardiff start and end December with fixtures against Brighton who recently appointed former Cardiff head coach Paul Trollope to their vacant assistant manager’s position.

But the last time the two sides met Cardiff game out 4-1 winners in arguably the best performance in the Russell Slade era.

Brighton currently sit second in the Championship, just two points behind leaders Newcastle and are now on a ten-game unbeaten run. Chris Hughton’s side will be by far the hardest test of the month for Cardiff.

The rest of the games in December see the Bluebirds face four team in the bottom half of the table, which offers a great opportunity to gain points from the side around them.

Cardiff go onto face Ipswich Town away and Wolves at home in their next two games. Both teams are currently situated very close to Cardiff in the table and wins could see the Bluebirds leap-frog them both.

Ipswich have been very hit and miss this season. They’ve pulled off good results against Quen’s Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday but have failed to bet Rotherham and lose 2-0 at home to Nottingham Forrest.

Wolves on the other hand have grossly underperformed after they’re new owners invested heavily in the side but they have currently sit 21st, only outside the relegation zone on goal difference.

Next up for Cardiff will be Barnsley at home and a trip to Brentford who are also currently struggling to break into the top half of the table.

Brentford and Barnsley both sit just four points ahead of the drop zone and are definitely two games where Cardiff can make up ground and pull themselves outside of the bottom three.

There’s no doubt that this will be a month that will test the strength and depth of the Cardiff squad.

There’s no such thing as an easy game in the championship but on their day Cardiff are one of the hardest sides to beat in the Championship. The tactical changes that Neil Warnock has implemented have got the best out of the players.

The likes of Aaron Gunnarsson and Peter Whittingham have been crucial to the success of the Cardiff team and continue to run the game from midfield.

New signings Sol Bamba and Junior Hoilett have proved themselves to be bargains after signing for free upon Neil Warnock’s arrival.

The Bluebirds’ goal drought has also ended with the introduction of what has become known as the ‘lopsided 3-5-2’ – the formation that Cardiff used in order to put three goals past high flyers Huddersfield in November.

It’s very important that the players begin the charge up the table now in order to lay the foundation of a top half finish and attract the players in January that will turn the team into a play-off contender.

 

 

Graeme Fowler: The Man Behind The Stumps

First published in the 1st edition of the South Wales Disclosure. Read it here – http://www.swdisclosure.com

Ex-England Cricketer Graeme Fowler, 59, speaks out about his battle with depression and how he hopes his story can help save lives.

At an event held at the Waterloo Teahouse in Penylan on the 11th November, fans gathered to ask the record-breaking batsman about his book, his career and his struggle with mental health.

Fowler released his latest book “Absolutely Foxed” in May of this year. In the book, he discusses his 40-year career in the sport of cricket, from playing to coaching.

Graeme has been pleased overall with the reception of the book however one thing that has taken him by surprise has been the public’s reaction to him talking about his experiences with mental health issues.

 

Fowler said: “The main thing commented on has been how open I am with my mental health issues, that seems to have overshadowed all of the cricket stuff. But I’m happy with that.

“People have thanked me from two aspects. The first being that they suffer from depression and they know they’re not alone. The second being, that they now understand their wife, or their husband better”.

Graeme is now a mental health ambassador for the Professional Cricketer’s Association and he commented on how well the sport of cricket has handled the stigma surrounding mental health issues with players: “Professional cricket is the only sport currently with a mental health charter, it’s leading the way. If 1 in 4 people are diagnosed with a mental health issue, then a lot of people are keeping quiet in other sports”, he explained.

Fowler’s playing career spanned over 20 years from 1973 to 1994, spending 16 years in the county circuit for Durham and Lancashire, and 3 years for the England team in which he scored 1,307 test runs.

Fowler wrote himself in the record books when he scored his famous double century against India which was the first on Indian soil. At the end of every domestic season Graeme said that he would lock himself in the house, unplug the phone, and watch videos that he bought from his local shop.

Reminiscing his career, Graeme went on to talk about how different cricket these days is from when he used to play. He explained the changes on how a team used to have a drink together after a game, whilst now they will have ice baths, massages, and physiotherapy. He said: “We were in a social age, and I loved that”. But despite new technologies in the sport, Graeme claims that the quality of cricket was much better back when he played.

He then expanded his knowledge into coaching for 18 years, founding the ‘Durham School of Excellence’. Six different centres were set up across the country and approximately 23% of English cricketers at the time came through one of these six centres.

The school allowed youngsters to train in a cricket academy whilst still finishing their education. Graeme, himself studied at the University of Durham between 1975 and 1978 and said: “It’s more important these days for people to finish their education before looking towards a career in sport”.

Fowler set up the school because of a dilemma that he faced when he was 18. He was required to make a decision between finishing his education, or signing a professional contract with Durham. Graeme decided to continue at school because he knew that his father would have preferred him to get the best education possible.

Graeme’s school aimed to make it easier, for teenagers who wanted to peruse a degree and a career in the gentlemen’s game. He coached players such a Robert Martin-Jenkins and Andrew Strauss but admits that he could have never imagined the impact they made on modern day Cricket.

However roughly 10 years after Graeme retired from professional cricket, he was diagnosed with depression. His wife forced him to see a doctor after telling him that he hadn’t spoken to her or their kids in weeks.

Graeme was given medication to help cope with the symptoms of his depression. He explained: “I felt numb, but that was better than wanting to be dead. To me, having depression was like being an alcoholic, you can say you haven’t had a drink in weeks but in the back of your head you’re still an alcoholic. It’s the same with depression”.

Fowler has referred to himself as being “more famous for being a lunatic than a cricketer”, having stories written about him partying with team-mate Sir Ian Botham, and singer-songwriter Elton John in the tabloids.

But despite this Graeme said that over the years he’s had quite a close relationship with journalists once he’s got to know them. “Without them I didn’t get any publicity and without me they didn’t have a job.”

Graeme explained that during his playing career he paid little attention to press. He claims when he was called up to play for England, people were talking about him in the news but he didn’t know because he “didn’t read any”. Graeme has worked with various media outlets such as BBC Radio 5 Live’s Test Match Special as well as writing for the Sunday Telegraph.

In the future, Fowler said that he’d like to become a leading figure for mental health awareness in the sport of cricket. He said: “I’ve been having talks to set up a package to deliver to other sports, other age groups in cricket and, if it works well enough, business too.

“I’ve done more interviews about this book and my mental health issues in a concentrated space of time than I ever had in a playing career. I don’t always like talking about my mental health issues but it helps people. I had one bloke come up to me and tell me that if it wasn’t for reading my book then he would have killed himself.”

Graeme says that he didn’t know where his depression came from because he was in the “happiest place of his life”. Although he did admit: “I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I did wish I was dead”.

The book is now available to purchase from all major retailers, and if you have any queries or concerns about mental health you can get impartial advice from http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/.

 

 

Match Report: Aston Villa 3-1 Cardiff City

First published in the 1st edition of the South Wales Disclosure. Read it here – http://www.swdisclosure.com

Aston Villa have continued their unbeaten run under Steve Bruce after sinking Cardiff City 3-1 at Vila Park, but they were made to work for it.

The first half was one of the more entertaining games that Cardiff fans would have seen all season. It promised to be an even game when Rickie Lambert levelled the score at 1-1 but a goal just before half time made things difficult for the Bluebirds.

Aston Villa were tipped to be one of the favourites to be promoted at the start of the season and after appointing Roberto Di Matteo and splashing the cash in the summer, they seemed a force to be reckoned with.

However, Villa started poorly, drawing far too many games and exiting the first round of the EFL Cup in the first round at the hands of Luton Town.

Their form has picked up since sacking Di Matteo and appointing former Hull City manager Steve Bruce, with Villa going into this game on a six-game unbeaten run.

This game is the penultimate game in a string of hard games for the Bluebirds. Before the game at Villa Park Cardiff had lost just two of Neil Warnock’s first six games as manager, in a period where they played Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle and Huddersfield.

Cardiff began the game on the front foot. A long throw from Aaron Gunnarsson in the second minute resulted in a close chance for Junior Hoilett who’s diving header went high and wide. He should have done better.

Villa began to grow into the game and will feel hard done by after Lee Peltier appeared to pull and push Kodjia as a corner came in. The referee missed. The appeals were strong and he waved it away.

Johnathan Kodjia quickly began to live up to his reputation as he tested the Cardiff centre backs, Morrison and Bamba, showing how he’d scored five goals in his last six games.

The game was even when Aston Villa broke the deadlock. Jordan Amavi sprinted past both Pilkington and Morrison which forced Bennett to leave Adomah in an acre of space at the back post who had a simple tap in.

Rickie Lambert responded quickly as just four minutes later it was all square at 1-1. Some neat work from Junior Hoilett who found Aaron Gunnarsson. The Icelandic threaded it through the legs of a Villa defender and found Lambert who calmly slotted away his fourth goal of the season.

Aston Villa re-took the lead just before half time. Again, poor defending was Cardiff’s undoing when Adomah crossed it in and found Kodjia who rose over Sean Morrison and nodded home the Frenchman’s seventh goal of the season.

Over 2,500 Cardiff City fans made the trip to Villa Park, the highest travelling support the Bluebirds have had all season, and they were treated to a very entertaining first half for all involved.

Cardiff were determined to get back into this game from the off with a string of half chances that lead to a long throw from Aaron Gunnarsson. Another clear shout for a penalty, this time for Cardiff, resulted as Jedinak pulled down Sean Morrison but yet again the ref waved it away.

The match fizzled into an aggressive game of chess with both sides fighting to break down the other and frustrations were high. The clearest cut of chances coming in the 78th minute when Gabby Agbonlahor broke free but a great save from Ben Amos in the Cardiff goal denied him.

Cardiff had their own chance to get back into the game. Bennett sent in a fantastic cross which was met by substitute Frederic Gounongbe who’s week header was directed straight at Gollini.

The Bluebirds ended all chance of getting back into the game when Lee Peltier gave referee Geoff Eltringham no choice but to give him a second yellow after fouling Jack Grealish.

The final nail in the coffin was dealt when former Cardiff striker Rudy Gestede converted from the spot. Sean Morrison gave away the penalty by fouling Jack Grealish who was man of the match by a long margin.

The score line was a little harsh from Cardiff’s perspective. There’s wasn’t much else that they could have given. Cardiff made Aston Villa work for the three points and the fans will be more than pleased with the performance despite the result.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish

Stats:

Possession – Aston Villa 58% Cardiff 42%

Shots – Aston Villa 11 Cardiff 7

Shots on Target – Aston Villa 4 Cardiff 3

Corners – Aston Villa 2 Cardiff 6

Fouls – Aston Villa 9 Cardiff 20

 

Line-ups:

Aston Villa starting XI: Gollini (GK), Hutton, Chester (C), Baker (45’ Elphick), Amavi, Jedinak, Westwood, Grealish, Adomah (’73 Gestede), Ayew (‘62 Agbonlahor), Kodjia.

Subs: Bunn, Bacuna, Gardner, Cissokho

 

Cardiff City starting XI: Amos (GK), Bennett, Bamba, Morrison (C), Peltier, Whittingham, Ralls (’80 Richardson), Gunnarsson, Pilkington (’73 Noone), Hoilett, Lambert (’73 Gounongbe).

Subs: Wilson, Connolly, O’Keefe, Harris.

 

 

Match Report: Wales 27-13 South Africa

First published in the 1st edition of the South Wales Disclosure. Read it here – http://www.swdisclosure.com

Wales cruised to a 27-13 victory over South African to cap off their most successful Autumn internationals since 2002.

The Welsh scored two try’s to the Springbok’s one but it was South Africa’s mistakes and the amount of penalties that they gave away which really cost them.

Wales went into this game desperately needing a win and a good performance. They opened they’re Autumn campaign up with embarrassingly large defeat to the Australia and followed it up with two narrow wins against Argentina and Japan.

This created a ‘catch 22’ situation for Wales coach Rob Howley where if the Welsh won fans and critics alike will comment that it was the poor quality of the opposition and if they won the team would be heavily dissected but pundits.

But perhaps South Africa needed the win more than the Welsh. Many pundits have labelled this the worst ever South African side ever, following their loss to Italy last Saturday. The Springboks’ also suffered defeats at the hands of England and Argentina this campaign.

South Africa opened the scoring when Elton Jantjies converted a penalty in the 8th minute after Tomas Francis was penalised for collapsing the scrum.

Leigh Halfpenny levelled the scoring a few minutes later from distance when the Springbok’s were harshly penalised for a deliberate knock-on.

Halfpenny made it two from two and then three from three giving Wales a 9-3 lead without them putting any real pressure on the South Africa defence in the opening 20 minutes.

A cheap penalty given for a no hands tackle on ‘the Beast’ Goosen gave Jantjiesa the chance to bring the Springboks within three points of the Welsh, which he calmly took.

Johnathan Davies came very close to opening the try count of the game when some good blocking work gave him an avenue of space to run into but he was bundled into touch five metres short of the try line.

Halfpenny re-established Wales’ six-point lead just after the half-an-hour mark. Wales lead South Africa 12-6 at half time.

South Africa were reduced to 14 men after Faf de Klerk was penalised for a deliberate knock-on. Wales oiled on the pressure and Ken Owens drove over the line to score the first try.

Leigh Halfpenny missed the conversion but Wales had quickly made it 20-6 just seven minutes into the second half.

South Africa made the end of the game interesting when Flanker Uzair Cassiem scored a try for the Springboks and Lamie converted it making the score 20-13.

But Justin Tipuric put the result beyond doubt when he ran over then line to score a try which was converted by Halfpenny making the score 27-13.

Wales out classed South Africa in this match but that isn’t saying very much. This side is almost definitely the worst Springboks side in history and a complete reshuffle is needed in order for them to get back to their best.

 

Line-ups:

Wales starting XV: L Halfpenny, G North, J Davies, S Williams, Liam Williams, D Biggar, G Davies, G Jenkins (C), K Owens, T Francis, L Charteris, A W Jones, D Lydiate, J Tipuric , R Moriarty.

Replacements: S Baldwin, N Smith, S Lee, C Hill, T Faletau, Lloyd Wiliams, S Davies, J Roberts.

 

South Africa starting XV: J Goosen; R Combrinck, F Venter, R Janse van Rensburg, J Ulengo; E Jantjies, F de Klerk; T Mtawarira, A Strauss (C), L Adriaanse, P S du Toit, L de Jager, N Carr, U Cassiem, W Whiteley.

Replacements: M Marx, S Kitshoff, T Nyakane, F Mostert, J-L du Preez, P van Zyl, P Lambie, L Mapoe.

Match Report: Wales 1-1 Serbia

First published in the 1st edition of the South Wales Disclosure. Read it here – http://www.swdisclosure.com

Wales earn their third draw in a row after they were held 1-1 at home to Serbia. Wales took the lead but yet again failed to hold onto it as they had their hearts broken late on.

The point leaves the Welsh third in group D, four points behind leaders Rep. of Ireland.

Wales captain Ashley Williams said before the game “We need to give the fans something to get excited about early on” which is exactly what they did.

The Welsh started the game on the front foot, Chris Gunter testing the legs of Serbia’s Obradovic early on. On the 10-minute mark Gareth Bale, who was playing a slightly deeper role than usual, used some neat footwork at the edge of the box but his shot rose over the bar.

Chris Coleman changed the shape of his side, ditching the ‘5-at-the-back’ system that served them well at the Euros due to injuries to Ben Davies and James Collins.

The best chance of the first 20 minutes went to Serbia when James Chester was beaten by Ivanovic in the air from a corner. Neil Taylor cleared the ball off the line, saving a certain goal.

Wales finally broke the deadlock just after the half-an-hour mark when Gareth Bale opened the scoring. Hal Robson-Kanu won the ball in the oppositions final third and then passed it inside to Bale who slotted it in – with a little help from some suspect goalkeeping from Stojkovic.

The Serbian ended the game on top after Chelsea’s Matic went close with a thunderous strike from outside the box.

Bale was dangerous yet again just after half time, hitting a free-kick from 30 yards out that troubled the Serbian ‘keeper.

There wasn’t much to shout about in the second half as Wales protected their lead and Serbia failed to break them down. That was until the late drama.

In the 85th minute Wales went agonisingly close to doubling their lead with Gareth Bale hitting the far post following great play from Aaron Ramsey.

The Welsh players seemed to switch off as Serbia went straight down the other ended and drew the game level with three minutes to go. A great cross came into the Wales box and Alexander Mitrovic nodded it home with the aid of the post.

Chris Coleman will be extremely concerned as this is the third game in a row where Wales have taken the lead but left with only a draw. Key Welsh players Bale, Allen, Ledley and Williams all saw yellow which could prove costly later in the group.

Teams:

Wales – 4-2-3-1

Hennesey (GK), Gunter, N. Taylor, Chester, A. Williams (C), Allen, Ledley (83’ D. Edwards), Ramsey, Bale, Vokes, Robson-Kanu (68’ Lawerence).

Subs: Ward (GK), Fon Willians(GK), Matthews, Wales, Dummett, Huws, King, Macdonald, J. Williams, Cotterill.

 

 

Three Reasons Why Cardiff Can Continue Their Good Form Against Wigan

Every since Neil Warnock took over at Cardiff City the club, the players and the fans seem completely different. There’s a great atmosphere around the club and long may it continue! But the only way they it is going to is if the results keep going our way.

After a three game unbeaten run to begin his reign, Wigan now stand in the way of Neil Warnock and his team. The Latics are currently managerless after sacking Gary Caldwell in midweek and sit 23th in the Championship table.

There are plenty of reasons why Cardiff are expected to continue their run of form against.

The Bluebirds are finally scoring

In the 11 games under Paul Trollope this season Cardiff players scored a total of six goals, however in just three games under Warnock the Bluebirds have netted five. This drastic change just goes to show that the talent always was there but Trollope just couldn’t get the best out of the squad.

However the strikers in the squad are still to make a major impact as none of them have scored since Warnock took the reins. The new Cardiff boss seemed sure that his star striker of the squad would be Rickie Lambert but with the former England international suffering a deep cut to his shin in Cardiff’s win against Nottingham Forrest, it’s time for someone else to lead the line.

The likely option that Warnock will take will be to put Anthony Pilkington up front as he had a great game against Forrest (apart from that open goal miss). But Frederic Gounongbe and Kenneth Zohore have both been given no opportunities under Warnock, neither of them even making the bench.

Marouane Chamakh is yet another option but the Moroccan, who joined the Bluebirds on a free transfer two weeks ago, may still not be completely match fit as he has had no pre-season training.

The players have bought into ‘the Warnock way’

It appears that every single player is playing for Warnock, each other and their place in the side which is something Cardiff fans have not seen in a long time. Certain players in particular have thrived under the so-called ‘Warnock way’.

By far the player to impress the most under the new Cardiff manager is Aaron Gunnarsson who is showing the form that he produced at the Euros in the Summer. Joe Bennet, who didn’t play a single game under Trollope, has also nailed down the left back spot with a series solid performances.

And that’s not even mentioning the newest Cardiff cult hero, Sol Bamba. The Ivorian scored the winner in the Servenside derby and also followed that up with two more great performances against Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forrest.

The uncertainty of Wigan

Instead of focusing on how well Cardiff are doing at the moment, lets talk about Wigan.

It’s a turbulent time for the Latics at the moment. Following their promotion from League One last season, they’ve struggled to find their feet in the Championship. Wigan parted companies’ with manger Gary Caldwell this week after only bagging 11 points and 11 goals from the 14 games so far this season.

They have now gone for games without a win but Cardiff Boss Neil Warnock admits that it will still be a tough test saying: “We’ve got our most difficult game coming up, I think, It’s not a top of the league game, but it’s a very good Championship team. We’ve got to try to get three points before we go to Newcastle.”

Neil Warnock looks to bolster options with free agent triple swoop

New Cardiff City Boss Neil Warnock is set to complete a three signings in Sol Bamba, Junior Hoillet and Marouane Chamakh in time to play Bristol City on October 14th.

Warnock may have only been in the job for a few days but he’s already looking to make his mark on the squad by adding three experienced players to the Cardiff team.

All three players are unattached and allowed to join the Bluebirds as they all were without clubs when the transfer window slammed shut last month.

Sol Bamba was last at Leeds United after making his loan move from Palermo permanent in 2015. However the Ivory Coast international left Elland Road due to unspecified personal reasons in the summer and has been unattached every since.

Canadian international Junior Hoillet worked with Neil Warnock at Queen’s Park Ranger where the current Cardiff boss was caretaker manager in 2015. Hoillet burst onto the Premier League scene for Blackburn Rovers but a series of injuries saw his growth stutter. He was released by QPR in June after the club failed to agree a new contact with the player.

Ex-Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh joined the Gunners for £14 million from French club Bordeaux in 2015 but only made 40 appearances, scoring eight goals. The Moroccan had loan spells at West Ham and Crystal Palace which resulted in him signing for Palace permanently. Now 32 and unattached Chamakh has been labelled a Premier League flop and comes to the Championship with a lot to prove.

Another free agent has also expressed his desire to work under Neil Warnock again in former West Ham captain Kevin Nolan.

The ex-Leyton Orient player-manager said “I need a few weeks to get back but just give me a shout mate [Warnock] and I’ll come calling, no problem.”

Nolan almost certainly wouldn’t be a week in, week out player but he is a player the Warnock knows well and would make a great addition to the dressing room.