If seven days is a long time in politics, what is it at Cardiff City? It has been a typically whirlwind week for the Bluebirds with a positive tour to Cornwall generating more optimism for the new season, only for a little bit of wind to be knocked out of the sails with some disappointing and disrupting news towards the end of the week. Here’s a look at what’s been going on.
Bluebirds on tour
Cardiff’s pre-season preparations saw Neil Warnock take the entire first team squad to Devon and Cornwall last week for some intense training, including 3 friendly matches played over 5 days.
On the pitch the Bluebirds maintained their 100% record in pre-season with comfortable wins against local outfits Tavistock AFC (7-2) and Bodmin Town (3-1), rounded off with a 1-0 victory over League One Plymouth Argyle last Friday night. Although the low quality of the opposition makes it impossible to justify any sort of case for City’s progress or pattern of play, the news that Kenneth Zohore is looking lean, mean and hungry for goals is a prospect to get the adrenaline of all Cardiff fan’s going.
Reports indicate that Loic Damour performed well on tour (following up his composed debut at Taffs Well) and Lee Tomlin’s involvement at Plymouth drew some praise; the difference in Cardiff’s play with and without him on the pitch marked out. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing continued to impress and seems to be pushing Kadeem Harris hard for a starting berth on the wing. Zohore was the tour’s top scorer with 4 goals in his 3 appearances.
Once again the general feeling of goodwill towards the club for the friendlies against local sides resonates. Although there is no direct positive impact on Cardiff’s local community, it is very much a case of Neil Warnock giving something back to grassroots football in a part of the country and has real affection for. Cardiff fans did travel in numbers for the tour (just under 500 Bluebirds travelled to Plymouth) and it was warming to see the club carrying out open training sessions and taking time to engage with those who gave their time and cash to travel to the west of England. The group photo of the whole squad and all the supporters who came to watch the session ‘as one’ was a particularly warm touch by the club. Long may this rapport continue.
Thank you to the #CardiffCity fans who attended yesterday's opening training session.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) July 21, 2017
The captain signs on for another three years
It’s no secret Sheffield Wednesday have been sniffing around club captain Sean Morrison all summer. There were reports of a £3m bid from Hillsborough rejected with a quip from Warnock that this would only buy one of Morrison’s legs. Wednesday boss Carlos Carvahal more or less admitted defeat in his pursuit last week, stating clubs were asking ‘stupid money’ for his targets.
Any doubts about Morrison’s future were kind of put to bed when the skipper signed a new deal that extends to 2020. While this is no cast iron guarantee that Morrison will see out the contract (or beyond), it does at least allay fears that he would leave the Cardiff City Stadium next summer on a Bosman free transfer.
Morrison is one of Warnock’s firm favourites and it seems while Warnock is at the club, at least, everything will be done to keep him. Whether such importance should be placed on the club captain (who is in reality only the 3rd or 4th best centre back in the squad) is debatable, but it is reassuring to know that if he does leave, Cardiff should be able to command a sizeable fee for his transfer.
A Saadi Farewell, Idriss!
One player whose future lies away from South Wales is Idriss Saadi, who completed a surprise transfer to French Ligue 1 outfit Strasbourg last Friday for an undisclosed fee (if there even was one).
Following the outcry from disappointed City fans who had hoped to finally see the forward in action – in tandem with Zohore – next season, Warnock admitted he did want to keep the player and give him a chance to prove himself in the Championship. However, it was a move the player wanted, enabling him to re-locate with his family in France. On top of that a four-year contract no doubt provided a level of security the journeyman striker’s career had previously lacked.
Saadi, then, joins the infamous list of recent Cardiff acquisitions that had promise but were never given a genuine chance to fulfil it. As time goes on, the narrative may be shaped more by the facts and figures on paper than his real character. Lasting just 13 minutes on a long-overdue debut before aggravating an injury he was carrying when signed for the club, history may come to judge Saadi – at worst – as a bit of a misfit, or – at best – a Luigi Glombard figure, whose employment by the club was a total mystery.
Good luck in France, Idriss!
City up for sale?
The back end of last week also saw The Daily Star run a story about Vincent Tan putting Cardiff up for sale for a mere £30 million. Given it was The Star breaking this story some caution was necessary, although their report seems to have been based around the re-issue of a document released and reported last February to the effect that Vincent Tan was open to selling the club to the right investor at the right price. The club were quick to try and douse any sort of reaction to this, club Chairman Mehmet Dalman attempting to reassure fans the reports were due to ‘mischief’ and ‘silly season’ while insisting the club’s ‘mission’ for the season ahead had Tan’s full support.
It isn’t really news that Tan is open to a sale, as he has stated in the past he doesn’t ‘fall in love’ with his businesses and given how badly the relationship between Tan and Cardiff’s fanbase has deteriorated over the years it is no wonder he wants out. However, given the significant level of investment Tan has made in Cardiff, it is highly unlikely he is going to sell on the cheap. Well, certainly not while writing off the club’s existing debt to him (which is reportedly around the £180 million mark). Taking that into consideration, how likely is it somebody is going to invest to the extent required to eradicate Tan’s involvement in the club completely?
Putting the sensationalism of the report aside, Cardiff are stuck with Tan for the foreseeable future. In the short-term, this concern remains: when will Tan try to recoup some of the debt through the sale of Cardiff’s star players? Warnock joked over the weekend if promotion is looking unlikely in January then the decision to hold onto players like Kenneth Zohore and Sean Morrison will be re-assessed. Maybe Warnock is being glib, but if Zohore, for example, has hit double figures in goals by January 1st and clubs come in with eight figure bids, will Tan be able to resist?
Eventually the best solution for all parties will be for Tan to sell and step away from the club. Realistically, the only way Cardiff are going to be an attractive enough proposition for Tan to get anywhere near recouping his investment is with Premier League status. So there’s not that much riding on this season, then?