I resent having to write this article. Part of me feels I am contributing to a discussion that shouldn’t even be aired. I usually try to understand and accept other viewpoints, however absurd they seem to me. But now, with Cardiff City in 2nd place in the Championship, I hear some people are calling for Dave Jones to be fired and I am dumbfounded.
Usually I can ignore such reactionary nonsense by avoiding the places where it is aired. But now, incredibly, the argument for Dave Jones’ dismissal is gaining ground amongst some of the wiser heads. There are people whose opinion I respect, people who have been through the 80’s and 90’s with Cardiff City, who believe that Dave Jones is no longer the best man for the job.
Where do I begin?
When Dave Jones was appointed manager of Cardiff City in 2005, Cardiff were a club whose financial deceit had just been uncovered. He was appointed at a struggling side, but this being Cardiff, this being football, people felt that they should be doing better:
As Terry Phillips wrote after Jones’ predecessor was fired:
Lawrence left City on something of a low note following a season trying to stave off relegation with a squad most believed should have been nowhere near the lower reaches.
Doesn’t that sound familiar? The culture of entitlement was already there when Jones arrived.
Dave Jones came in to a club that was close to financial disaster. He needed to raise funds urgently. His brief was to keep the club in the Championship. Not to get promotion, just to survive.
The club has been teetering on the brink of ruin since 2006, with a series of court appearances, winding up orders and have been very close to administration on more than one occasion.
In November 2007, against this background Cardiff dropped to 20th place in the Championship. Dave Jones was given two games to save his job by Peter Ridsdale, and was physically threatened by supporters. That season, Cardiff reached the FA Cup Final, which was simply unimaginable in my lifetime, and in 2009 finished in their highest position for 28 years.
He achieved this high position after selling Aaron Ramsey to Arsenal, Chris Gunter to Tottenham, Cameron Jerome and Roger Johnson to Birmingham and and several other players for good money. By the end of 2009, he had brought in £33 million.
To replace those players he spent just over £5m. Anthony Gerrard was bought for £200,000 to replace Roger Johnson, who had been sold for £5 million. That is an example of Cardiff’s economics. That is what Dave Jones has had to deal with.
In October 2009, he told the Daily Mail
I personally feel I’m being punished for old debt. I think a lot of managers feel like that. When I arrived my brief was to keep the club in the Championship. The year before they’d just escaped relegation. I was then told we’d have to sell Jobi McAnuff, Danny Gabbidon and James Collins to survive. We then had to sell Peter Thorne. The debt had to come down. I understood.
Last season City reached the play-offs after finishing fourth – another longstanding record was broken. It was our highest position for 39 years.
We are now in 2nd place. We are higher than 23 other teams in our Division; teams who have had money to spend; teams with massive parachute payments from their time in the Premier League; teams with higher average attendances; teams without a huge historical debt to pay off; teams who have just as much right as we do to earn promotion.
So what do Dave Jones’ critics have to say? Firstly that he is “a bottler”. This is based on the failure to maintain superb form throughout a season. He would be better advised to start poorly and finish well. It doesn’t matter what the eventual points total, Jones is penalised for his good starts. It is imagined that somehow, he gets nervous towards the end of a season, and this is transmitted to his players.
Even if this were the case (and I don’t believe it is), then people should remember how we got there in the first place. Look at it objectively. City have reached 7th place, or the playoffs despite a disrupted boardroom, an uncertain future, with players who have missed wages, at a club in a precarious financial situation. They shouldn’t be anywhere near the playoffs by right.
They are there because over his time at the club, Dave Jones has taken awkward, unwanted, discarded players like Whittingham, Burke, Koumas, Chopra, Bothroyd, and combined them with cheap unproven players like Loovens, Johnson, Parry, McCormack and McNaughton. (I could go on), and turned them all into fantastic footballers. You only have to look at the form of people like Ledley, Parry, Chopra, McCormack, and Loovens after they left the club to see what he gave them.
The other criticisms are that he doesn’t wave his arms enough, that he somehow undervalues the importance of the Derby fixture against Swansea, and that he is grumpy with the local press. Listen, I am grumpy just having to listen to the shit that he puts up with, I’d hate to imagine what I’d be like in his shoes.
So against all of this… against a record of unprecedented success on the field since the 1920s, and with a massive profit in transfer dealings at a club in financial meltdown, with a proven record of player development, and developing an exciting style of winning football over his five years at the club, Dave Jones’ job is on the line. Because we have only taken 5 points out of the past 6 games, 2 of which were against the teams in 1st and 3rd places. Six games.
I hope Dave Jones goes and finds himself a club where he is appreciated because Cardiff City don’t deserve him. And then once he’s gone, we can replace him with a normal manager, somebody who will get the results this broken club deserves. Somebody who we can shout and scream at to make ourselves feel better about our own inadequacies. Dave Jones is too good for us.