Hull 0-2 Cardiff City

This Cardiff City side must be admired but they aren’t easy to love. After a great 2-0 win at one of the Division’s form sides, I should have returned from Hull buzzing, delighted to have made the trip, “proud of our boys” and all that entails. But there is so much more to supporting your team than watching them take 3 points and driving home with the match programme. So what’s my gripe? Why am I whinging after such a positive outcome?

There is just something not very satisfying about watching City at the moment. The football is very good, we have some great players, but there’s something missing, and that is a sense of identity, a feeling that we’re all in this together, a warm glow that you did your bit to come back from Humberside light in pocket but full of pride.

It starts for me with the goal celebrations. While other teams leap around forming human mountains and practically hugging the scorer to an inch of his death while he lies prostrate on the turf, our team barely shake hands and pat each other on the back. When Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scored a vital second goal in the last minute yesterday we couldn’t tell from the other end of the pitch that it had gone in. The team barely recognised the goal, and simply strolled back to halfway.

Ever since Sam Hammam arrived at the club in ten years ago the fans at Cardiff City have been divided. His spectre still hangs over the club, and our fans will not be unified while he is still on the scene. There are two camps of supporters backing and opposing Dave Jones too. Maybe it’s like this at other clubs, but I’m not sure it is. There have been worries recently about the poor crowds at Leckwith (18,000, not the reported 21,00 which includes season tickets). The atmosphere is pretty flat, and Hull made a noise yesterday that Leckwith rarely approaches. This is what happens when you expect to win, and your team hardly cares if you’re there or not. Part of the attraction of watching City used to be that you were part of something – you were doing your bit. I think that’s gone and the incentive has been lost for a lot of people who find the Leckwith experience less than thrilling. Does this level of detachment come with a top class team these days? Is this what we are hoping to achieve with promotion? Be careful what you wish for, eh?

There was a comment on a Hull forum that Cardiff simply turned up expecting to win and moaned at the ref when things didn’t go their way. That’s not far wrong. In some ways it is understandable – City played on a different level to Hull yesterday – but it’s so frustrating that with a little more application and enthusiasm, this team could win promotion comfortably. The lack of team spirit in the camp is now so evident that it makes the supporter feel a bit put out. Why don’t they care as much as we do?

Aaron Ramsey showed his class again, though he did lose the ball a few times in dangerous situations. I’ve noticed that he does this from time to time, and would be a bit concerned if he plays in a deep role for Wales. I don’t think he’s made a tackle since he’s been with the City, but then who has? Cardiff have developed this “back-foot” style of play which relies on nicking the ball away from attackers, rather than playing a physical game. It can be frustrating for fans who prefer to see a team on the front foot, pressing and snapping into challenges, but I think the City supporters have now got used to it, and can appreciate the relative success that it has brought. At the end of the game I sent my lads down to the front as I was expecting some sort of emotional goodbye from Ramsey – maybe throwing his shirt into the crowd. I was to be disappointed – he barely made it across halfway, gave a few cursory claps and trudged off with everybody else.

This is part of the no-spirit malaise. If we’ve travelled ten hours to watch you win, you could at least pretend to appreciate us. I’m 43 – I’m not the type of desperate follower who cheers when someone does the Ayatollah – I don’t care if you “give us a wave”, but I see away teams at Leckwith all together in the corner with their fans at the end of a game, particularly if their team wins – but at Hull yesterday it felt like you didn’t give a shit if we were there or not. I know it’s trite and a but puerile, but a player like Joey Jones or Jason Perry can ignite a crowd with a simple raise of the fist. City don’t have that player.

On a day when Leeds took 3,100 to Swansea, Cardiff in an identical situation only took 700 to Hull. That’s an indication of the respective size of the clubs, but also a reflection on a Cardiffian fan base which feels alienated and remote. We used to take that many away in the 3rd Division when Jason Perry, Cohen Griffith, and Damon Searle would climb on the fences at the end of a game. Remember the wild bonding that took place with the team after Cambridge away in 1999? the wildly celebrating John Williams running out of the fog after the 3rd goal at York City in 1991? Carl Dale being mobbed by the Grange End after scoring against Wrexham in the 1993 Welsh Cup? The Welsh Cup? That’s gone – we have a team of performers now, and apart from Stephen McPhail, I think this team is well out of touch. Sometimes it feels fine to lose when you come back from an away game with a sense of pride and companionship, but a win with no inclusion can feel empty.

Reading official news reports from the first half, I wondered if I was watching the same game. I felt that Cardiff were well in control, and only required a break in front of goal to win the match. Yes, Heaton made a stupendous save from Fryatt, but Cardiff had a clear penalty claim denied (it happened right in front of me – and yes Bothroyd was clearly tripped), they had a goal rightly disallowed, and Hull were forced into two goal line clearances. Chopra might also have had a pen when it looked like he was pushed in the first half (he was also clearly shoved in the back in front of goal early in the second half).

But City are getting nothing from referees these days. And I think it’s partly their own fault. Bothroyd has resorted to big grandiose dives when he is fouled, as he has been frustrated by the refusal of officials to correctly penalise defenders who constantly foul him. Chopra, too, made a couple of extravagant swan dives intended to emphasise an offence which might otherwise have gone unseen. Referees hate this, and naturally refuse to make decisions which might be given without the theatrics. When you have Bothroyd, Bellamy and Chopra constantly whinging throughout the game, it’s little wonder that refs favour the opposition. That’s human nature.

Cardiff were just too good for Hull, and some of the passing moves out of defence were a joy to watch. Paul Quinn instigated some of these in a man of the match performance. What has happened to this player? He has improved vastly, and has added some attacking flair to his sturdy defence. City’s back five were satisfyingly solid against a turgid Hull attack yesterday, but at last we have a sense that this is a proper back four with some spine. Hudson was again outstanding during a late Hull onslaught.

Craig Bellamy was very subdued. Was he fit? Not once did he take on his full back and was happy just to receive the ball and play it back to McNaughton, time after time. He looked like he might have been sulking about something – and in no way did it weaken the team when he was taken off after 80 minutes. McPhail was brave – he took some hefty challenges during the ninety, but perservered with good spirit and played his part.

There have been some calls recently for Dave Jones to revert to a 4-5-1 system which proved successful against Leicester. That would mean leaving Chopra out, which is unthinkable. You shouldn’t underestimate the quality of the header for City’s first goal. Chopra’s first touch isn’t great at the moment, but he is such a threat that he can’t be omitted. We did try to include him in a 4-5-1 earlier on this season and it didn’t work.

Anthony Gerrard was injured in the first minute and this allowed Bothroyd complete supremacy – he won almost every header that came his way. He still didn’t move a lot, but we’re used to that. He’s not as pivotal as he used to be, maybe because Ramsey has allowed us to play through the middle, but he is still a key figure. His insouciance is symbolic though – he plays for himself like so many others in this current line up.

City almost threw this game away in the last ten minutes. Hull were going nowhere and the home fans were starting to leave when inexplicably we started giving the ball away and inviting them onto us. We started playing the corners after 80 minutes when we didn’t need to. Just after Emmanuel-Thomas came on, he stared lazily at a full back in position for a good five seconds instead of closing down. This allowed the full back to pick his cross which resulted in panic, and a 20 yard free kick which could have easily gained Hull an underserved point.

Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe the younger fan is happy to go away, and watch a game from a distance admiring the skills of eleven quality players – but personally I prefer to feel part of something. Yes we won, yes we were superior, but I wouldn’t fancy standing alongside this City team in the trenches.

11 thoughts on “Hull 0-2 Cardiff City”

  1. I agree 100%. The difference between us and other teams pushing for promotion is the passion, both from the players and the fans. Swansea, Norwich etc play each game as if it’s THE game that will get them promoted; they play with intent and as if they want to be in the Premier League with every fibre of their being. This in turn inspires the fans. Same with Blackpool at the end of last season, and now in the PL too – they play with passion.
    Cardiff seem to lack this. It’s as if the poor run in November has made them doubt themselves, that the fact they are likely to be in the playoffs again makes them lacklustre. The annoying thing is, as you say, is that this team should be getting promotion easily. But every time I say them play home or away they seem to lack the fire in their play, the enthusiasm, the desire to get to the PL. Why this is, I don’t really know, but I for one think it’ll cost us promotion this year.

    BTW, did you mean Anthony Gerrard??!

    Good post once again, keep it up!

  2. A fascinating article. Going down to Ninian Park was enough of a buzz in itself and even during some torrid afternnons there was a sense of carmaraderie. We may not have been very good but our fans were better than anyone else. Doubtless, the move to Leckwith was a necessity but it often feels as if the away end house the home fans. The atmosphere, particularly if we’re down or it’s a stalemate is often dead (or is it just nervous?). Perhaps it’s the expectations, perhaps it’s the type of players we have…whatever it is, there’s something missing. But then, would you want to change that for being back in League 1 or 2?

  3. always enjoy reading your stuff but not sure about this or the response above

    why would you want to be in the trenches with them ? it’s football not warfare and i like watching this team who have skill and can play a bit rather than past teams who were rubbish in comparison but would run around a lot and shake fists at the opposition, us or each other

    1. Oh I absolutely accept that. It’s great to watch – but I’m not sure that actually going to a stadium to watch them has any particular advantages over a seat on my sofa. I felt like an unused substitute in Hull. Nice win, but did I really need to be there?

      1. no you didn’t need to be there, not being flippant here i have only just realised this myself in the last 18 months or so – it goes ahead without me

        if you don’t enjoy it anymore don’t go

        1. Ah you shouldn’t take my moaning to mean that I don’t enjoy it. It’s just that the stuff that I enjoy would make pretty poor reading – the enjoyment of spending a day with my sons – introducing them to my culture, the nice cup of coffee, the pleasant steward who let us sit in the disabled section, meeting up with old friends etc etc.

          However, you advise people who dont enjoy it not to go. Thats my point really – I think thats what is happening, and a little more inclusiveness might help stop the growing disillusionment being felt by quite a few fans (of a variety of teams) if my inbox is representative.

  4. A really thoughtful article and one that the clubs management and players should take to heart. I would like to think that the response to JET’s goal was determination not to loose the game in the last minute or two (we have seen it in the past) but theri reponse to the crowd is all part of marketing. Fans have to feel the passion. Teams such as the Wolves and even Blackpool who have weekly mountains to climb seem to have a camaraderie that sees them through against the odds. We do not quite have that make up or the sort of central figure who can motivate them. Roger Johnson might well have been that player. He more than anyone was a great loss to the club.

  5. Great blog and I think you’ve summed up the feeling many football fans have about their clubs in these days of multi million pound wages.

    I used to regularly take my eldest to Old Trafford but have hardly bothered for two season (and counting) – he’s 13 but would rather be watching Bangor City away at Aberystwyth scoring 90th minute winners and being there behind the goal when the players leap joyously into the crowd.

    I wonder of the next generation of football fans – followers of the game I mean and not just Wayne rooney fans – will feel the same as my 13 year old and get involved in their local non league/local league sides where you get to know most of the 300, 500, 7y00 crowd on first name terms and pretty much all the players too?

    To me thats a much more fullfilling experience than being just the “1″ in the 75,841 OT money box……..and my son feels the same too

  6. I can certainly see what you’re getting at, there’s definitely a lack of players who genuinely seem to connect with the fans and really “pump them up”, although I do think Chopra does this to a certain extent – for example, he’s the player most likely to get the crowd going in a poor home performance but sprinting 40 yards to foul somebody!
    It’s impossible for any outsider to really know what the spirit inside the dressing room is like, it certainly doesn’t appear to be incredible but I think too much can be read into goal celebrations; you could argue that having thrown away points by conceding sloppy goals recently (Burnley, Forest, Reading) it was good professionalism by the players to not get carried away with a goal and to keep their focus. When talking about team spirit I think it’s also important to note how many of our players in and the first 11 are new and/or on loan this season: Heaton (albeit on a second spell), Keinan, Naylor, Olofinjana, Bellamy, Ramsey, JET, Keogh (before he left), Parkin – it’s not a squad that have been together for years, although we have had a similar core for 2/3 years now.
    I also do believe a lot of the players really care, they just may not be as adept at showing it as those like Jason Perry. For example, in terms of commitment Kevin McNaughton is unquestionable, frankly if he never acknowledged the fans in anyway I wouldn’t care because of what he performances show. I also think that while undoubtedly being very self-interested and constantly realistic as regards their careers, players like Bothroyd and Chopra particularly do care and it would mean a great deal to them to go up with Cardiff, the club that has essentially ingnited both their careers.
    As we move upwards it naturally becomes harder to identify with the players, after all most we have now are products of years of sheltered nurturing in academies rather than being figures basically similar to the average fan on the terraces with more ability. When it comes down to it though, worse trench allies or not, I’d take the last 3 years of watching some of our sublimely talented players over the years of enthusiastically committed garbage in Division 3 (as was) any day!

  7. I think your piece strikes several cords with many city supporters in terms of how they feel about following this team at the moment. All the points raised above are all contributory factors (number of loan players, expectancy, sterile new stadium etc). Interestingly I was talking to a mate over the weekend about this and recalling the high expectancy levels around the 92/93 promotion winning team. I’m sure we were pre-season favourites and spent more on transfers than anyone else in league but boy did it feel different following that team. Every away game seemed like an occasion culminating in that Wrexham game which in the days leading up to it was as nerve racking and tense as you could possibly get. However the atmosphere in the away end that day was anything but – there was a genuine sense of camaraderie and spontaneity amongst our support something which is sadly lacking today.

    Personally I trace this expectancy thing back to our last season at Ninian and could see it coming at the time. There was a period when we were filling Ninian and were (surprisingly) chasing down that second automatic spot that I felt a sense of what it felt like towards the end of that 92/93 season. However our dramatic collapse that season and move to the new stadium coupled with its inevitable sanitising effects was always going to change the feel of supporting the club. This malaise took on a whole new level at the play off final last year. How poor were our supporters that day in terms of noise and atmosphere?

    My fear for this team if they go up is their lack of cohesive spirit, something which we will need in far greater quantity to survive in the Premiership than to get promoted into it.

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