As we look forward to Friday night’s game against Cardiff, we caught up with Bluebirds fan and season ticket holder, Ben Price
As we look forward to Friday night’s game against Cardiff, we caught up with Bluebirds fan and season ticket holder, Ben Price (@thebenprice). We ask Ben about Cardiff’s indifferent first third of the season, the reign of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Morro and Alfie, among other topics.
1. It would be fair to say that your league position is probably much lower than you expected at the start of the season, what do you put down to your poor first third of the season?
Yeah, we are miles behind where I was expecting us to be, on paper we have the one of the best squads in the league but you don`t win matches on paper. Our biggest problem was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he bought too many far too many players without getting rid of the ones we already had. Then to top it all off he tried to play every player! Solskjaer never fielded the same 11 from one game to another in his 9 months with the club!
Doing this caused uncertainty with the players, they just couldn`t strike up an effective partnership and you could also see that they were nowhere near match fit these are purely simply the reason we had such a poor start to the season. That is something Russell Slade has done very well, he has stuck with near enough the same starting XI since he has come into the club. He has been up front with a lot of the players and is looking to get rid of the deadwood. He has also got the players doing double sessions most days in a bid to get our fitness back up to the level it needs to be.
2. What were your expectations before the season started? Have they changed at all now?
Obviously my first thought was automatic promotion, but given the start we have had I have to be realistic, the way we are playing right now Play Offs are our only real hope of returning to the top flight at the first time of asking. But it is well know just how poor Cardiff are in the play offs, you guys know that first hand I am still also sure that Steven Bywater was playing for you a few years ago because he sure as hell wasn`t playing for us! I still also get grief for my cameo on Sky tv at 2-0 down to this day.
3. Did you agree with the sacking of Solskjaer and what do you make of the appointment of Russell Slade? How much improvement has there been?
Ole had to go pure and simple, he comes across as a lovely bloke but as a manager he was extremely naive. A huge squad, no real clue of what his best team was. It was something he didn`t know over 3 months in the Premier League and even after signing his own team and having a whole preseason with the squad he still didn`t know it. In the end the team lost all their confidence in him and when that happened it was time for him to go.
I think I was one of the very few Cardiff fans who was excited at the prospect of Slade coming in, his record at Orient was fantastic and he played an exciting brand of football. Since has come into the club he has been very forward in what he thinks is wrong with the club, he hasn`t held back in saying that players will be going and that all the players aren`t fit enough. He has bought a bit of passion into the club that has been missing since Ole was put in charge. At home we have been superb, out performance against Leeds was fantastic, especially in the second half. However away from home it is a bit of a different story, the performances haven`t been as good.
This isn`t his fault however, we have won just twice away from home since in over 18 months (Fulham and a shock win at Southampton, both in the Premier League). His determination to stick to 4-4-2 both home and away has come in for some criticism from some sections of our fan base but I don`t agree with that. We had a draw against Birmingham last time out and it was a game that we should of won comfortably but it just didn`t fall our way (I am still having nightmares about Macheda`s 1 on 1 with the keeper).
4. Adam Le Fondre was a fan favourite here for the goals he scored, why do you think he has struggled to assert himself at Cardiff? Do you feel he offers anything else except goals?
ALF has been unlucky since he came to the club, when he first came to Cardiff he was either on the bench and didn`t come on or the tactical genius that was Ole Gunnar Solskajer decided to play him out wide. But since Slade has come in he has been given his chance up front, playing the majority alongside Macheda and his work rate for the most part has been superb. The goals might not be coming just yet for him but I he is starting to get into spaces where he looks like he will get goals, it is just a matter of time until it happens. He is also created so much space for Macheda that Kiko just hasn`t exploited, but yeah right now he is offering more than just goals. A friend of mine from university has warned me that when the goals do start to come that this will soon stop, but that is fine by me.
5. We were shocked to see Sean Morrison depart in the transfer window, but some were not too disappointed considering he could be a liability when defending. How has he done since he joined Cardiff?
Morrison had a bit of a shaky start at Cardiff, but again since Russell has come into the club he has settled into a very exciting partnership with Bruno Manga. Now that he is getting a good run in the side he is looking like a very good player, and he is king at winding up Birmingham fans on twitter.
6. Which Cardiff player(s) have excelled this season?
David Marshall was our stand out performer last season and again he has been very solid, but our two stand out players have been Fabio and Gunnarsson. Fabio has been a revelation here, he can attack and defend and has show 100% commitment to the club even after our relegation and that is something I really wasn`t expecting to say about him. He has gone from a player fans were very unsure about signing to becoming a massive fan favourite.
Gunnar is our rock in midfield, this is something that we didn`t see from the Iceland captain last season. This year however he is our most vocal leader and some fans feel he should be our captain. He went off against Millwall and we fell apart, if I had to pick a player of the season right now it would be the Iceman. Just for his beard alone he deserves this title.
7. If you could take any Reading player, who would it be and why?
There are more players from you we can take? If I had to pick one player it would be Hal Robson-Kanu, when I watch Wales he always runs and puts in a great shift. From what I have heard from my friend it isn`t something you guys get to see from him that often in a Reading shirt, but he was a player I was expecting us to try and sign last year at some point. If he played for us like he plays for our national side he could be a very useful player for us
8. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see from Slade on Friday?
From Russell I can only see us lining up 4-4-2, Marshall in goal. Then Brayford, Morrison, Manga and Fabio at the back, with Noone, Whittingham, Gunnarsson and Pilkinton in the middle, and Jones and Le Fondre lining up in attack.
9. What is your prediction for the game?
After chatting to my Reading fan friend he has made me feel very confident of a win, you seem to have a fair few lads out injured and we have been in great form at home, so I am going to go with a comfortable 3-0 win. If it was at your place i would be a lot more pessimistic but we are slowly turning the Cardiff City Stadium in to a fortress again.