As much as it hurts to say this you have to respect what Swansea have done over the past few years. Surely this weekend will have been the summit for our West Wales neigbours? A League Cup victory allbeit against lowly opposition and on the day, an inept Bradford performance, the Swans are to be congratulated.
Where Cardiff stumbled and failed to reach the Premier League, Swansea pipped us. Where we failed in a much tougher task against Liverpool last season they have conquered today. Laudrup’s men are the darlings of the pundits, playing attractive, possession, European-style football. Swansea are headed to Europe and will test their progress against European competition. There have been plenty of memorable, long gone, European nights for Cardiff to remember, now Swansea have their opportunity to shine on another stage.
If as expected, the Bluebirds follow their hated enemy to the Premier League, it would be imaginings of the dreamy kind to think we could mirror what the Swans have achieved. Talk of a 50 million pound war-chest is stimulating and if true, a massive sign of intent. It appears that Vincent Tan is not thinking of anything but progress for Cardiff City. He won’t be hoping to retain a Premier League place or show the same lack of ambition as Blackpool showed. But pockets full of money do not guarantee success either, as any QPR fan can tell you.
Cardiff can take delight in knowing that Swansea actually stayed in the Premier League and made a profit. And this does not include the League Cup cash or the European nights ahead. It is highly unlikely Cardiff will be in the same healthy financial black print as Swansea are two years from now, even if they maintain a Premier League status. This club will be deeply wading in red ink whatever the next two years bring. (I’m refusing to mention red in any other context, despite the wicked temptation to do so.)
Yet on the field, Cardiff can mimic Swansea’s success. It is not luck, it is a conviction and thorough attention to detail. Roberto Martiniez, Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers kept Swansea playing in the same style that Michael Laudrup has continued. The loss of a successful manager can be a huge upheavel for a club but chairman Huw Jenkins is to be credited for hiring the right replacements, not once but three times.
Their success in the Premier League was built on a foundation of players who moved up with the club. With Jenkins keeping the purse strings tight, each manager was forced (if that’s the right word) to work with many of the players who had gained them promotion in the first place. The base of the squad was maintained and added to with careful, discriminating buys culminating in the purchase of Spanish forward Michu for a bargain priced two million pounds. There have also been expensive departures like Joe Allen, Scott Sinclair and Danny Graham that has brought in over 25 million pounds.
In Malky Mackay, Cardiff City have for themselves a young, modern manager in the same mold as his Swansea contemporaries. Whether Cardiff can hold onto him longer than Swansea could hold onto theirs remains to be seen. In the meantime I would expect Mackay to use the same style of recruiting as Swansea have used. Mackay will be looking for lower priced, European and probably Asian signings who can add the kind of style and influence he needs. I expect the basic squad to remain in tact. Relatively young players like Mason, Velikonja, Kiss, Kim, Mutch, Taylor, Turner, Noone, Maynard, Campbell, Gestede, Gunnarsson, Nugent, Rawls, Harris, and Connolly are all in their mid-20′s or younger. I wouldn’t expect many of these to depart but form the base and be given time to further develop. That doesn’t mean they will all be starters but maintaining a consistent squad will be helpful.
Senior players like Marshall, Hudson, Bellamy and Whittingham will hope to make the leap to the higher level and retain a place in the team. McNaughton, Cowie, Earnshaw, Conway, Smith, Helguson, Lappin and Stephen McPhail will probably need to move on, though there could well be a coaching role for McPhail.
The team will need strengthening but I’m sure Mackay will look to his spine of goalkeeper, central defender, central midfield and striker for the Premier League impact players. Adding at least four top level performers will enable the current squad to strengthen and with some Premier League experience added from elsewhere, we can look to a successful relegation fight.
How much will this cost and how much change you get from 50 million quid I’m not sure?