It is back to the drawing board for Cardiff City following their second successive failure in the Championship playoffs.
The Bluebirds’ 3-0 aggregate defeat to Reading in last week’s semi-final was a bitter pill to swallow for the supporters, particularly with their side still well in with a shout of automatic promotion just days before the season finale.
The writing was on the wall for City’s promotion chances when several key first teamers were allegedly spotted drinking in the Welsh capital less than 48-hours prior to their automatic promotion decider with Middlesbrough. Many of these players were involved in the Middlesbrough debacle which saw Cardiff soundly beaten 3-0 on home turf, handing automatic promotion on a plate to Paul Lambert and his Norwich City side.
Similarly when the chips were down during their playoff semi versus Reading the same indispensible players went into hiding, allowing Brian McDermott to plot his side’s course to Wembley for a playoff final showdown with Swansea this bank holiday weekend.
For Dave Jones, managing the various egos throughout the Cardiff City squad is surely a veritable nightmare. Controlling big personalities such as Michael Chopra, Jay Bothroyd and loanee Craig Bellamy requires a strong character. Yet with the team in such a strong position fighting for promotion it was shocking to see key first team players showing blatant disregard for their squad status so close to the do-or-die Middlesbrough encounter.
For Bothroyd, whose domestic season entered terminal decline following an international call-up for England, he will be moving on to pastures new this summer at the end of his contract – destination Premier League.
It is an incredibly difficult balancing act maintaining a squad that is brimful of talent but more importantly contains the right attitude and desire.
You only have to rewind the clock almost exactly 12 months to find Ian Holloway’s Blackpool enjoying a fairytale playoff final victory over Cardiff at Wembley – achieved with a close-knit squad of players willing to give sweat, blood and tears to the cause.
Similarly this season, Cardiff fell at the final hurdle in the race for automatic promotion to a Norwich City side not packed with superstar names or big wage earners, but with a balanced squad of players with a willingness to improve and test themselves at the highest level.
Whether Dave Jones continues in charge at the Cardiff City Stadium next term remains to be seen. Recent reports have linked Jones with the vacant West Ham managerial role.
Regardless of that outcome the close season requires some serious thought from millionaire Malaysian owner Chan Tien Ghee regarding player recruitment and a wholesale change in attitude on the pitch.