I’m going to put my cards on the table straight from the off. I’m a Cardiff City fan. Yeah, go on. Go on. Laugh away. Ho ho. I’m ready for you. We waited for 51 years to reach the hallowed land of the Premier League only to go and screw it up. You’ve got to hand it to us, though, haven’t you? Things didn’t just go a little bit wrong: we shot ourselves in the foot in the most spectacularly hilarious way possible. Football fans the world over are belly-laughing. Even, I dare say, people in those far-flung corners of the globe where the game has barely penetrated are choking on their reindeer sausages as they try to stifle giggles at the fortunes of the ‘mighty’ Bluebirds.
It’s pretty painful to think about the season just gone, but it’ll do me good and help to explain where I’m coming from. The whole sorry affair started in 2012 when major club shareholder Vincent Tan insisted his investment was contingent on the unthinkable: changing the club colours from blue to red. Shamefully, both the fans and local press, if not showing unequivocal support, failed to stand up and say ‘no’. The long-awaited promotion to the EPL was subsequently tinged with the sensation that it could all have been so much better. That’s exactly how life in the top flight has left us feeling.
When the season kicked off, we were holding our own until, out of nowhere, news broke that manager Malky Mackay and chief scout Iain Moody were accused of both financial mismanagement and underperformance by Tan. The latter was suspended, the former, our most successful and most popular manager, was booted out following a protracted and cringe-worthy public slanging match and replaced by the nice, but ultimately ineffectual Ole Gunnar Solskjær. It was downhill from there. Our marquee signing, Andreas ‘Great Dane’ Cornelius, turned out to be a dud, Peter ‘Difficult’ Odemwingie played like he was learning the game. Ole’s signings, which included a trio of dainty Norwegians, Wilfried ‘Can’t be arsed’ Zaha and Kenwyne ‘Crap’ Jones just didn’t really cut the mustard. Everything was topped off by a series of unhelpful and inflammatory television pronouncements from Tan and his apparent desire for his smarmy face to be the centre of all attention. The club went into freefall.
To cut things short, after a bright start (a glorious home win against the eventual Premier League Champions, Man City) we ended up getting right royally roasted. While we could grind out results under Mackay, Ole wanted to attack at all costs and kept on reminding us he used to play for Man Utd, as if that would help in some way. Humiliating, nay, crushing defeats to the heavyweights Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Hull, and perhaps worst of all to the enemy down in west Wales ensued. It became pretty clear that multi-squillionaire Tan and even his perma-grinning chum Ole (who used to play for Man Utd, lest we forget) have got absolutely no idea about how a top-flight football club should be run off or on the pitch. The whole affair was a nightmare. Weekends were ruined by the club’s shambolic bumbling.
As a way of coping with the abject horror, and as opposed to walking away, I started doing the unthinkable: wanting Cardiff to be relegated. I saw staying up would be a vindication of Tan. Then, I tried to enjoy the absurd horror of the shambles through a bleakly comic veil, egging the club on to embarrass itself further. How I laughed when Vincent Tan launched a completely unprompted attack on Mackay, blaming him for the club’s relegation six months after he’d been sacked. It helped a little seeing Vincent Tan as a Clark Griswold-style character in a warped installment of National Lampoon’s Premiership Vacation. Then we finished bottom of the league, and its all been pretty flat since. I don’t know what comes next, apart from the gloomy prospect of trips to Millwall, Blackpool and, worst of all, QPR.
So, you can imagine why I’m feeling pretty low about the prospect of the global, grinning, samba-soundtracked festival of football that is just around the corner. It doesn’t even help that there’ll be a couple of (for the moment, at least) Cardiff City players at the tournament in the shape of Chile’s Gary ‘Pitbull’ Medel and South Korea’s Kim ‘Kimbo’ Bo-Kyung (more on them in a future post). But, I’m going to give it a go. I’m going to force myself to get engaged, involved and entangled emotionally in the whole World Cup. No mean feat for a Welshman. It isn’t only going to be a selfless gesture for the readers of Straight Off The Beach: I’m counting on it to restore my faith in the beautiful game and my optimism when it comes to football. Its supposed to be entertaining, right? I’m looking forward to seeing the greatest players in the world (and maybe Kimbo too) test themselves against each other against in a vaguely erotic display of masculine power, grace professionalism and skill: everything you don’t get in a capitulation of a relegation season, and everything that was absent from the Cardiff City Stadium this year.
There is, then a lot riding on the tournament, for me. I’ll be looking to Rio, dressing up in carnival costume in my front room and, as ever, rooting for the French (again, there’s probably another post there). Just as long as Vincent Tan isn’t doing the same, and stays far away from our TV screens for the summer at least, and as long as no-one rattles on about Man Utd, then everything is going to be OK. It can’t get much worse, can it?
Posted by Russell Williams