Thank goodness Cardiff City’s season is finally coming to an end – now the only way is up – Scott Johnson

Cardiff City’s never-ending season, that has plumbed new depths, is finally drawing to a close and we can soon all set about trying to block most of it from our collective consciousness. It wasn’t without some rare pleasures, but suffice to say, the negatives snuffed out the odd positives.

It was one of those campaigns that feels like three combined. If you can remember as far back as August, it actually started quite well. Cardiff took the lead in their opening game against Barnsley through Marlon Pack (remember him?), before being pegged back by the Tykes. Seeing as Barnsley had finished in the top six a few months earlier, it felt like a decent point, but little did we know that they were on their way towards plummeting back to League One.

Cardiff then won at Blackpool, with a lovely winner from a floated Ryan Giles cross, powerfully headed home by Kieffer Moore (remember them?). Aden Flint soon took charge, scoring four in the next two games, briefly winning over plenty of non-believers in the process. Then came the first and probably least painful of four derby defeats and a failed Moore transfer to Wolves right at the end of the window, from which he never appeared to recover.

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The other side of the international break saw the fully-formed emergence of Rubin Colwill, who popped up to net the winner at a now barely recognisable Nottingham Forest. If anything, this was the year where Cardiff turned to their academy and the pick of the litter did not let them down.

From then on, though, not so great. Eight consecutive defeats, in complete contrast to an initial 11-game unbeaten run when he first took charge, proved to be the end of Mick McCarthy’s time in charge and his tenure really should have been ended three games sooner. It was a run that included a 3-0 thrashing at Swansea City and five centre-backs fielded for a 4-0 hiding against West Brom, which was a statement of intent that he was never going to recover from.

Steve Morison was promoted from the under-23s and given no chance of landing the job permanently by chairman Mehmet Dalman, but with Cardiff unprepared for McCarthy’s collapse, Morison impressed enough on an interim basis to be given a contract until the end of the season.

In Morison’s first game, Cardiff trailed 3-0, before managing to claw back a 3-3 draw. Two wins in the next three lifted optimism, but that was soon cut to size by a 1-0 defeat (one of nine losses by that scoreline) at home to Hull. Morison soon arrived at the same conclusion that most Cardiff managers discover; that Cardiff are better when they see less of the ball. Pragmatism kicked in, they conceded more possession and dropped a little deeper, but results improved.

That was strongly influenced by an impressive January transfer window, where five loan signings arrived and all of them made a significant impact. One of them, the relentless Cody Drameh, even won the Player of the Year award. It was that kind of year.

Giles still leads the way in assists, despite leaving on January 3. Flint is joint top scorer, largely due to two games back in August. When you look at the season in terms of statistics, it makes for rather grim reading. Cardiff are 19th in terms of their home form, losing 12 out of their 23 games and a marginally better 15th in away performances. In fact, Cardiff have been defeated 23 times, half of the games they have played, with a goal difference of minus 19.

Cardiff have one game remaining, against an already relegated and largely decimated Derby County. A result there could see them pinch 18th place, but it’s neither here nor there, really. Since securing their Championship status, Cardiff have chopped and changed at the expense of results and climbing the table, which has been constructive or a bit of a waste, depending on your stance.

Morison now faces a seismic rebuilding job over the summer, a task he has real enthusiasm for, which is just as well. I feel for him because this is a situation he has inherited and is not of his making, but he’s had to field questions about it ever since taking charge. The hope is that he can transfer his prowess in the loan market to the permanent signings that he will require.

Morison was deservedly rewarded for his efforts with an extended contract, but he knows that he will need to do better next season. Since taking the reins, Cardiff would be 17th in the table, with 11 wins, six draws and 14 defeats, scoring 37 but conceding 42. The stench of the 4-0 drubbing against Swansea continues to linger and Cardiff have yet to truly recover from it.

Cardiff have lost four of the last five, which has coincided with a post-safety deflation of sorts. Morison is perfectly within his rights to use those games to experiment, with an eye on next season, but if Cardiff make a slow start next season, that run of poor form will be carried over and tacked on. Seeing as they could be bedding in as many as 15 players, a period of acclimatising is to be expected, but will it be tolerated?

The prospect of a leaner, meaner side next year, featuring several academy graduates (plus hopefully Joe Ralls and Will Vaulks) is something that everyone is ready and willing to get behind, but a huge task awaits, with a lot of ground to make up. If Morison hopes to have as many players in as possible for the start of pre-season, he has six weeks to secure them. Time is most certainly of the essence.

One thing I can say with a fair degree of certainty, though, is that this season has set the bar rather low, so it can’t be any worse. Surely.


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