In recent seasons, the bluebirds have earned the stigma of being the let down team of the Championship. After 3 consecutive play-off finishes ending in failure and one of which included a final appearance, chances of promotion looked bleak and the hopes of the Cardiff City faithful were slowly withering away. But come the 2012/2013 campaign and Cardiff have wiped the slate clean. After a tuesday night 0-0 draw with Charlton, Cardiff are back amongst the elite of english football after a 51 year absence and will be playing in the top tier once again.
The last three seasons have been utterly bitter sweet for the club. After enjoying successful seasons and then suffering the misery of coming up short in the play-offs, their claim that one day they will become a Premier League team has been vindicated. For the first time in the history of the Premier League, their will be two welsh clubs in the top flight, Cardiff and Swansea City. Its worth mentioning that fixture will be an interesting encounter come next season. All out commitment and some fiery tackles will be committed amongst these fierce rivals.
The Championship has bared witness to a very different Cardiff City side this season. Dominant, formidable and playing very attractive football have sent them to the top of the summit for the majority of the season. Often they would have positive runs of form followed wobbly results, but its a different story this time around. It was scenes of jubilation and ecstasy that we saw at the Cardiff City Ground which symbolised the fans growing tension with the side and then let off in their celebrations. The masses flooded the pitch and the playes were hailed as heroes.
What has been the secrets to their success this season? Perhaps their home form has been the major driving force to their success this season. The statistics read only 2 losses out of 22 games this season and their steely defence have only conceded 14 goals at home this season. Its this kind of form that could stand them in good stead for next season. Traditionally, teams that come up from the Championship attempt to make their home stadiums a fortress. Get the crowd behind them and gather all important early season points in a push for survival. It would seem to be a tried and tested formula that comes back with reasonable success. After all, they will be playing the likes of both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal so it will be important to steal victories and clock up points.
It may sound cliched but to win the league or gain promotion, you have to grind out those all important results. It doesn’t have to be pretty and in the majority of cases, it isn’t a pretty performance and teams like Manchester United have done it so many times. But so often this season, Cardiff have earned a 1-0 victories or winning by a one goal margin on several occasions which has just kept adding to their points tally. On 17 occasions, Cardiff have won by either a 1-0 scoreline or by a 1 goal margin and its these results that could have turned at any point. But the Welsh clubs resilience has paid off.
One man who should earn a huge amount of praise ad credit this season is Malky Mackay. In only his fourth season in full time management, he has his first achievement under his belt and also looks on course to win his first piece of silverware as a manager in the shape of the Championship title. He has revitalised this Cardiff team into a formidable force and a force to be reckoned with and he fully deserves this accolade. It will be a big surprise if he doesn’t win the Championship manager of the season.
After celebrating his sides promotion with the fans and his players on the pitch, Mackay said: “It’s been a long time coming and we’re here now. I’m delighted. “It’s something we’ll reflect on over the next few days but there’s been a lot of hard work from a lot of people at the club and I’m delighted for these people.” Considering its been 51 years since Cardiff were in the top flight of english football, Mackay remains very humble and grounded about the whole situation and he realises that although this is a time to celebrate, there will have to be a lot of work to be done if they are going to survive in the Premier League. This is certainly a good manager in the making.
Mackay has recently been on several managerial shortlists following several dismissals and departures this season. He will be a wanted man in the years to come. But the football populus hopes that Cardiff don’t fall into a situation similar to the dismissals of Nigel Adkins of Southampton and Brian McDermott of Reading. Both hailed as heroes at their respective clubs, they both took their clubs through wobbly spells in the season, not much reason to go to panic stations but they were let go from their positions. An unnecessary decision for an exaggerated situation. It would be an awful shame to see Malky Mackay dismissed under similar circumstances.
Assessing Cardiff’s chances for survival next season, it would be fair to say that they do posses the ability to survive for consecutive seasons. Many clubs that come up from the Championship don’t posses the financial prowess of their Premier League counterparts, many of them using the money they earn from promotion elsewhere rather than towards new signings. But Cardiff do have the financial backing of their Malaysian owners and would be able to attract some names of Premier League stature. It’s far too early to consider the Welsh clubs chances for next season. They still have a title they look on course to win but regardless of that, congratulations should be given to Cardiff City.