Birds of a (Ruffled) Feather
It’s not often that Cardiff and Swansea could be seen to be united, unless it’s in regard to their mutual hatred of each other. But now, as unlikely as it may seem, there’s a suggestion that they may actually join forces – though, with David James signing for Bristol City, it wouldn’t be the first improbable alliance the Championship has seen this new season.
The reason a spirit of collaboration has replaced the usual antagonism? The unwelcome and allegedly underhand advances of fellow Championship side Nottingham Forest. The Tricky Trees’ chief executive Mark Arthur has ruffled both the Swans’ and Bluebirds’ feathers by publicly claiming that transfer targets Darren Pratley and Peter Whittingham are both keen to swap South Wales for the City Ground.
Forest’s interest in the pair hardly needs explanation. Cardiff’s Whittingham was the division’s top scorer last season, the most prolific of the clutch of midfielders who dominated the charts, while Pratley is the elegant and energetic midfield lynchpin around whom Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa structured their Swansea sides, and whom Forest have already tried to lure away before.
Equally understandable is the Welsh clubs’ anger. The players are key to their respective sides, and the prospect of not only losing the pair but to an outfit against whom they’ll be expecting to compete for promotion – especially one openly seeking to exploit their financial circumstances – must make it all the more infuriating.
So no wonder both clubs are on the defensive, with Swans’ chairman Huw Jenkins suggesting: “Perhaps ourselves and Cardiff can team up and protect our clubs a little bit.” Meanwhile Arthur’s counterpart at Cardiff, Gethin Jenkins, has gone on the attack armed with the trusty sword of sarcasm: “I would like to thank Mr Arthur for his interest in our football club. Though I would suggest that he direct his attention towards internal Nottingham Forest issues and problems than any blatant public attempts to unsettle members of our playing squad.”
I have to agree with Swansea’s Jenkins when he says of Forest: “They are obviously not getting the answers they want and are trying any tactic they want to try and get what they want.” Arthur’s proclamation that they are “only one of a few clubs with any money to spend” is an empty boast as thus far this summer their sole new recruit is Ryan Bertrand, and he only on a temporary basis. Like Cardiff and Swansea, they know they almost certainly need to bolster their squads before the end of August to avoid the risk of standing still or even going backwards, but despite their efforts new faces have proven elusive and time is running out.
So it remains to be seen whether Forest will eventually get their men (as so often happens in these cases, football having that way of rewarding the unscrupulous). Similarly, it remains to be seen whether Cardiff and Swansea really will club together on the grounds that their enemy’s enemy is their friend. But if they do, then don’t expect it to become some kind of momentous, miraculous love-in – on the contrary, it’ll be a temporary truce, a brief amicable kickabout in no man’s land before hostilities are resumed.