24: Season Review, Part One: BAR to CAR
With most minds occupied elsewhere, we nevertheless decided to wait for the hubbub of Orange Saturday to calm down and tarry until now to assess the 24 squads who made-up the 2009-10 Championship season. Over a series of six posts, I’ll look back briefly on each club’s progress, whilst saving the crystal ball gazing for after the conclusion of events at Soccer City in a month’s time. Today, Barnsley, Blackpool, and Cities Bristol and Cardiff fall under the magnifying glass.
Tipped by us to prop up the pile in the Summer, the Oakwellians reacted quickly to a perilous beginning in August. Simon Davey, once a conqueror of Liverpool and Chelsea, had been on the receiving end of grunting fans’ murmurings long before 09-10 kicked off, and anything other than a squeaky clean commencement would see the axe fall. With a readymade replacement operating a few miles away, the board registered the inevitable doom laden start and Mark Robins was installed after just five fixtures.
To some success, it must be said. A robust Autumn and Winter led to an imperious sweep up the table. Loan signings Ryan Shotton, Carl Dickinson and Nathan Doyle added ballast and the precocious Shotton in particular delivered some energy infused performances from full back. Hugo Colace clawed back some of his reputation from World Youth Cup winning days and Luke Steele continued to amaze us that he’s only 25. Robins came across very well in interviews: a man who clearly doesn’t suffer fools; and sequined fantasists like Anderson Silva and Daniel Bogdanovic enjoyed only peripheral influence under the new regime. A shaky end to the season is perhaps evidence of the limitations of the Barnsley resource base, but Tykes can feel proud of their bookie-defying statistics.
Final League Position: 18
Our Pre-season Prediction: 23
Marks out of 10: 7
TTU Player of the Year: Hugo Colace
Not since Greece carried home the Henri Delaunay Trophy in 2004 has a team so consistently overachieved. To put things in perspective, a July post from Lloyd proclaimed the Tangerines to have the weakest squad in the division whilst also dwelling on the club’s lowest average gate mark in 08-09. Leaving aside my fellow blogger’s natural antipathy as a jilted supporter, it was hard to disagree at that point and even the capture of Charlie Adam from Rangers looked unlikely to defy our gloomy prognostications.
The rest is histoire of course. Adam’s 17 goals bursting from midfield and only three less bookings signified how much of a nuisance he was to opposing rearguards. The tough Scot scooped our player of the year accolade although, as our regular guest contributor Liz pointed out, defensive screen Keith Southern has developed into a rangy, dynamic security policy for his more lauded partner’s forward runs.
Alex Baptiste had a marvellous 10 months at centre back and the Tangerines’ forwards all excelled themselves in the same manner as the unit as a whole. DJ Campbell’s explosive pinch hitting in the already legendary 4-3 win at Forest and Brett Ormerod’s Wembley winner provided late high points after something of a dip in the winter months had promised to derail the bright start (a 2-1 win over Newcastle having been the first notice served of delights to come). But it’s about Holloway of course and Lloyd will still argue that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Final League Position: 6
Our Pre-season Prediction: 24
Marks out of 10: 10
TTU Player of the Year: Charlie Adam
It’s perhaps ironic that the year Nicky Maynard finally discovered his shooting boots was a far shakier one for the previously resolute 10 extras in Gary Johnson’s highly honed 4-5-1 formation. That the ex-Latvia boss seemed to perhaps lose the fire in his belly also marked the end of an epoch, although having chosen well to replace the managerial legend, Robins will hope for even better days ahead.
The drama of Maynard’s goals has revealed a blossoming talent and his application and development helped mask a faltering first season from last Summer’s recruit, David Clarkson. As ever, City relied heavily on their mainstays these past few months. As Gavin Williams and Michael McIndoe moved on to new pastures, Liam Fontaine, Marvin Elliott and Cole Skuse in particular became ever more pivotal to the formation.
At the back, Louis Carey and Bradley Orr led the way out of a horrifying winter that saw cross-Severn rivals Cardiff plunder a 6 goal win at the Gate and Doncaster make hay too. Their fine form in the final few weeks marked a managerial cameo from Keith Millen, the stand in perhaps unlucky not to land the post full time. A transitional season for the Clifton crew has shown there is plenty to be optimistic about. Holding on to Maynard will be key.
Final League Position: 10
Our Pre-season Prediction: 16
Marks out of 10: 5
TTU Player of the Year: Nicky Maynard
The importance of off field issues when taking a club’s temperature has been a topic for much debate on the blogosphere in recent months, with our blogger Scarf stressing their all pervading importance while the likes of Lloyd and myself tend to adopt an ostrich like preference for the world of stepovers, flick ons and crunching tackles. However, even dewy eyed romantics will see how much Cardiff City’s fortunes have been marred by extra-curricular events.
Despite injuries to Joe Ledley and Ross McCormack and the loss of talismanic captain Roger Johnson in the Summer, the Bluebirds have once again shone on the green turf. Expertly directed by the wily Dave Jones, Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra have presented a fearsome forward partnership, with the ex-Perugia man providing a textbook example of how to play “in the hole”. Peter Whittingham and the incoming Chris Burke have weighed in from the flanks with goals and assists aplenty and Adam Matthews has been the chief discovery for a back line that has scarcely missed Johnson’s towering presence. The abovementioned 6-0 win at Bristol City was the apogee of another impressive on field campaign.
But what of goldfish fanciers? HMRC decided that it might be about time to summon in their debts and Peter Ridsdale disingenuously called upon early season ticket money to appease the taxmen, having promised that the dosh would be used for player sales. Cue uncertainty and pandemonium.
The Riddler has now gone and a corner may have been turned. That Wembley reverse may be a disguised blessing — had the Welshmen risen, more money will have been wantonly disbursed. Cardiff can now settle in to season two in the new stadium and eye a new push from a position of greater stability.
Final League Position: 4
Our Pre-season Prediction: 14
Marks out of 10: 7
TTU Player of the Year: Jay Bothroyd