Cardiff City - The rebrand, the turmoil and the victory for fans!
|Vincent Tan's Cardiff City badge|
I must say, if I wrote this the week of the change like I planned, I would probably have been caught up in the hype. The situation in early February though is that of heartache still for Cardiff City supporters. Results are woeful, matched by woeful performances on the pitch that in turn sees the atmosphere in the stadium toxic and painful to witness. The reasons behind the negativity at Cardiff City Stadium lie far further than just poor results, to find the true depths of it, we must investigate the "rebrand" and Cardiff since the early 2000s.
In May 2012, Cardiff's Malaysian billionaire owner Tan Dato' Seri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun announced to the world that forever blue Cardiff City would change their home kit to red with the traditional bluebird crest dropped for a dragon too. The decision sparked mass debate as Tan claimed if the change went ahead he would invest £100m into the club, paying off debts and aiming to take the South Wales side to the Premier League. Immediately fans were divided, no one wanted to ditch blue but many saw the financial need of the club which was fuelled by board members and media men saying should Tan withdraw then Cardiff could enter administration.
|The first ever Cardiff City red home kit|
On 6 June 2012 the decision was made, Cardiff would play in a blue stadium in-front of blue wearing fans but would play in red with the crest seen above. BBC News reported the story which quoted a statement from the club citing their decision coming after "a comprehensive review" of supporter feedback. Negotiations began immediately over the historic debt to former owner Sam Hammam whilst money was thrown at the playing squad of then manager Malky Mackay.
Mackay was allowed to buy £9.45m of player over the course of the 2012/13 season, adding the likes of Jordon Mutch, Fraizer Campbell and Craig Bellamy to his squad that quickly became promotion hunters. Over the course of the campaign the Bluebirds in red would receive a mixed reaction from other fans we met, some supporting us in the face of an owner rejecting our history, others mocking us for the fact it had happened. All in all though, Malky's boys would top the Championship and not let that lead slip throughout the course of the season, winning the division with 87 points, ahead of Hull City and play-off winners Crystal Palace.
The season was awash with controversy though, particularly during one match which is no known as "Scarf-gate". On 19 February 2013, Vincent Tan made the decision to gift all fans at Cardiff's Championship clash with Brighton with a free red scarf. The call was to bring unity and a red feel to an increasing blue home support. Some fans were incensed, with cases of throwing scarfs on the pitch and dumping in the urinals reported, whilst others littered the stands with their present. It was no friendly gift, it was another ploy to push red that was defended by manager Malky Mackay. For a minority of fans this day became the end of an era for them and since, lots have refused to return till Vincent Tan leaves the capital, particularly out of anger for the fans which chose to accept the "gift".
Before we move on to Cardiff's 2013/14 Premier League experience let's take a step back and visit why Vincent Tan took the helm. It's worth noting the Bluebirds are a club with a history of terrible owners, from Sam Hammam's idea of a Celtic club representing the whole of South Wales to Peter Ridsdale's prolific record for causing mass supporter protest. After earning promotion to the Football League First Divison in May 2003, the following 10 years would be a turbulent spell of cup finals, play-off heartbreaks and finally promotion to the "promised land".
|Andy Campbell scored an extra-time winner in the 2003 Play-Off final|
|The crest that Sam Hammam changed in 2003|
|A young Aaron Ramsey representing Cardiff at Wembley|
Ridsdale immediately had to win the fan-base over because of his history but the progress of the team helped gel the supporters. Manager Dave Jones took the Bluebirds to the 2008 FA Cup final with a squad boasting Premier League legends Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Unfortunately Portsmouth's Kanu would sink Cardiff's hunt for a second FA Cup win but it showed the ability of Dave Jones' squad. With high profile additions, such as the £4m signing of Michael Chopra, it seemed certain Jones' boys would push for the top flight.
At the end of the 2008/09 campaign, Ridsdale oversaw Cardiff's move from their 99-year home Ninian Park to Cardiff City Stadium. 2009 also saw the addition of Malaysian businessman Dato Chan Tien Ghee (TG) to the boardroom, the beginning of the links to Vincent Tan. With winding-up orders and transfer embargoes placed on Cardiff City, Ridsdale invented a "Golden Ticket" scheme in January 2010. This encouraged fans to buy season tickets far earlier than usual for the promise of investment in the playing squad and a price freeze on tickets for the next 5 years. The offer seemed perfect but would turn into more turmoil for the fans as the £3m raised disappeared.
|Ninian Park hosted some special moments for Cardiff City!|
Welsh hero Craig Bellamy was brought in on loan from Manchester City for the 2010/11 campaign and that, as well as other transfers, was hoped to bring Premier League football to South-Wales. A 4th placed finish in the Championship was followed by a humiliation to Reading in the Play-offs as Swansea City became the first club from outside England to reach the Premier League. Dave Jones would receive the sack after coming so close yet so far so many times and Watford's Malky Mackay was chosen to replace him.
|Ben Turner scored a late equaliser in the League Cup Final|
The dawn of the Premier League campaign was filled with hope, I wrote this for BBC Sport, excited by the additions of Gary Medel from Sevilla, Steven Caulker of Spurs and notably the fairly unknown quantity of Andreas Cornelius, a striker from FC Copenhagen. A loss on the first week to West Ham United was quickly turned around with a phenomenal 3-2 home win over Manchester City... Cardiff was sent into raptures!
However, October 2013 marked another farce as Head of Recruitment Iain Moody was removed from his position. Tan cited a summer overspend and the failure of incoming players to impress. Moody was a close ally of Malky Mackay and was replaced by a 23-year-old Kazakh, Alisher Apsalyamov who had previously been on work experience doing some paining at the stadium. Apsalyamov would not remain at the club long but it showed the tensions between board and backroom staff.
Of course the rigours of a Premier League season would also hit the Bluebirds (now in red remember), hard. Malky Mackay's philosophy was built upon being structured and tight at the back, heavily reliant on set pieces for goals. By December 2013 wins were hard to come by but fans were urging Vincent Tan not to sack Malky, protesting long after full-time versus Liverpool on 21 December 2013. Boxing Day though saw Southampton pummel Cardiff 3-0 at home, all the goals coming after just 27 minutes. Vincent Tan saw this as the last straw and took the decision to end Malky Mackay's time as manager. 2 days later Mackay's former side threw away a 2-0 lead in the 83rd and 90th minute to Sunderland, meaning Cardiff sat in 16th in the Premier League, just 2 places above the relegation zone.
|Ole Gunnar Solskjær - a legend on the pitch, less so off it!|
Ole promised an attacking brand of football but his tinkering and failure to find his best side cost Cardiff dear. During the back end of 2013/14, the Bluebirds would drop out of the Premier League with a whimper, sitting bottom of the table. The RevOLEution marketing from the board would continue over the summer as Vincent Tan proceeded to smear the name of Malky Mackay and his transfer policy by investing heavily in Solskjær 11 buys to ensure a swift return to the top flight.
The soap opera in South Wales hit a new height when former gaffer Malky Mackay was set to take charge of Crystal Palace. After Tony Pulis resigned, Mackay became favourite but suddenly the offer was withdrawn as news broke of alleged racial messages. In a dossier handed to the Football Association by Vincent Tan, it was revealed the Scot and his Head of Recruitment Iain Moody had sent each other texts regarding players, agents and seemingly Tan himself. Mackay was disgraced by Cardiff and faced a public apology whilst Tan basked in being proved right over comments made upon the sacking of his former manager.
Slade acknowledged his task to convince fans was an uphill one because Vincent Tan refused to consider the available Tony Pulis. Slade though, organised his Bluebirds after taking the reigns on 6 October and provided a number of home wins to send promotion chasing Cardiff back up the league. Wage bill cutting became a major policy and before January 2015 a number of Solskjær's players were released on a free. This coincided with a heavy drop in form and by the end of 2014 protests against Vincent Tan were planned to a scale not seen before.
|Chairman Mehmet Dalman helped the return to blue|
That brings us to Friday 9 January, as a press conference was called for 2pm and the news was given to delight not just Cardiff fans but football supporters who saw the rebrand as something that was not in the spirit of the beautiful game. Vincent Tan had compromised and Cardiff would wear blue at home and red away, victory for the Bluebirds and a dream many didn’t think could be realised in the near future!
|Is time at Cardiff City limited for Russell Slade?|
By Gareth Thomas - TFHB (Follow on Twitter: @GJ_Thomas & @TFHBs or 'like' our Facebook)
(A big thanks to those who own the pictures we have borrowed)