Cardiff And Palace: The great reversal of fortunes
After Crystal Palace romped to victory against Cardiff on Saturday the Bluebirds now require a miracle to avoid relegation, while Palace's premier league status now appears to be secure. This time last season Cardiff had already won the championship and by the end of the season the two teams were separated by four places and 15 points.
What a difference a year makes, what exactly have Palace got right that Cardiff have got so wrong?
Expectations were high for Cardiff at the beginning of the season after easily winning the Championship, with Manager Malky Mackay in serious contention for the Everton job. It was also refreshing for neutrals to see Ian Holloway back in the Premier League. Both teams ushered in a host of summer signings, some good, some bad and some absurd. The highlights were the signing of promising Spurs defender Steven Caulker for Cardiff and seemingly impotent Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh for Palace, with the Eagles also losing star winger Wilfred Zaha, who would later end up on loan to Cardiff.
After ten games, Holloway was gone and palace were propping up the table with just 3 points; with Cardiff fairing better on 12. Things were panning out as expected, the Bluebirds were following Swansea's example as the second Welsh team in the top flight in as many years. But the cracks were beginning to show between manager Malky Mackay and hotheaded owner Vincent Tan.
The turning point in the season for the two sides was the sacking of head of recruitment Iain Moody by Tan. He didn't stay in the dole queue for long, heading straight to Selhurst park. Moody then oversaw the appointment of Welsh Manager Tony Pulis for Palace. This was a master stroke and puts the spotlight onto the lack of footballing knowledge within the Cardiff board when Mackay's luck ran out and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was hired. While Super-sub Solskjaer was a brilliant footballer, his managerial credentials leave a lot to be desired. He is relatively new to managing and while wining the Norwegian league title is good, it is a totally different task to maintaining a teams Premier League status. Pulis however, has been plying his trade for over 20 years; and was keeping Stoke City afloat for a number of years until he was let go at the end of last season. He has invaluable premier league experience, which Solskjaer sorely lacks. Had the erratic Tan given Mackay the chop as soon as the rift emerged, Cardiff could have snapped up Pulis instead; but would the board have had nous to appoint him? After all, Moody was replaced by a 23 year old man originally hired to do some painting around the stadium. It was this key move that saw the Eagles begin to soar, while the Bluebirds went into a swallow dive.
Palace galvanised their team in January, signing players like Joe Ledley and Scott Dann. Cardiff floundered around nabbing unknown Norwegians and awkward target man Kenwye Jones. As the season rumbled on, Palace began producing unprecedented performances, dragging them out of the drop-zone, including an amazing win against title hopefuls Chelsea. Cardiff have faltered, with a meagre total of just eight points since January.
So here we are with five matches remaining, Pulis' Palace are planning which song their cheerleaders will dance to this summer to celebrate survival and a few miles down the M4 Vincent Tan is wondering which colour shirts would look nicest with Sky Bet Championship written on the sleeve.
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