Without wishing to delve too much into the events that have led to Cardiff City looking for a new manager, the instability that surrounds the club is the only continuity that the Welsh capital has seen in the last year. For what it’s worth Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to go and keeping him would have made Cardiff City supporters nightmare even more execrable. When he arrived in South Wales he claimed that he wanted his team to play the Manchester United way. What he didn’t add was if it was Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United or David Moyes team. If it was the latter he succeeded spectacularly.
So when Joe Mason notched a hat trick against Birmingham the Norweigan must have been tearing his hair out as his team looked as likely to score as he was to keep his job. This after he claimed that the game against Middlesborough was one that his players would definitely bounce back in after the humility of the Saturday before when Norwich battled back to score four goals from a two goal deficit.
The anarchy that the infamous kit re brand has caused is shameful. Not only has it caused a division amongst supporters and families but it has left many disillusioned with what football in today’s world actually is. Were Vincent Tan to rectify the issue, then Cardiff’s chance of promotion would be strengthened because the fans could feel united again. Of course this won’t happen immediately and for some it will be a gradual process. Nevertheless the club as it stands today is like the leaning tower of Pisa, only looking more likely to collapse by the minute.
Built In The Classroom
It is fair to say that Russell Slade wouldn’t have been top of many peoples choice of a successor to the departed Solskjaer and won’t do much to whet the appetite of a supporter hoping for an instant return to the Premier League. Having said this, he is a hard-working man who gets his teams resolutely organised and challenging with the so called bigger clubs. Whether he can work for a club that is expected to win matches remains to be seen, though he should be supported in the entirety of his reign.
He started out as a PE Teacher at the Frank Wheldon School in Nottingham before starting his football career at Notts County. Looking back on this time Slade said, ”At eighteen I had the chance to go to Notts County but I got into University so I went away to get a degree in sport instead. I did four years’ training and then did about a year’s teaching in School before I went to Notts County as a player and a coach”.
“My experiences helped me be more prepared and organised. I took numerous coaching courses and it allows you to be really open minded and dealing with different situations. I had qualifications to be a coach in swimming, athletics, badminton, basketball, cricket and tennis. It not only broadens your horizons but allows you to look at things in different ways.”
Slade has found motivating players a bit easier after overseeing the task of inspiring children and recognises how the introduction of a new face can improve the atmosphere.
The Man Behind The Tracksuit
Speaking in 2010 in the flats behind Brisbane Road, a supporter outlines who the man that is expected to salvage Cardiff’s season is. Slade is a very affable man. Softly spoken and always pleasant. He has taken Orient to the 5thround of the FA cup and two 7th placed finishes in League 1. Throughout this period, Russell Slade has not spent a single penny on players.
Speaking more recently, the humble boss states, “The four greatest values my team have got are our work ethic, desire, character and, above all, togetherness,” he said. “Those values will be massively important if we are to get into the Championship and we have turned that into a plaque and put it in the tunnel. I put up loads of values on the wall and asked the players what they thought were the most important. The players wrote them down themselves and they were the four things that came out on top of everything. It was not our goalscoring, our defensive ability or anything like that. The players could put anything and they saw those four as the most important. Those are the things that define our team.”
As a Cardiff fan reading this, It is almost de javu in that Malky Mackay had the same philosophy. This can only be a good thing because Malky Mackay was an excellent manager for Cardiff. Yes the recent allegations will have left many with a sour taste and I myself find it disheartening to hear such misdemeanors. He still took Cardiff too a place they hadn’t been before and had steely victories against Man City and Swansea to his name. In charge of Cardiff, he had a relationship with the fans that enticed supporters and brought passion for a club that is playing in the wrong colour kit. The scenes at Anfield were tear jerking and profoundly poignent in terms of the bigger picture. Cardiff City fans were singing at the top of their voices and all united. Solskjaer was a shadow of Mackay in the way he went about a promotion tilt and the expressive tactics were self destructive as they were executed terribly. If an expanisve playing style was the order of the day, the training sessions should have been based around this and so too, the match day line up.
A Late Bloomer
Slade has crossed swords with Arsène Wenger, drawing against Arsenal in the FA Cup in 2011. “We then went to the Emirates and still passed the ball. Wenger was a bit shocked by that. They beat us comfortably. When it was 4-0 he looked at me, and there was a nice wry smile and respect because of the way we played.
“Me and my staff went in to see him after the game [Leyton Orient lost]. Barcelona were on the TV and he said, ‘you play a little bit like these’. We had a bit of a giggle. We were asked if we wanted a drink. They had a big fridge full of nice French wine. It obviously wasn’t opened too often because Pat [Rice] was looking for the key.
“My playing career is very, very modest but so was Mourinho, Wenger and Villas-Boas. English managers don’t always get a chance. It doesn’t mean we can’t learn from top managers like Wenger.
Like his predecessor, Slade also confides in British footballs best, Sir Alex Ferguson. He explains,“I’ve looked at Sir Alex Ferguson’s man-management. I see him as the Godfather of managers. When I lost my job at Yeovil he was the first one to text me.’’ Hopefully it will be words of wisdom and not consolidation that the wily Scot will be offering in the coming months.
A family man, Slade is married with four children and has been living apart from his family in his London base. His family stayed in Scarborough. Based in the flats overlooking Orients pitch, he speaks eloquently about how “One of the best up-and-coming managers is Eddie Howe [at Bournemouth]. He adds that ”he hope somebody like him would get the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. Foreign chairmen might not know him. There are obstacles in the way.’’. Now it is Slade that is getting his opportunity and my how he well take it.
Hanging off one of the corridors in Cardiff City Stadium is a quote from the basketball great Michael Jordan. Malky Mackay is the man who felt the need to put this up and Slade, like Mackay, mentions Jordan in lifting his players. ”Michael Jordan in basketball, spurring himself on through the pain. Pain is temporary but the feeling of defeat can last forever. So to go that extra mile is very important.
“The game is not simply about tactics, the best formation or who’s got the better technical players. Sometimes it’s about that will to win.
“We played Colchester after running our socks off over two hours against Hull [in the Capital One Cup]. I said to them, ‘We now have to go the extra mile’ against Colchester. After we won, I told them, ‘You have left me a very, very proud man by the way you dug in in those last 10 minutes.’
“People talk about, ‘who motivates the motivator?’ When you get a reaction like that, when your players are putting their bodies on the line that’s the greatest motivation of all. They are a great bunch. I trust them all.
One would envisage that the current Cardiff City crop are more than capable of turning this season around and propelling themselves into a play off berth. To do so Russell will have to unhinge any reservations that the players had about Solskjaers tactics, unleash the qualities at his disposal and get them to embrace him and format them in a constant starting line up.
Glass Half Empty
Cardiff City are a club that is in transition and the vitriol that encompasses supporters is becoming ever more prevalent. Orient saw an immediate rise under Slade. He himself admits the area was downhearted when he arrived by saying, “When I came to this club, everybody’s glass was half-empty. Now I’ve seen more fans wearing a red and white shirt around the place, rather than maybe hiding it under a jacket.
An eary Cardiff City Stadium was the scene for a team bereft of confidence and a crowd to boot. An early middlesbrough goal did little to change the impending doom that the South Wales club was experiencing.
Slade (pictured above at the Millenium Stadium) will hope that he will have happier times in Cardiff than the 1-0 defeat to Cheltenham in the Play Off Final.