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Archive for the ‘Cardiff City’ Category

Cardiff come close in their season of transition

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The end of the Jones era, the start of the Mackay era is what Cardiff fans had to get to grips with at the start of the season. Many thought Dave Jones’ time was up at Cardiff and were very interested to see who was going to be appointed as his replacement. Alan Shearer publically turned the job down, and rumours were rife that Chris Hughton and Roberto Di Matteo (at the time both out of work) were both in contention.

But along came Malky Mackay. He plied his trade at Watford with some impressive league finishes, especially with a shoestring budget. He was ready for a new challenge, a challenge with more pressure and higher targets and an expectant fan base.

With more than ten players leaving the club including big names such as Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and Chris Burke, he had the difficult task of rebuilding both the playing and non-playing staff of the club. He brought in players including Don Cowie from Watford, as well as Andrew Taylor, Aron Gunnarsson, Kenny Miller, Ben Turner, Joe Mason, Craig Conway, Filip Kiss, Rudy Gestede and fans favourite Rob Earnshaw.

Mackay instilled a hardworking and never say die philosophy into the football club and made sure every player who stepped out on the field gave nothing less than 100%.

Much different viewing in comparison to the players of the previous season, who were often lamented by the fans for not trying right up until the final whistle. This combination as well as excellent coaching methods with the involvement of up to date sports science made Cardiff more of a force than most pundits and football fans in general were thinking. A mid table finish many predicted within the Cardiff fan base, some being bold and predicting a possible playoff finish.

The league’s best midfielder Peter Whittingham, who always has speculation with a move away from the club lingering over him, was given a deeper role by Mackay and everything went through him. He was a joy to watch and when he was on song, very rarely did Cardiff lose. Many people would say that if you have lost the least games in the division (nine), you should be nearer the top. But the eighteen draws proved costly this season. The inability to turn draws into wins was an annoying obstacle on times, but the effort throughout the season by all involved should be commended. West Ham, with a wage bill more than likely to be three times the amount of Cardiff’s, proved too much in the playoffs but Cardiff will come back even stronger next season and the fans will always be there to support them home and away.

A place in the playoffs as well as very successful run to the final in the Carling Cup – taking Liverpool all the way to penalties in the final, Cardiff deserve a lot of credit.

A lack of squad depth ultimately cost the Bluebirds this season, but the players and staff had exceeded the expectations of all the Bluebirds fans with the league finish and cup final place.

Mackay has handed his retained list into the football league already and with the addition of Joe Lewis from Peterborough, this is only the start of what will be a very busy summer for Cardiff. Many more faces are expected to move to South Wales and join the likes of Cowie, Taylor, Gunnarsson, Miller, Turner and the very talented Mason to make us even stronger next season. We will be there or thereabouts next season, as we always are, whether we can make the final push time will tell, but our time is going to come very soon.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

The Scottish factor at City

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

In recent seasons, Scottish players have always had a reasonable amount of success whilst playing for Cardiff City, they always seem to give it their all. Gavin Rae was one who had a few decent seasons and always put in a shift, however he and the club knew his time was up and it is nice to see he has got a move back to his hometown club Dundee.

Chris Burke was well liked and due to circumstances out of reach for the Cardiff hierarchy he decided not to extend his contract. Stephen Thompson was a very hardworking target man who chipped in with a crucial goal here and there when the club needed it most. He was unlucky when Cardiff signed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Robbie Fowler on very big wages as he knew he wasn’t going to be first choice, so off he went to Burnley.

Neil Alexander was an excellent addition from Livingston and the goalkeeper often made a string of vital saves to win matches. He made over 200 appearances for the Bluebirds and was the club’s longest serving player at the time, before David Forde was promoted to first choice ‘keeper which acted as a catalyst for Alexander to jump ship to Portman Road with Ipswich Town.

Scottish players still at the club before Malky Mackay took over at the start of the season included Kevin McNaughton and Paul Quinn. McNaughton, who has made over 200 appearances for the Bluebirds since his move from Aberdeen in 2006 has been a consistent performer and a firm fans favourite due to his never say die attitude and high level of performance on a regular basis.

It took a while for Paul Quinn to get his chance but when he did he took it with both hands and has shown the Cardiff City faithful what a decent and no nonsense full-back he is. Regularly being tenacious in the tackle and very passionate, he has had to wait for his opportunity since Mackay arrived as manager, but has regularly captained the League Cup side this season and scored the winning penalty against Leicester to put Cardiff through to the fourth round.

New additions:

Mackay has since added Don Cowie, Craig Conway and Kenny Miller to the playing staff as well as Joe McBride to his coaching setup. Mackay knew what he was going to get with Cowie as he worked with him at Watford, and it is safe to say he is becoming a favourite with the fans. He is an ever present this season with a very good engine and adds the odd important goal too!

Conway is a tricky winger, and after the departure of Burke to Birmingham City, someone was needed to fill that void. Injury hampered him through October but he is back fit and is often a threat to opposition defences down the left flank, as well as a goal threat.

Proven goalscorer:

When Cardiff signed Kenny Miller, the club made people stand up and take notice. Miller is seasoned professional who has been a proven goal scorer both at club and international level. He tried his hand overseas with Bursaspor and it wasn’t for him, but Malky seized the opportunity to sign him and has deployed the Scot in a lone target man role which he is revelling in.

Miller’s movement is superb which helps the likes of Peter Whittingham, Cowie, Conway and Aron Gunnarsson get more time on the ball and is a consistent goal-getter which is always welcome. The most recent example of this was against Birmingham at home, a tight contest between two promotion chasing sides, until Miller showed his class and smashed the ball home to win the game.

With a passionate Scot at the helm and a team who will continue to give 100 per cent throughout the 90 minutes, us Cardiff fans are all going home after each game knowing no more could’ve been given in terms of effort by the team that takes the field. The Scottish contingent has helped the club in the past and continues to now in what hopes to be a very good season.

With the players and staff Mackay has brought in and hopefully more reinforcements in the emergency loan window, culminating with another trip to Wembley in the Carling Cup final, this could be a very good season.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

‘Super Kev’ McNaughton

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Kevin McNaughton is probably the most overlooked player in the history of the Championship. He has at least three songs that the Cardiff City faithful blast out at every opportunity both at home and away games. The Cardiff City unsung hero has also recently surpassed 200 games for the club.

Signed by then manager Dave Jones in 2006 from SPL outfit Aberdeen, he has been a prominent figure throughout his time at the club. He has been absolutely instrumental to the clubs level of performance since he arrived. He can play anywhere in the back four and the Cardiff fans are guaranteed to know that his match level will stay the same.

The 29 year old grey haired defender is fast becoming a legend on the terraces of the Cardiff City Stadium with his never say die attitude and unbelievable engine. This resulted in him winning the club’s Player of the Year for the 2010/2011 season.  Whenever he loses the ball he always strives to win it back which also brings the best out of his teammates. His consistent level of performance both home and away has not gone unnoticed from even the most cynical fan or pundit alike. If Cardiff had eleven of him in the 2010/2011 season they would have gone up as champions!

Malky Mackay has commented freely on the level of consistency from McNaughton since he has been manager of the club and has certainly brought in players such as Aron Gunnarsson, Don Cowie, Joe Mason and Filip Kiss who all fit the McNaughton bill in terms of temperament, character and work ethic. Mackay issued McNaughton with a more attacking full back role since joining the club, something which McNaughton has admitted will take him time to adapt to, as previous manager Dave Jones used a more rigid and defensive approach. This licence from Mackay for him to go forward will enhance Cardiff’s chances to score more freely and maybe McNaughton can add to his only bad point since being at Cardiff City, a goals tally which currently stands at 1 – although it was a sensational 20 yard strike in January 2008 against Hereford in the FA Cup.

How hasn’t he had more international caps?

McNaughton has made just four senior appearances for Scotland, the last coming in May 2008 against the Czech Republic. Scotland manager Craig Levein has picked defenders such as Blackburn’s Grant Hanley and Liverpool’s Danny Wilson who are both squad players at best. Nothing against these players, they just don’t play week in week out whereas McNaughton regularly racks up thirty plus games a season for Cardiff. Congratulations are due to Gary MacKenzie of MK Dons, who has recently been called up for the friendly against Cyprus, but he even plays at a lower level than McNaughton.

One thing Cardiff fans are all definitely happy about is that ‘Super Kev’ is under contract and part of something great at the club. If bigger teams from the Premier League don’t take an interest as well as Craig Levein and Scotland, it will certainly benefit Cardiff in the long term as he will always be appreciated in South Wales whenever he puts on the jersey of Cardiff City.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

Joe Ralls up in style…

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Ten games into Malky Mackay’s tenure and all things considered it isn’t going too badly. So, what do we know about this year’s side?

The most noticable of improvements comes in the work ethic instilled by Mackay; when the players cross that white line they’ve shown their all and given 100% in that wonderful blue shirt. Games such as last week’s respectable 0-0 draw against an expensive Leicester City side would have traditionally turned into a loss in the 92nd minute and I’d have expected a similar turn of events in the excellent 2-1 win against top of the table Southampton.

There’s no ego’s, everyone is working hard and the commitment levels are second to none. The man who has set the best example of this? Step forward one Don Cowie. Since following Mackay from Watford he’s been the most impressive of the summer signings; he doesn’t stop running down the flank, always looks to get involved and has an eye for goal, scoring an excellent diving header against Blackpool and finding the net with ease in the League Cup against Huddersfield and Leicester. Amongst all the signings in the Championship he’s proven to be up there as one of the best, even more so considering he arrived on a free transfer.

Ultimately it’s the results that do the talking and Mackay has chalked up four wins, four draws and two defeats, the most recent coming in the 2-1 reversal at the KC Stadium to a decent Hull City side, in which a depleted frontline did the best it could to get something out of the game. A much deserved mention goes to 17 year old midfielder Joe Ralls who signed professional terms on Friday and made his league debut the following day at Hull, coming on for an injured Kenny Miller nine minutes in, before later in the match producing a cracker of a strike from 25 yards out with the outside of his left foot. Whether Ralls get many more chances remains to be seen but he’s clearly well regarded by the staff at the club.

Other results have been mixed, including draws at Blackpool, Portsmouth and Burnley. Looking at the table, if players were forced to retire at 35 Mackay’s side would be top. However thanks to Kevin Phillips, Kanu and Nicky Barmby it’s not to be. Results show that despite not keeping many clean sheets and falling apart to old timers, Cardiff are a hard unit to break down and teams will find it difficult to pick up 3 points against them, especially at full strength. However sitting in 9th place having played six of the top eight is no mean feat and the team very much in the play-off chase. The international break couldn’t have come any sooner with Craig Conway, Robert Earnshaw and Rudy Gestede all picking up knocks during the Leicester game.

Overall impressions after the summer recruitment drive have been positive; Craig Conway has settled in well to the pace of Championship football and his crossing ability (alongside Cowie) is excellent. Andy Taylor looks to be the club’s greatest left-back since Andy Legg and has added some much needed balance to a back four that had so many chops and changes throughout last season. In the centre of midfield Aron Gunnarsson looks comfortable, for somebody of his height he’s not afraid to throw his weight around and dictate the play. That doesn’t mean he’s bad on his feet either as a precision pass put Kenny Miller through for his second goal against Southampton. Filip Kiss is showing just the same determination alongside him, albeit slightly bigger. I must admit how he didn’t pick up a yellow card in the Leicester game was beyond me. Nonetheless the two have played well alongside each other and will both be a big part of the jigsaw in City’s bid for promotion.

Frenchman Gestede has already shown himself to be a fans favourite by being everything Jay Bothroyd was and more, not hitting the deck every two minutes and complaining about decisions that go against him. Big, strong and deceptively quick he’s shown himself to be a useful target man, but having seen most of his opportunities come from the bench it remains to see how he’ll be utilised. Robert Earnshaw is Robert Earnshaw; shoot on sight and usually fail to hit the barn door. He’s always been selfish and to be fair a lot of the time it works, but it’s more frustrating when other players are in better positions only for the lad to blow it. Despite that he’s popped up with three goals so far, so to say he’s past it in this division is madness. Young Joe Mason is quite the talent and looks at home in the Championship, showing some very intelligent play when given the chance to impress. Ben Turner appears to be fully fit and I expect him to be challenging Anthony Gerrard for his position at centre-half instantly.

And we roll on to the ‘big debate’ amongst City fans, Kenny Miller. Having stated previously of my faith in the Scotland international to bring home the goods, it’s fantastic to see him bag a brace over a much fancied Southampton side. After trying to latch on hopelessly to long balls a tactical change from Mackay to a 4-5-1 utilising Miller as the lone striker has brought more positive results and he should thrive providing the formation stays the same; he’s shown willingness to work the opposing centre halves and ultimately bring the midfield into play.

However injuries have shown the need to enter the loan market is urgent. Don’t be surprised to see Mackay look out for another striker. Carlos Tevez anyone?

October is traditionally a good month for City, having enjoyed success in the past few seasons but the fixtures this time round don’t seem to suggest things will be so easy. The Hull defeat aside Ipswich have won on their last three visits to Cardiff and the game has a Michael Chopra hat trick written all over it. Peterborough’s London Road is a nightmare of a ground for the Bluebirds and Barnsley are another thorn in City’s side in recent times. However a trip to a defensively awful Leeds United should prove fruitful having not lost to them since the early 80′s and won the last six meetings. Add to that a winnable League Cup tie at home to Burnley and the team have their work cut out; that being said the opportunity of reaching the last eight of the competition is one that supporters should be excited about achieving.

And a final mention to whoever designed this monstrosity of a kit, what were you thinking?

Written by Alex Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Alex tweets at @alextwilson

Malky makes big impression at City

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Many Cardiff City fans were left disappointed at not gaining automatic promotion last season, especially with the wealth of talent available at their disposal. Dave Jones trusted his own judgement by signing seven players on season-long loan deals; this was the defining season for him to try and get Cardiff over the final hurdle. The media spotlight was on Cardiff in particular due to the marquee loan capture of Welsh international Craig Bellamy. It sent out a signal of intent and gained headlines all over the world as there were many top clubs interested in acquiring his services after excellent form for Manchester City.

The end of season play-off semi-final defeat to Reading left a sour taste with many Cardiff fans calling for Jones’ head. Twelve first team players ended up leaving the club, including England one-cap wonder Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and the seven loan players – Bellamy included – re-joining their parent clubs. After much deliberation, Cardiff decided to part company with Jones after six steady seasons.

After assessing several candidates, Watford manager Malky Mackay was appointed the new manager. He signalled his intentions from his first press conference and gave positive vibes which would give Cardiff fans a lot of belief.  He proved to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market with Watford by signing hungry, professional players on a shoestring budget. The budget at Cardiff was much tighter in comparison to the season before and Mackay had to assemble a brand new squad capable of competing at Championship level.

Mackay brought members of his backroom staff from Watford with him including David Kerslake and head of medicine Richard Collinge. He signed Don Cowie, one of his former players from The Hornets who is proving a huge hit with Cardiff fans due to his huge work ethic and never-say-die attitude. The signing of Kenny Miller from Bursaspor raised the profile of the club yet again and he repaid the faith by scoring the winner at Upton Park in the first game of the season. Other signings included bringing back cult hero Robert Earnshaw on a free transfer much to the delight of many Bluebirds fans. Further arrivals such as Iceland international Aron Gunarsson, Craig Conway, Andrew Taylor, Joe Mason, Slovakia under-21 captain Filip Kiss and Rudy Gestede have all played their part in a good start to the season.  Ben Turner also joined from Coventry City days before the August deadline but is yet to make his debut. Despite these signings, Mackay still has the smallest squad in the league, where any injuries would leave the team threadbare and he has signalled his intentions to utilise the loan market for further reinforcements.

The first ten games of Mackay’s tenure as Cardiff boss have been positive with five wins, four draws and one defeat in all competitions so far. With his management methods now starting to get through to his squad, as well as the players starting to gel, things are looking positive at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Mackay is not afraid to change his tactics for games either, something the fans aren’t used to due to Dave Jones usually sticking to a rigid 4-4-2 formation during his time in charge. A recent 4-5-1 system deployed away at Blackpool worked very well, with Miller operating as a lone striker and even if the game finished 1-1, Cardiff amassed 26 shots on target away to a team who have just been relegated from the Premier League.

After the recent 0-0 draw with Leicester, Mackay’s squad has beem depleted by injuries to Andrew Taylor, Craig Conway, Robert Earnshaw, Mark Hudson and Rudy Gestede. With Southampton coming to town on Wednesday, Mackay has been provided with his most difficult task to date as he prepares his Cardiff squad for the home match against the current league leaders.

The big difference this campaign compared to previous seasons is the team spirit and togetherness Mackay has instilled. Every player sings from the same hymn sheet and all egos from the past few years have been abolished. Every player gives their all and runs until the final whistle has been blown, which makes us Cardiff fans proud.

Written by Richard Blake, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Richard tweets at @RichJBlake

Miller’s Forever Bursting Bubbles

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Football is brilliant.

If you wanted a game over the opening weekend that defined ‘smash and grab’ then look no further than the Boleyn Ground, where City’s 1-0 win over West Ham (and our first win at BG since 1950) probably surprised most who have decided it’s their divine right to walk the league. Looking through Twitter beforehand it was 4-0 this, Cole hat-trick that etc.

The lineups before the game said it all about the gulf in class between the two squads. A West Ham side full of Premier League experience, a proven manager and even the odd England international or two flirting about before making inevitable moves back to the top flight. The Allardycian brand of football had been well and truly stamped with playing Frederic Piquionne on his own in a 4-5-1 formation; but then again in a midfield with the likes of Kevin Nolan and Scott Parker, who can blame him?

Malky Mackay’s new look City side had no less than 8 new players and it was always going to be interesting to see how the battle in midfield would play out in what was your Championship standard 4-4-2. With Peter Whittingham and Aron Gunnarsson occupying the middle I was assuring myself that the latter was going to have a hell of a job on his hands in keeping both Nolan and Parker quiet for 90 minutes. Seeing a team huddle before kickoff I couldn’t help but feel that maybe for once that there’s a team spirit and Mackay has got everyone working for each other. There’s no ‘us against the world’ mentality that’s been used to describe us by Dave ‘excuses’ Jones.

As expected a rocky first 20 minutes ensued with both Piquionne and Parker both given clear runs at goal only for blushes to be spared with a save from David Marshall and Anthony Gerrard getting a crucial block to stop an off the pace looking Parker. Whilst Nolan and Taylor posed a constant threat they still lacked any clinical edge and slowly City grew in confidence and making sure that any time on the ball was used effectively, Don Cowie’s header from Craig Conways cross and Whittingham’s free kick both giving Robert Green his first test of what was to come this season. Miller and Earnshaw had little to work with up front and you couldn’t really fault them for a lack of trying.

Halftime arrived and relatively happy with what I saw against a decent looking West Ham outfit, it was only right to go and see what was on the messageboards. Unsurprisingly a character assassination of Miller had begun stating that he was sluggish and not at all interested in what was going on. To be fair that was about half an hour into the game, a new record for our already fickle supporters that last year would have probably gunned for him at around the ten minute mark for not being comfortably 3-0 up and embracing  Total Football.

With West Ham starting brightly in the second half  David Marshall was putting in a Man of the Match-esque performance, slowly beginning to frustrate the home crowd and making some excellent saves to the deny the likes of Taylor and Tomkins. His communication skills have come on leaps and bounds with most set pieces being dealt with comfortably (bar Whittingham’s crucial goal line clearance) and he should go on to inspire more confidence across the back four. Kevin McNaughton and new signing Andrew Taylor both looking comfortable as fullbacks and Hudson and Gerrard soaking up heavy pressure brilliantly.

Mackay’s tactical genius arrived with just over 20 minutes remaining, replacing an enthusiastic but ineffective Earnshaw for relative unknown striker Rudy Gestede. The difference in dynamic up front was instant and both Tomkins and Reid (who for the most part impressed me) had no idea how to deal with the 6ft 3inch Frenchman’s aerial threat, strength and pace.  His tenacity paid off in injury time, taking the ball from Herita Ilunga with relative ease, squaring the ball to an unmarked Miller who put it away in the top left corner and set 1200 odd Bluebirds into overdrive. 3 points, job done etc. I still believe that Gestede’s intention was to square it to Whittingham who was approaching the box, but it’s still clever play from Miller to stretch out and get a shot in. Clinical.

Overall, an excellent performance that showed the rest of the league that we’re going to be a competitive side this season and against a very good West Ham team. Marshall obviously got the plaudits for MOTM, but it’s hard to single out anybody; it was a fantastic team effort and full credit to Mackay for instilling an excellent work ethic that clearly wasn’t there under Dave Jones. However Gunnarsson is worth a mention for being relatively quiet but effective in stomping out the threat of both Nolan and Parker which not many players in the league will be able to do, especially away from home. Fans still need to be patient with this team and especially Miller, he’s not a player that will come up with individual moments of brilliance or ooze class. He gets in the box and scores simple goals and that’s all that matters. There’s no doubt whatsoever that he’ll bag himself 15-20 goals easily given the service.

I’ll finish this with a small parting shot at Kevin Nolan who had the audacity to claim that it was our ‘cup final’, where’s the trophy then? It’d fit nicely in our cabinet, hey? Cheerio, Kev.

Written by Alex Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Alex tweets at @alextwilson

Cheering on Malky: I’ll Be There

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

It was surprisingly easy to get over the play-off heartbreak to Reading in May.

Switching off the TV, avoiding messageboards and the usual post-match comments from one Dave Jones. Quite an achievement in the grand scheme of things considering it took nigh on 6 weeks to get over the play-off final defeat to Blackpool the season before.

As predicted by most supporters Jones was on borrowed time and eventually shown the door after a season of high-profile loan signings and a ‘promotion or bust’ philosophy once again. Too many sloppy goals given away late on (Norwich, Burnley, Barnsley and Millwall in particular spring to mind), petty squabbling between players on the pitch and Lee Naylor being the worst fullback in the league all contributing to our own downfall. An accusation of bottling it you say? Oh don’t be so daft!

So, who was the man given the job to steer things in the right direction? Step forward one Malcom Mackay. Appointed on a 3-year deal after the club agreed a compensation package with Watford, Mackay strikes me as a young and motivated manager with a strong desire to succeed. So far his conduct towards both the fans and local press has been nothing short of exemplary and he seems to have gained an understanding of what the club means to the supporters. I hate using the word ‘passion’ in football but I won’t shy away from saying that it was essential to many fans that we have a manager who shouts from the dugout for 90 minutes and gives a Mourhnho-esque run down the touchline whenever a dubious penalty or 2 yard tap in is put away. I for one really couldn’t care providing he does his job to the best of his ability.

It’s safe to say that the Bellshill born centre-half has got a job on his hands putting together a team good enough to compete in what is being considered a very tough Championship. Notable departures included Chris Burke, Jay Bothroyd and the sale of Michael Chopra to Ipswich Town; and with the loanees returning to their parent clubs the squad is almost threadbare.

Needless to say Mackay has been busy at work and only three days into the job made his first signing in winger Craig Conway from Dundee United on a free transfer. Seen as a direct replacement for Burke it’ll be interesting to see if he adapts to the rigours of Championship football as well as his fellow Scot did. Then began a raid on Mackay’s former employers with David Kerslake, Richard Collinge and Joe McBride all joining the backroom staff, followed by the cracking addition of Don Cowie on a free transfer following a clause in his contract Mackay was only too aware of. Being at the heart of the Watford midfield I’m confident he’ll be an integral part of Malky’s plans to make this team a successful one.

The influx of players hasn’t stopped there with the free transfers of leftback Andrew Taylor from Middlesbrough and the homecoming of one Robert Earnshaw after failing to agree a new deal at Nottingham Forest. I’m usually against players regarded as club legends coming back after so long and tarnishing any good memories, but with the only striker on the books being a rather useless Jon Parkin, it’s a no brainer . Even at 30 he still carries a fair bag of pace and given a run of games will score goals in this division. Aron Gunnarsson soon followed from Coventry City with a compensation fee to be agreed between the two clubs and will be desperate to make a name for himself after not living up to the potential he displayed during his first season at his former club. Not afraid to ignore the need for youth development Mackay brought in young striker Joe Mason in a £250,000 deal from League 2 Plymouth Argyle and is thought to have impressed coaches whilst out on pre-season training in Spain. Whether he plays a key part into the season remains to be seen. Thursday say the first season long loan signing with 20-year-old midfielder Filip Kiss from Slovakian Champions Slovan Bratislava. French U19 striker Rudy Gestede is expected to sign imminently after impressing Mackay whilst on trial, scoring the only goal in the preseason win over Charlton in Seville.

The arrival of a 31-year-old Kenny Miller has provided much debate between City fans, from one of a striker with an excellent record in the Championship to the argument of a player with who is past his prime and commanding a reported wage packet of £25,000 a week. But he adds some much-needed experience to a team well short of firepower. Add to that his exceptional work rate and the service available to him from the likes of Whittingham, Conway and Cowie and I’m confident of him grabbing 20 goals with relative ease. No pressure, Kenny lad.

Two deals in the pipeline are that of highly rated Dundee United striker David Goodwillie and the potential return of Craig Bellamy. Based on the his performances last season it’s questionable as to whether the 32-year-old Welshman would be a good addition to a new look frontline. Showing his Premiership class in flashes, he’d be the first to admit he had an average season by his own high standards and his volatile personality wasn’t one best suited to the role of club captain. I can’t help but feel that if the club has splashed the cash on Miller then the same will apply to Bellamy.

Goodwillie on the other hand was more complicated until today when a rape charge against him was dropped easing concerns of any potential suitors parting with his reported £2 million price tag. However with an assault allegation hanging over his head it’s more than likely the waiting game will have to be played before any move is sanctioned. Then again, could the signing of Miller put any deal dead in the water? Personally I hope not as we’d still be one forward short and a Miller/Goodwillie partnership could be one of the best in the division.

As for the rest of the squad its positive to see that Peter Whittingham is not for sale despite interest from Ipswich Town, with Mackay stating he is central to his plans in what will be a new look midfield; his creativity will no doubt once again show why he’s one the best in the Championship and he should thrive at being the man to make things happen. A selection headache lies in the centre of defence with Dekel Keinan, Gabor Gyepes and Anthony Gerrard all fighting for that one spot alongside Mark Hudson; after the injuries suffered across the back four last season which resulted in constant rotation, fitness really is paramount in order to gain any sort of consistency after what was statistically a poor defensive record. As far as goalkeepers are concerned David Marshall and Tom Heaton will fight it out to prove why they’re worthy of the #1 shirt. Marshall is without question the all round better keeper, but his communication and poor handling of set pieces often let him down. However with the addition of new goalkeeping coach James Hollman to the staff it’ll be interesting to see if anything changes.

I never read into pre-season games, especially with a new manager at the helm, so defeats last week to Celtic and Bournemouth come as no surprise and any expectation levels already set shouldn’t be adjusted accordingly. After catching brief moments of the Celtic game my only thought was one of relief with the signing of Miller after seeing any forward play being largely ineffectual except for a few clever pieces of work from Mason and seeing a clear penalty claim turned down. I am however confident that Mackay does know his best team ahead of the opening day fixture against West Ham and as far as this division goes you couldn’t have asked for a harder to game to begin with.

Expectation levels for this season? Significantly lower than previous campaigns, to be blunt. I’m happy for 9 months of mid-table obscurity and some exciting attacking football and anything better is a bonus. That’s not to say there isn’t a positive vibe going around the club; fans have taken well to Mackay and he’s brought a breath of fresh air along with him. Patience is a virtue though; it will take him 5/6 games to get everything in order and any assessments of doing better need to be made after the transfer window.

So fasten your seatbelts City fans, enjoy the ride.

Written by Alex Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Cardiff City Blogger

Alex tweets at @alextwilson