The ‘Cardiff City family’ Dave Jones often speaks of awoke on Sunday in exactly the same division as they were on Saturday morning, but their collective insides were churning over what they could have won.And as if missing out on the £90m Premier League jackpot was not tough enough, the real headache of the night before will soon take hold as the ramifications of Championship play-off final failure become clear.
The one certainty is the Bluebirds will start their eighth season in the Championship in August. The uncertainty, though, is while it may be Cardiff City, it may not be Cardiff City as we know it. The distinct fear among the Cardiff faithful was that Saturday will prove to be the last time the likes of Joe Ledley, Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra, Peter Whittingham and even Dave Jones represent the club.
Bluebirds boss Jones made a throwaway remark in the immediate emotion-fuelled aftermath of their 3-2 Wembley heartbreaker to Blackpool about speaking to the Welsh club’s new post-Peter Ridsdale board on Monday to “see which way they want to go”.
Like Saturday’s ‘biggest game in Cardiff’s history’, that will be no friendly catch-up and could instead prove to be another pivotal moment in the debt-ridden club’s future. Cardiff are in a perilous financial position because of their multi-million pound debt – which is anywhere between the £15m Ridsdale insists to the £30m figure in their last recorded financial accounts – and face their fifth winding-up order from the taxman at the High Court on 16 June.
Billionaire businessman Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun is the moneyman behind Cardiff’s new consortium but his first game, at Wembley, was be memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Ridsdale leaves his five years in south Wales with the club boasting a Premier League class stadium, top-class training facility and sought-after manager but with liabilities on the balance sheet.
The Cardiff chairman will be replaced by Dato Chan Tien Ghee in a move that was rubberstamped at Thursday’s shareholders meeting. Chan, who became a Bluebirds director in December, is set to secure a 49% shareholding in the troubled club and be the public figurehead while Tan is the real power behind the throne.
Cardiff’s £1m-a-month wage bill will be in the spotlight as the new owners seek prudence off-the-field and getting the debt down. And while the players are united in wanting Jones to stay, if the financial rug were to be pulled from under him the club’s future could be shrouded in even more doubt.
Should Jones have to undertake a rebuilding project like the one he inherited when he replaced Lennie Lawrence five years ago then his days in the Welsh capital may be numbered. Jones, though, insists his immediate future is ensuring that the 2008 FA Cup finalists learn from another Wembley disappointment.
Cardiff’s play-off final defeat was a perfect microcosm of their season as Chopra and Ledley’s goals showcased their razor-sharp cutting edge but Jones’ men have defence liabilities and a lack of Plan B – especially when Bothroyd is absent.
Jones knows this Cardiff team needs further investment – in both defence and midfield – before the almost inevitable loss of Ledley and teenage defender Adam Matthews. The Malaysian investors, billed as the white knights to save the City, have already spent £6m.
And Tan hoped for the bargain of the century with an immediate £90m dividend of Premier League promotion as Cardiff, the pre-match favourites, took the lead twice against Blackpool but still lost.
So his first 90 minutes of football showed him that there is no sure thing in this game.
Tan will be aware that it would not make business sense to invest £6m in a club then run it down and risk relegation into the lower divisions where money is all too scarce.
So the 58-year-old, whose Berjaya Group specialises in golfing, property, resorts and gambling, may want to continue Cardiff’s gamble and push for the cash and worldwide profile he could achieve for high-rolling with the Premier League big boys.
Cardiff fans are always wary of promises as they have suffered their fair share of unfulfilled ones over the years.
Hope is not the tonic for hurt as football fans prefer it when action speaks louder than words.
Written By Jonathon Moulds