Kieran Davies pays homage to a player who returned home to finally guide his team to glory.
A lot of players wax lyrical nowadays about their hometown clubs but for either financial reasons or other influences the stars of the game never actually see out their careers at their local team.  Paul Scholes spoke about how he always wanted to play for Oldham before he retired but he never seized that opportunity. One player not only achieved that target but also managed to fulfil his dream of taking his local team to the promised land of the Premier League……..…Craig Bellamy.    Love him or hate him you have to have some respect for him doing what he has done, dropping down from top flight to Championship in hope that he can pull on the shirt of Cardiff City in the Premier League.
Now Liverpool have to be thanked in this equation as they helped make this transfer happen and both Malky Mackay and Craig himself have thanked them for doing just that. In the current world of football where there is a big divide in the spending power of the elite compared to the pretenders who dream of plying their trade at the Anfield’s, Old Trafford’s and Stamford Bridge’s of the world, week in, week out. It was refreshing though to see Bellamy stick to his word and when the opportunity arose to join his local club, he grabbed it with both hands.The proverbial ‘marmite footballer’ returning home like a god, creating such a buzz around the capital.
Cardiff have been labelled by some as ‘nearly men’ of the Championship having come so close to promotion on numerous occasions but if I was a Cardiff fan I wouldn’t be so disappointed with that tag. Cardiff weren’t ready to go up before now and as much as the lure of the Premier League entices the fans, no-one wants a first Premier League season like Swindon Town getting outclassed most weeks and shipping 100 goals in the process. With the finances available to Cardiff under their Malaysian owners, the club is probably better placed than it has ever been to tackle the might of the Premier League. They have added players such as Andreas Cornelius, Steven Caulker and Gary Medel which will give them some extra experience to their team, although I think Caulker is quite the capture. Each of these signings broke the club’s transfer record, re-iterating how they mean business.  For any newly promoted side the defence is so important, as the old football adage goes ‘if you don’t concede goals you can’t lose games’. Mark Hudson was probably the best centre back in the Championship last season so pairing him with Caulker should hopefully add the solidity needed in the Premier League.
More than any player though, the Cardiff fans deserve this crack at the big time. The club has always been renowned for its passionate fans and they will really act like the 12th man for them at the Cardiff City Stadium. Home form is integral to any survival plans for newly promoted teams, so they need to make their ground a fortress to all who venture there. Changes have taken place since their Malaysian ownership which haven’t sat too well with the ‘bluebirds’ faithful but they have always been behind their team, that of course never dwindled. I say ‘bluebirds’ as a man who lives in the South Wales area (and with a father who is a season ticket holder) I know how important that tag is to the fans and I believe they are right to hold on to that. Some would say they’ve sold their soul as part of the current ownership but something had to give if they wanted to step out of the shadows of the Premiership and into the limelight.
Cardiff have a lot of players who have points to prove in the Premiership. Peter Whittingham, Fraizer Campbell and Nicky Maynard in particular will all have points to prove having had unsuccessful stints in the Premier League with other clubs and will be looking to make all take notice of their true potential. Add to that the squads token Welshman, Craig Bellamy, who epitomises the word passion. The Bluebirds added some quality to their squad last season with the likes of Kim Bo-Kyung and Jordan Mutch along with their midfield workhorse Aron Gunnarsson who has cemented himself as a fans’ favourite since his arrival in 2011. Anyone who thinks they will have an easy three points when facing the Welsh side will have more than a surprise when they step onto that pitch.
Malky Mackay is a young forward thinking manager who really buys into the project Cardiff have in place, re-iterated by the number of Premiership clubs he is often linked to taking over the reins of. He has that drive and passion you want to see in your manager and a love for the fans which is integral for me, if you are to succeed at a club. He’s got this squad buying into his vision and likes to get the ball down and play good football which any fan craves in the modern world of ‘tiki-taka’ football. Most importantly he has that hunger, which makes him want to better himself day after day. Some would say the first season is the toughest when entering the Premier League but I think as we have seen with numerous clubs over recent seasons it can also have the adverse effect, the element of surprise. As long as the fans stay behind their team and their manager I truly believe Cardiff City can give their fans the sort of season they wouldn’t even have dared conjure up in their wildest dreams five years ago. Now I’m not talking about a top seven finish as that is just the fantasy only pleading letters to Jim’ll Fix It could achieve and I’m sure none of the Cardiff fans would want the emotional scarring that, allegedly, comes hand in hand with that. A comfortable mid table finish would be achievable in a best case scenario for me and I’m sure the majority of bluebirds fans would take that right now before a ball is kicked. One thing is for sure, this is a season to savour for Cardiff and their fans.