Kieran Davies on a reverse ‘branding’ that’s brought a small slice of sanity back into the game.

Vincent Tan came into South Wales seeing a sleeping giant that would sell its soul for top flight football and big name players. He thought his feeble excuses for major changes would be eaten up by the fans as long as they could see money being spent, initially making himself seem like a Malaysian Robin Hood as he addressed the black cloud hanging over the club, the debt to Langston and previous owner Sam Hamman. He then radically changed the club colours from its well known blue to red with rationale being that red is regarded a lucky colour in Asia, where he wanted the club to become big. Not being from the country, he really didn’t get a feel for the passion British football fans have for their club and how such changes would immediately make him a hate figure. As if that wasn’t bad enough he then went on to re-design the club badge, making a dragon the main feature attempting to divert focus away from the Bluebird emblem that has been the club’s image for the majority of the club’s history. This is not something you can strip away from the club by rebranding. This is a club who were the first to take an English trophy (legally) out of England when they won the FA Cup in 1927. The fans are proud of their history and rightly so.

The modern era of football meant a move from the club’s sacred home Ninian Park and while this was a bitter pill for the fans to swallow, it was a must if the club wanted to keep up with the footballing elite in England. A lot of diehard fans will still reminisce to the good old days of being in The Bob Bank standing in a full end singing their favourite songs, most of which revolve around the club’s chosen colour blue. It is hard enough to get the fans to start feeling such a love for a new ground so quickly without deciding to change the club’s identity completely. Tan stood firm after the change and ignored the avalanche of hatred from the fans over the rebranding. Vincent Tan will still no doubt feel he delivered to the fans as he took the club to the promised land of Premier League football but this was overshadowed by internal problems between the manager who took them there, Malky Mackay and the owner. This resulted in his departure half way through the campaign but I feel the whole episode effected matters on the pitch far more than anyone at the club will ever admit. A new manager couldn’t stop the club from being relegated after only one season in the top flight. Some would say the club were more competitive in the league in the first half of the season under Mackay than they were in the second half under Solskjaer.

The whole Mackay debacle with Tan really left a bad taste at the club and it seems we will never know the full story as Mackay remains tight lipped on the matter though Tan now and again releases snippets of information from his version of events seemingly out of pettiness to sully Mackay’s name. His successor didn’t seem to fare any better and his stay at the club was a short one also. The new appointment again falls into what we will call the ‘what is he smoking?’ section of the Vincent Tan profile at Cardiff City as he appointed a relatively unknown manager with no real experience of winning things or even managing club higher than League One level. He may prove fans wrong but thus far he hasn’t set South Wales alight. Cardiff find themselves in a mid table position without having really troubled the play off places much this season. Now is the time that if they have any ambitions of promotion they need to put a run of wins together and show some real form that has only been at best infrequent so far this season.

Living in the South Wales area, ever since Tan rebranded the club there have been moans of discontent which most of the time have replaced the passionate roar of the crowd Ninian Park made Cardiff City synonymous for. For this reason talk of gripes of the club wearing red have almost become the norm so the announcement that the club were to change their home strip back to blue from red really came as a surprise. It was also impressive how quickly the club pushed through the paperwork with the league after the announcement to ensure the change could be made immediately. It has taken some time but finally Tan seems to have listened to the fans although media reports attribute his mum to the change of heart.

So their next game, which happened to be at home against Fulham, meant they could again wear a blue strip. I went to this game and the atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium was better than it has been for years. Hearing the fans sing ‘We’ll always be blue, we’ll always be blue, we’re Cardiff City, we’ll always be blue’ was great to hear and there was a real buzz around the ground. A couple of Tan’s minions walked around the pitch before the game, wearing blue scarves and waving to the fans, seemingly lapping up the positive reaction from fans which they must have forgotten the feeling of it has been that long since any of them were so well receipted. On the pitch, this still didn’t look at a team playing with confidence and certainly struggled to get into any stride at all with Fulham creating half chances with their passing play. Cardiff really dominated Fulham from set pieces and the Londoners defence and keeper looked nervous whenever one of Gunnarsson’s long throws came into the box. The player would stop before each throw in to dry the ball with a towel as if this was important as a free kick on the edge of the box but maybe we have Rory Delap to thank for making the throw in so high profile and such a part of some sides attacking prowess.

It was from a set piece that Cardiff took the lead as Morrison bundled the ball over the line as Fulham again struggled to deal with the Welshmen from a corner. The ground erupted and you could see passion on the faces of the players too. Both sides struggled to carve out many more clear cut opportunities in the rest of the game and the Cardiff keeper deputising for the injured David Marshall really didn’t have anything to do. It was plain to see that the performance was never going to be the main focus of this game and the three points were what both sides craved. With Cardiff’s change back to their traditional blue is was probably on the cards that Slade’s side would see this one out even if it were nervy in phases for the home fans. If they plan to challenge for the play off places they need to do this often between now and the end of the season as good sides win even when they’re playing badly. So Cardiff City fans left the ground (just to sit in a car in traffic for the next hour if they parked anywhere near me) happy as they had their bluebirds back to support and they were going home having won three points and actually looking forward to Saturday evening for a change. No doubt Tan will amaze us with some more blinders in his tenure but the fans have got their club back with this change and Tan’s decision could be the catalyst the squad needs to make this a real season to remember.