After the much welcomed novelty of winning at Goodison Park – in this of all seasons – we head for our first ever league match at the Cardiff City Stadium in good cheer for once. The same can’t be said for the Bluebirds (or is that Red Dragons?). Bonkers, despot leader sacked manager Malky Mackay on Friday in the least surprising managerial axing ever. Scant reward for ending Cardiff’s 50 year plus exile for England’s top division last year. Often when a team change manager there’s a big response from the players due to a sense of relief, being able to draw a line under past performances and move on. You can’t quite see it the same way this time though, with players and fans lining up beside Mackay rather than Bond-esque villain and owner Vincent Tan. So a possible chance to capitalise on a club in chaos perhaps?
The History Books:
I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever get to write a historical piece on a head-to-head in which Sunderland has a much better return than the opposition. Cardiff have the edge on the Lads with 25 wins (40%) against our 20 (32%) and 17 draws. However, the sides have met sporadically over the years. The last time the two sides met in the top flight was a 1-1 draw at Roker Park on 30th March 1957. That was one of 13 games between the two sides in the 1950s, with just five meetings in the 60s but then 18 matches between the two sides in the 1970s. The two teams then shared a 1-1 draw in Cardiff in early May 1980 and then had to wait another 23 years before facing off again for a 0-0 draw in Cardiff’s first visit to the Stadium of Light on14th October 2003. Since then the Lads have won 3 and lost 2 of the six meetings this millenium. The last game between the two sides was 6½ years ago when Ross Wallace notched the only goal of the game at the end of March 2007 as the Lads headed towards the Championship title under Roy Keane.
Cardiff are one of the teams sliding towards the relegation zone with a dreadful run of form. The sideshow of Vincent Tan’s pantomime villain-chairman act has distracted attention from what has been a very poor run for the Bluebirds under Mackay. The 1-0 win against the Baggies on 14th Dec, which brought Steve Clarke’s time at West Brom to an end, is the only win from Cardiff’s last 8 league games and came courtesy of Peter Whittingham’s second half header.
As for the Lads, there is the very faintest glimmer of candle light at the end of what has been a very dark and long tunnel of a season so far. The last 3 league games have resulted in 5 points and 3 clean sheets – against West Ham, Norwich and Everton – plus that 2-1 League Cup quarter-final win against Chelsea. It remains to be seen just how much the Everton game took out of the Lads and how much they can recover in time against Cardiff. Although injury and suspension rules out many changes at the back, there is at least the opportunity to freshen things up in attack as we hopefully try to get back to back away wins.
Cardiff’s current front-man Frazier Campbell is the player who most readily springs to mind when thinking ahead to the match in Cardiff. Campbell signed for the Lads for £3.5m on 11th July 2009. A bright young prospect he emerged through the ranks at Man Utd and has represented England at every level: under 16s, under 17s, under 18s, under 21s and gained his full England cap in the 3-2 defeat to Holland under Stuart Pearce.
A popular lad on Wearside, Campbell is another player who unfortunately spent more than his fair share of time here on the side-lines having suffered a cruciate ligament injury in August 2010. On the verge of returning to the side in March 2011, Campbell suffered further injury to the same knew which kept him out of action until January 2012. He endeared himself to the fans travelling to away games and cheering the lads on from the stands. He made a fairy-tale return to action scoring against Boro in the FA Cup having come on as a sub and then scoring a ‘thunder-bastard’ (© @IainMacintosh) against Norwich in his first start, leading to Stuart Pearce giving him his first – and thus far only – full England cap.
However, he never managed to sustain such heights and was in and out of the team before moving to Cardiff in the 2013 January transfer window. His 10 goals from 27 appearances (scoring in 37% of games) so far for Cardiff is far better than his 6 goals in 58 appearances for the Lads (10%) and he is likely to lead the line against us at the Cardiff City Stadium. Most fans will wish him well after a stinker against us tomorrow (hopefully).