After last week’s humbling and disappointing 3-0 defeat away to Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff City now have very little to play for. Should Russell Slade give the youth a start?
Cardiff City: Time for Youth
Slade’s grit and determination cannot be faulted looking back on the 45 league games he has managed this season, fighting for a play-off position until the penultimate game of the season with an average squad in both depth and quality, when compared to the squad he inherited last season. There have been large patches of disdain from supporters though, with Cardiff City recording their lowest league attendances at the Cardiff City Stadium since its opening in 2009 despite the over-achievement of the Bluebirds.
Yet there is understanding as to why Cardiff City supporters are already calling for a replacement manager with one game against Birmingham City still to go. Despite the achievements, there is clear sight that the players are yet to reach ‘fifth gear’ when it comes to utilising the tactics employed by Slade and his ‘plan A’ philosophy. In just one game this season have Cardiff City looked like a team that could cause damage and be worthy of a play-off spot, coming in a 4-1 home victory against the current form-team of the Sky Bet Championship; Brighton and Hove Albion.
The rigidness of the starting line-up has also been a cause for concern. Fans pleaded on social media for Kenneth Zohore to start the matches against Fulham, Brentford and Queens Park Rangers before he was finally given the opportunity to start for the Bluebirds against Bolton Wanderers, where he scored after 55 minutes to pull the Bluebirds back to 1-1 in the-then crucial encounter.
With nothing to play for, Russell Slade has to give some of the youth products a chance against Birmingham City. Here are a few players who deserve a starting opportunity.
Since the likes of Chris Burke, the wingers Cardiff City have played have struggled to hit full form, with Anthony Pilkington having his finest run of form for the Bluebirds in a forward position, whilst Craig Noone has struggled with injury and consistency to nail a starting position. Against Bolton Wanderers, Harris came on as a substitute and looked very impressive, winning a penalty in the dying minutes after a burst of pace to get into the box.
Healey returned from a decent loan spell for Dundee in the Scottish Premier League, having scored one goal in seven appearances in Scotland’s top division. Seeing a product of the Development Squad starting up-front for the full team would be an impressive feature for the former Connors Quay Nomad’s talent. He does already have one first-team appearance under his belt against Chelsea, coming on as a substitute for Craig Bellamy in the last match of the Bluebirds failed Premier League campaign.
Tom James—Full-Back/Central Defender
Another player with one league appearance for Cardiff City is full-back Tom James and with the first-team full-backs barely hitting any form of consistency, it could be an opportunity for James to push the likes of Fabio, Lee Peltier and Scott Malone for a full-back position. He has recently had an impressive spell at centre-back for the Development team, and the flexibility of such a player could prove useful next season.
Abruzzese has had an impressive season the in Academy side, signing a professional contract in readiness for the 2016-2017 season. Again, with Malone and Fabio both unsettled at left-back, youngster Abruzzese could be worthy of a starting place.
Giving a few of the less experienced players a starting opportunity could show Slade that he doesn’t need to utilise the market once again this summer as he could already have some of the players within his youth setup to help push for promotion next season. It could also help his cause with the fans who enjoy seeing youth prospects given an opportunity in a meaningless match. With his contract due to expire at the end of the season, Slade should do his utmost to impress both the board and fans alike.