20th – Cardiff City
Promoted as Championship Winners, Cardiff City, join Swansea as the second Welsh team currently in the Premier League. For a long time it looked more likely that Cardiff would be the first of the two to reach the top tier, but it was only this season that the perennial promotion chasers achieved their goal. Having fallen short in the playoffs for 3 consecutive years, the clubs primary colour controversially was changed from blue to red in an attempt to change club fortunes. Now, having reached the Premier League the real challenge for Cardiff’s Reds begins.
Manager: Malky Mackay
Malky Mackay took over as manager of Cardiff in June 2011. In his first season as manager, Mackay brought Cardiff back to the playoffs, following a 6th place finish. Undoubtedly more impressive though was the manner in which he guided his team to the League Cup Final. In the final, they pushed Liverpool to the death, narrowly losing out on penalties. Mackay won the LMA’s Championship Manager of the year last season in gaining promotion to the top division. Although he’s never managed in the Premier League, Mackay has top flight experience as a player with Watford.
Key Player: Steven Caulker
If Cardiff are to have any chance of survival, Steven Caulker will be pivotal. Caulker, a commanding young centre back, signed from Tottenham for a club record £8m fee. Already capped by England, having featured at all levels of underage international football as well as with the GB Olympic team, Caulker has over 40 games of Premier League experience to his name. Having proven his Premier League quality while on loan at Swansea, Caulker returned to Spurs last season where he figured as an important part of Andre Villas Boas defensive plans. This made it even more surprising that he was allowed to leave Tottenham, but Caulker’s motivation has since become clear. After getting his first taste of senior international football, the ambitious young Caulker decided he wanted to ensure first team football in the run up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. With this in mind, Caulker will be determined to lead Cardiff to safety and secure his seat on Roy Hodgson’s plane. Caulker’s importance cannot be overstated as he provides the Cardiff back line with the athleticism and Premier League experience it otherwise lacks.
The question Cardiff will have is, are the players who got them promoted good enough to keep them up? Although they have strengthened with a couple of good young signings, and bulked up their midfield with Chilean enforcer, Gary Medel, the core of this team will be very similar to last year’s. It isn’t unfair to say that with the exception of Bellamy, (pictured below) that team comprised mainly of players who were deemed not good enough for Premier League clubs. The likes of Peter Whittingham, Matt Connolly, Mark Hudson and Fraizer Campbell may all have a point to prove, but unless the likes of Caulker and promising Dane, Andreas Cornelius (pictured above) can take them to another level, their doubters will be proven right again.
By Adam McGee (@AdamMcGee11)