The Championship Corner: Why Cardiff City is in sustained crisis under Tan

Adam’s latest “The Championship Corner” column.

Coming hot on the heels of the sting that brought down the now former England manager Sam Allardyce in the Telegraph’s investigation into football corruption are the revelations that eight Premier League managers– both current and former- are alleged to have taken bungs.

The allegations were made in a video by Pino Pagliara in which he reeled off a list of names that were, to borrow his phrase, “bent”.

Pagliara is an unlicensed Italian football agent who was banned from football for match-fixing for five years in 2005 before returning to the game as an agent for Cardiff City under its owner Vincent Tan in 2014.

Ah Vincent Tan, the Malaysian billionaire who continues to make a mockery of the FA’s worthless “fit and proper person” test- together with Leeds United’s owner Massimo Cellino who was named on Wednesday for trying to sell a stake in his club for advice on how to get around 3rd party ownership rules- and now looks set to finance a search for Cardiff’s seventh manager since Malky Mackay was sacked in December 2013 for misconduct relating to e-mails exchanged between him and sporting director Iain Moody.

Tan famously replaced Moody with a 23 year old work experience student and the Malaysian has done little to stabilise things at boardroom level since, with former chief executive Simon Lim unexpectedly stepping down in 2014 before Ken Choo, an auditor at PrincewaterhouseCoopers in Malaysia, was appointed as general manager before moving to CEO six months later.

Former manager Russell Slade also left his position of head of football just 3 weeks after being moved upstairs in the summer.

Positive steps have been made off the field in the Tan/Choo era, including the much welcome change back from red shirts to the traditional blue and the conversion of £68 million debts into equity, though on the pitch the Bluebirds remain in disarray.

Manager Paul Trollope was claiming his relationship with Tan was “normal” two weeks ago, though despite a 1-2 Rotherham arriving last Saturday the rapport may have soured following a 0-2 loss to Derby County, themselves plunged into chaos by the suspension of manager Nigel Pearson hours before their trip to south Wales.

Only Rotherham keep Trollope’s men off the foot of the Championship table and Tan will have to act soon or risk falling into the third tier. Choo’s parting shot at Slade in the summer, in which he called the now-Oldham boss a failure for guiding the team to an eighth-place finish, now looks regrettable.

Cardiff have only managed 6 league goals so far this season, the tally swelled by the two own goals from Shane Duffy in the defeat of Blackburn, and Rickie Lambert’s hamstring injury, suffered early on in the defeat to Derby will make the task harder for Trollope who maintains his team can still “dig ourselves out of it and move up the table.”

The current crisis follows on from two years of under-investment in which the £1.7 million spent on Lambert to bring the 34 year old in from West Bromwich Albion is the only transfer fee spent at Cardiff since January 2015, with Tan demurred by the expensive failures of Andreas Cornelius and Bruno Ecuele Manga.

“This squad cost £28 million to assemble. Vincent’s position is clear, any lower than the play-offs is a failure,” said Choo, a target from which Trollope is steering dangerously off course, “he is not putting £30 million a year into the business to not succeed. Any businessman would want to take this team to the Premier League”.

Cardiff have benefitted from the unquestionable loyalty of the likes of Aron Gunnarsson, Craig Noone and Peter Whittingham though the recent signings have not supplemented such quality sufficiently.

Cheap foreign imports such as Lex Immers, Frederic Gounongbe and Kenneth Zohore have struggled in a new league while Lambert was always going to require time to get up to speed after finding himself starved of game-time at Liverpool and West Brom.

Trollope also hasn’t helped matters by failing to settle on a system, having switched between seven in their opening ten games.

To make matters worse for the Bluebirds, Pagliara’s name has cropped up again, with questions opening up again over payments relating to the 2014 loan signing of Ravel Morrison from West Ham United– then managed by Allardyce. Cardiff may now face a probe after the Telegraph reported that the deal was investigated by the club, but not reported to the FA.

Cardiff are insistent that Pagliara was not paid, but they will certainly find scrutiny as a result of association to an agent who was freely boasting about his relations with managers who were happy to invite corruption.

For Tan, who has constantly courted controversy since acquiring the club back in 2010, he is discovering his practices could be blending into another mighty mess.



Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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