After the disappointment of back-to-back defeats, Cardiff City manager Russell Slade goes in search of a bright Christmas when his Bluebirds side visit The Valley and Charlton Athletic on Boxing Day. Speaking in anticipation of the festive fixture, Slade targeted a Merry Xmas for everybody, before setting his players the challenge of turning their creativity into goals.
“Obviously we want a response again,” Russell said, “especially after the back-to-back defeats that we’ve had, albeit very narrowly on Saturday in the end. We threw away an opportunity in the first period, but I thought it was a really good response in the second half and we now need to transfer that into the game on Boxing Day. That’s what we’re looking to do, of course. We want to bring three more points back on the M4 with us.
“The fact that we created twenty-four opportunities to their twelve, so we doubled their output, is positive. There were lots of opportunities for us, and we should have taken more, but we shouldn’t have given ourselves such a mountain to climb in the first place. That was the disappointing side; the reaction was the positive side and we need to build on that.
“The group from Saturday are okay; they remain intact. Anthony Pilkington still has his hamstring problem, so it looks as if he’s going to miss out. He’s with the medics at the moment, and though he has had a little bit of a setback, he’s making progress. We’re hoping that he’ll be back with us at some stage during the Christmas programme.”
The manager offered some background information into this week’s departure of Mats Møller Dæhli, who joined German Bundesliga club SC Freiburg.
“Mats was looking to go,” Russell explained. “We had his representative over and we spoke to him. His heart wasn’t with the Football Club, something which is very important to me like I’m sure it is to a lot of other people. He wanted to move, and we found an opportunity for him. He wasn’t playing enough minutes for us here anyway, so it was a great opportunity for him as well to move on.
“I think it shows the amount of work that is going on behind the scenes to reduce the numbers of the squad. After that, we’ll attempt to build a little bit more. The January window will be a very important time for us, but I’m sure there will be more movement, particularly with regards to those going out. Hopefully we can make one or two signings for ourselves as well.
“We’ll watch the situation very closely; of course we have our targets as well. I can see us doing business at all times during the window; it might be that we can get some done quickly, which is always nice because you can get the players and bed them in, or if we have to be patient and wait for the right type of player, that’s what we’ll do.”
One positive over the past couple of games has been the breakthrough of winger Kadeem Harris, who came off the bench at Bournemouth before making his full league debut for the visit of Brentford on Saturday. Russell insisted that he had big plans for Kadeem as Cardiff City go into 2015.
“We’re pleased that we’ve given him an opportunity to show us what he’s really got. We’ve been pleased with his contribution, and whether he starts or he comes on, we feel as if he has a part to play in the group now. Hopefully this is just the start, and a platform for him to build on.”
City striker Joe Mason recently sustained a hamstring injury while on loan with Bolton Wanderers. Russell said that the frontman had returned to the club for his rehabilitation: “Joe is still a Bolton player at the minute; he’s still officially on loan with them. He’s had a serious injury in terms of that hamstring, which I think was a grade three, so he’s in rehab and we’re looking after him right now. I know about Joe’s capabilities: he’s another young player with a lot of talent, and to have him back will be a bonus.”
Finally, Russell explained the plans for Bruno Ecuele Manga, who will soon be jetting off to represent his native Gabon at the African Cup of Nations.
“We think Bruno might leave us after the FA Cup tie on the third of January. He’ll be linking up with his Gabon teammates on the fourth or fifth, and then he’ll be away for a good period of time, which is disappointing, but that’s the way it is.
“We have good competition for places at centre-half, which is a very good thing. We are quite strong in that area, so that does help, but of course you want as many good players competing for every area of the pitch as you can get.”