In the harshness of a league season, it’s so easy to focus directly on the results, the hope of the play-offs and the seemingly always looming transfer windows.
The Championship is a relentless beast, which doesn’t give you time to breathe before the next game arrives and slaps you in the face.
But over the past year and a half, the situation has widened in Cardiff City. The one that gently bubbled under the surface, coming closer and closer to reality with each passing month and each transfer window.
In December 2019, Cardiff City CEO Ken Choo told WalesOnline about Vincent Tan’s vision for the football club.
While Tan’s overriding goal is of course to see City rise to the top of the Premier League again and maintain their status in this division, other aspects are very much at stake.
Choo explained: “Vincent says we have to bring young players not only with Cardiff City but also in the Wales international team.
“He wants to see Wales play at Cardiff City Stadium with a number of Bluebirds stars on that side.
“Cardiff City can’t just keep buying, buying, buying and spending big on wages all the time. The balance has to be right, as Vincent is always keen to see us set up a real promotion challenge this season, but we have to develop our own players as well. And with the system we have in place, we will. “
While Choo admitted it wasn’t an exact science, the club would ideally like a team of around 18 seasoned pros, supported by the youth, verve, energy and fearless approach provided by the local youth.
Choo added: “The numbers are not precise. If it’s three players from the youth team instead of seven to start, fine. No problem. But we have to start giving more. opportunities for these young people. “
The Bluebirds chief has been optimistic that Cardiff will start producing quality players, due to the confidence he has in the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure the right system is in place to pass the children.
There have been a number of key appointments over the past 18 months to facilitate the progression of these young players and attract top local talent, including overhauling the recruiting network, coaching staff, management and streamlining. of the first team. .
Well, on Saturday there was proof that the mission statement set by Choo at the end of 2019 is now delivered.
A look at the Cardiff City squad roster for Birmingham City fulfilled both criteria Tan wanted to see in his Bluebirds squad.
The starting line-up comprising three skilled Welsh players; two senior internationals in Harry Wilson and Kieffer Moore and an Under-21 cap in Rubin Colwill.
On the bench, there were more. Seasoned international pro Jonny Williams, former Welsh Under-21 star Mark Harris and three other young Welsh internationals to Kieron Evans, Isaak Davies and Sam Bowen.
Let’s not forget that Will Vaulks was also suspended because he would have been a shoo-in.
Seeing Colwill, Harris, Evans, Davies and Bowen all named to a one-day squad is extremely impressive and will no doubt have delighted the club’s hierarchy, who have planned to ensure that this path is accessible to them.
Seeing eight Welshmen in a 20-strong squad is incredibly encouraging and hopefully a sign that Cardiff City really wants to showcase the best of Wales. (By the way, Welsh Under-21 international Ryan Stirk made his debut for Birmingham City and won the fans’ man of the match vote.)
In addition, we are really seeing Welsh players making significant contributions. Incredibly, Cardiff’s last eight goals have all come from the Welshman – nine of the last 10, in fact – along with Moore, Wilson, Harris and Vaulks.
For context, when Choo initially clarified City’s vision, there were only two Wales qualified players on the previous day’s squad; Cameron Coxe and Will Vaulks, both unused substitutes in a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest in November 2019.
Of course, the circumstances are slightly different now. For starters, Cardiff was able to name 19 players to their squad last weekend – a maximum of 20 is now allowed – so this gives academy players more leeway to gain some first-team experience, even if that means being unused replacements.
And there will also be those who scale down the feat because the game against Birmingham City was kind of ‘dead rubber’ with neither team having anything tangible to play.
But the most important and most encouraging point to take away is that these players are Have luck. Want Welsh players in and around the squad is now an important factor and the importance given to enabling young Welsh players to thrive is bearing results.
Considering the squad that has been put together, this is of course going to be seen as a disappointing campaign, not having disturbed the play-off spots too much throughout it.
There are, however, glimmers of hope and sparks of positivity to be drawn from it. Many have already cited that the emergence of the Cardiff children has been the biggest advantage of the entire season and few could dispute that, our fan columnist Scott Johnson spoke about this exact thing just a few weeks ago.
But also having these senior Welsh pros on the squad, contributing heavily and cajoling the next generation, will be just as enjoyable for Tan, the board and no doubt the passionate supporters of the Welsh capital.