10 – Kelvin Etuhu on loan from Manchester City, 2009
Picture the scene; a sweltering Wembley, 22nd May 2010, Jay Bothroyd pulls up lame with the scores tied. You survey your options and look past Ross McCormack to Kelvin Etuhu. Get warmed up son. If you need to pinpoint the precise moment where Cardiff lost their play-off final with Blackpool, look no further.
Maybe that’s a little harsh as Etuhu struggled with injuries while on loan at Cardiff from Manchester City, but Ross McCormack!? Bizarrely, he’s still only 30 and currently plays for Carlisle. Who knew.
9 – Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on loan from Arsenal, 2011
It takes a certain kind of player to play for a club on loan for half a season and remain unpopular there forever more. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is one of those players that seems to rub people up the wrong way wherever he goes. Bear in mind he was at Arsenal when he joined up with Cardiff in 2011 and technically he looked like an Arsenal player too, but he failed where Jay Bothroyd succeeded.
A hulk of a man with great technique, Emmanuel-Thomas was like Sammy Ameobi on steroids, but his attitude and application appeared to suggest that he was doing Cardiff a favour. The fact that he’s 27 and currently without a club, despite all that talent, is as tragic as it is predictable.
8 – Ravel Morrison on loan from West Ham, 2014
Ravel Morrison certainly deserves to be a place higher than Emmanuel-Thomas, who at least chipped in with the odd goal. Signed when Cardiff were between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Russell Slade, so it’s hard to know who to blame for this one, but he came, he barely registered and he went. You can understand the thinking.
Morrison is prodigiously talented and Sir Alex Ferguson once regarded him as highly as Paul Pogba, who was his peer at Manchester United. My only memory of Ravel at Cardiff is him initiating a warm up routine at half time one week and berating the other subs because they couldn’t do what he could do. I guess that’s probably him in a nutshell.
7 – Kenwyne Jones in exchange for Peter Odemwingie from Stoke City, 2014
Kenwyne Jones used to drive me crazy. When you’re as good as he was, it’s very frustrating when a pale imitation shows up. He did a job for Cardiff, but he used to be a real force of nature. Obviously, were he still in that sort of shape, he would never have ended up at Cardiff, but a bit like Darren Bent, the contrast between the old and the new was stark.
Jones proved a handful and provided a decent return, but imagine how good he might have been had he ran around a bit. Adam Le Fondre was tasked with the running of two men and it was not what he had signed up for. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signed him and he was probably expecting the player he remembered from his playing days. This guy was just phoning it in.
6 – Wilfried Zaha on loan from Manchester United, 2014
Wilfried Zaha could have been our saviour. After all, he saves Crystal Palace every week. When he signed for Cardiff, it was on loan from Manchester United, where he was struggling and felt unloved. When he joined Cardiff, he was keen to stress that it was nice to feel wanted again, but that love was not reciprocated. He had his moments, but his time was more of a blooper reel than a greatest hits.
It was all of the frustrating stuff that makes him so unpopular everywhere except Selhurst Park and very little of the pure inspiration that he seems to magic up on a regular basis. Crystal Palace seems to be his happy place and it remains to be seen if he can cut it elsewhere. He was certainly the right man at the wrong time for Cardiff.
5 – Lex Immers from Feyenoord, 2016
Cardiff were actually linked with Lex Immers the year they went up, before eventually landing him on loan a few years later. With previous for anti-semitic chanting, you wondered whether Paolo Di Canio would be walking through the door, but Immers was a calm, sophisticated presence. With that superior Dutch technique, he was a revelation on loan and promptly signed permanently in the summer.
Despite trying before they bought, Immers then went on to bomb. All his plusses became negatives and he became a passive presence. Personal problems were hinted towards and Cardiff ended up taking what you imagine was a massive hit on him when they terminated his contract the following January. He then moved to Club Brugge, where his contract there was also cancelled after six months. He is now back in Holland, evidently his happy place, with ADO Den Haag.
4 – Rickie Lambert from West Brom, 2016
Having worked with him at the genesis of his career, Rickie Lambert was the man to knit together Paul Trollope’s grand vision. An expensive freebie and a Football League legend, his body was just not up to the rigours of the Championship anymore. A succession of injuries limited him to 13 starts, five more appearances off the bench and four goals, while Cardiff floundered in his absence.
Three of the top four places on this list are occupied by expensive strikers that tanked hard. It is not a position where you often get away with cutting corners. Lambert had averaged about a dozen games in each of his previous two seasons, so it was always going to be a big ask to expect him to carry Cardiff over a 46 game season. He lasted longer than Trollope, but Warnock did not fancy him and the second year on his deal was terminated. Lambert soon retired and his brilliant career did not receive the fitting end it deserved.
3 – Lee Tomlin from Bristol City, 2017
The Lee Tomlin situation is a sickener. It was the signing that seemed to indicate that Cardiff were going for it last season. The marriage between him and Warnock seemed tailor made, it seemed inevitable that he would go on to become our Adel Taraabt, but instead he was more like another Mats Moller Daehli. An opportunity wasted.
I don’t know what Warnock was expecting, as Tomlin arrived with serious baggage, including an impending court date. He’s also always been dogged by fitness and conditioning issues, but he only ever started consecutive games once and despite some filthy cameos was soon banished. Shipped out on loan in January and not even given a squad number this season, Tomlin is now in the football wilderness until at least the end of the year.
The only player on this list still with the club, it’s just a tragic waste, of money, potential and enjoyment because the guy is a genius. Tomlin does things most other players wouldn’t even consider and there are still games where I would throw him on for the last 20 minutes. There must be more than meets the eye with this one, but that makes it no less frustrating.
2 – Robbie Fowler, 2007
The signing of Robbie Fowler was so bold and audacious. I was so excited that I even went to watch his debut in a pre-season friendly and I never ordinarily bother with friendlies. But there was Fowler in a Cardiff shirt, slowly gong purple and blowing out of his arse after about 15 minutes. He didn’t last long and by the end of the game, most of the excitement had passed.
This was not the guy Liverpool supporters called God. Fowler did improve and he had his moments, but mentally he was on a far higher plane, so his feints and touches often went to waste. He was overshadowed by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (also of this list, see number 17) and did not even make the squad for the FA Cup final. Maybe he would have improved had he stayed for another year, but he bunked off to Blackburn instead, a move he has since admitted to regretting.
1 – Andreas Cornelius from Copenhagen, 2013
The signing that brought the club to its knees. First things first, it would mean and unfair to write off a player that only played a shade over 90 minutes, spread over seven league games. It is safe to say that the club failed Andreas Cornelius, rather than the other way around. It’s not his fault that Cardiff saw fit to offer his club so much money and multiply his wages several times over.
Seemingly signed as a work in progress, when Cardiff needed jam today, not tomorrow, it was a signing that ruined the reputations of both the manager and the guy responsible for recruiting him. Vincent Tan to this day mentions him at every opportunity and is still clearly livid about it. If you want to know why Cardiff were reluctant to spend this summer, it’s likely because of Cornelius. It may well be why they never shelled out for a striker too.
As for Cornelius, he was ushered out of the door at the first opportunity and it was hard not to feel sorry for him. Cardiff is a stain on a, to that point, promising career. He was last seen missing a decisive penalty for Atalanta against his former club Copenhagen in the Europa League and was loaned out the following day. The guy must have smashed a mirror while walking under a ladder, as a black cat and a single crow watched on at some point in his life.