If, as expected, Steve Morison is named Cardiff’s manager for the foreseeable future, then the academy is indeed truly having a breakthrough year.
With a raft of youngsters all stepping up to the first-team, and none of them looking out of their depth, Cardiff are benefitting from unexpected strength in depth when they need it most. If there is no spending money on the horizon, they need these kids to thrive in order to dig them out of a hole and they look well equipped for the challenge.
Cardiff’s academy, which has in the past lagged behind Swansea’s, is now thriving at all levels and looks set to overtake their rivals. Should they, as planned, establish a new base in Llanrumney, they can then also apply for Category One status.
There have long been high hopes for this particular group, having come through together and won the league at Under-18 level in 2019. Suffice to say, the academy is finally bearing fruit and earning it’s keep.
Morison is an unexpected bonus. With Cardiff unprepared for Mick McCarthy’s complete collapse, they bumped up Morison and having overseen the all-conquering Under-23 side, he has quickly managed to impart some of those qualities in a notoriously unsophisticated bunch.
Having initially written off Morison’s chances, Mehmet Dalman is presumably tucking into a bowl of humble pie, but hopefully he can appreciate that the academy has once again come to his rescue. It need not be a one off either. Maybe the time has come for Cardiff to start growing their own managers too.
Presumably, that was always the plan when Craig Bellamy, who oversaw Cardiff’s Under-18 success, was brought into the academy. I also always thought that Cardiff should have made better use of James Rowberry, a prodigious young coach who became part of the furniture and was overlooked at a time when Cardiff were coveting a talented, young manager. Maybe fellow coaching talent Paul Trollope’s brief and disappointing spell in charge scorched the earth for Rowberry.
With Dragon Park, Wales’ National Football Development Centre on their doorstep, since its opening in 2013, I’m not sure why Cardiff has not established clear links between them. With some of football’s biggest names passing through to study for their UEFA licence, Cardiff could act as a finishing school for the cream of the crop.
Mark Hudson and Robert Earnshaw have both recently studied there and if Cardiff had their wits about them, they should seek to integrate them. Hudson, who many were championing for the big job, has experience of managing Huddersfield’s Under-23’s and briefly the first-team. He could be a ready-made replacement for Morison and if they were to commit to succession planning, the heir apparent.
Earnshaw finished his playing career in Vancouver and transitioned in to coaching the Whitecaps youth side. He was also assistant coach at USL side Fresno FC. Both Hudson and Earnshaw are firm fan favourites and having fans onside is always half the battle. So, why not add them to the new conveyor belt of ready-made, in-house solutions.