Russell Slade: Will Vincent Tan retain Cardiff City manager?

Russell Slade
Russell Slade has been in charge at Cardiff since October, 2014

Manager Russell Slade has done a good job at Cardiff City, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a Bluebirds fan to say so.

The former Leyton Orient boss took the Cardiff to the brink of play-offs despite wage cuts, enforced player sales and a transfer embargo.

Yet Slade's position is being scrutinised as owner Vincent Tan mulls over some key summer decisions - with the decision due soon after their final game of the season against Birmingham City.

The manager's unpopularity with many fans could feature heavily on Tan's mind as he deliberates on whether the man who has stabilised the ship can actually take the club forward.

Hands tied

Some would consider it miraculous that Slade kept Cardiff's battle for the Championship play-offs alive until the penultimate game of the season.

Their hopes were finally dashed with the 3-0 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, as the Owls claimed the final play-off spot.

Cardiff will finish no lower than eighth this season compared with 11th last term.

This was achieved against a backdrop of wage reductions and the loss of leading scorers Kenwyne Jones and Joe Mason in January when a transfer embargo was slapped on the club for breaching Financial Fair Play rules.

The previous season he was forced to reduce the bloated squad he inherited from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Slade appears to have operated in conditions akin to having one hand tied behind his back, and yet the doubts over his ability never disappeared.

Cardiff City
Cardiff City have won just once in their last six Championship games

Doubts

The hangover from the row over Tan's decision to switch the club's colours from blue to red - and then back again - appeared to affect Slade's early popularity early in his reign.

However, a visit from the owner in January not only bolstered Slade's position as manager, but appeared to placate the dissenters.

Cardiff attracted just over 15,000 for their important home win over Ipswich Town on 12 March, but a ticket offer ensured a club-record 28,680 were present to see them beat promotion chasing Derby on 2 April.

Despite a hibernation, the doubts over Slade re-emerged.

An almost inexplicable decision to "rest" consistent midfielder Stuart O'Keefe in the defeat against Fulham drew much criticism.

Cardiff's recent record
Cardiff City have taken less than half the points available from their last 10 Championship matches

A perception he was reactive rather than proactive over substitutions has also attracted fans' disapproval, especially the belated entrance of Kenneth Zohore in the 2-1 defeat at Brentford.

His unwillingness to use young talent like Wales international Declan John has also drawn the ire of the fans.

But it's results that might ultimately have sealed his fate. One win in six league games since the victory over Derby on 2 April culminated in the dispiriting defeat by Sheffield Wednesday.

Fans who travelled to Hillsborough complained on the BBC Radio Wales Sport's phone-in of a meek, cautious performance when a win was needed to keep the season alive.

Slade can rightly point to the six sides above Cardiff having greater spending power.

Now it is up to Tan to decide whether Slade's "progress" is enough to justify him being given another shot at getting Cardiff back to the Premier League.

Tony Pulis
West Bromwich Albion head coach Tony Pulis has been fancied as a future Cardiff City boss

Questions, questions

Slade's position is only one of the questions Tan has to answer this summer.

The indications are fans who want Tan to splash the cash this summer may be disappointed. Coming out of the transfer embargo will help, but a spending spree seems unlikely.

That could help Slade's prospects because he has shown he can keep the club away from the danger zone on a tight budget.

If Tan was to commit to spending big, then a manager proven at Championship level with a record of achieving promotion would have seemed an obvious target.

Cardiff fans have always wanted West Bromwich Albion's Welsh head coach Tony Pulis and would still want him if he was to leave The Hawthorns.

The fact that Slade was not Pulis is one of the reasons why they did not take the current boss to their hearts.

If Pulis is not an option, Tan could consider a manager with more presence and with a better track record of promotion or he could decide on a young, hungry coach.

Craig Bellamy, who is diligently educating himself to prepare for management, would be hugely popular with the fans, but whether Tan could cope with such a fiercely independent character is open to doubt.

The dressing room reaction would be interesting but Bellamy would undoubtedly help sell season tickets.

While Tan's ultimate quest is to find someone to take the club forward, change is a risk.

But after the failure to hit the target of the Championship play-offs this season - Tan might feel too many fans the club has worked hard to attract back will not accept the status quo.

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