Dave Jones rebuts Cardiff City 'choker' claim
Dave Jones insists his Cardiff City are not chokers as their Premier League automatic promotion hopes were dashed in a 3-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough.
Norwich's 1-0 win over Portsmouth sealed the second automatic promotion spot behind Queens Park Rangers as Cardiff face the drama of play-offs.
Cardiff now have a battle to hold onto third with rivals Swansea City just two points behind with a game remaining.
"To talk about choking is wrong," said Jones after Cardiff's Boro beating.
"And that is not the right thing to say to me at this moment."
Cardiff suffered narrow disappointment in 2009 as a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday and a four-match winless run meant Jones' men dropped out of the Championship play-off places on the final day of the season.
The Bluebirds had been in the top six for most of the season but missed out on the play-offs on goals scored to Preston - who had beaten the Welsh club 6-0 in what proved to be the catalyst for Cardiff's end-of-season slide.
Cardiff were pre-match favourites for last season's Championship play-off final - after beating Leicester in a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final - against Blackpool but lost 3-2 despite twice taking the lead at Wembley.
Now this season the Bluebirds squandered their bid for the final automatic promotion place with a game to spare as Cardiff suffered a woeful performance against Middlesbrough as they succumbed to their heaviest defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Jones has acknowledged this is the finest squad of his six-year Cardiff tenure with players including Craig Bellamy, Michael Chopra, Jay Bothroyd, Seyi Olofinyana and Peter Whittingham widely regarded as the best in the Championship.
But the thrashing by 'Boro means Cardiff must go through the end-of-season play-offs if they are to end their 49-year top-flight absence.
Jones apologised to the fans after the game for their display and first defeat in nine games as the Cardiff manager admitted the goals his side conceded to 'Boro - all of which came inside the opening 22 minutes - were "crazy."
But he vehemently rebutted any suggestions his Cardiff sides lack of mental strength or character when it matters most.
"Talking about us choking is not fair on our players here," said Jones.
"We have been trying really hard for three seasons and selling our best players. So I don't agree with it.
"This club has a lot of things to be proud of and I'm proud of the players because they keep bouncing back.
"It is always going to be a roller coaster ride with this football club when you get rid of your best players each year and then you have to regroup.
"There are 20-odd other teams trying to do this [promotion] and at the end of each season we've been there.
"You have just had two clubs relegated from this division in Sheffield United and Preston that were in the play-offs two years ago.
"Preston beat us to get in a play-off position - and now they are relegated. So that shows how hard we have worked to keep it going.Jones rebuts Cardiff choker claim
"This club over many, many years has had a steady progress despite all the things that have gone on so that is why I take exception to being labelled a choker.
"What would you rather be up one season and down the next? Or not doing it and use the excuse that we have sold our best players?
"We don't use that excuse. We dust ourselves down and we get the players in and we go again.
"And we expect them to be up there because that is the mentality that we try to and put into them.
"We didn't play anywhere near where we are capable of. It just happens on the day when the expectation was there and we didn't deliver it - and that is the sad thing."
"We have to pick ourselves up and go to the play-offs. And we have to keep that belief alive until it is finally gone."
Cardiff have suffered much off-the-field turmoil in Jones' reign as the Championship's longest-serving manager as the club endured winding-up orders, a boardroom power-shift and even started this season under a transfer embargo.
But players such as Kevin McNaughton, Chris Burke, Gavin Rae, Stephen McPhail, Whittingham, Bothroyd and Chopra have been stalwarts of the past three seasons.
Cardiff travel to Burnley on Saturday for their final regular season game hoping to finish in third as the third-placed team could benefit if already-promoted QPR are docked points and stripped of automatic promotion if they are found guilty of breaching league rules.
The Football Association hearing begins on Tuesday as QPR contest seven charges over the 2009 signing of Alejandro Faurlin and the four-man panel is expecting to announce its decision on Friday.