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United they stand... suddenly City produce best display since Malky's men shocked Rooney and his mob.


ISAW Paul Trollope play for Wales nine times and (hopefully he won't mind me saying this too much) he never once stood out too much during that time.

Considering his team-mates included Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Gary Speed, John Hartson and Robbie Savage, perhaps the unsung Trollope was happy to melt into the background.

Not the other night, though. I can honestly say Trollope made more impact upon me in 90 minutes as Cardiff City's new head coach, than he did in six years as a Wales squad member, first under Bobby Gould, then Mark Hughes.

The Bluebirds may only have drawn 1-1 with Blackburn, but for me it was their most impressive 90-minute display since the 2-2 draw with Manchester United achieved by Malky Mackay's Premier League side back on November 24, 2013.

Yes that's a big statement, I know, but it's one I will go on to justify in a moment.

Let's just say, for the time being, that what we saw from Cardiff City on Tuesday night was a galaxy away from the utter rubbish we have been served up in recent weeks and months.

The Bluebirds were full of pace, purpose, energy, urgency and creativity. They kept the ball, even just about edged the possession stats.

It was the antithesis of the pedestrian, drab, route-one, set-piece football - if indeed 'football' is the correct word - that we had become accustomed to from a Cardiff side dipping alarmingly down the Championship table.

So why the dramatic turnaround? Has Russell Slade, stung by the damning verdict delivered on him and his style of play by the fans via our WalesOnline survey, suddenly decided to alter his approach? If so, good on him. Have the players, suddenly realising they are in real danger of relegation to League One, suddenly decided to up the ante themselves? If so, good on them.

Or is it a mere coincidence the appointment of Trollope as head coach, quite a grandiose title in modern-day football, led to radically improved performance.

I couldn't help but notice Trollope's involvement in the technical area. While Slade stood at the front as per normal, clapping his hands of encouragement every so often, it was Trollope who was demonstratively barking out the orders to the team.

He was telling players where to run, what to do, when to press. He advised, he cajoled, he pointed here there and everywhere. When Eoin Doyle and Aron Gunnarsson were substituted, each to a deserved standing ovation from the fans, Trollope made a point of patting them on the head to say well done.

Because the change in approach was so seismic, it's hard to underplay the Trollope factor.

Look, let's not beat about the bush here. Trollope hasn't suddenly become Jose Mourinho and Warren Gatland rolled into one. Like Slade, he only managed himself at the lower levels with Bristol Rovers, although crucially he did work as Chris Hughton's No2 in the Premier League with Norwich and at Championship level with Birmingham.

But besides his head coach title, the thing that opened my eyes most about Trollope's appointment was a previous assertion of his about wanting to see players passing the ball and modelling his philosophy upon Jean Tigana's easy-on-the-eye Fulham team.

He also spent coaching sessions with the Spain national side, studying the preparation methods of perhaps the greatest passing team of the lot.

Good luck with Cardiff then, was my initial cynical reaction. Yet, coincidence or not, the Bluebirds offered more pass-and-move creativity in and around the Blackburn box in the first 20 minutes on Tuesday night than I personally had seen from them in weeks.

Peter Whittingham suddenly began strutting his stuff in the midfield and looking the class act we know he can be. Young Matthew Kennedy, from Everton, offered panache, pace, directness down the flank.

Doyle and Kenwyne Jones looked a decent combination up front.

Heck, Scott Malone twice rampaged forward from left-back in such a swashbuckling manner I had to rub my eyes to check I wasn't watching Roberto Carlos!

I couldn't help but think how departed individuals such as Mats Daehli, Ravel Morrison, Kim Bo-kyung, Javi Guerra and Adam Le Fondre would have fitted seamlessly into the new way of playing, but we can't have everything.

Nonetheless, this was a 90 minutes that offered genuine hope and signs at last of progress. The Bluebirds were much easier on the eye and the fans responded. While disappointed by Blackburn's last-minute equaliser, they left Cardiff City Stadium with hope for the first time in ages.

I revert back to that claim of the best 90-minute Cardiff display since goals by Kim Bo-kyung and Fraizer Campbell cancelled out Manchester United efforts from Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra fully 14 months ago.

Yes the Bluebirds have won matches since then. At home to Norwich and Fulham under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the Premier League, neither of which was overly-convincing.

They earned a fantastic 1-0 triumph away to Southampton, although that was more a smashand-grab exercise. In the Championship, wins over Wigan and Huddersfield (under Solskjaer) and Nottingham Forest, Ipswich, Leeds and Reading (under Slade) shouldn't be underestimated.

But while they were denied in the end by a last-minute goal the other night, Cardiff set the tempo from the very opening minute, kept up the momentum pretty much throughout and began wowing the fans again for the first time in months.

Maybe because of the turgid, downright boring football we've been watching recently, the size of the improvement is being exaggerated.

But Slade's Cardiff have had enough of a kicking in recent times, so give credit where credit is due...

whoever you believe takes the credit for the change in approach.

Make no mistake, Cardiff City are still in deep trouble. Considering the talent that was at the disposal of Solskjaer and Slade, it's absolutely ridiculous that people are looking over their shoulders and asking 'Surely there are three worse teams in the division, aren't there?' Two pivotal away games are approaching at Huddersfield and Wigan. But carry on playing the way they did against Blackburn and Cardiff will create chances, score goals and win matches.

That's not something I was remotely confident about at 7.44pm on Tuesday night.


Sean Morrison gives Cardiff the lead with his header against Blackburn

Manager Russell Slade |and new coach Paul Trollope discuss tactics against Blackburn
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 19, 2015
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