After a disappointing start to the new season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as Cardiff boss has come to an end. The baby faced Norwegian manager has vacated his position only eight months after taking the reins of the Welsh club, leaving Cardiff lingering in 17th place in the Championship with only eight points from their first seven games. It’s uncertain where Solskjaer will end up next but his reputation remains intact despite being viewed as having failed at Cardiff. It was always going to be a difficult job for the fairly inexperienced coach, who had only previously managed the Manchester United Reserve team and Molde in his homeland before taking over from Malky MacKay in January. Unnecessary off field drama was complemented by poor performances on the field which led to Cardiff’s eventual relegation from the Premiership. Despite relegation, Solskjaer would remain in charge under the blessing of owner Vincent Tan and would lead the revamping of the first team squad with a view to bouncing straight back up the following season.
Cardiff did strengthen well in the summer managing to convince accomplished Gabon defender Bruno Ecuele Manga to join the club from French club Lorient as well as persuading Scottish goalkeeper David Marshall to stay despite interest from several Premiership sides. These two moves as well as the return of Danny Gabbidon were done to shore up what was a leaky defence and for a while it looked to be working but despite playing better at the back, Cardiff’s biggest problem remained up front. Solskjaer talked passionately in the past about how goals win games but with only Kenwyne Jones converting on a semi regular basis with four goals in seven and with his other five strikers only contributing a further one goal between them, his real problem was scoring enough goals to win matches. A 1-0 defeat to Wolves in late August was followed by a nervous 1-1 draw with Fulham as the wheels began to fall off. But it was the nature of the defeat to Norwich last weekend that signaled the beginning of the end for Solskjaer. Leading by 2-0 at half time, Cardiff only needed to hold on for 45 minutes to earn their first three points since mid August but instead Solskjaer watched in horror as his team folded and let in four goals in a baffling 33 minute period in the second half. Three days later, Cardiff faced Middlesbrough and fell behind after only two minutes. As his side struggled to find a way back and with the minutes ticking away, Solskjaer could tell that his time in Wales was up.
With only a 30% win rate during his time at the club and with Cardiff slipping further down the Championship table, it was evitable that Solskjaers time would come to an end sooner rather than later. The defeat to Middlesbrough was his 30 game in charge of Cardiff and ultimately his last with the conclusion of a meeting with Chairman Mehmet Dalman the following day being that the two should part ways. The announcement followed the next day, on the same day that fellow strugglers Fulham also called time on their manager, Felix Magath’s rein. The hunt is now on at both clubs to appoint successors who can turn around their clubs current state of affairs and point them in the right direction towards promotion back to the Premiership.
Current favourites for the Cardiff role are former Celtic manager Neil Lennon and current Dundee boss Paul Hartley however other candidates like ex Blackburn and Turkey star Tugay and MK Don boss Karl Robinson have expressed an interest in the role as well. Cardiff legend Craig Bellamy and former Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis have both distanced themselves from the job with the latter favouring a move to the newly opened manager’s slot at Fulham instead of joining Cardiff. Hartley appears to be the front runner, although Dundee appear unwilling to part with their accomplished coach who since joining in January has managed to guide them back into the Scottish Premiership at the first time of asking. Neil Lennon remains the best choice for Cardiff with the former Leicester City player still looking for his next opportunity after sensationally quitting Scottish champions Celtic in the summer. Lennon would bring with him a fiery reputation that is potentially what is needed at Cardiff where the players are concerned, less so though with controversial owner Vincent Tan. Both passionate and opinionated, the two could clash which will be a concern to chairman Dalman as he considers who should fill Solsjkaers’ boots. Dalman knows he faces an uphill struggle to replace Solskjaer as many will be put off by the antics of Vincent Tan. However for Cardiff’s sake a new manager needs to be found quickly if they are to turn around their season and climb back up the table.