If ever there was a polarising figure at Cardiff City, it’s Vincent Tan. To say that his ownership of the club has been a rollercoaster of emotion would be an understatement.
From changing the clubs colours from blue to red, to changing the badge, to removing all mention of “the Bluebirds” around the club – Tan’s relationship with the fans didn’t start well. For some, his changes were too much despite the money he was ploughing into the club as a result, whilst others begrudgingly accepted. The percentage of fans who had no issue with it was probably the smallest. Personally, I was accepting of it, although I did always feel it was poor taste to do that to a club. It would never have stopped me from supporting a club though, it must be said.
When Tan turned the club back to blue in 2015, and provided it with a new emblem that looked to its past, whilst showing recognition of Tan’s own heritage, the wounds started to heal. For many, the change back to blue was enough to regain their trust, whilst for others there would still be a lot more time that would need to pass before they could forget. This time, the percentage of those who simply couldn’t accept Tan’s previous mistake were probably the minority.
The change to blue didn’t bring back the thousands of match day supporters that fan group leaders had claimed for about 2.5 years, but it did turn the stadium from a hostile and venomous environment into one that was very much united again. The only problem was, Russell Slade was the manager and his football was dire. Whilst Neil Warnock’s 2017-18 squad have rightly been praised for securing promotion, it is staggering that Slade had the squad that he had but didn’t secure at least the playoffs.
Anyone accusing Cardiff of being “long ball merchants” presently, need to go back to Slade’s near two year reign and watch some of our games. He might have helped balance the books, but Slade’s football most certainly kept the fans away.
Tan seemed to recognise this, and when he chose not to retain Slade’s services at the end of his contract, gave the opportunity of managing the club to Paul Trollope. Whilst this was absolutely not the appointment that any fan wanted, and once again caused some significant anger to be thrown Tan’s way, it has to be said that Trollope did get the Bluebirds playing better football – we just couldn’t score!
I enjoyed watching us knock the ball around more under Trollope, but there was no final product, and the constant late goals against us became tiresome. We were 23rd in the Championship and, despite playing a quality of football that I don’t think deserved that position, were staring relegation in the eye. Tan wasted no time changing his manager this time.
In stepped Warnock and, it must be said, anyone who has any issue with Vincent Tan beyond this point needs their heads examined. He appointed one of the best managers in the British game, backed him with money even when we shouldn’t have really been spending any, and did what he had never done previously: allowed Warnock to manage the team uninterrupted. The result? Promoted to the Premier League the next season.
Beyond changing the clubs colours, I’m hard-pressed to find any real criticism of Tan’s ownership that shouldn’t actually be levelled instead at those who took advantage of his nativity when it came to running a football club. But in 2018, Tan is no longer naive, but instead very well prepared when it comes to managing his club. He’s also surrounded himself with people who have the clubs and his best interests at heart, which I would say has not always been the case in his seven or so years as majority owner.
In his interview with the BBC, recorded this past week following our historic promotion, Tan spoke sensibly about what clubs we would be looking to model ourselves after, this time knowing Cardiff City’s current limits amongst the Premier League’s stacked roster. His words, much like Warnock’s, even hinted at the priority possibly not even being maintaining our position in that league at all costs, but instead stabilising the future of the club. Training facilities, youth facilities, etc., all have been buzz words thrown around since our promotion. Yes, Tan is clear that he wants to fight with his team to keep us promoted, but he wants to enjoy it.
Watch and listen to the man talk about the difference in this promotion to the last, particularly in how the supporters have been with him this time around. This is an owner who genuinely cares, and even seems quite emotional about what we have achieved. He finally feels that he has a manager who isn’t trying to con him, and a management team at the club who want the absolute best for it. His interests are the same as the supporters, and anyone who says otherwise is simply trying to find reasons to continue to dislike the owner.
The big point came at the end of the interview, when Tan referred to the rebrand as a “mistake” for the first time, at least in public. When he turned the colours back to blue, and opened his arms to the history of the club again, it was made very clear that Tan was doing it due to a conversation with his mother, who had enlightened him to the feelings of the supporters. Nowhere in any press statement or interview did the club or Tan state that red had been a mistake. It was done to protect Tan’s pride, and his image as a whole. In truth, that didn’t matter. What mattered was that the club was blue again.
But now, Tan has spoken to the supporters not as a man trying to maintain his public image and pride, but as a man who is humble, apologetic, and very aware of his own mistakes. Quite frankly, he didn’t need to say what he did, but he did it anyway, and I admire that.
Some are trying to poke holes in his wording, saying he never specifically said the word “sorry.” Those people will never support Vincent Tan. Absolutely never. No point wasting time on them, if I’m honest.
Take a look at our football club. From how it is run, to what it has achieved, to everything in the city and media in the lead-up to Sunday’s promotion game and afterwards. Warnock helped the club see the light, but Tan deserves incredible praise too, as without him none of it could happen.
Rebrand aside, Tan has been one of the greatest owners currently in British football. I dare say, if supporters of other clubs took a closer look at his reign, they’d probably be a bit jealous. He’ll go down in Cardiff City history, and on the good side of it. No question.
You can watch the interview by clicking here.