Cardiff captain lauds 'miracle man' Ridsdale

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The Independent Football

There are one or two Leeds fans who may well respond "which leg?" when they hear the plea of their former midfielder Stephen McPhail, but the Cardiff City captain is unashamed in asking for the football world "to give Peter Ridsdale a break" – starting this Saturday at Wembley.

"I don't think anyone should have to go through what Peter's been through," said McPhail as the Championship side's preparations continued for their unlikely FA Cup final against Portsmouth. "If everyone works hard in life you earn a break and he is no different. Peter does deserve it as he has done miracles here."

The Irishman is in a privileged position to say so as he was a first-hand witness of not only Ridsdale's controversial reign at Elland Road, but also of his time at Barnsley. "Yeah, the three clubs I've been at, Peter's been there too, so I do know him quite well," said McPhail, who featured in the Champions League semi-final in 2000. "He took a lot of flak at Leeds, which is a pity as he is a decent man and a big football fan. His family also came in for a lot of abuse and that was more worrying.

"That's why you have to take your hat off to what he's done here. Peter felt he wanted to take up another challenge and can't have done better than he has at Cardiff. He should be as proud as anyone to lead us as a chairman to an FA Cup final. We've come a long way in a short time."

Cardiff's fortunes have indeed completed a few full circles since the turn of the year when, Dave Jones claims, "we were just 30 minutes from going into administration". A miserable run of results on the pitch were made all the more depressing by the continuing saga off it with the former owner, Sam Hammam, and a mysterious firm called Langston, claiming to be due £31m immediately.

But now with the weekend's date in north-west London – not to mention a new training facility in the Vale of Glamorgan worthy of the top flight and a £30m, 25,000-capacity stadium hurriedly being erected across the road from the decrepit Ninian Park – the Bluebirds are, as James Fox's top 20 single cheesily suggests, "flying high".

"Pete has transformed the club from having next to nothing to having a very bright future," said Jones, before risking the wrath of a large part of Yorkshire. "He spent £100m at Leeds to win trophies and the fact they didn't, is that his fault? He did his part but his players, coaches and managers didn't deliver the goods. They qualified for the European Cup semi-final and would Leeds fans have changed it? I doubt it.

"We all make mistakes and now at Cardiff, Peter is putting his previous mistakes to good use by not doing them again. When I arrived, no one was interested in us. It was about sell, sell, sell to survive but now businessmen are making noises about investing in the club. That shows you how far this club has come under Peter."