Embargo lifted but Bluebirds' problems have not flown away

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The Independent Online

Their transfer embargo has been lifted in the nick of time but don't think Cardiff City's problems are over. The Bluebirds launch their Championship campaign today against Sheffield United but, for the division's longest-serving manager, the new season promises to be his biggest challenge.

Having got within a whisker of taking the Bluebirds into the top flight in what was their best season for half a century, Dave Jones should be starting the season with renewed vigour despite the gut-wrenching disappointment of losing to Blackpool in the play-off final.

On paper, with a canny chief executive in Gethin Jenkins and a new Malaysian-based consortium, Cardiff should be among the favourites to clinch promotion after a boardroom shift that included the departure of chairman Peter Ridsdale. But few clubs, perhaps excepting Portsmouth, have lurched from crisis to crisis with such frequency. As well as the heartbreak of missing out on promotion, Jones has been unable to sign new recruits and is now playing catch-up as he tries to bolster a squad desperately short on numbers.

No fewer than 10 players were offloaded during the close season, all of them either surplus to requirements or out of contract and keen to move on. Jones tried desperately to hang on to Joe Ledley but the lure of Celtic was too powerful. "We tried to keep Joe but couldn't stand in his way," said Jones. "Good luck to him."

Now that the Inland Revenue have been paid their latest instalment and year-end accounts have been lodged, goalkeeper Tom Heaton – recruited from Manchester United – Daniel Drinkwater and the recently re-signed Jason Koumas are expected to be registered in time to be thrown straight into the squad against the Blades. But that still leaves Jones with less than a month to boost a 19-man squad, while at the same time Championship rivals Ipswich have made a bid for the England Under-21 striker Michael Chopra and Leeds are also interested in signing Cardiff's record purchase.

"We are delighted to get Jason in but he's about 10 days behind everybody," said Jones. "We need to bring in a couple of others while at the same time trying to keep the first team from last season. We are trying to build, not dismantle. The embargo being lifted is too late for us to get the players in for Sunday's game but hopefully next week we can move a bit quicker. It's never a boring time here."

You can say that again. Former Bluebirds legend Jason Perry believes Jones will have a major problem emulating the progress of last season. "This is the biggest test Dave Jones has faced as manager of Cardiff," says Perry. "I am sure Dave would have loved to have nailed his best players down with new contracts and brought in some fresh faces but he has been working with one hand tied behind his back."

Jenkins is determined, however, to get the club on to an even financial keel. Cardiff have already faced five winding-up orders and the chief executive knows a third transfer embargo – the first was from December to June – could be just around the corner if the club again fall foul of their responsibilities.

"It's taken us a while to work through the problems and because of the historical cashflow issues we've faced, we will have to face further challenges," said Jenkins. "We want to get this club on to a strong commercial and financial footing. Then hopefully we can grow the team and grow the business. The answer is not just to come in and write cheques. Dave has a great track record in identifying players. Plus he's incredibly hard-working and passionate."