Date:Monday April 2 2012
Cardiff City are far from blessed with a big squad, and manager Malky Mackay has had his hands somewhat tied when it comes to altering his preferred line-up to accommodate injuries or changes in formation. The midfield has been a particular cause for concern, with influential playmaker Stephen McPhail struggling with illness through the season.
A definite positive outcome of this has been the emergence of some promising young talent within the Bluebirds squad. Both Joe Mason and Rudy Gestede have played far more than many would ever have suspected and both have shown real potential and some good form. Indeed, Mason now seems a key member of Mackay`s starting XI while he has had to concede that we simply look better balanced when Gestede plays.
Another hugely promising young player is teenager Joe Ralls. He made a terrific impact on his league debut, scoring a beautiful long distance effort though City eventually lost the game 2-1 away at Burnley. Despite not featuring regularly following that impressive opening - Ralls did manage to force his way back into contention and was a key member of the starting line-up through November and December. He featured three times in early January, but his only appearance since was a first half outing against Blackpool. Through February and March, Ralls has also been absent from the bench and now seems unlikely to feature again this season.
Part of that has to do with the return of McPhail, and the loan capture of Liam Lawrence from Portsmouth. However, there have been plenty of occasions when midfield players like Cowie, Gunnarsson and co have look extremely tired and our midfield as a unit has struggled. The youthful exuberance and clear passing ability of Ralls could have been a useful option - he has certainly shown himself to be a very tidy passer and has a good engine.
With an England youth cap now under his belt, Ralls remains a very encouraging prospect and fans Cardiff City will hope that he, Mason, Gestede and young winger Kadeem Harris can all go on to make a big impact for the Bluebirds in the coming seasons.
Date:Monday April 2 2012
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