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The Cardiff Bulut  . . . to fire, or not to fire

By Graham Thomas

Not for the first time since he purchased Cardiff City, owner Vicent Tan has a big call to make.

Does he bite the Bulut . . . or fire it?

Manager Erol Bulut is out of contract at the end of the season – his sole campaign in charge – and discussions over a new deal have not really gone beyond ordering the coffees.

The popular image of Tan is that he is some sort of Malaysian Bond villain, reclining on a sun lounger aboard his super yacht, his black-gloved hands stroking a white kitten on his lap, whilst behind his dark sun-glasses he contemplates how to get rid of his latest manager.

The reality is that a data analyst with a spreadsheet is probably leaning over Tan’s large office desk in Kuala Lumpur, pointing out the cost-benefit analysis of firing or rehiring the current Bluebirds boss.

All logic would seem to point to giving Bulut a new deal.

After all, Cardiff are currently 11th in the table with 59 points.

This time last year – two months prior to Bulut’s appointment – they were 18th with 48 points, before picking up just one more point and finishing 21st, one place above the relegation zone.

Cardiff – who are 11/2 outsiders with DragonBet to win at home against Southampton on Saturday – have undoubtedly made progress under Bulut.

They may not have sustained the early season optimism of those sunny days after the arrival of Aaron Ramsey, but they have certainly moved the dial.

The Turkish manager has a win ratio of 40% and averages 1.4 points per match.

That compares favourably with his predecessors: Sabri Lamouchi’s 33%, Mark Hudson’s 22%, Steve Morison’s 35%, Mick McCarthy’s 37% and Neil Harris’s 39%.

You have to go back to the man before Harris – the age-defying Neil Warnock – for a better record than Bulut’s. Old Double Fist Pump himself had a win ratio of 41%, which even included his one season in the Premier League.

There are other reasons for thinking that Bulut should keep his job.

When he arrived, Cardiff were still operating under a transfer ban, meaning the only players who came through the door last summer were freebies. 

Bulut is reasonably popular with most of the club’s fan base – at least those with a grasp on reality – and while the football is not always thrilling, it has generally been progressive from last season.

The problem for Bulut – and more particularly for Cardiff as a club – is that Tan often seems to consider all the facts, but then make a decision based entirely upon emotion.

There is no strategy or blueprint, no pattern of managerial appointments that point to an identifiable ethos or direction.

It feels much more like a stab in the dark, a lurch from one footballing style to another, from one set of priorities to the next, with no coherent overview.

This, surely, cannot be the way Tan has amassed a personal fortune as the founder of Berjaya Corporation.

Yet it seems to be the way he runs Cardiff City – guided by hunch, whim, or whichever official he last spoke to from inside a club that has little to no proven footballing expertise.

When Bulut was appointed last June, Tan claimed that the former Fenerbahce boss’s extensive network of contacts would allow him to bring in “a higher profile and quality of player.”

With just one transfer window afforded to him so far – in which he was frustrated by a lack of urgency – it would appear odd to dump Bulut now before Tan has had time to test his own theory.

Tan knows the mountain of debts he has covered since he took over Cardiff will only ever be chipped away at by getting back to the Premier League.

But he has admitted the days of spending splurges in order to get there are over. It will be tight budgets and player development from within from now on.

That’s not a plan that can be judged over a 10-month period, which is another reason to stick with Bulut.

There is another outcome, one which Bulut himself has hinted may well happen. The manager may decide all this uncertainty and lack of faith in him is not worth the grief and he may decide he is moving on.

He is already being linked with other jobs, including that of Besiktas, bitter rivals to his former club Fenerbahce in Istanbul.

Whether that is the manager’s own publicity machine clunking into gear remains to be seen.

But as Tan dithers, there could yet be a dangerous outcome without a single Bulut being fired.

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