Huddersfeld Town captain Anthony Gerrard looks ahead to meeting with former club Cardiff City
On the eve of a massive game for former Bluebird Anthony Gerrard, our blogger Scott Johnson spoke to the tough tackling defender about his time in South Wales.
It's easy to understand why Anthony Gerrard regards his time at Cardiff as "frustrating." In his first season with the club, he played 46 times but missed out on the play offs. His pairing with Darcy Blake was blossoming and many still believe that Blackpool would have been successfully navigated had Gerrard remained fit. "To be honest with you, it's all ifs, buts and maybes," Gerrard counters when I make the suggestion.
"I had a calf strain, I missed the two semi's and was expecting to play in the final but I ended up sitting on the bench, which was very disappointing. I was fit enough to play."
Ahead of the following season, Gerrard was shipped out on loan to Hull, with Seyi Olofinjana moving in the opposite direction. The move was never really explained at the time, allowing rumour and speculation to fester. "I had a bit of a mental hangover from the disappointment of not playing in the play off final," Gerrard recalls.
"The manager (Dave Jones) told me to get my head together. He told me if you're playing well, you'll be back in the team. Two weeks passed and he called me in to his office and told me we want to get you back to how you were playing last year. The next day, I got a phone call telling me we're going to send you out on loan for the season. He didn't give any rhyme or reason."
He proved to be a huge success at Hull, winning their Player of the Year award, though a permanent move failed to materialise, "I think the club were asking too much money." Gerrard returned to Cardiff and a new manager in Malky Mackay, a "disciplinarian" compared to the more "laid back" Jones. Despite starting the season, the arrival of Ben Turner relegated Gerrard to the bench, but an injury sustained by Mark Hudson saw a prompt recall.
Ahead of the Carling Cup final, Gerrard received a lot of attention due to his Liverpool connections, despite infrequently featuring in the first team. "I spoke to Steven quite a bit in the lead up to the game, I was doing quite a lot of press but the manager decided not to play me, which still stings." Gerrard started on the bench but was introduced late in the game and was also selected as one of Cardiff's five penalty takers. "I was down to take the fifth penalty in the semi-final and the penalties were in the same order. I stepped up fully confident and nine times out of ten, I would have put that away."
Gerrard missed the decisive penalty, dragging his effort wide of Pepe Reina's right post, "I put too much purchase on it and put it wide," Gerrard claims, before adding: "better players than me have missed penalties." Visibly distraught in the aftermath, cousin Steven, who also missed his spot kick, was at hand to offer some consoling words, "He said keep your head up, that was it basically."
Gerrard took to Twitter to apologise to fans, posting: 'Sorry to everyone! I can't close my eyes wid out seeing that penalty!! It's goin to haunt me for the rest of my days! Head is mashed!' But Gerrard confirms the incident no longer troubles him, "Everyone misses penalties, not playing hurt more. After playing so many of the games leading up to it, that did my head in more."
That was Gerrard's final contribution to the Cardiff cause, he was subsequently frozen out of the side and feels that he deserved more respect from Mackay during this period. "I was treated like a joey to be honest. The way he spoke to me on the training ground, being put down, I don't think you should speak to people like that. A few of us were treated unfairly in my eyes to be honest." Gerrard's outspoken nature has always divided Cardiff fans, a marmite figure who has and continues to be the target of abuse. "The majority of fans are alright. The majority of the abuse came after the final, but they wouldn't say it to my face."
He is set to face a very different Cardiff City to the one he left, after a controversial rebrand and substantial investment in the side. As you would expect, Gerrard has typically forthright opinions on recent developments. "Fans are fickle at any club, as long as the higher powers plough the money in and they see success on the pitch, it doesn't matter what kit they wear. Once things start going wrong, that's when you'll start hearing moans and groans about the colour. They own the club, they can do what they want."
A regular at Huddersfield, it is likely that Gerrard will captain the side against Cardiff, having recently celebrated his 27th birthday and won the Blue & White Foundation Player of the Month award for a second consecutive month. "It's good to be playing regularly, the first couple of months were hard but now I'm cracking on," he is also keen to face his former club and exact revenge for the harsh 1-0 defeat on the opening day of the season. "I only played about five minutes in the first game, so it will be nice to play the full 90 against them and right a few wrongs."