Cardiff City players ‘can’t wait’ to start their Professional Development League Under-18 season against Hull City this morning (Saturday).
The young Bluebirds take on Hull away and play their first home fixture against Crewe at Cardiff International Sports Campus next Saturday morning.
“The players can’t wait to get going,” said coach Matthew Bloxham. “This is what they’ve been working towards for these past eight weeks and the competitive games are the reason they want to be footballers.
“What will be pleasing for me, when we come away from Hull is that we’ve showcased an energetic performance that we can be proud of.
“If we do that over the course of the season, then we’ll be in for a good campaign.”
Coach Andy Legg and his Bluebirds’ under-23 team start their PDL season on Monday when Sheffield United visit Cardiff International Sports Campus (1pm).
First, though, Bloxham’s under-18s are at Hull after a pre-season which saw them play RK Radomlje, Leicester City, Bournemouth, Westfields FC and Southampton – winning four matches and losing just once.
The Bluebirds kicked off their preparations with a training camp in Slovenia, finishing their stay with a 3-1 win against NK Radomlje with goals from Joel Bagan, Siyabonga Ligendza and Kieron Evans.
“It was a great experience for the boys,” says Bloxham. “We managed to get a lot of sessions in and work on a number of tactical aspects with the players, which was invaluable.
“There was a lot of time off to integrate new players into the squad. It’s important that we know each other and to do that opportunity in a foreign environment was great.
“It’s a big transition from u-16 to u-18 and when the group go away early for a week it helps that transition because players can find out the expectations set upon them in a unique environment.
“Our game against NK Radomlje was a great test. Playing foreign sides is always important as they provide a different test. It helped to keep the players focused during the camp.”
The next test for Cardiff’s youth players was against Leicester City at their Belvoir Drive Training Ground when Bloxham’s team won 6-4 after 120 minutes of football with goals from Kieron Evans (2), Isaak Davies, Ligendza, Cian Ashford and a Leicester defender.
“It’s important to test ourselves against category one sides,” said Bloxham. “We knew that they were a technical side, but we went into the game with confidence, knowing that this season we are going to score a lot of goals.
“The game was a great opportunity to showcase our playing style and talent, while adjusting and preparing for a stern physical test. As a team, we knew we had to perform, but the match also allowed us to give each player sixty minutes which was vital ahead of the new season.”
Cardiff slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Bournemouth and Bloxham says: “Despite the result, the Bournemouth match was an excellent test for us.
“They were well-drilled and organised, providing a number of challenges for our young side.
“The game proved to the players that we always have to be mentally prepared for tough tests and adversity.
“That result allowed us to reiterate the point that mentality is crucial and that we always have to go into matches with the right mindset.”
— Cardiff City Academy (@CF11Academy) August 7, 2019
City travelled to Herefordshire in a bid to retain the HFA Senior Invitational Cup against Westfields FC. The Bluebirds eventually won 7-6 on penalties after a 4-4 draw.
Bloxham’s view was: “Overall, Westfields was a great game for us. We knew we would be physically bullied and that we’d have to compete throughout in order to stand a chance against a tough semi-professional side.
“That was the standout game of pre-season, a fixture where we were physically up against it, but we rose to the top of our game and it gave the boys a great deal of confidence to take into the next game.”
Bloxham’s side ended their pre-season preparations against Southampton at Staplewood Campus, earning a 5-0 win against the Saints with Isaak Davies (2), Joel Bagan, Ryan Kavanagh and Rubin Colwill scoring.
“Southampton have an excellent track-record of bringing players through and we knew it’d be tough,” said Bloxham. “It was important to put a marker down for our match at Hull.
“The players did that, controlling the game and playing with a real attacking emphasis. For the first time in pre-season we kept a clean sheet, ensuring that we did everything possible to be good defensively.”
Cardiff City under-23
Professional Development League fixtures
Home fixtures played at Cardiff International Sports Campus or Cardiff City Stadium
Monday 12 v Cardiff City v Sheffield United (1pm)
Tuesday 20 Barnsley v Cardiff City (Noon)
Monday 26 Cardiff City v Birmingham City (7pm)
Friday 30 Nottingham Forest v Cardiff City (7pm)
Monday 9 Monday 16 Cardiff City v Bolton Wanderers (1pm)
Monday 16 Sheffield Wednesday v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 23 Coventry City v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 14 Cardiff City v Ipswich Town (1pm)
Monday 21 Colchester United v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 28 Cardiff City v Crystal Palace (7pm)
Monday 11 Bristol City v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 18 Cardiff City v Millwall (1pm)
Monday 25 Cardiff City v Charlton Athletic (1pm)
Monday 9 Watford v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 16 QPR v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 6 Cardiff City v Coventry City (1pm)
Monday 13 Cardiff City v Colchester United (1pm)
Monday 27 Crystal Palace v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 3 Millwall v Cardiff City (2pm)
Monday 10 Cardiff City v Bristol City (7pm)
Monday 17 Charlton Athletic v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 2 Cardiff City v Watford (1pm)
Monday 9 Ipswich Town v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 16 Cardiff City v QPR (1pm)
Monday 23 Leeds United v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 30 Cardiff City v Burnley (7pm)
Monday 6 Crewe Alex v Cardiff City (1pm)
Monday 20 Cardiff City v Hull City (7pm)
Monday 27 Wigan Athletic v Cardiff City (7pm)
Cardiff City pre-season results for under-23 and under-18 teams:
Under-18: NK Radomjie 1, Cardiff City 3; Leicester City 4, Cardiff City 6; Cardiff City 1, AFC Bournemouth 2; Westfields FC 4, Cardiff City 4 (Bluebirds won 7-6 on penalties); Southampton 0 Cardiff City 5,
Under-23: Taffs Well 1, Cardiff City 5; Larkhall Athletic 1, Cardiff City 1; AFC Tavistock 0, Cardiff City 7; Bodmin Town 2, Cardiff City 3; Plymouth Parkway 1, Cardiff City 5; Trefelin BGC 0, Cardiff City 0; Haverfordwest County 3, Cardiff City 4; Penybont 1 Cardiff City 4.