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Cardiff have been the perennial bridesmaids in the Championship promotion race but now they are the brides.

Last Updated: 20/04/13 at 15:18 Post Comment

Bellamy: has been a big influence on Cardiff, says Beags

Bellamy: has been a big influence on Cardiff, says Beags

The Bluebirds have broken free from their shackles and, following Tuesday night's draw with Charlton, have secured promotion to the Premier League - and they have done it by being the model of consistency in the craziest of divisions.

Cardiff, who lost in the play-off final to Blackpool in 2010 and were dispatched in the semi-finals in both 2011 and 2012, were a very attractive side to watch last season and when they were on form they had the ability score four or five goals.

But this term they have been strong, resilient and hard to beat and shown an ability to win games in different ways and using alternate formations.

They have scored plenty of goals from set-pieces and ground out results, while have also kept calm as the season has reached the business end, too.

They haven't sprinted over the line and finished with a flourish, but when they have been under pressure and seen Hull and Watford reduce their lead at the top of the table, they have kicked on again.

Poise

The summer recruitment drive was pivotal as Cardiff bounced back from the debacle of last year's 5-0 aggregate defeat to West Ham in the play-offs, and manager Malky Mackay captured players with knowledge, knowhow, presence, poise and experience of pressure situations.

Every member of the squad, which is filled with big names but no egos, has played their part and the Welsh side have played with application and togetherness no matter what XI was selected, and substitutes have regularly entered the fray and made a big difference.

Captain Mark Hudson has been absent since mid-March but that has allowed former QPR man Matthew Connolly - who Mackay told me earlier this campaign has been a marvellous acquisition due to his attitude in training and ability to head, tackle and play with the ball at his feet - to take centre stage.

Aron Gunnarsson has prospered whilst chief midfielder Peter Whittingham has been on the bench, Craig Noone and Kim Bo-Kyung have added craft, creativity and a high work-rate, and Heidar Helguson has provided vital experience and goals up front.

Goalkeeper David Marshall has performed heroics, too - I remember the first game of the season against Huddersfield when he was outstanding - and helped the Bluebirds keep the most clean sheets in the Championship (18 at the time of writing).

But the headline grabber will, of course, be Craig Bellamy, who has been a genuine leader and winner and you can imagine how key he has been in the dressing room over the last few weeks as promotion grew closer.

He has displayed tremendous enthusiasm and while he hasn't scored a bundle of goals - he has netted just four times, most recently in December - he has been a real creator and matured as both a person and player over the course of the campaign.

Bellamy has a long list of footballing achievements from his times at Blackburn, Liverpool Newcastle and Celtic, but I think getting to the Promised Land with Cardiff will be his most cherished accomplishment as the club means so much to him.

Common sense

The players and Mackay have been excellent but City's Malaysian owners deserve credit, too, as they haven't come out and made big statements, have backed Mackay to the hilt following last season's disappointment and made common sense decisions.

They haven't spent fortunes but they have allowed the manager to bring in the players he thought he needed to launch a successful promotion assault and lift Cardiff into the top flight for the first time in over 50 years.

The kit-colour change at the start of the term from blue to red was not popular with the majority of the Cardiff fans, but the hierarchy did it so that the clubs could increase their revenue with jersey sales in the Asian market and not rely on TV money to boost the coffers.

It will be great to see the Cardiff-Swansea derby in the Premier League next season and it will really add something to the top flight - but Mackay will realise that he must strengthen if he wants to ensure that fixture is not just a one-season affair.

The Bluebirds need a lot of players, at least six or seven, to stay up and Premier League football will test them to their maximum, but they will be aided by a tremendous and vociferous support from inside their fantastic stadium.

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