The 21st Century has had ups and downs galore for Cardiff City. The Bluebirds lost in three finals – The 2008 FA Cup Final, 2012 League Cup Final and 2010 Play Off final. They also managed promotion to the Premier League twice, and getting relegated twice in their first seasons. With manager controversy with Malky Mackay, and the now beloved Neil Warnock stamping his mark on the nations capital, it has never been a dull moment (except the matches when Russel Slade was in charge). It’s an almost impossible task to pick just eleven players to be in the Cardiff City greatest team of the 21st Century, but I will undertake the Herculean task to the best of my ability.
Goalkeeper – David Marshall
Scotland gave David Marshall hero status as he starred as they qualified for Euro 2020. But at the age of 36, he is past his prime as a footballer.
His run as Cardiff City’s number one has earned him the spot in Cardiff City greatest ever team. He spent 8 seasons as the Bluebirds starting goalkeeper, and was the best goalkeeper in the league as Cardiff won the Championship in 2013.
He showed his immense shot stopping talent in the Premier League, as he shepperded a defence which, without the Malky Mackay incident, looked set to remain in the Premier League. Marshall was named in the Premier League team of the season that year.
While Neil Etheridge also became one of Cardiff’s best players in his season in the Premier League, the City goal never felt as safe as when David Marshall stood between the sticks.
Right Back – Kevin Mcnaugton
There could be other option in this other than Kevin McNaughton. The Silver fox himself, McNaughton held down the right back spot for Cardiff City.
He spent 9 years as the number 2 at Cardiff, playing nearly 300 times for the Bluebirds. He only scored one league goal for the club, and became famous for his lack of goals.
McNaughton was part of the Cardiff sides that reached the FA Cup, League Cup and Play Off Finals. He started all three of the final losses, but cemented himself as one of the best right backs in the club history.
McNaughton played 26 times in an injury hit season in 2013, but helped his side secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time. Injuries and age holding him back, he still managed five appearances in the Premier League, and remains one of the most beloved players at the Cardiff City Stadium to this day.
Center Back – Sean Morrison
The Cardiff City Captain had the misfortune of being one of Ole Gunner Solsjkaer’s signings, but the Englishman hasn’t let that association drag him down.
Since his debut in 2014, he has played 262 times in the league, including 34 times in the Premier League. The Bluebirds’ captain has been a rock at the back, and is a solid goal threat to boot. He’s scored 30 league goals for Cardiff, including an impressive 7 goals when Cardiff won the Premier League.
Morrison formed a formidable partnership with Sol Bamba that became one of the best in the division. It was a toss up between the pair of them, for their heroics in 17/18. Ultimately, Morrison made the cut due to his longevity in the side.
He has earned his spot in the Cardiff City Greatest Team of the 21st Century.
Centre Back – Mark Hudson
The captain who led the Bluebirds to the promised land of the Premier League – Mark Hudson.
Hudson signed for just over a million pounds from former club Charlton Athletic. A domineering figure in defence, Hudson was immediately handed the captaincy by manager Dave Jones.
Mark Hudson was a cool head in defence, and made you feel secure when you saw him starting with teammate Ben Turner. He scored his first Cardiff City goal in the best of circumstance, nodding a header past Swansea City’s goalkeeper in a 3-2 defeat in the South Wales Derby.
Hudson captained the side to victory in the Championship, and was a rock in defence the whole season. He led the side to a 21st place finish in the Premier League, in a season marred with managerial controversy.
He is most famous for scoring a wonderful goal from inside his own half. The wonderful striker reportedly prompted owner Vincent Tan to ask the manager “Why doesn’t the goalkeeper score more goals?”.
Left Back – Joe Bennett
The left back spot was a contentious one to fill. Joe Bennett was chosen as the starter due to his wonderous performances at left back and tenacity during Cardiff City’s promotion in 2018. Andrew Taylor and Fabio also could have been named on this list, but Bennett’s consistency in his run at left back has edged him on this list.
Bennett reportedly refused a move to Fulham in the summer of 2017. This endeared the left back to the fans, and his loyalty was rewarded. A starting birth at left back in the famous promotion season followed. He was a stalwart at left back, and even in the Premier League, started every game when fit, leaving big money signing Greg Cunningham on the bench.
Bennett recently left the club after the end of his contract. He made 177 appearances at Cardiff City. Joe Bennett has been one of the best left backs at the club in the last 20 years and a fitting addition to this list.
Centre Midfield – Gary Medel
Despite only a solitary season in a horrible red shirt, Gary Medel left a lasting impression of the Cardiff City faithful.
Nicknamed “El Pitbull” for his feisty nature and hard tackling, the Chilean was equally adept in midfield or the centre of defence.
His penchant for big tackles drew the eye of fans, but his metronomic passing in midfield kept them watching. His possession retention was first class, with even Spanish legend Xavi urging Barcelona to sign him. As any sensible player would, he chose Cardiff Bay over Barcelona beach.
He was singled out as one of the best performers of the season, and his hard work in front of the defence did not go unnoticed.
Cardiff legend Peter Whittingham heaped praise on the Chilean, saying “I love playing alongside Gary, he’s great for me”
Centre Midfield – Aron Gunnarsson
The Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson was one of Malky Mackay‘s first signings. He was signed from Coventry on a free transfer to join the Bluebirds in 2011, and immediately became a key figure in the side that won the Championship two years later.
Gunnarssson’s tough tackling nature and calm head in midfield made him invaluable. In addition to this, as a child, his arms were replaced by highly explosive cannons, which he set off every time the ball went out for a throw in. Gunnarsson racked up assist after assist with his gigantic throw ins, become more dangerous than a free kick for Cardiff City.
Gunnarsson was one of the few players to play two seasons with Cardiff City. He came back from a long-term injury in 2018 to command a starting place in the Premier League, and despite his better efforts, Cardiff City were relegated.
The Icelandic midfielder starred at Euro 2016, his side defeating England in the round of 16 in the famous win.
Central Midfield – Peter Whittingham
No player has been loved by the Cardiff City faithful than the mercurial talent of Peter Whittingham. The Englishman made his name as a silky smooth midfielder for Cardiff City from 2007 all the way until 2017 when he spent a season with Blackburn. The winger spent 10 years as one of the best players in the Championship, and was voted in the EFL team of the decade.
Whittingham made his name at Ninian Park showcasing his immense talent with long rage goals, incredible free kicks, incredibly close control and an ice-cold demeanour. A goal celebration by Whittingham was always muted (and there were 96 of them for the Bluebirds) and he exuded cool. He stayed with Cardiff throughout the years despite year interest by Premier League clubs, making 457 appearances for Cardiff.
Whittingam was not just a winger, in the 2009/10 season he moved inside into midfield, scoring 20 goals in the league and becoming the last Cardiff player to do so, until Kieffer Moore equalled that record this season.
Whittingham helped City win the Championship in 2013 with 8 goals and 5 assists for Malky Mackay’s side, and bagged 3 goals and 6 assists the following season as City failed to avoid relegation. Despite interest from all over, he elected to stay with the Bluebirds for another 4 seasons.
Tragically, Whittingham passed away on on 18th March 2020 after suffering an injury in a pub in Barry, watching a Six Nations Rugby game. Tributes poured in from teammates and fans alike, with teammate Michael Chopra proclaiming him as “Cardiff’s greatest ever player”.
Right Wing – Craig Bellamy
Is it possible to be a legend at a club, without playing a single match?
Craig Bellamy proved that it could be. When the Welsh International signed on loan from Manchester City, Cardiff City fans were ecstatic.
Bellamy had been a regular starter for one of the best sides in England, playing 40 times and scoring 11. He joined the club he supported on loan in 2010, at the height of his career, to try and help the finally secure promotion to the Premier League.
Bellamy was immediately made captain of the side, and was heartbroken as Cardiff City lost in the Play Off Semi final. Bellamy wanted to stay with the Bluebirds the following year, but the sacking of Dave Jones stopped that.
He later joined Cardiff again on a free transfer, helping them achieve promotion to the Premier League for the first time. Future scandals aside, he is a legend at Cardiff City. He joined at his peak, and that’s something fans never forget.
Striker – Michael Chopra
The English and Indian striker lit up Cardiff in two separate spells, and endeared himself to the fans even to this day.
Michael Chopra signed for £500,000 in his first spell, joining from Premier League side Newcastle United. The Geordie striker kicked off his career in Wales in style, netting 22 times in his first season with the Bluebirds.
He left for Sunderland the following summer, raising £5,000,000 for the Bluebirds. His spell at Sunderland was short. He swiftly re-joined Cardiff in his second season on loan, before a permanent move back in the summer.
Chopra helped Cardiff to a play off final, scoring in a 3-2 loss to Blackpool. His most famous goal was a last minute winner in the South Wales Derby, poking home for a famous winner that City fans remember to this day.
His impact is so great that is remembered to this day by Cardiff fans. This has earned him a spot in the Cardiff City Greatest Team of the 20th Century.
Left Wing – Junior Hoilett
The left wing spot was one of the toughest to pick on the field. While Peter Whittingham would have been an automatic pick, his best years were certainly playing in the centre.
The next best pick was one of the best free agent transfers in the club history (after Sol Bamba), having joined in October 2016. He was one of many free agents brought in by Neil Warnock after the sacking of Paul Trollope as manager. Alongside Sol Bamba, the likes of Armand Traore and Marouane Chamakh, he helped rescue Cardiff from relegation and an eventual midtable finish.
The next season, he came into his own at Cardiff City. In 2018, he scored twelve times for Cardiff and was included in the EFL team of the year. His direct running and ability from range made him lethal to play against and provided some pace and width that to this day Cardiff are lacking. This earned him a place in the Cardiff City Greatest Team of the 20th Century.