In case any of you were too busy watching the relegation battles on Tuesday night, you may have missed the news that, after three straight years of play-off heartache, Cardiff City were promoted to the Premier League after a 50-year absence from the top flight.

Vincent Tan, Malaysia's ninth richest man, celebrated his club's promotion along with Cardiff fans at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday (Image |

Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan celebrated his club’s promotion along with fans at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday (Image |

The achievement has been heralded as a landmark moment in the history of Welsh football. Ten percent of next year’s Premier League teams will be Welsh… but is there really much that Welsh footballers stand to gain?

Let me be clear to begin with – Cardiff’s achievement is nothing if not momentous. Many would have forgiven a club which has suffered as much as Cardiff in the past three years – not in terms of failure or financial crises, admittedly, but in terms of near misses and wasted summers – for ultimately failing to live up to its potential. It’s happened before – just think of Ipswich earlier in the 2000s after their relegation, or West Ham around the same period. Have the door closed in your face enough times, and you’ll start mentally finding it harder to knock.

But there are also external elements to this story which, for fans of other clubs in particular, will somewhat cheapen Cardiff’s promotion. For a start, their net transfer spend this season was almost £9 million, with over £10 million being spent. That doesn’t include the free-agent signings of veteran forwards Craig Bellamy and Heidar Helguson, who between them have made 70 appearances for the Bluebirds in 2012/13.

That Helguson, with nine goals, is the club’s leading scorer this season is testament to the depth of a team which collectively has found the net 70 times. Midfielders Aron Gunnarsson and Peter Whittingham have eight apiece; Craig Noone, Joe Mason and Fraizer Campbell have added six more each.

Then there’s that new nickname, and its associated new owner. Billionaire Vincent Tan, ranked by Forbes as Malaysia’s ninth richest man, has certainly polarised Cardiff fan opinion since his group’s arrival in 2010; the recent decision to re-brand the club, changing their colours and badge, has driven some fans away from City altogether.

One other aspect missing from this club from the capital of Wales is Welsh footballers. This is obviously a thorny issue since there aren’t many English players in the starting line-ups of most other Premier League teams, but if we’re heralding the promotion as a step forward for Welsh football then we need to be objective.

During the course of the 2012-13 season, Cardiff brought in twenty senior players (including three on loan). Only two – Bellamy and 18-year-old Rhys Healey – are Welsh. Apart from Bellamy, Welsh players have made a combined seven senior appearances in all competitions for Cardiff this season. That’s a smaller representation than those of Iceland, South Korea or Benin.

This represents a problem. If you’re a young English player trying to forge yourself a career in football, there are four divisions of fully professional clubs you can approach. If you’re Welsh, there’s Cardiff, Swansea City or Wrexham.

It is not as if Swansea are much better. National captain Ashley Williams and young left back Ben Davies have been mainstays in the back four this season, but Neil Taylor, another left back whose season ended on September 1 after ligament damage, is the only other Welshman to have made a senior appearance for the Swans in the present campaign.

A cursory glance through the most recent Wales squad shows just seven players other than Williams or Davies playing regular Premier League football. The likes of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale are the standout talents, but the others – Hal Robson-Kanu, Steve Morison et al – can’t pretend to the same prominence within Premier League ranks, let alone at international level.

The national team’s fortunes in recent years should be proof of these limitations. Apart from a brief rise in fortunes in the final year of Gary Speed’s tenure, Wales are in something of a lean spell. Their recent win over Scotland keeps Chris Coleman’s men in touch in World Cup qualification but right now it is very difficult to see either nation reaching a major tournament in the near future.

I wish Cardiff all the best in the Premier League. Their resources should allow the reasonable spend without which, as Blackpool and Reading have proved in recent years, surviving in the Premier League is almost impossible; Bellamy told reporters Tuesday night that “the sky is the limit” now for the Bluebirds. It will be intriguing to see if any success for them leads to the development of some new Welsh talent.

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