4. 2011-2012As always the best place to start is at the beginning, and it was June 2011 that sees Malky Mackay succeed Dave Jones and join Cardiff from Watford. The Scot had a reputation of putting together competitive sides on a strict budget, and that was the order of the day, with Cardiff losing no less than 12 players leaving little over 10 seniors at the club. Amongst those who left was their top goalscorer for the season Jay Bothroyd, and he followed Gavin Rae, Martin John and promising Welsh youngster Adam Matthews out the door. There were also 7 on-loan players, who all returned to their parents clubs, including bluebirds talisman Craig Bellamy. With the debt at the end of the 2011-2012 season reaching a reported £83m, and Malaysian backer Vincent Tan still in the early stages of financially stabilizing the club; there was not a great deal of money with which to buy players. In fact of the 15 players Mackay brought in 4 were loan players, 7 were free transfers and 5 players were bought for just under £2.5m. Given that the estimated transfer value of the players brought in was around £14.7m, a solid Championship squad had been assembled. Notable arrivals were Ben Turner, Aaron Gunnarsson, Joe Mason, Don Cowie and Kenny Miller, who all made 40+ appearances throughout the season. In Mackay's first season in charge the bluebirds make it to a second consecutive play-off semi final, but are comfortably beaten by eventual play-off winners West Ham 5-0 on aggregate. The team did make it to the League Cup final, narrowly losing on penalties to Liverpool. Looking back at the season, Cardiff Fan Tim Wood said:
"The squad he (Mackay) had when he turned up wasn't quite good enough, and there was a number of players with question marks on their heads. With money not being available promotion wasn't going to happen overnight. He had to put his own stamp on the side."