Cardiff players involved in pay row

CARDIFF City, the team that stand in the way of a top-six finish for Ipswich Town, are embroiled in a bitter dispute with their players, writes Derek Davis.

CARDIFF City, the team that stand in the way of a top-six finish for Ipswich Town, are embroiled in a bitter dispute with their players, writes Derek Davis.

The Bluebirds are in turmoil after a bonus payment row erupted, involving midfielder Gareth Whalley.

The City players are backing their team-mate, with former Wales international John Robinson saying the situation has upset the dressing room.

Whalley will not be picked for the game against Ipswich on Sunday, which will now be shown live on Sky TV, although the kick-off remains at 1pm.

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City boss Lennie Lawrence will also leave out Irish striker Alan Lee, whose 23rd appearance would trigger a fee for Rotherham.

Former Crewe Alexandra and Bradford City midfielder Whalley had the choice of receiving either £1,000 for every match he played in or £50,000 for making 23 appearances and chose the latter.

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He played in a 2-0 win on April 17 and was expecting to become £50,000 richer the following week against Preston.

But chairman Sam Hamman and manager Lennie Lawrence decided as Cardiff had no chance of making the play-offs and were £21m in debt, it was in the club's best interests not to play Whalley again and save the cash.

Whalley was livid when he was told he would not play again this season and left training after a row with the manager.

The row was reported and then details of his contract, £300,000 a year plus bonuses, were leaked to the press upsetting the players who back Whalley who is described as 'one of the quietest men in football'.

Hammam then told Whalley to hand in a transfer request if he was not happy with his City deal, which has a year left to run, and Lawrence admitted the player's position at the club may now be "untenable".

City drew 1-1 against Wimbledon in their last game at home on Saturday with Robinson scoring their goal, but he admitted the incident had cast a shadow over the dressing room.

He said: "It has been a difficult week for the players and especially for Gareth.

"His contract is private and its details should not be splashed across the back of newspapers.

"Anyone who sees private and personal information – salary, bonuses or anything else – in print for the public to read isn't going to like it.

"What has happened in the last week has upset the club, the players and Gareth Whalley. Gareth has got feelings and he has been put in a position where he doesn't know what to do. Of course all the players are behind him as what has happened to him is wrong."

York midfielder Lee Bullock is on loan until the end of the season and Lawrence is considering whether to buy him permanently for £75,000.

Former Town defender Gary Croft, who has already picked up his £50,000 bonus for playing 23 games this season, is expected to play and he is one of four players at Ninian Park looking for a new contract.

Keeper Martyn Margetson, defender Spencer Prior and striker Gavin Gordon are the other three.

Robert Earnshaw bade his farewells to the Ninian Park faithful on Saturday and is expected to be playing his last game in a Cardiff City shirt on Sunday.

Although he still has a year on his contract, the Welsh international striker is being coveted by a number of Premiership clubs, plus Celtic, and is expected to move in the summer.

Teenage striker Stuart Fleetwood, who has been scoring regularly in their reserves, is likely to play a part at Portman Road.

Meanwhile, Ipswich are hoping to have a full-strength side available with Tommy Miller once again the only doubt. Miller has been troubled by a tight hamstring and is also in a lot of pain with teeth trouble.

The midfielder is awaiting surgery to realign his jaw and correct dental problems but won't have it until the season is over.

n STEVE McCall takes a young side to Southampton tonight in Ipswich Town's penultimate reserve league game of the season.

Alun Armstrong is likely to figure once again as he searches for a new club to join next season while Pablo Counago may be included either tonight or on Thursday for the trip to Nottingham Forest after recovering from a groin strain.

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