DAVE Jones will walk out at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday Jones feeling proud of the job he did for the Bluebirds.
He took them to their highest league position in 39 years, a record number of points, and an FA Cup final.
For three years in a row they challenged strongly for promotion to the Premier League and though they just missed out each time, it was all a far cry from when he first took charge of a club who, in his words, had no money, no infrastructure, insufficient players and no proper training facilities.
The aim for his first season in charge was Championship survival.
But, without having a fortune to spend, he turned them into a major force - which they remain today, top of the table under his successor, Malky Mackay.
Jones paid the price for being unable to take that one final step of promotion to the top flight, when he was sacked after the end of the 2010-11 campaign and defeat (with Stephen Bywater and Jay Bothroyd in the team) against Reading in the play-off semi-finals.
He reflects on the ups and downs of life with the Bluebirds in his autobiography: “I simply couldn’t believe the state of the club,” he says of his arrival in 2005.
Rebuilding took them to those three promotion campaigns - the first of which was shattered by Wednesday.
An outstanding goal by Jermaine Johnson gave the Owls a 1-0 victory in the final game of the 2008-09 campaign and meant that Cardiff missed out on the top six by one goal.
They and Preston had the same goal difference but the Lilywhites had scored one goal more - aided by a 6-0 win against the Bluebirds before the visit to Hillsborough.
“Even if we’d lost 5-0 to them we would still have made the play-offs, and who knows what would havehappened,” Jones writes.
He did make it the following year, but lost to Blackpool in the final, and the year after that, when Reading were the victors in the semis.
“I totally reject that the 2010-11 season was a failure,” he says in his book. “How many clubs have got to a play-off final and then made the play-offs straight away again? Plus we finished with the highest numbers of points ever. If that’s failure, someone must know something I don’t.”
It was also progress, as though his team were fourth for the second year in a row, they obtained four more points than in 2009-10 and were behind third-place dSwansea only on goal difference.
“Is that not success?” says Jones. “If you’re not buying players and you’re going with loans and frees all the time, how do you build? The club only spent £300,000 the previous season.
“I hear the critics saying loans and frees don’t do it for you. I accept that. But what if you can’t actually buy players?
“You have to look for alternatives if you have no money and try to mould them into the best unit you can.”
Jones told the board in 2011 that
“loans and frees wouldn’t work if that’s how we had to operate again”. He said he needed between £3 million and £5m to replace at least 10 players but during the same conversation was sacked.
He was frustrated: “Firstly because we hadn’t quite achieved everything I wanted to. Secondly because sometimes you need the tools to get you there, Was six years too long at the same club? I don’t think so, but working under the same constraints, week in, year out, was a tough ask.”
He says he, his staff and the players worked hard to establish the club during some of the toughest times in their history when financial affairs were difficult.