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Cardiff putting run together after sluggish start - Interview
Tuesday, 1st Oct 2019 21:49 by Clive Whittingham

Cardiff have made a sluggish start back in the Championship but remain unbeaten at home and haven’t lost in six going into Wednesday’s game - @NotOfficialCCFC gave us the lowdown.

A relegation but a brave effort last season, how did you assess it in the end?

For me, obviously with us being relegated from the Premier League, the season was technically a failure. To be honest though, having only spent £28m in the summer, compared the likes of Fulham spending over £100m, I think narrowly missing out on survival by two points is nothing to be ashamed of. With the tragedy regarding Emiliano Sala, the season felt cursed. We had a number of major refereeing decisions go against us as well, though most teams do. Overall, I feel we just about lacked the quality needed to survive.

A few eyebrow raising deals over the summer– letting Zahore and Reid go to promotion rivals, particularly Reid who I thought looked like one of those classic newly promoted side signings made with one eye on what happens if you get relegated – what did you make of the business done overall?

In terms of departures, we did let some big names go in the summer. Kenneth Zohore leaving was a surprise, but not something many of us Cardiff fans were disappointed with considering we managed to get £8m for his services from West Brom. We’ve replaced him with Robert Glatzel from Heidenheim in a £5.5m deal, and he already looks twice the player Zohore is. Bobby Reid leaving was a hammer-blow on deadline day, mainly because it gave us no time to replace him. Though the fact Reid wanted to leave must’ve made Warnock’s mind up pretty swiftly. I’d say the biggest loss for us was one that went largely unnoticed in the media, Bruno Manga. Without a doubt one of the best centre backs in the Championship, and easily good enough to have stayed in the Premier League, though his contract was up, and he was desperate to return to France, and after five top years of service Warnock said he couldn’t begrudge him that. Replacing him with Aden Flint was a fairly astute move, and now him and Sean Morrison seem to have formed a decent partnership, things are looking better. Marlon Pack coming in on deadline day from Bristol City appears to have been another master-stroke by Warnock. Calm, composed, and an eye for a pass. Though he’s only just back from injury, he gives us something none of our other midfielders can. Overall I’d say our summer business has been decent, but would’ve been considerably better had we kept hold of Bobby Reid in deadline day.

Ins: Robert Glatzel, 25, CF, Heidenheim, £5.4m >>> Aden Flint, 30, CB, Middlesbrough, £4m >>> Will Vaulks, 25, CM, Rotherham, £2m >>> Gavin Whyte, 25, RW, Oxford, £2m >>> Marlon Pack, 28, CM, Bristol City, £700k >>> Isaac Vassell, 25, CF, Birmingham, Undisclosed >>> Aaron Bolger, 19, CM, Shamrock Rovers, Undisclosed >>> Joe Day, 28 GK, Newport, Free >>> Curtis Nelson, 26, CB, Oxford, Free

Outs: Kenneth Zohore, 25, CF, West Brom, £8m >>> Bruno Manga, 31, CB, £1.8m, Dijon >>> Aron Gunnarsson, 30, CM, Al Arabi, Free >>> Jack Mckay, 22, CF, Chesterfield, Free >>> Stuart O’Keefe, 28, CM, Gillingham, Free >>> Kadeem Harris, 26, RB, Sheff Wed, Free >>> Paul Mackay, 22, CB, Airdrieonians, Free >>> Rhys Healey, 24, CF, MK Dons, Undisclosed >>> Greg Cunningham, 28, LB, Blackburn, Loan >>> Bobby Reid, 26, CF, Fulham, Loan

Real mixed bag of results so far, though it’s been draws rather than defeats holding you back in the league, what have you made of the start to the season?

The opening two away games of the season really brought us back down to earth with an almighty bang, with a loss at Wigan and an absolute drubbing at Reading. Though for a large part of this season so far, we’ve had key players such as Neil Etheridge, Sol Bamba, Marlon Pack (among others) out injured, and they’re now coming back into the fold, so I find it no coincidence we’re starting to pick up a bit more form. We’re now unbeaten in six league games, and are yet to lose at home in the league, so hopefully we’ll continue to see an improvement game on game.

Neil Warnock is a hero at QPR, and presumably still at Cardiff having got you up the season before last, any impatience or feeling that he might have stayed on too long after a middling start to the season or all good?

Without a doubt Neil Warnock is one of our greatest-ever mangers. Had he not come into the club when he did, we more than likely would’ve ended up back in League One. I believe, and it’s the same with any club, there are a few who feel his brand of football is outdated and we should’ve gone for and younger, fresher model this season, but for the vast majority of us, we couldn’t think of anyone better to try and take us back to where we want to be.

I see Alex Smithies has belatedly got in as first choice keeper, he was incredible for us at times, how’s he done so far for you?

To be fair to him, when he signed, most of us expected it to be an out-and-out dog fight for the number one spot. Such was Neil Etheridge’s form last season, Smithies never got a look in. When Etheridge injured himself on the opening day at Wigan, Smithies came in straight away for the next game against Luton and hasn’t really looked back. The odd shaky moment in the first game or two, though I think we all put that down to rustiness. He even saved a penalty at Reading, which I believe he was pretty well known for in his QPR days. It’ll be interesting to see who Warnock goes with in the coming weeks.

Stand out players and weak links in the side?

If you’d asked me this question a month ago, I’d have told you Leandro Bacuna was our weak link. A month later, and he’s the first name on the team sheet, and would definitely come under the ‘stand out players’ bracket now. Calm on the ball, eye for a pass, can break up play. It’s the same with Joe Ralls and Marlon Pack. I’d expect those three to make up our midfield trio tomorrow evening. A possible weak link this season would have to be left back Joe Bennett. I think it’s more he’s not quite met the extremely high standards he’s previously set with us so far. An honorable mention for Robert Glatzel, whose performances have been impressive every time he’s played for us, and now with two goals in his last two, looks to be really settling down here in Cardiff.

League results so far…
Wigan 3-2 Cardiff (Jacobs 59, Windass 63, Evans 75 – Ralls 20, Bogle 70)
Cardiff 2-1 Luton (Flint 52, Vassell 90 – Pearson 86)
Reading 3-0 Cardiff (Puskas 25, 40, Swift 83)
Cardiff 2-1 Huddersfield (Ralls 42, Hoilett 88 – Chalobah 50)
Blackburn 0-0 Cardiff
Cardiff 1-1 Fulham (Murphy 42 – Mitrovic 45)
Derby 1-1 Cardiff (Malone 6 – Glatzel 19)
Cardiff 1-0 Middlesbrough (Fletcher og 2)
Hull 2-2 Cardiff (Grosicki 44, De Wijs 89 – Glatzel 55, Ward 90)

What were your pre-season expectations and have they changed at all?

Pre-season expectations were for automatic promotion for many of us, if not then via the play-offs. To be fair, I think for many the feeling is, we’re one or two players hitting top form away from going on a run of wins. Currently though, I’d say my personal expectations are that of finishing anywhere from 6th-10th. Though we all know how quickly that could change.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Three Little Birds – Blog >>> CCMB – Message Board >>> Wales Online – Local Paper >>> Mauve and Yellow – Blog

The Twitter @loftforwords @NotOfficialCCFC

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TacticalR added 16:53 - Oct 2
Thanks to NotOfficialCCFC.

It sounds like Cardiff are still finding their feet in this division, but at least have stabilised.

Keeping Warnock after getting promoted (and now relegated) has been an interesting comparison case to see what might have happened if we had kept Warnock. Getting rid of him didn't stop us getting relegated the following season.
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