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Warnock after 100 games: How he transformed Bluebirds

Cardiff City Stadium (Credit: Phil Marsh)

NEIL WARNOCK marked his 100th game in charge of Cardiff City with a fine 2-1 win over Premier League rivals Brighton and Hove Albion, courtesy of a 90th minute Sol Bamba winner.

The Yorkshireman took over from Paul Trollope as manager on 5 October 2016 and took to the dugout for the first time in a 2-1 win against local rivals Bristol City. In the 99 games since, Warnock has managed to steer City away from the Championship dropzone and into the Premier League – a remarkable feat for the managerial veteran. 

The Cardiffian decided to dig into the archives and take a closer look at how Warnock has administered this transformation, by comparing the 11 that started on 14 October 2016, to the team that took to the field in Saturday’s dramatic win. We profile the mainstays, the departures and the newcomers from Warnock’s time as City manager.  

Cardiff City 2-1 Bristol City 14/10/2016 

Cardiff Starting Line Up: Ben Amos; Lee Peltier, Sean Morrison, Sol Bamba, Joe Bennett; Aron Gunnarsson, Joe Ralls; Craig Noone, Peter Whittingham, Junior Hoilett; Rickie Lambert  

Cardiff City 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion 10/11/2018 

Cardiff Starting Line Up: Neil Etheridge; Bruno Ecuele Manga, Sean Morrison, Sol Bamba, Greg Cunningham; Aron Gunnarsson, Joe Ralls; Kadeem Harris, Victor Camarasa, Josh Murphy; Callum Paterson

The Mainstays

Sean Morrison has been a titan in the Cardiff defence

Sean Morrison: Skipper Morrison moved across the M4 from Reading to Cardiff in August 2014, penning a 4-year-deal. A stalwart in the heart of Cardiff’s back four, Warnock said following a £3 million bid from Sheffield Wednesday in the summer of 2017 – “(it) wouldn’t even buy one of Morrison’s legs.” 

Sol Bamba: Ivory Coast international Bamba began his career at French giants Paris Saint Germain. The 6ft 3in centre back plied his trade across the continent before finding himself on British shores, signing a 2-year-deal at the bluebirds following his release from Leeds United. Scored the winning goal in this game too, which happened to be his debut. Warnock has gone on to say “I wouldn’t want anyone else. I don’t think there’s anyone better.” 

Joe Bennett: Joe Bennett signed for City in August 2016. The Rochdale native made his debut in this fixture alongside Bamba. Fulham Football Club triggered Bennett’s release clause in the summer of 2017, however the left back turned down the move, opting to stay in the Welsh capital.  

€5 million signing Manga has been crucial to Cardiff’s defence under Warnock

Bruno Ecuele Manga: Gabonese international Manga arrived from French side Lorient in a 5 million euro deal in September 2014. The tough tackling defender was named Cardiff’s player of the season in 2015 by Wales Online. Manga’s time at City has been blighted by numerous knee injuries, but was a constant figure in the promotion-winning season, amassing 43 appearances. Started on the bench in Warnock’s opening game.  

Aron Gunnarsson: The Icelandic international was signed by former boss Malky Mackay having been released by Coventry City. Started and completed the full 90 mins in the 2012 League Cup Final against Liverpool Football Club, where they were defeated 3-2. The midfielder was awarded the Player of the Season for the 2016/17 season – Warnock’s first in charge. Failed to nail down a consistent place in the team for City’s promotion-winning campaign, owing to injuries and a contract dispute. Remains an important part of Warnock’s plans.  

Joe Ralls: Academy graduate Ralls made his debut for Cardiff as a 17-year-old in a 3-1 League Cup win over Oxford United in August 2011. Ralls has been a key figure in the Warnock’s midfield, making 172 appearances for the club. Perhaps the most senior figure at the club today.  

Junior Hoilett: Canadian winger Hoilett became Neil Warnock’s first signing as Cardiff City manager – as a free agent after his release from Queens Park Rangers. He also made his Bluebirds debut in this fixture. Hoilett played an integral role during City’s promotion campaign, notching 12 goals – enough to earn him a three-year contract extension. Remains an important component of Warnock’s squad, despite playing fewer games this season. 

Kadeem Harris: Joined the Bluebirds in January 2012 from Wycombe Wanderers, and enjoyed loan spells at Brentford and Barnsley before Warnock’s arrival. The wideman impressed under the new manager and was handed the number 11 shirt for the 2017-18 season. The 25-year-old came off the bench to score in City’s 4-2 win over Fulham in October and made his first Premier League start in Saturday’s win over Brighton.

Lee Peltier: Joined Cardiff from Huddersfield Town in January 2015. Bar a long-term ankle injury, the 31-year-old has remained a constant figure in Warnock’s side – notching 116 appearances for the club 

The Departures

Ben Amos: Loanee from Bolton. Lost his place in the starting eleven in December 2016 to fellow loanee Allan McGregor. Now finds himself out on loan again at Milwall.  

Craig NooneAnother Malky Mackay singing for a reported £1 million in August 2012. Noone played 158 games for the Bluebirds, scoring 16 goals. Left Cardiff for Phil Parkinson’s Bolton Wanderers last summer, for around £2 million.  

Peter Whittingham: Joined from Aston Villa in 2007. The midfielder enjoyed an illustrious stint at City, scoring 96 goals over 457 appearances – with FourFourTwo magazine naming him the best player outside the Premier League in March 2013. The talisman fell out of favour shortly after Warnock’s arrival however, leaving the club in the summer of 2017 following the expiration of his contract. 

Rickie Lambert: The former beetroot bottler joined Cardiff in the twilight of his career from West Bromwich Albion. Started this game but soon suffered a nasty leg injury and struggled to secure a place in the side. Lambert’s contract was cancelled by mutual consent in July 2017. 

The Newcomers

Neil Etheridge kept 19 clean sheets during Cardiff’s promotion-winning campaign

Neil Etheridge: signed on a free transfer from Walsall Football Club in May 2017. The Philippine stopper kept 19 clean sheets and started 45 of the 46 league games. Etheridge became the first player from the Philippines and the South East Asia region to play in the Premier League following City’s promotion. 

Josh Murphy: Promotion to England’s top division came with the added benefit of a financial boost, and with that Warnock recruited Josh Murphy from Norwich for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of £11 million. The youngster has been deployed as a wideman and striker so far this season, finding the net twice.   

Bobby ReidBobby Reid’s performances in the championship for rivals Bristol City caught the eye of Warnock, who shelled out £10 million to bring the attacker across the Severn Bridge. Reid has made 10 appearances for the bluebirds this season, scoring once in the 4-2 win against Fulham in October 2018.   

Callum Paterson: Warnock signed Callum Paterson from Scottish side Heart of Midlothian in June 2017. The utility player made his debut in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough in October 2017.  The Scot spent much of that season in central midfield, scoring 10 goals as Cardiff finished second behind Wolverhampton Wanderers. This season the manager has pushed Paterson forward into an attacking position, in a bid to add more goals to the team.  

Victor Camarasa:  Loanee from Spanish side Real Betis, Camarasa joined in August 2018 for the 18/19 Premier League season. The 24-year-old midfielder has made 10 appearances so far this season, finding the net against Arsenal in September. 

Harry Arter: Another loan signing, this time from fellow Premier League side AFC Bournemouth. The Republic of Ireland international’s experience at this level could prove critical for Cardiff’s survival, with the playmaker’s early contributions being described as “vital” by Warnock.  

Greg Cunningham: Signed by Warnock from Preston North End this summer for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the £4 million region. Saturday’s game was the Irishman’s third appearance for the Bluebirds, in which the full back was on the receiving end of a tough tackle from Brighton’s Dale Stephens, which resulted in a red card for the central midfielder. 

Cardiff City’s Neil Warnock celebrating promotion to the Premier League

Key to Neil Warnock’s success

Neil Warnock’s 38-year managerial career has been characterised by his talent for extracting the maximum from his playing squad, and it is perhaps during his 100 games as Cardiff City manager that this has been best showcased.  

The mainstays of Sean Morrison, Sol Bamba and Joe Ralls have proved integral to City’s promotion to England’s top flight – a reality that would have been scoffed at by Bluebirds fans when the club were languishing in 23rd upon Warnock’s arrival.  

The Yorkshireman won’t spend too long looking back, though. Attention now turns to how the battle-hardened manager will perform yet another miracle: Premier League survival.  

Here’s to the next 100 games.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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