Cardiff season preview: Can Neil Warnock’s side upset the odds?
Last Updated: 06/08/18 9:18am
The odds are against them but could Neil Warnock’s Cardiff cause an upset this season?
"We know we're up against it." That was the assessment of Neil Warnock following Cardiff's unlikely promotion to Premier League. But the veteran manager is well used to that - Cardiff were not fancied to even get this far. And yet, Warnock somehow found a way to mastermind the eighth promotion of his long managerial career. His team earned it too.
With a combination of tough tackles, long throws, solid defence and no little skill in attack, the Bluebirds found a way to win last season. Of course, that will be even tougher in the Premier League where they will compete against teams with much more at their disposal. But Warnock's been waiting for another shot at the big time. Expect him to ruffle feathers.
He had a memorable spat with Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo in April, having fallen out with Pep Guardiola in January. Some rows date back years - he once said he would "never forgive" Rafa Benitez for fielding a weakened Liverpool side in 2007, contributing to Sheffield United's relegation. Benitez's Newcastle are the first visitors to Cardiff in August.
While much of focus will be on whether Warnock, a Championship specialist, can make the step up, the same question will be asked of many of his players too. The robust pairing of Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison were too strong for second-tier strikers, but there is a risk that they will be pulled around by the pace of Premier League opposition.
Up front, Kenneth Zohore gets through a mountain of work but nine goals in 36 games last term raises questions over whether Cardiff can get the goals they need in the top flight. Much will depend on how much Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing can conjure up in support. The new signings will need to make an impact too.
Bobby Reid, Greg Cunningham, Alex Smithies and Josh Murphy are all proven performers at Championship level but they have made only 11 Premier League appearances between them and none of those came in the past four seasons. Perhaps that explains why Cardiff are the favourites for the drop. But Warnock is never happier than when upsetting the odds.
Charlie Nicholas' verdict
Neil Warnock won't dress this up as some opportunity to create a great side. He's made them £100m but he won't be going in and asking for big money because he isn't used to working with those sort of players. It won't be pretty but he's made a side who are hard to beat and will be competitive.