When Cardiff City were relegated back to the Championship at the end of last season, there was an immediate feeling that the club had all the tools at their disposal to bounce straight back. After all, they had Neil Warnock, who has masterminded eight promotions in professional football.
However, the early signs in the season weren’t promising, and Warnock was unable to make it to Christmas after the club went on a dismal run of five wins in 16. It wasn’t the form that you would put aside for a promotion contender, and that saw their odds for promotion drop quickly.
The club acted quickly by bringing in Neil Harris. He is a manager in the same mould as his predecessor, but he brought with him fresh ideas. His reign at the Bluebirds has seen the club quickly rise through the league standings. They went on a run of four unbeaten before falling to an away defeat against Brentford. But, is this clear proof that they are back in the mix for a promotion charge?
Much of Cardiff’s survival bid in the Premier League centred around them being competitive with teams boasting better quality players. They were able to do this by digging their feet in and taking advantage of the chances when they got them. Ultimately, they didn’t boast that quality which was needed in the Premier League to stay in the division, but over weeks we have seen this same philosophy come to the fore.
The Bluebirds have dug in against teams such as Stock City and Nottingham Forest, before snatching the single goal to take the win. It may not be the prettiest style of play, but the Championship is all about getting results, and this is how they will get into the promotion picture.
Only Fulham and Huddersfield Town conceded less than Cardiff’s 69 in the Premier League last season, and that same defensive vulnerability is once again a problem for the Bluebirds. They have conceded the second-highest amount of goals in the top ten of the Championship; with Bristol City’s tally of 30 being higher than Cardiff’s.
However, the fortunes of the club have improved following the arrival of Harris, as he has saw his new side keep two clean sheets in his opening games in charge. That defensive solidity will have to return if the Bluebirds will have a chance of getting into the promotion picture.
Cardiff have registered the second-highest amount of draws in the top ten of the Championship, and that could become a problem if they can’t rectify this. The Championship is all about consistency, the same way a horse needs to be consistent to be a contender for a race like the Kentucky Derby. And with the top two – West Brom and Leeds – already running away in the automatic places, Cardiff will have to turn these draws into wins at some stage to really get among the playoff places.
It should be noted that the majority of these draws came under the reign of Warnock, as there were six recorded before he departed the club.
The importance of consistency should be evident by the charge that Aston Villa enjoyed at the end of last season in the Championship. They went on a ten-match winning streak which catapulted them into the promotion mix before they went on to win the playoff final against Frank Lampard’s Derby County. Cardiff should consider that as a blueprint for the second half of the season.
If they improve their form and gain the consistency needed, then there is no doubting that the quality that Cardiff have in the squad will ensure they will prevail.