It’s that time of year again. The transfer window is open and the new signings are starting to arrive. It’s always more fun in the Premier League, with a few more quid to spend and more options to choose from.
Which of Cardiff’s new arrivals will go on to become greats in their modern history and which will tank? It’s all unwritten, but those arriving have rather stiff competition if they are to reach the heights of the modern greats. A list of which I have compiled below, in descending order, and I’m sure you won’t be backwards in coming forwards in telling me just how wrong it all is! Here goes…
20 – Joe Mason from Plymouth, 2011
Joe Mason was signed by Malky Mackay as a project, someone to nurture, but he very quickly played his way in to the side and was a staple in the first season for both. Mason exceeded all expectations by bagging 11 goals in 30 starts, including THAT goal against Liverpool in the Carling Cup final.
In Mason’s second season there was a post-rebrand spending spree and competition for places got tougher. Games were harder to come by, but he still bagged six goals in 13 starts as Cardiff romped to the title. He never got a sniff in the Premier League and led a nomadic experience out on loan for the next couple of years.
Mason never featured for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite being awarded a new deal by him, but Russell Slade recalled him at the first opportunity and was crushed when he was sold in a January 2016 striker fire sale. Cardiff bought him for £250,000 and sold him for £3.5m, so although he never quite matched the heights of that first season, he proved an inspired signing all the same.
19 – Glenn Loovens from Feyenoord, 2005
Dave Jones was reluctant to sign the shy, laid-back Dutch prospect Glenn Loovens, unsure whether he was up to the cut and thrust of the Championship. Peter Ridsdale had been tipped off about the young centre back and he arrived on loan in 2005.
Initially paired with Darren Purse, Loovens thrived alongside the vocal, aggressive Roger Johnson and he signed permanently for a fee of around £250,000. Making 121 appearances in total, his spell at Cardiff culminated in an impressive performance in the 2008 FA Cup final defeat to Portsmouth, where he had a goal disallowed.
The following summer, Loovens moved to Celtic for a fee that reportedly reached the £3m mark and his presence at the heart of the Cardiff defence was sorely missed.
18 – Roger Johnson from Wycombe, 2006
Just ahead of Loovens is his old sparring partner Roger Johnson. The first time I saw Johnson, thin as a rake but no push over, was when he came off the bench in a pre-season friendly and immediately started berating his team mates, which was rather ballsy for a new recruit. This was clearly a player with high expectations and he led by example during his three-year spell.
A £275,000 signing from Wycombe, he saw off captain Darren Purse and scooped the Cardiff Player of the Year award in his second full season. He retained the award in his third season and also made the Championship Team of the Year.
Johnson scored more goals (14) and played more games (132) than Loovens, remarkably starting in excess of 50 games in both of his final two seasons at the club. A £5m move to Birmingham saw the club make a tidy profit too.
17 – Sean Morrison from Reading, 2014
Continuing the tradition of fine Cardiff centre backs, last season Sean Morrison finally won over the critics and sceptics. Captain Fantastic and now Mr Cardiff City, his turnaround echoed that of Mark Hudson before him, who was also a slow burner before eventually leading Cardiff to the promised land. He would surely feature far higher up the list had he not cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in excess of £3m.
It could all have been so different, had Cardiff accepted Sheffield Wednesday’s summer advances, but Morrison expressed a desire to stay and the rest is history. Losing a run of games he missed over the festive period proved the turning point, but who knows if Cardiff would have lost them with him in the side.
Morrison’s form has improved, but he was never as bad as some people used to make out. Similarly, flaws still remain, but chances are that when people look back on the decisive moments in the promotion campaign, Morrison’s brace at Hull will loom large.
16 – Kenneth Zohore from Kortrijk, 2016
It’s hard to know where to pitch Kenneth Zohore in this list because his arrival was shrouded in Financial Fair Play-influenced shenanigans. He left Odense in Denmark for Kortrijk in Belgium, a club owned by Vincent Tan, before immediately being loaned at the tail-end of the 2016 January transfer window to Cardiff, who were unable to make permanent signings at the time.
After a promising few months, Zohore returned permanently the following season and most people were largely underwhelmed. Over the course of the next year, he went from being a player mentioned in the same breath as Frederic Gounongbe to a player linked with eight-figure transfer deals. Cardiff managed to fend off interest and Zohore led the line with distinction as Cardiff secured promotion.
Neil Warnock has tapped in to his rich potential, maximising his pace, power and strength, while also improving his engagement and work ethic. As a result, Cardiff now boast one of the most promising young strikers in the country and there whole system is built around his strengths. Their Premier League prospects rest very much on his shoulders.
15 – Cameron Jerome, free agent, 2004
Cameron Jerome, who used to play in the same youth team as another future Cardiff favourite, Fraizer Campbell, landed in the club’s lap. Released by Grimsby for being disruptive, he linked up with Cardiff’s reserve team manager Paul Wilkinson, for whom he had previously played and when he broke in to the first team, his impact was explosive.
Jerome, 19 at the time, made his debut from the bench against Leeds and scared the life out of them. Netting eight goals in his breakthrough season, he followed that with 22 the next year and soon joined Birmingham in a £4m deal. He was a raw talent, but remains a raw talent to this day. His strengths are still his ferocious pace and work ethic, the drawback still being that he can be erratic at times.
Jerome, who has generated more than £11m in transfer fees during his career, is a player that has absolutely maximised his ability and can only be applauded. He always scores against Cardiff too. The bastard!
14 – Ross McCormack, free agent, 2008
Ross McCormack is one of those players. Prodigiously talented, but can’t help setting fires wherever he goes. He joined Cardiff when his Motherwell contract expired in 2008 to play alongside Robbie Fowler, who then bunked off to Blackburn. He then cut a swathe through the division, plundering 23 goals, but that was as good as it got unfortunately.
McCormack handed in a transfer request and a substantial offer from Hull was rebuffed. For his sins, he ended up playing most of the following season on the wing to accommodate Michael Chopra up front with Jay Bothroyd. He managed only five goals and ended up joining Leeds for a fraction of what Hull had offered.
His career continued to soar and McCormack has twice moved for an eight-figure sum since leaving Cardiff. Despite this, he never actually made it to the Premier League. He will always be remembered fondly by the Cardiff faithful though.
13 – Peter Thorne from Stoke, 2001
Swoon. During the Sam Hammam era, Peter Thorne was like Atlas, carrying Cardiff on his shoulders. The club’s record signing when he arrived in in September 2001 for £1.7m, he was strong, handsome and in possession of a magic hat. What’s not to love?
Thorne formed a formidable partnership with Robert Earnshaw and was like Kevin Costner to his Whitney Houston. In the season Cardiff were promoted from the third tier, they combined for 52 goals. That’s fifty two. It was a heartbreaker when he left for Norwich at the end of the 2004-05 on a free transfer, due to Cardiff’s finances falling through the floor.
Injuries prevented Thorne from reaching his true potential and he was never quite as good after leaving Cardiff, where he made an indelible mark both on and off the pitch.
12 – Jordon Mutch from Birmingam, 2012
Jordon Mutch was a teen prodigy at Birmingham City, in and around their first team from the age of 16. Now 26, he is currently on loan at Vancouver Whitecaps and very much out of the picture at parent club Crystal Palace. Somewhere in between, he may well have been Cardiff’s best player in their sole Premier League season.
The first post-rebrand signing, Mutch was an astute acquisition for a touch over £1m, but was largely underwhelming during the promotion season, registering no goals or assists. In the top flight, he became indispensable. A real driving force from midfield, he chipped in with seven goals and seven assists, including goals against Liverpool and Chelsea, plus a real thunderbastard to secure a valuable winner at Fulham.
When Cardiff went down, Mutch departed for QPR for a fee in excess of £6m, but has never managed to hit those highs again. In fact, at the time of writing, he has only scored once in the five years since leaving the club. We are now left wondering who will step up next season and fill Mutch’s boots.
11 – Junior Hoilett, free agent, 2016
That task may fall to Junior Hoilett, if he is still with the club. At present, he has us on edge like an opposing full back as he ponders the offer of a new deal, as his current contract enters its final few days.
A Warnock loyalist, it is hard to know how it has come to this. Having salvaged Hoilett’s flagging career at QPR, he waited for Warnock to find employment after his contract there expired before joining Cardiff. He has repeated the feat, transforming Hoilett from a slightly sluggish, work-shy talent in to a leader who notched 11 goals and 11 assists last term.
Bearing in mind that Hoilett played through last summer with his native Canada and had very little break between seasons, his stamina and consistency was remarkable. The delay in signing a new deal was believed to be while Warnock’s future was up in the air. That situation has long since been resolved, but still we wait on Hoilett. He’s certainly worth waiting for though.