“There are moments in time that can change everything. Think of it as the butterfly effect. Whether something occurs or not can severely alter the course of history, it can alter what happens to someone or something. In this case, we’re talking about Cardiff City.
The something that changes everything in this scenario is Neil Warnock answering the phone to Mehmet Dalman, and then agreeing to become the club’s next manager. That changes the course of the Bluebirds’ future.
Why does it have such a profound effect? It’s because Cardiff found themselves drifting towards the edge of a waterfall. They needed a stable rock, something to hold on to and keep them safe while they tried to advance away from the drop.
There are strange parallels to a waterfall in this story. First come the choppy waters, the rapids which we know as the rebrand, the relegation and the transfer embargo. Then all of a sudden, it all goes calm, you think you’re okay, that you’re safe and then before you see any warning signs, you’re heading towards a big drop and which relates to Paul Trollope’s reign.
Starting with optimism, with hopes of progress, and then a steep fall which took Cardiff to their lowest ebb in 11 years. At that point, Cardiff needed a very specific manager in charge and Neil Warnock was that man. They found themselves in a position where one more bad decision could have cost them everything, but they got it right. No more messing about, no more cheap options.
‘I’m a big believer in fate,’ admits Warnock, and it applies more than ever to this situation. This feels like fate, like Cardiff got the right man, at the right time, and it paid off.
We’ve talked about Dave Jones, Malky Mackay, Russell Slade and everyone else, but the effect Warnock would have perhaps outweighed the lot. That might seem unfair to Jones, who started this adventure, for example, but you won’t find many in the blue half of South Wales who disagree. The scale of this job and the time frame in which Warnock has done it are simply remarkable.
The manner in which he has gone about it means he has gone down in Cardiff City folklore forever, as Dom Booth alludes to: ‘You cannot overstate the job he has done. His experience of seven previous promotions, his rapport with the fans, charisma, expertise dealing with the media and, like I said, that team spirit he managed to harness were all crucial.’
‘Cardiff were a team without one star player. Warnock was the star of the show and he deserved all the plaudits that inevitably came his way. Football in South Wales has rarely seen such a charismatic cult figure and that counts for a lot at a club like Cardiff City.’
This is a man who had seven promotions to his name before arriving and he’s now got a record-breaking eighth. That was his motivation in all this, but whether he actually expected to get it, deep down, only he could tell you.
There’s no doubt that he believed in his team from minute one, but it would have been a tough ask to predict this; second place above all those big spending teams. It’s something out of the ordinary, especially where Cardiff came from.
To go from 23rd in the Championship to finishing second at the end of the following season, it’s almost unheard of. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor did Warnock fix Cardiff in a day, but it didn’t take him much longer. That’s what has stunned people the most. Few doubted Warnock’s ability and the moment he arrived at the club, a belief was founded that this man would give Cardiff a chance of going up. However, nobody expected it to be this quickly and certainly not without the agony of the play-offs.”
Bluebird Heaven – Cardiff City’s ten years of ups and downs and a return to the promised land is out now