VFTN were lucky enough to grab a chat with Cardiff’s Canadian wing wizard Junior Hoilett recently, chatting about his time with the club, the season so far, representing his country and his plans for the future.
You joined Cardiff in October 2016 as a free agent and it looked from the outside like you were waiting for Neil Warnock to get the job. Was that the case and if so, what makes him worth waiting for?
I had a few options around that time and I had a call from him so decided I would wait for him. At that time, it was best for me and my career and of course I worked with him at QPR. He has always given me confidence and I like the way he works on and off the field. I felt comfortable working under him again.
From the perspective of someone who has played under Warnock previously, how big of a positive is it to have a manger of his stature in charge, especially with his past promotion successes?
He’s a very experienced manager and has been in the game a long time. He knows all the in’s and out’s and he knows how to get the best out of his players. I think it has shown throughout his career and it’s worked for me as well.
We have a great understanding. He knows I’ll give 100% each time I’m on the field and he knows I’ll work for him and for the team. He gives that commitment back to his players and each of his players will go that extra mile for him. It’s great working under a manager that you can trust and one that believes in his players.
The promotion season was your most productive in terms of goals. What are your favourite memories of that campaign?
I think it was a fantastic season all round. To prove the doubters wrong and get automatic promotion was a great achievement for the club and for me. That season showed the way the team work together and and the way each player continued to give that extra yard to get promotion for the club was amazing.
Your contract expired at the end of last season and it took until the summer for you to agree new terms. The assumption was that you were waiting to see which division Cardiff would be playing in, but you were also linked with a move to Stoke in the Championship. Are you happy to explain what happened and what caused the delay?
I didn’t think there was much of a delay, I was just trying to finalise the deal that we were working on. I always wanted to stay here at Cardiff and couldn’t wait to sign. In the end, it all worked out and honestly, my eyes were never drawn away from Cardiff.
Since getting promoted, Cardiff have held their own at times in an increasingly difficult league, although some players took time to adapt to the step up in quality. You’ve played with Blackburn and QPR in the top division, but how have you found the transition this time around?
I think we’ve done really well. We started off a bit slow and gave teams too much respect, but we’ve grown in to the league and we go out there and try and compete with every team we face to get the maximum amount of points. I think we’ve settled quite well now, but we still have a lot left to prove.
Looking ahead to the final five games of the season, what’s the feeling amongst the squad?
With some massive games coming up, everybody has been positive in training this week, but what we must do is carry on the performance we gave against Chelsea and we’ll be fine. We’ve been holding our own against the bigger teams and the result against West Ham was massive for us. I think we can definitely string a few results together over the next few weeks to keep us in the league.
You mentioned the positive performances in recent weeks, especially against Chelsea. How big of a blow was that result to the team?
It was a massive disappointment, especially when we had played so well against a top team. For an official to make a mistake and take points away from us at this crucial stage of the season was a huge kick in the teeth. We need to bounce back from that, take the positives from the game and continue to work hard for each other and the fans.
We’ve been favourites to go down all season, has this motivated you and the team to try and prove the critics wrong?
Yeah, we’ve always been doubted. Even last season, no one thought we would get promoted. We always prove people wrong and we can use that as motivation to help prove people wrong again this season. We’ve been the underdogs all season and we’re still in the fight with five games to go. That shows how the team has coped with and responded to all the negative things that have come our way this season. To be still in with a chance of survival with five games to go, nobody would have thought that, and we’ll take that as a positive and keep fighting until the last game of the season.
Another negative in recent weeks has been the loss of Sol Bamba and Callum Paterson to injury. Has that had an impact on squad morale?
Of course. We’re missing two massive players that have performed well all season. It’s going to be a big loss, but we still have a strong squad that can come in and fill a role. You can see over the last few games that we’ve done that. Different players have come in and played their part, working hard for each other to achieve what the club needs to achieve to stay in the Premier League. It’s a massive loss, but we have the right squad and the right mentality to fight for each other. Sol and Callum are supporting us from the sidelines, which is what we need.
How does it feel to represent Canada in the Premier League?
It’s a massive honour to play for your country and to try and play at the highest level for your national team is amazing. Playing in the Premier League has helped me and Canada as a nation get recognised and being the only Canadian playing in the Premier League this season is a great achievement for me personally. It’s also great for putting Canada on the map. Its an incredibly exciting time for Canadian football, with a new group of young footballers coming through. The 2026 World Cup being partly held there and our own league launching this year too, they’re all great achievements for Canada.
With the launch of the Canadian Premier League this month, how big a help it could be in producing a new generation of Canadian footballers?
It’s massive for the country. We’ve needed our own league for many years and for it to finally be coming in full effect is great for the next generation to be able to play at a professional level in their home country. When I was young, we didn’t have that opportunity, so for it to be available now is a proud moment for Canada and it will only get better. You will see a massive amount of talent coming out of Canada soon.
Would you be interested in possibly heading back to Canada later in your career to play in the new Canadian league or MLS?
Of course. It’s every player’s dream to play at home in front of your family and friends. Down the line, if that move comes for me, I would be very thankful to be able to move back home. One day, I would like to play at home for Toronto or in the Canadian Premier League.
Finally, Junior, what has been your highlight of this season with Cardiff, thus far?
My personal highlight would be my goal against Wolves. To get that winner and especially on the manager’s birthday was an extra bonus. At that time, we needed a win to get our morale back up again and to come from 1-0 down on television and get the winner was definitely my highlight.
As a team, the way we’ve been handling each game as it comes and battling to stay in the league has been a great achievement for the club. The way we have conducted ourselves; firstly not spending huge amounts of money and then the tragedy we’ve had to deal with. Things have not gone our way at times and if we can manage to remain in the league, I think it will go down in history as one of the club’s greatest achievements.