As the full-time whistle blew at the Cardiff City Stadium, and relegation to the Championship was confirmed, my thoughts turned to the season gone by.
A lot has happened in 2018/19. Cardiff have battled and fought in a bid to survive in the Premier League, but things sometimes aren’t meant to be. You can’t fault them for effort.
The club has been through a lot. Written off before a ball was kicked, dealing with the tragic death of Emiliano Sala and the feeling of injustice with a few decisions questionably going against us.
There was no regret, though. No disappointment either. Just pride.
As the players did a lap of honour, Aron Gunnarsson said goodbye to the Cardiff City Stadium and the Canton paid their respects with a Viking Clap, I smiled. It’s been a hell of a season.
But alas, we are down. The Championship awaits. A South Wales Derby. A Severn-side Derby. Some big games await.
I walked down Sloper Road and pondered next season. Warnock. Camarasa. Arter. Gunnarsson. There’s a chance that’s the last we’ll see of all of those at the Cardiff City Stadium.
As much as I ran through the playing squad, wondering who would be here to mount our promotion challenge, I kept coming back to Warnock.
Would our great manager be here next season?
“There’s only one Neil Warnock” was what rang throughout the Cardiff City Stadium as the final whistle blew.
I can’t decide if those words were a backing for Warnock, or a goodbye.
Our manager has declared his wish to remain at the club next season, no matter what division we are in.
Part of me thinks his words were smoke and mirrors. Mind-games to motivate the players and fans in the quest for survival.
Warnock is 70-years-old. It has very much felt like this was his last challenge. It’s clear that the Sala tragedy hit him hard personally. You couldn’t blame him for calling it a day. He’d do so a City legend.
It’s impossible to see anything other than positives in Warnock staying. He’s transformed the club. From top to bottom. Neil Warnock is Cardiff City. And who else would be better to lead another promotion fight?
On the other hand, there may be positives in him leaving. Warnock’s Cardiff don’t play the most attractive football, and often look like they lack a plan B.
Perhaps a younger manager would bring fresh ideas? Who knows.
Whatever happens, Cardiff City need to start planning for the future.
Even if Warnock stays, he’ll probably only stay for another season or two.
What’s the plan after that?
This is a prime opportunity to build an identity and philosophy at Cardiff City.
Use the academy. Have a recruitment policy. Bring more football people onto the board.
If Warnock does stay, the board should involve him in the process. If Bellamy is the man they see as the next manager of Cardiff City, get him working with Warnock and his staff now.
If not Bellamy, put a plan in place for the type of manager the club would like to succeed Warnock. Start to build the team and club with a structure that will reflect that.
It’s early to start thinking about these things, but the earlier Cardiff City start to plan, the brighter the future will be.