When we decided to introduce a VFTN Player of the Month for this season, we expected it would be fiercely contested and fiercely argued, but it wasn’t. At least not this month.
It’s Joe Ralls. Obviously.
After a pretty mediocre start to the season, Ralls has been one of the few shining lights. Always a solid seven out of 10 performer, he has taken it up a notch this season. Shorn of Victor Camarasa, Harry Arter (who he outshone in the Fulham game) and Aron Gunnarsson, Ralls was left carrying the can and he has stepped up to meet the challenge. As Cardiff experiment with potential midfield variables, he is the only constant and deservedly so.
Ralls, now 25 and in the prime of his career, is now Cardiff’s longest-serving player and two games shy of his 200th league appearance for the club. For a side that is in a constant state of flux, he is one of the few constants and a reassuring presence.
What Cardiff need more than anything at the moment are players that they can rely on. They have too many players that see their form peak and trough on any given week, but Ralls must be the first name on the team sheet because you know exactly what you’ll get; absolute commitment, drive and intensity. He’s no frills, low maintenance and Neil Warnock clearly adores him.
Playing in Cardiff’s midfield can’t be easy either. They’re often outnumbered and overpowered, while Lee Tomlin may be a maverick genius, but a disciplined grafter he is not. Ralls has a lot of fires to put out, but he does that without a fuss and lots more besides.
Ralls was one of several Cardiff players that struggled to adapt to the Premier League initially and found a steep learning curve waiting for him in the top flight. His struggles were crystalised in the rash challenge that saw him sent off against Spurs. In a perpetual state of panic, he lunged for the ball when the ball had long since moved on. It was a terrible tackle and he rightly get criticised for it, but he learned from it too and turned a negative in to a positive.
Ralls found his feet in the second half of the season and looked far more composed. He became a Premier League player and still looks a Premier League player, making him a key asset for Cardiff and maybe their most important player.
Ralls is also the closest thing we have to ‘one of our own,’ so you wonder why he’s not adored like you might expect, but if he carries on playing like he is at present, that won’t be a problem for too much longer. There is more danger of someone swooping in and taking him back to the Premier League if he maintains this sort of form.
So congratulations to Joe, our inaugural Player of the Month and if it the season carries on in this vein, it might be him every month and all get a bit embarrassing!