Tonight will see Kadeem Harris return to the Cardiff City Stadium and come face to face with his replacement, Gavin Whyte. It will be an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast the pair, as Cardiff trade blows with Sheffield Wednesday.
Both have made strong starts to the season, but seeing as Whyte was brought in as a direct replacement for Harris it begs the question as to whether or not he represents an upgrade.
Harris was one of Cardiff’s longest serving players when he left, having joined in January 2012 from Wycombe Wanderers, where he was awarded the League Two Apprentice of the Year award. Brought in as one for the future, like Joe Ralls, Harris never quite broke through like his teammate.
There were lots of reasons for that. Harris was a very raw prospect, so always remained on the fringes of the squad, but without regular first-team football, that was never likely to change and so it proved. He looked close to breaking through on many occasions, but never quite managed it, as a succession of injuries tended to strike whenever any momentum was starting to build.
Neil Warnock was clearly a fan, but never seemed to trust him as much as someone like Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who I find far more frustrating than Harris ever was. There was talk of a new deal at the tail end of last season, but in the end it appeared to be a mutual decision to let him leave as a free agent in search of regular game time.
Harris has found that at Sheffield Wednesday and in tandem with Josh Murphy’s twin brother Jacob, has helped transform their attacking fortunes. Whyte has not had quite such a transformative effect at Cardiff, but he quickly established himself as a regular and a firm fan favourite.
A £2m signing from Oxford, Whyte is a Northern Ireland international and three years younger than Harris. His fierce work ethic immediately caught the eye and he doesn’t shirk his defensive duties, which is not the case for some of Cardiff’s other wingers.
Like Harris before him, Whyte is also a rough diamond and he is still acclimatising to the cut and thrust of the Championship. He is improving every game though and that is all that you can ask.
The only potential concern regarding Whyte is in terms of the quality of his end product. He probably does not offer the same cutting edge as Harris, who has already chipped in with a couple of goals and an assist at Wednesday, but its early days and that may come in time.
The same criticism could also be aimed at Robert Glatzel, who clearly has potential, but does not yet look like the dead-eyed finisher some were hoping for.
Cardiff have struggled with a downgrade in personnel and the departures of Victor Camarasa, Bruno Ecuele-Manga, Harry Arter, Aron Gunnarsson, Kenneth Zohore and Bobby Reid has left a void in quality that they have struggled to fill. In terms of swapping Harris for Whyte, you’re tempted to wonder whether there was any point in the whole transaction and shelling out £2m when they could have just held on to what they had.
No one could say that Harris didn’t have long enough at the club to make an impact, but whether he had enough opportunities is another matter. There is also the temptation to revise his time at the club based on his impressive start for his new club.
Ask a group of Cardiff supporters which of the two they prefer and chances are you will split them down the middle. In terms of who proves to be the better may player, that may become apparent in time, but this may prove to be a rare example of a situation where all parties involved win.