Neil Warnock has become something of a cult figure at Cardiff City, achieving the seeming impossible by making the Welsh capital even more disliked than it already was. His ‘get into ‘em’ tactics and ‘us against the world’ mind set has seen something of a battle cry go up from Bluebirds everywhere, as supporters bought into the fortress mentality he’s fostered during his three years in charge.
Within a year of taking over, Cardiff had transformed from the quiet kid in the corner of the playground to the brutish bully grabbing you by the collar to steal your lunch money. Having steadied a listless ship in his first season in charge, he set about recruiting a hardy new crew, one forged in the fires of dissent. The warriors took the young players by the scruff of the neck as Cardiff defied all expectations with an unlikely promotion charge and led them back to the so-called promised land.
In typical Bluebirds fashion, the club went on to defy expectations by firstly exceeding Chris Sutton’s miserly predictions and then make a real go of avoiding relegation. We all know the various things that Cardiff had to contend with on and off the pitch last season, but to take it to the penultimate game of the season surprised supporters everywhere. Throughout it all, Warnock has continued to promote hard work and constant bombardment of the opposition area to achieve his aims. “Look how many shots on target we had” became his stock reply to criticism. To be fair to him, he was right.
Cardiff under Warnock are never going to retain the ball, looking patiently for a gap to appear in the defence. He’s not interested in possession stats or passes completed. All that matters is that his team gives 100%, wins the 50/50 battles and at every possible opportunity overwhelms the opposition with quick balls to the wings and peppered balls into the box. Cardiff have been their strongest under Warnock when they’ve gone full bastard. They are at their best when they’re staring you down like a late 80’s Mike Tyson. Most of the players are over six foot tall and battle-hardened to go with it. It’s intimidation that has often won the day for the Bluebirds.
Cardiff supporters pride themselves on making home games a really difficult proposition. The feeling that emanates from the stands rivals the intensity of Westminster at PMQ’s on occasion and the team reflect that intensity. You may come to our house, but you won’t enjoy the experience is the sentiment. This is precisely what Cardiff need to do now they’re coming up against a resurgent Swansea side that are more than capable of blowing the Bluebirds away in a haze of tiki-taka and one touch passing. Cardiff need to go to the Liberty Stadium and impose themselves as the more successful Championship side.
It’s time the Bluebirds rediscovered their identity. They need to go full Warnock and make life unbearably tough this Sunday. If they do this, they’ll remember who they are and the season may end up being that much brighter.