Remember October? The international break has afforded VFTN the opportunity to reflect and last month already feels like a world, and a Warnock, away. Whereas the first couple of months offered clear and obvious winners, October was nowhere near as straightforward, but we do have a winner and its Danny Ward.
Obviously, since then, Ward has killed the momentum and goodwill he had built up with a horrible challenge that saw him red-carded against Birmingham and subsequently suspended, but October was a different story.
Cardiff began the month with a deceptively comprehensive-looking 3-0 win over QPR. The result masked the fact that Rangers were on top for large stretches and hit the woodwork a few times, but Cardiff were ultimately too seasoned for them and eventually broke their spirit. Ward started on the bench and was introduced late on.
The following game was always set to test Cardiff’s credentials and they were very much second best at West Brom. Cardiff were three down by the time Ward was introduced in the 73rd minute, but he instantly made an impact. By the 86th minute, the score was 3-2 and Ward had bagged a brace, although West Brom netted a fourth late on to reinforce their superiority.
It wasn’t enough to earn Ward a start for the next game, a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, but that proved to be a mistake that was rectified in the 34th minute, when he replaced Leandro Bacuna.
What Ward again managed to emphasise is that Cardiff are far better with him in the side. This is not the quickest or most energetic of sides, so his speed and aggression makes a huge difference. Ward puts defences on the back foot and makes things happen.
Cardiff put in their most complete away performance of the season to date at Millwall and still only managed to record a 2-2 draw, but Ward opened the scoring and fashioned several chances for himself. He should have extended Cardiff’s lead, but having created his own opportunities, it was still an encouraging move in the right direction.
The less said about the Swansea game the better, but October had seen Ward cement himself back in the side, only for a reckless challenge to see him return to the sidelines.
Time and again, Ward has shown his value in brief bursts, upping and setting the tempo, putting in the hard yards. If Kenneth Zohore had his work ethic, we would have had a superstar on our hands. Injury and fickle team selection saw Ward in and out of the side and now, like everyone else, he has a new manager to impress.
I would be surprised if, all things considered, Ward didn’t feature prominently going forward, but for now, at least October belonged to him.