I think most people expect Nathaniel Mendez-Laing to go in to hibernation during the winter months. He has developed a bit of a reputation for being a warm weather player, thriving at either end of the season and flagging in between. Like Sammy Ameobi before him, a fellow asthma sufferer, when the temperature drops, breathing appears that much harder and legs look heavier.
If November was anything to go by, that does not appear to be a problem for Mendez-Laing this year.
Cardiff saved their best for last in the Premier League, sticking it to Manchester United on the final day and it was probably Mendez-Laing’s best performance in a Cardiff shirt. It was a team display that had everyone looking forward to this season, but despite holding on to most of the players involved, Cardiff have got nowhere near those standards yet this term.
Cardiff have looked sluggish and short of ideas, but the Neil Harris era has already seemingly re-energised the squad and none more than Mendez-Laing. Harris is a long-standing fan, admitting that Mendez-Laing was a previous transfer target at Millwall and a player he was looking forward to working with. Charlton away, his first game in charge, felt like a turning point for Mendez-Laing.
The swagger was back from the off. Early in the game, Mendez-Laing lifted the ball between two defenders and powered past them. His scrappy goal got Cardiff back in the game when they found themselves two down and he helped pin back the hosts throughout the second half.
Mendez-Laing is a big guy and you expect him to be a larger than life character, but he instead seems surprisingly softly spoken and rather timid. Harris may be the type of manager to put an arm round him and inspire an upturn in form.
Harris is certainly the kind of manager that will spank him on the arse like a lazy horse if required because he did just that at Charlton, to encourage Mendez-Laing to track back when he trotted past the technical area.
Mendez-Laing again impressed in the subsequent narrow 1-0 win over Stoke and was Man of the Match with a decisive contribution last time out in another 1-0 victory at Nottingham Forest. He scored his trademark goal. You know the one, without even seeing it. Jinking in from the left, bending it just inside the far post, like a Championship Arjen Robben. You know it’s coming, but you just cant stop it from happening.
Gavin Whyte had impressed on the right and an injury afforded Mendez-Laing the opportunity to stake his claim, which he has grabbed with both hands. Whyte will run him all the way though, so hopefully they can drive each other on in a fierce contest for the right wing spot. Now all we need is that same competitive edge for the other 10 spots.