Lee Tomlin is the success story of Cardiff’s season. He’s always had the ability, his talent has never been in question, but the application side of things has often held him back. This season he has been a man on a mission. He returned for pre-season having got the better of his demons and his fitness issues as a player reborn. Where he once used to blow out of his arse, he now blows away the opposition.
Everyone was rooting for him because he is a genius, a genuine joy to watch. Most players would have been written off long ago, but we always kept the door ajar for Tomlin and this year he has burst through it. Now in the final third of a three-year deal, his contract will expire in the summer. Give the man what he wants and tie him down, right? Simple as that? Not so fast.
Tomlin may now carry Cardiff’s creative burden, but that is a responsibility that, to some extent and for various reasons, he shirked for a couple of years. Is this Tomlin here to stay, or would he revert with the comfort of a new deal? It’s a perfectly valid question that the club would be remiss not to ask.
He also turns 31 next week, so is no longer a spring chicken. The fear is that the longer Cardiff leave it, the longer the queue of potential suitors grows. Realistically though, with his baggage and at his age, I would expect that there would be plenty of scepticism out there. He remains a luxury player to some extent and possibly a luxury too far for most, as Cardiff found when they were trying to shift him, albeit not at the peak of his powers.
Tomlin is also on a rather hefty wage. Not Alex Smithies money, but few others are. Tomlin finds himself in the same situation as Danny Ward and Lee Peltier, who are also heading out of contract as things stand. They are all believed to be on around £20,000-a-week, with Ward and Peltier last month celebrating their 28th and 33rd birthdays respectively.
Can they afford to keep all three, even if they want to? Where will they pitch their demands? Out of the three, Ward would probably represent the greater asset, due to his age, versatility and work ethic. The other two are the wrong side of 30 and may be expected to accept lesser terms, but Tomlin could argue that he is in the form of his life and integral, so instead deserves an increase.
Neil Harris has no money to spend in the January transfer window and who knows what sort of budget he will have to work with in the summer. He will be keen to make this squad his own though and will likely be required to wheel and deal. There will be casualties as a result. Cardiff only have the benefit of one more year of parachute payments too and an outstanding bill for Emiliano Sala to contend with.
In purely footballing terms, a new deal for Tomlin is a no brainer, but in the grand scheme of things, its rather more complicated. The fact is that Tomlin must know that he finally has things pretty good at Cardiff right now and, after a nomadic few years, also that the grass is not always greener. Hopefully a resolution can be found, but it may need a little bit of compromise, on both sides.