According to Cardiff City Chief Executive Ken Choo, under Neil Warnock the Bluebirds spent nearly £100m on player deals. That is an eye-watering figure for any club outside of the Premier League’s elite; it would be all too easy to dismiss this as poor financial management but when we look at his top 5 signings, you may just change your mind*.
*You may not.
5. Lee Tomlin – £3m from Bristol City, 2017
In fifth place is the let’s be honest, mercurial talent that is Lee Marc Tomlin. It could easily have been Junior Hoilett. Signed for a few quid under £3m in that beautiful summer of 2017, he represented a real coup for Neil Warnock. This was someone who would get the fans off their seats, we’d all seen him beat a man and score (for Bristol City at the Cardiff City Stadium once from memory), now was the time for him to do it for the Bluebirds.
Suffice to say, it didn’t happen. Not immediately anyway.
It took two loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Peterborough for Lee to recognise that he did indeed want to play for the Bluebirds, lose two stone and show the world (via IG) that he was shredded and ready for action. Warnock still didn’t trust him beyond 60 minutes, something that has been shown to be misguided given he has scored all six of his goals this season, in the 60th minute or thereafter.
He makes the top 5 signings because he can do things, no other Cardiff City player can do. He is a genuine game-changer and without his contributions this season it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the Bluebirds would be looking at a potential relegation battle this season.
If he carries on with his form under Neil Harris, he could eventually become the best signing Neil Warnock made.
4. Victor Camarasa – Loan from Real Betis, 2018
Let’s face it, Victor could be number one on looks alone (with the exception of Gary Madine who has the world’s greatest jawline).
When Camarasa joined the Bluebirds in the summer of 2018, fans were scrambling for the interweb trying to work out who this guy was, and why had we signed him when we’d already signed Bobby Reid (a question still unanswered).
Roll on two months and he’d never be forgotten, from scoring Cardiff City’s first Premier League goal of the season (in an enthralling contest with Arsenal) to a once-in-a-lifetime late away beaut of a winner at Leicester. Victor is assured of a place in every Bluebirds’ heart for now and ever more.
3. Callum Paterson – £350,000 from Hearts, 2017
This one was tricky, Paters has a genuine shout at being the number one signing but misses out for good reason. The oldest looking Young Player of the Year made us all wait to see him in action, but boy was it worth it.
Signed as a right-back that can’t defend, Paters showed within five minutes of making his debut that he could bust a lung down the wing and cross the ball right into the danger zone. His debut was up there with Fraizer Campbell (who scored with his first touch away to Leeds), in terms of generating excitement.
The thing that makes us all adore Paterson is his commitment to the cause, he wins more headers and chases more lost balls than your dog. He never, ever gives up and whether it’s slide tackling the ball into the net, bizarre goal celebrations or his knack of being in the right place at the right time, he is adored by Bluebirds everywhere.
2. Neil Etheridge – Free transfer, 2017
Neil Leonard Dula Etheridge signed for Cardiff City from Walsall in the summer of 2017, initially don’t forget as backup to Neil Warnock’s favoured Lee Camp. The Philippine international goalkeeper was intended to provide competition to Camp who was a Championship veteran but soon established himself as the first choice keeper of the net.
It had been a long time since Cardiff City supporters had been able to sing a goalkeepers praises, David Marshall had almost single-handedly kept the Bluebirds in the Premier League the first time around and Etheridge began to remind City supporters of him.
A superb shot stopper and penalty saver, he won over dubious supporters very early on and when he saved a late penalty at home to Newcastle United in the Premier League, he achieved legend status.
Frankly if he could kick, he’d be number one. Sadly, his distribution under pressure remains a concern and so this number one finds himself at number two in the list.
1. Sol Bamba – Free transfer, 2016
Sol Bamba, the man who waited for Warnock. Promised first team football by Warnock when he was still without a club, he became Neil Warnock’s first signing as an out of contract player.
Cardiff City supporters were inundated on social media by Leeds United supporters, incredulous that the Bluebirds had taken a risk on someone who was such a liability. Initially, Cardiff’s support were unsure as to whether Bamba could work; a concern that lasted all of one match when the big man flying kicked a winning goal at home against Bristol City.
Instant hero status was awarded and other goals like his late winners when playing Brighton at home and his shock opening goal at Stamford Bridge only served to cement his place.
Far and above the goals he has scored, his presence on the pitch brought a calmness and quality when it was needed most. In conjunction with the much-missed Aron Gunnarsson, they brought a steely quality to a stuttering promotion push in 2018 and when you consider his role in the dressing room, there really is only room for him at the top.
Honourable mentions to the three signings below who could easily have made the list but just missed out.
1. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing
2. Danny Ward
3. Marko Grujic
It’s worth noting that none of these signings were made for mega-money, all of our bigger expenditures have question marks over their contributions. It would seem that Warnock was best placed plucking the obscure and unknown and making them a star.
Thanks for the memories Neil, (we don’t thank you for the 31 other players you signed).