As Cardiff set about tacking on an extra month to Danny Ward’s dwindling deal, and not affording Omar Bogle, Jazz Richards or Matthew Connolly the same privilege, attention will then need to turn to those heading out of contract. Because there is a lot of them.
Back in 2018, ahead of their return to the Premier League, Cardiff went all in with their contract renewals, announcing new deals for Sean Morrison, Joe Ralls, Callum Paterson Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Lee Peltier, Brian Murphy and Connolly all on the same day. They might want to consider something similar for 2020.
As it currently stands, all of their senior goalkeepers (Neil Etheridge, Alex Smithies and Joe Day), both of their first choice left backs (Joe Bennett and Greg Cunningham), two of their favoured wingers (Junior Hoilett and Mendez-Laing) plus a couple of key centre backs (Curtis Nelson and Sol Bamba) could walk away as free agents this time next year. So, yeah.
There is a lot to take in to consideration here. Firstly, the current financial climate, which has decimated the game at Football League level. No one has any money and you wonder if Cardiff will even be able to afford to offer these players new deals, even if they want to. They also stop receiving parachute payments next year, which makes the next 12 months pivotal.
For these reasons, amongst others, I hope they manage to hold on to Ward, but there are no positive vibes on that front and Neil Warnock will probably pinch him for Middlesbrough anyway, given the chance.
In terms of the nine players mentioned, there are some big decisions to be made.
You expect Cardiff will soon sell a goalkeeper and a left back because they can afford to and it would also raise funds. Etheridge is out of favour and may be the more attractive option, having starred in the Premier League campaign, yet Smithies is reportedly one of the highest earners at the club and could probably not expect such an affluent contract this time round.
The same logic applies to Bennett or Cunningham. The former just turned 30 and the latter will reach that milestone in January, so both will probably view this as their last chance of a big deal, if such a thing still exists.
Bamba looks set to retire, so is not an ongoing concern. Hoilett keeps flirting with MLS and you expect that might happen sooner rather than later. Harris is an outspoken Mendez-Laing fan, so the likelihood is that he may remain and Nelson has been a low-key revelation, so extending his stay should be of paramount importance.
There are also decisions to be made regarding Cardiff’s three loan players. Dion Sanderson has done a sterling job at right back, a position where the cupboard is bare, and hopefully there is scope for him to return next year. Albert Adomah has done well, but has a year left on his deal at Nottingham Forest, while Brad Smith has done very little to date, but his contract at Bournemouth is up and he could be viewed as a ready-made replacement for an outgoing left back.
It is not ideal to have so many players expiring at the same time and that once handed the bargaining power over to the players, but who knows whether that is still the case. Free agents will become an increasingly valuable commodity, with no money for transfer fees, but terms may not be as attractive as they once were.
Cardiff may decide to sit and wait for now. If they go up this year, which although a long shot, looks a little bit more likely now than it did a week ago, all of these problems go away. If they don’t though, this situation needs addressing. Otherwise it might end up looking like bad housekeeping and come back to bite them if they miss the chance to recoup.