If you think football behind closed doors is a bit flat and lifeless, you should see WWE wrestling without fans. The artifice is heightened and it all feels that much sillier. Some wrestlers also need a crowd in order for their character to thrive. A bit like Callum Paterson.
Maybe Paterson doesn’t work without a crowd. It’s hard to know for sure because he’s played very little since the fans left. Part of Paterson’s charm is that he always gets the supporters going and seems to go harder the more they cheer.
He’s like a heel you can’t help but love, unless you’re Neil Harris.
Harris seems a bit baffled by Paterson. When his name (rarely) comes up in press conferences, you get the impression that he doesn’t quite know how to take him, as a player or a person. In terms of his team, there rarely seems to be a role for him these days.
That hasn’t always been the case. Between Christmas and lockdown, Paterson helped himself to six goals in those two months. His best display of the season was in the win at Barnsley, which was the last game before the season was shut down. He worked his nuts off, as always, got a goal for his efforts and did his little roly-poly thing.
Since then, he’s been used increasingly sparingly and even more so since the arrival of Kieffer Moore. Harris seems to view him as a striker, not the Swiss Army knife of the Neil Warnock years, and that’s a shame.
Harris laments the frequent absences of Lee Tomlin in the number 10 role and the lack of alternatives, but Paterson played there, with great success, during Cardiff’s promotion season. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is out of the picture, Paterson can cover there too. They only have one right back, well technically they have two seeing as that is the position where Paterson made a name for himself.
Paterson picked up an ankle ligament injury at the tail end of Cardiff’s Premier League season and missed out on pre-season last year. He has a build where that is not ideal and was playing catch up for the months that followed. By the time he had hit form, the season was paused and the return to action was not been a return for him.
He has recently been linked with a move to Sheffield Wednesday and while that would not be a surprise under the circumstances, it would still be a blow and would likely go down like a lead balloon. Maybe Harris underestimates how badly that would be received, but if he has to ship some out to bring some in, he may feel that it is a sacrifice worth taking.
Like Danny Ward, who also recently departed, Paterson is/was one of the few high tempo players in the squad. Despite his grey hair and 26th birthday next month, he is also one of the youngest in an ever-increasingly aging squad.
He also brings personality to a squad that does not appear littered with characters. With Sol Bamba likely to be playing his final season, it feels a bit like the end of an era is fast approaching. To some extent, that is necessary, as they need to bring the average age down significantly, but for that to work, the right players need to leave and what comes in needs to be as good, if not better.
I’m not sure Paterson is the best place to start and I hope he’s still around when the window has closed. It would be a duller place without him.