I wanted to write a piece that extols the virtues of Callum Paterson, and that I have done. You can read it below, but the fall out from this transfer seems to suggest a wider schism in the fan base and a dawning realisation that things might not all be as they seemed at the club. For several weeks, Neil Harris has tempered expectations over transfers by saying we need to sell to buy. Paterson represents the second player in a few weeks sold, following Etheridge, but we have yet to see a hint of a player being signed.
Not only does the Paterson transfer represent the sale of an asset, a fan favourite, but it represents an awful piece of business by the club. To put it bluntly; we’ve sold a player with two years left on his deal for 500k. With 15% going to Hearts, we’ve made a profit of £25,000 on a player who has gone from strength to strength at the club. What’s even worse is that the money generated from this sale is going to buy who, exactly? We need a quality signing at 10, to be a long term replacement for Lee Tomlin. Quality players from League One cost upwards of £5m these days.
Harris talks a good talk, but now the club need to back him. The squad is looking thin and fans are beginning to question the ambition of a team who narrowly missed out on the play-off final just a few months back. We don’t seem to be building on what we achieved, we’ve lost players this summer and seem to be unable to replace them and where we have replaced players. Are they adequate? NML for Sheyi Ojo doesn’t feel like an upgrade.
Fans can stomach so much, but the sale of Paterson feels like a turning point. Fans are going to question what’s going on when players make distinct reference to not being wanted in their departure messages. Fans are going to question the low transfer fees for a player who is, whether Harris rates him or not, an asset.
This season hasn’t started well. We’ve lost two of three league games and our squad is as thin as its ever been. The next few weeks could be a vital time in Harris’ tenure. It’s not fair to write him off yet and there are positives to be seen in his management, but we badly need players through the door and it’s not clear where they are going to come from. Perhaps this is going to be the transition season that always comes after the summer before? Warnock had money last summer and squandered some of it. Once bitten, twice shy?
In any event, lets give thanks to Callum Paterson
As Callum Paterson departs Cardiff City way before his time, we find ourselves reflecting on a short lived but memorable career.
It’s a tale as old as time. A right back who Warnock didn’t think could defend, moulded into a number 10 and then a number nine. Paterson led the line admirably in the Premier League and has fallen firmly out of favour with Harris, who can only see Tomlin or a box to box midfielder shunted into number 10. Callum, this world is no longer for you.
And now he departs for pastures new, leaving a trail of trademark Fortnite celebrations and firecracker behaviour that no-one else can replicate. And at what cost? Half a million quid? Even in austere times, this feels ridiculously low for a player who’s improved immeasurably in his time at the club.
I thought I understood the economics. Sell to buy and Paterson, in my view, deserves first team football and one assumes he feels the same. But who the fuck are we going to buy for 500k?! What we’ll miss on the field without him is going to be hard to replace. Beyond being a good footballer, Paterson is a bit of a nightmare. He will try and head anything but he’s also sneaky and will throw himself to the floor to win free kicks in dangerous areas.
Firstly, let’s do away with the myth that he’s just a lump. Yeah, he’s become the guy we chuck balls up to and hope he wins a header, but he built his first season on much more intelligent play. That first season – feeling like a lifetime ago perhaps – started with injury before he moulded himself into an unpredictable force at 10.
His first goal was probably typical of the man – a slide tackle into the opponents box to deflect the ball past the opposing goalie, but the rest of his goals were a mix of headers and intelligent runs. Time and time again, he would break the lines and get into the box behind a striker and sweep the ball home. He’d score volleys, barrel balls home and contributed directly to 15 goals in that first season, in just 32 games. A rate of basically one in two.
How would he cope with the Premier League? Well, pretty well, all things considered. His debut up front saw him compete for and win the most headed duels since 2003/04 – as far as records go back. He then started scoring goals – crucial goals – against Fulham and Southampton at home as well scoring at Anfield. No mean feat, all things considered.
He even managed some classic scrapes amongst it all. The sight of him two footing the ball into an empty net against Wolves is a memory that sticks in the mind. That season ended prematurely and one wonders if we’d had him in some games – like Fulham away – could things have been different?
The 2019/20 season was strange for many reasons and Pato didn’t start the season well, but who actually did? He came into form over the Christmas period – five goals in 11 – and scored a crucial goal at Oakwell just before lockdown hit. And then? Well, Harris has to answer that one.
He clearly just didn’t fancy him. Which is obviously fair enough, but is it fair to Paterson? Not in my view. We spend a lot of time insisting that we need another number 10 because Tomlin isn’t going to be fully fit all season. We’d rather look elsewhere than give Pato a chance in the position he excelled in 2017/18.
So we have to wave goodbye, to a man who makes football fun. Warnock said he was a few sandwiches short of a picnic and obviously Pato doesn’t take himself too seriously, but this marked his card as a bit of a novelty item, and to some extent, he is. A utility player in the era of football where individuals are drilled to play one position and play that position well. Pato is adept as a striker, a 10. He’s alright on the wing and right back. He’d probably do a job in goals. Football is joyless at the moment and Paterson is the antithesis of this. The world of Cardiff City is darker for his departure.
He’s a victim of his own versatility and we will miss him. Before we know it, we are gonna be three months into a season and staring a boring 0-0 draw down the barrel away at Huddersfield and who will we bring off the bench? There’s gonna be a time when we need a man like Paterson, someone who can come on and cause havoc while battling at 10, too. Tomlin was our saviour last year with 18 goals and assists. What of Paterson’s 15 in 2017/18? Perhaps we just took him for granted?
Good night, sweet prince.