If you’re talking about Cardiff’s best players thus far this season, Marlon Pack has to be in the conversation. Yet most conversations about Marlon Pack tend to follow a very different theme. You’re more likely to hear someone questioning what he does exactly or arguing why he should be the odd one out of the four central midfielders vying for three spots.
How do you explain this disconnect? Well, we’ve been here before, haven’t we.
Maybe he’s merely this season’s Leandro Bacuna, who started last season on the collective naughty step and played his way back in to the affections of most. Not all, of course, because some are not for turning. Under any circumstances. Ever. On anything.
The best fit in terms of comparison though is surely Stephen McPhail. Talk to anyone about McPhail now and it’s all sunshine and lollipops, but there’s a healthy dose of revisionism involved. The narrative altered rather late in the day because for the longest time, his efforts also went unappreciated. People didn’t get it.
Talk to Michael Chopra and he’ll tell you that McPhail was the most gifted player he played with at Cardiff. He was a player’s player, and a manager’s player. Fans, especially Cardiff fans, tend to gravitate to the enthusiasm of someone like Callum Paterson on the audacity of Lee Tomlin. Making the hard stuff like easy doesn’t win many votes.
There’s nothing cool about Pack and he looks a bit like a werewolf, but Cardiff are usually better when the Pontcanna Pirlo is out there. He may not be as cultured as McPhail, but very few are. He’s a very good Championship midfielder though and also only cost about £750,000. So what’s not to like exactly?
I’ve been meaning to write something in Pack’s defence for a few weeks now, but Neil Harris beat me to it. In his press conference yesterday, he provided a ringing endorsement. So instead, here is what he said in full.
“Marlon’s strengths are with the football and he’s a very good passer of the ball. He might not have the assist rate that fans want to see and defence-cutting passes, but he can play them. I do talk to him about being a bit more aggressive with his passing range because it’s the best at this football club.”
“He’s important to make things tick over. Always willing to receive the ball, always willing to find a sensible pass and be brave enough to find the ball. If Marlon Pack makes a mistake, he goes and gets the ball again. That’s important in the modern game. He also has leadership qualities. He’s a talker and an organiser. When you’ve got young players on the pitch, that’s what you need.”
“He’s been instrumental away from home in our defensive solidity, his dead ball delivery is good and defensively he’s a very good marker. He’s had a very good start to the season and I’m really pleased with him. I left him out the other day just because he covers the most distance in the team. Fans might not see that because he’s not explosive or a sprinter, but he’s athletic like a distance runner and every game, Marlon’s stats are the highest. He’s a very good player.”
Surely it’s time to admit you were wrong about Marlon Pack?