In football, we all know when we’re being lied to. When Neil Warnock used to say that Bobby Decordova-Reid couldn’t get in the side because his only role was filled by Victor Camarasa, we all smelt a rat.
Surely he could also play up top, or out wide, we all wondered aloud. We never found out, but now we know.
Watching Decordova-Reid open the scoring for Fulham at the weekend, against reigning champions Liverpool with a crashing volley, it was clear for all to see. He was leading the attack against the best club side in the world and thriving, notching up his fifth goal of the season as the club’s top scorer.
Against Cardiff, in a trilogy of matches late last season, he played both on the left and up front. It would appear that he has now featured in five different roles for Fulham; as an 8, a 10, left, right and up top.
OK, we get it. We wasted him.
Decordova-Reid and Josh Murphy were Warnock’s big summer signings, ahead of his assault on the Premier League, but both were curious choices. Murphy may have been swashbuckling in attack, but he has an aversion to tracking back, a non-negotiable for Warnock. Decordova-Reid was a maverick talent and Warnock seemed to have an inherent distrust of unpredictable players.
The pair appeared to have an understanding that was a cut above those that got Cardiff promoted, but they rarely had chance to demonstrate it. Camarasa arrived a couple of weeks after Decordova-Reid and is the better player, but imagine those three in tandem. What could have been.
Early on in the season, Decordova-Reid and Danny Ward were paired in attack for the visit of Arsenal. They were brilliant and it was the most exciting that Cardiff were all season. With Harry Arter, they pressed and pinned Arsenal back in their own box at times. It looked like the key to Cardiff’s potential success at that level, but conservatism eventually took hold.
When Cardiff’s top flight prospects started to look terminal, they faced a must win game at Fulham. Decordova-Reid started on the bench and he only emerged very late on in the contest, with even Rhys Healey brought on ahead of him. Well, you know what they say; if you can’t beat them…
Cardiff ended the season on a high, winning at Manchester United and their front four that day was Kenneth Zohore, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Murphy and Decordova-Reid. They were wonderful and optimism for the following season was sky high. They never played together again and it forever remains a beautiful ‘what if’ moment.
Decordova-Reid started the following season with Cardiff, but soon pushed for a move to southwest London and Cardiff made their money back on him. Warnock didn’t like it, but what did he expect really? Loyalty cuts both ways.
While a rather sluggish Cardiff toiled at times in his absence last season, Decordova-Reid played his part in Fulham’s swift return to the Premier League. It proved to be the right decision and while it is tempting to say that Cardiff miss him, you can’t ever really miss what you never had.