Aden Flint was shit. Too slow, too old and not good enough for Cardiff City. Except now he’s a legend, an undroppable asset that is thriving and key to Cardiff’s future success. Such is the hysterical, bipolar nature of social media that you can be written off and written straight back in again over the course of a few weeks.
Scoring the long-awaited winner in the derby certainly helps and would give even the smelliest of turds a coat of polish, but the great Flint reappraisal was already well underway. That simply sealed the deal. The reality, of course, as is almost always the case, is somewhere in between these opposing extremes.
Flint is a proven, experienced Championship centre back. In the last six years, he has scored more goals (24) at this level than any other defender. His nearest rival is actually Sean Morrison (23). He’s six foot six and built like a WWE wrestler these days, so plays exactly how you would expect, getting his head on everything and blocking everything that moves. The Cardiff Way, you might say.
I once spoke to Cardiff’s former head scout, Glyn Chamberlain about the signing of Flint and he said: “I had Flint recommended to me when I was assistant manager at Macclesfield when he was playing for a Sunday league team. He’s taken every jump since then in his stride and I think he’s a good player.”
Flint’s deficiencies are clear to all. He’s cumbersome and slow to turn. He needs pace or numbers around him to compensate for that, so Cardiff playing with three centre backs has suited him down to the ground. That is the secret to his recent success, not some monumental upturn in form. Cardiff are simply and finally playing to his strengths.
If I’m honest, Flint is not necessarily my cup of tea and I was not especially enthused by his transfer, especially at that price. When he is in the side, it encourages a brand of football that Cardiff were looking to evolve away from. I don’t think its any coincidence that both Neil Harris and Jonathan Woodgate at Middlesbrough looked to move him on, nor that Neil Warnock and Mick McCarthy both fancy him.
Flint isn’t a former academy prospect that eased through the ranks, his path has been old school. Pinxton in the Central Midlands Football League, then on to Alfreton Town, via Matlock Town, before entering the football league with Swindon in 2011. He joined Bristol City for £300,000 in 2013, ahead of two transfers that combined topped £10m. Suffice to say, the boy did good.
The thing that people tend to forget, or choose to forget, is that these boys work hard and they’ve all beaten the odds that were heavily stacked against them. Flint was up against polished diamonds groomed for success and he bettered them. He is maximising his potential and always gives his all.
Flint has had a tough old season, shipped out to make way for Filip Benkovic (yeah, I know), then having made a bright start st Sheffield Wednesday, he picked up a bad injury and was sent back. As soon as he was fit, he was back in the Cardiff team and plays every week. He doesn’t train, he just rests and plays again.
Footballers are not treated like the rest of us. They earn too much money and have too much luxury for that. Spite is never far from the surface. When the Coronavirus was raging and everything halted, they were the canaries that we sent down the mine. The band that had to keep playing, for our entertainment, as the Titanic began to sink.
Social media can be lovely, or the worst place in the world and footballers have it worse than most. It can’t be healthy having smoke blown up your arse one minute and then get torn down the next. People sometimes forget that their job is to support. That’s their end of the deal.
Flint is riding the crest of the wave right now and I’m delighted for him. I’m sure he will largely unaffected though and just keep on trucking, being the best Aden Flint he can be because whether you like him or not, he’s already beaten the odds and he has nothing to prove to you.