In Toon today – Cardiff City.

Who Manages Them:        

Neil Warnock, who took over from Paul Trollope in early October.

It was the culmination of four months of managerial carnage in Wales which began when nobody-in-chief Russell Slade moved from manager to be Director of Football with Trollope taking over his first managerial role since a successful six years at Bristol Rovers ended in 2010. Slade himself lasted only a couple of weeks, to be replaced by the previously dead Lennie Lawrence, rigor mortis had set in when he was Smoggies manager in the early 90’s.

After 8 points from the first 12 games, bond-villain and Cardiff owner Vincent Tan had had enough of such under-achievement, Trollope and Lawrence were out and in came Mr Mediocrity himself, Warnock being the only available manager not to have been already sacked by Tan in the last few years. Initial results were good, the new manager effect leading to a fortunate 2-1 victory over Bristol City, a decent 1-1 home draw with in-form Sheffield Wednesday and an away win at Forest.

Things caught up with the ferret-faced killjoy last time out against Wigan after his “Cardiff are the biggest club in Wales” statement gave ex-Swansea attacker Jordi Gomez the chance to leave him with leek on his face, Warnock has since claimed the statement was a joke, which is possible of course, much of his career has been.

“I’ve always liked it here. I’ve always liked getting off the bus,” he said. “Everywhere I go I get stick, but at Cardiff… I get on quite well with the Cardiff lads. I’m sure the same people are there by the bus with their autograph books. I’ve always had good banter with the Cardiff people. They are my kind of crowd.”

Well more fool them. If you are looking for an effigy to put on your bonfire tonight then look no further than weasel-faced moaner Warnock, the snarling sourpuss who prowls the touchline abusing anyone in his path and blaming everyone else for his inadequacies. In a League management career spanning 27 years with Notts County, Huddersfield, Plymouth, Oldham, Bury, Sheffield United, Palace and QPR twice, Leeds, Rotherham and now Cardiff.

He’s moaned about everything except the only thing he was justified in moaning about – Sheffield United’s unfair relegation from the Premier League in 2007! That particular piece of injustice doesn’t hide the fact that all of Warnock’s basic and joyless teams, full of gurning effort, inhabit a world where only the referee or bad luck can defeat you.

Still, you can’t keep a good man down. Only 10 days after taking the Cardiff job all, his reputation was once more dragged through the mud when tweets from 2014 made by Jason Puncheon were mentioned in a parliamentary debate about football governance. The allegations made by Warnock’s former player, afterwards withdrawn, may not have been true, but when MPs are discussing your credibility then your reputation doesn’t have much further to fall.

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‘Do The Ayatollah – football doesn’t get any more bizarre than this’

Who Have They Signed:               

In the summer Cardiff brought in strikers Rickie Lambert, Frederic Gounongbe and Kenneth Zohore, midfielders Emyr Huws and Lex Immers and defenders Joe Bennett and Jazz Richards. Of those only Bennett will definitely start today, the free transfer from Villa supposedly had an unsuccessful trial at SJP a decade ago so it’ll be interesting to see if Paul Dummett is still better than him.

Immers, on loan from Feyenoord last season and signed on for two years on a free in the summer has been involved in most of the games and Rickie Lambert may make the bench. For those of us old enough to remember, Rickie was the original Jamie Vardy, well perhaps not the original, but like Vardy, sausage factory to England shirt Chris Waddle and Blue Peter garden to England shirt Les Ferdinand, Lambert has seen enough of the hard times to make his football career all the sweeter.

Released by boyhood club Liverpool at 15 and relegated Blackpool at 19, Lambert worked in a beetroot bottling factory until Macclesfield took a punt on him. The rest is history, 3 golden boots, 11 England caps, 239 goals and the pinnacle of his career, playing for Neil Warnock, bet he wishes he’d stayed at the beetroot factory now. There have been no fireworks in the Championship this season though, his 2 goals both coming in the same match and he might not play today because of an injury which Warnock described as “horrific” in the win against Forest two weeks ago.

Having seen Warnock’s teams play we all know what “horrific” is but the manager was quick to blame the Wigan defeat on Lambert’s absence. True, every long-ball team needs a bustling centre forward as it’s focal point, but if that focal point has only scored twice all season and only played half of the games then you need something else. Well, Shola’s available.

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‘Rickie Lambert: 154 goals ahead of Shola’

When Warnock took over he quickly moved to bring in several experienced free transfers, ex-Mackem Kieran Richardson, who was found by Warnock outside LDL doing ‘a penny for the guy’ as the guy has signed until January, as has Marouane Chamakh. Sol Bamba was also brought in at the back to form a gigantic centre half pairing with Sean Morrison. Bamba, who left Leeds for personal reasons in September has fitted right in at the bottom of the Championship, having been told by Leeds manager Gary Monk that he wasn’t going to get his game for Leeds at the bottom of the Championship so he might as well find another team at the bottom of the Championship to lumber around in.

Who Have We Seen Before:          

Not exactly who we have seen before, but who did we nearly see before. It is just over 4 years since all the talk was that NUFC were going to break the bank to sign David Hoilett. ‘Junior’ was setting the Premier League on fire with Blackburn Rovers, named as one of the 13 players to watch by FIFA in 2012 and on a free transfer having refused to re-sign for the Lancashire club.

He was the 2012 Saido Berahino and we were supposedly one of the suitors ready to spuff some of Fat Mike’s roulette winnings with talk of a 60k a week deal in the offing but in the end Hoilett was persuaded to join the QPR ‘Revolution’, though in the end it was just the QPR relegation. Four years later, Hoilett was worthless. Let go by QPR after failing to agree a much-reduced deal, he couldn’t find anyone else to play for and eventually ended up in Cardiff as part of Warnock’s budget October-fest. It isn’t very often we dodge a bullet but it looks like it happened here.

A Special mention for:                     

Jazz Richards, initially at Cardiff as a schoolboy but released and signed by Swansea, the player was re-signed this summer as part of a swap deal with Fulham which saw Scott Malone go the other way. His competitive debut for the Bluebirds earlier this season was marred by his supposed reluctance to do ‘The Ayatollah’ on request from the Cardiff fans, a sort of South Wales ‘Jazz, Jazz, give us a wave’.

The Ayatollah has been used by Cardiff City fans since 1990s Welsh punk group U Thant did it and is basically raising the hands above the head and repeatedly moving them up and down, inspired by footage of attendants at the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, doing the movement to express their grief at his death. It is regularly performed by Cardiff players in response to fans chanting ‘do the Ayatollah’ but as team mate Sean Morrison said, it may be a bit of a distraction:

“I didn’t notice it was going on until someone mentioned it. I thought I saw him do it at a corner, but people may have missed it.”

Nothing wrong with a bit of audience participation but personally I’d rather he was concentrating on the corner than trying to do some party tricks. Not that Richards is alone in refusing to do what supporters ask of them, Moussa Sissoko regularly ignored my requests last season to “for fecks sake, do something.”

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‘Neil Warnock: Part Human’

How Will They Do This Season:     

With Paul Trollope obviously taking his time to make a mark at the Cardiff City Stadium things were looking bleak for the Welsh club, which is perhaps why they acted so quickly in punting Trollope and bringing in an experienced man.

Although Warnock is the footballing equivalent of gout, he has a decent track record of turning crappy under-achieving clubs into just crappy clubs and that is what Cardiff will be hoping for this season. It is unlikely that the Bluebirds will be relegated now and it is more likely that they will achieve a mid-table finish comfortably, though Warnock and NUFC both know that the longer you stay at the bottom the harder it is to get going.

Warnock has immediately instilled his trademark time-wasting, long-ball style of play on the team and will remain reliant on big defenders out-muscling in the opposition in both penalty areas and pinpoint delivery coming from free-kicks, corners and long throw ins but as ex-Toon and Taff striker Michael Chopra said recently after taking time out from Ladbrokes for long enough to give an opinion, Warnock will bring more than organisation to Cardiff:

“I hope he can bring success to the club and can get Cardiff back in the Premier League for the fans and the city of Cardiff. Neil is a true Yorkshireman and he is so determined. His teams always show fight and passion and that’s what the fans want to see.”

Not me Michael. I want to see some football as well. I can bring the fight and passion to the game, I want the players to bring the skill.

Are We Going To Win?                

City’s tactics will be almost totally reliant on time-wasting the 90 minutes away and getting their centre halves to try and get Mitrovic sent off.

If they do venture up field, set pieces will be delivered effectively and with the belief that their colossal defenders will get on the end of anything curled or throw into our penalty area. As usual, an early goal will destroy half of their unimaginative plan, some patience and temperament will take care of the rest.

It is the 5th of November, the day when a plot to destroy was foiled, ironic that another plot to destroy should end up at SJP today.

Howay The Lads.

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