By Tom Walker | Head of Sport
The departure of Neil Harris and the hiring of Mick McCarthy has brought around a much-needed change of atmosphere at Cardiff City following a poor Christmas and New Year period. At the time of writing, the Bluebirds are unbeaten since McCarthy took over the reins on January 22.
It seemed like Cardiff had re-found their mojo under Harris at the beginning of December, beating Huddersfield, Watford and Stoke consecutively to make the playoff spots a realistic target after a poor start to the season. But a loss to Welsh rivals Swansea sparked the start of the dismal run that saw them sat 15th in the Championship and 13 points off the playoff spots.
McCarthy’s experience at this level is irrefutable. The 61-year-old manager is coming up to 30 years in management in a career that has seen him manage Wolves and Sunderland in the Premier League as well as the Ireland national team.
However, the appointment of another tried and tested veteran manager seems like another step sidewards. In theory McCarthy is only set to manage the team until the end of the season but has made his intentions clear in wanting to stay past that. The club is crying out for a more defined on pitch direction compared to the short termism thinking evident in decisions like the appointment of McCarthy and the peculiar signing of Johnny Williams from League One club Charlton on deadline day.
There has been a lack of identity of Cardiff City’s on field play this season. The signings of Harry Wilson and Sheyi Ojo would indicate a shift to a more “on the floor” style adopted by many teams in the modern game. But the contrast to the likes of Kieffer Moore and now departed Robert Glatzel, as well as the more conservative fullbacks does not lead itself to that particular style of play, making for a mixed bag of performances this season.
But credit where credit is due McCarthy seems to have stumbled on something good in his first few matches, and as cliché as it is the “new manager bounce” is a saying that currently holds true for Cardiff so far. There is some logical psychological thinking you can apply to that famous phrase, but in Cardiff’s case it was hard to get much worse than those final games under Neil Harris.
Two back-to-back score draws against fellow Championship middlers Barnsley and Millwall stopped the rot, before an impressive away win at rivals Bristol City provided Cardiff with their first statement performance under the new boss.
A combination of Wilson, Ojo and Moore as a three up front is an intriguing and exciting combination, with the latter combining brilliantly for the second goal against Bristol City.
Another win at Rotherham in snowy conditions a few days later will also have filled Bluebirds’ fans with some hope, with goals again coming from Ojo and the newly deployed wingback Joe Bennet.
The unpredictable nature of the Championship makes me hesitant to put my hat on them finishing outside the top six, but currently those who occupy the slots are more established teams than Cardiff right now. A similar run to the one that got them into the playoffs at the back end of last season is obviously not out of question, but the hill may be a little too high to climb this time.