Cardiff City preview and pub guide: The Warnock factor

Cardiff City preview and pub guide: The Warnock factor

*This article has been updated since the postponement to reflect Cardiff’s last two games.

Cardiff have been in the running for promotion all season and despite a wobble over Christmas they are in pole position to finish the job.

With 10 games remaining they are second in the table, four points clear of third-placed Aston Villa, 15 ahead of seventh-placed Bristol City and only three behind long-time leaders Wolves.

The Bluebirds fly into Griffin Park having won their last six games, four of them without conceding a goal, as part of a run of eight victories and two draws from their last 10 matches.

That sequence followed a sticky run over the Christmas/New Year period when they lost all four of their fixtures – more than half of their total defeats this season.

Cardiff have only beaten seven times in their 36 matches – the festive defeats by Fulham (2-4) and Preston (1-0) being the only ones at the Cardiff City Stadium.

On their travels they have lost at Preston (3-0), Birmingham (1-0), Bristol City (2-1), Bolton (2-0) and QPR (2-1).

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They have been among the goals recently with a 4-0 home win over Sunderland, which ended their losing drought, followed by a 4-1 win at Leeds.

This is Cardiff’s fourth successive season in this division and 14th out of 15 since winning promotion in the 2003 third tier play-offs by beating QPR 1-0 in the final at the Millennium Stadium.

They were in the Premier League for the 2013/14 season but finished bottom of the table.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

The catalyst behind this season’s success is undoubtedly manager Neil Warnock, who took over in October 2016, replacing Paul Trollope.

Cardiff, the 15th club Warnock has managed, were second bottom of the table at the time but rallied to finish comfortably in 12th.

Earlier this season Warnock, who is bidding to become the first manager to win promotion eight times, said he was unsure if he wanted to carry on beyond this season – whether or not Cardiff went up to the Premier League.

But late last month, he signed a new deal to stay with the Bluebirds until 2020, saying: “It’s not for money, for me it’s the opportunity to get that eighth promotion and if we don’t go up this year we still have a hell of a squad for next season.

“I’ve really enjoyed myself here and I feel there still is a job to be done.”

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Warnock saved Rotherham from relegation the previous season after taking charge in February when they were six points away from safety.

Other highlights of his managerial career include taking Scarborough into the Football League, winning four promotions in the play-offs with Notts County (twice), Huddersfield and Plymouth and taking both Sheffield United and QPR into the Premier League.

He has also been in charge of Gainsborough, Burton, Torquay, Oldham, Bury, Crystal Palace and Leeds.

“I have covered Cardiff for 30-odd years – and have not seen a manager so fit a club’s DNA as Neil Warnock.”

BBC Wales Football Correspondent Rob Phillips – read more of his views on Cardiff below

THE WARNOCK EFFECT ON BRENTFORD

There is a perception that Brentford have never beaten a Neil Warnock team.

Although it’s not true, we have a poor record against Warnock, who must surely be the manager who Brentford have come up against the most times.

I make it that Neil Warnock has managed 21 games against the Bees – and we have only won five of them.

Eight have finished as draws (one of which we infamously then lost on a penalty shoot-out) and the other eight have been defeats.

Our complete record against Neil Warnock is:

WARNOCK’S TEAM W D L
Notts County 0 1 3
Huddersfield 1 3 (lost one on pens) 2
Plymouth 3 1 0
Oldham 1 1 0
Bury 0 1 0
Rotherham 0 0 1
Cardiff 0 1 2

Included in those matches are the 1995 play-off ties with Huddersfield.

Our last win over a Warnock side was six games ago when we beat Oldham 2-1 in March 1998.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

We failed to beat Cardiff last season – taking a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw on Boxing Day before losing 2-1 in south Wales.

On loan Crystal Palace winger Sullay Kaikai scored two equalisers for us in a dramatic final few minutes in the Griffin Park game.

Peter Whittingham’s first half penalty put Cardiff ahead but substitute Kaikai curled home his first in the 83rd minute.

Kenneth Zohore restored City’s lead in the 89th minute but Kaikai rescued a point with a header in the first minute of stoppage time.

Sergi Canos gave us the lead just before half-time at the Cardiff City Stadium, but Steve Morrison levelled straight after half-time and Peter Whittingham won it with a 76th minute half-volley.

We suffered another defeat in Cardiff in November this season with the infamous Neal Maupay miss coming in-between City’s two first half goals in a 2-0 win from Joe Ralls and Danny Ward.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC Wales Football Correspondent Rob Phillips talks us through Cardiff’s season, gives his feelings on their promotion chances and explains the secret to Neil Warnock’s managerial success.

This interview took place for the original match, but has been updated to reflect Cardiff’s last two games against Barnsley and Birmingham.

Q – How would you assess Cardiff’s season so far – was a promotion push expected?

A – Given the way Neil Warnock transformed fortunes in the previous season, having come in at a such a low ebb in October 2016, I think the optimistic fans hoped for a push to the play-offs going into this campaign.

I thought Cardiff were among a clutch of clubs who would be vying for a top six spot at the start of the season. Even when they began the campaign with five League wins on the bounce, I wondered about the strength of the squad sustaining a promotion push.

But what has happened has been extraordinary. Cardiff had a real blip over Christmas, but have recovered superbly and are keeping bigger spending clubs at bay as they sit in the top two.

Q – What is the feeling about the rest of the season – do club/fans/you expect the side can gain automatic promotion, is a play-off place anticipated or do you fear you may miss out altogether?

A – I certainly don’t expect them to miss out on the play-offs, I think losing out on the play-offs from here would involve a spectacular collapse.

Still not certain about automatic promotion, but then who is? Even Wolves, who a few weeks ago looked home and hosed, have seen their lead cut to three points by Cardiff.

Neil Warnock has had to cope with a succession of injuries and drafting in players who have been on the fringes, but they have kept 16 clean sheets and are on a roll. Anything could happen.

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Q – What do you think is Neil Warnock’s secret for managing in the Championship? His promotion success rate is incredible.

A – If I knew Neil Warnock’s secret, I would quit this job and become a football manager!!

He has an unbelievable record and this season he is going for a record eight promotions!

There is no doubt Warnock creates a top-class squad atmosphere and a team spirit which is essential to get them through the tougher games.

He has also been brilliant at taking any possible pressure off the players. He is such a big personality, off the field the players go under the radar. He just expects them to deliver on it.

But don’t underestimate his tactical nous. In the recent games he has made decisive changes at half-time and against Ipswich and Bristol City they paid off handsomely.

Q – How important was it to the club that Neil Warnock signed a new contract this week?

A – He has done more than just improve the team. He has helped the club recover from the effects of the controversial “rebrand” when the kit changed from blue to red and has reconnected many of those alienated fans with Cardiff City.

I have covered Cardiff for 30-odd years – and have not seen a manager so fit a club’s DNA as Neil Warnock.

Q – Cardiff had a slump over Christmas but are back on track now. Was there any reason for it or was it just the fact that every team has a bad run during the season?

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A – The absence of skipper Sean Morrison, their defensive lynchpin, was not just a coincidence. He missed five games after being injured at Hull and they lost four of them.

The only side to really take them apart in that run was Fulham – probably the best pure footballing side this season. They have inflicted their pain on others, too.

But Cardiff have recovered well. Warnock has recruited skilfully in the January window by drafting in the likes of Gary Madine (from Bolton) and Marko Grujic (on loan from Liverpool). That has given them a fresh impetus.

What says everything about their form is, they beat Bristol City in the recent Severnside derby…..without Morrison.

Q – Which Cardiff players should we watch out for?

A – The man of the moment is again the Danish striker Kenneth Zohore, who is a real handful and has scored in two matches in the current winning run. Winger Junior Hoilett is vying for player of the season along with skipper Morrison, who returned from injury as a substitute during the second half against Birmingham on Saturday.

Sol Bamba is a big player for Cardiff and is part of a defence which includes Bruno Manga, one of the classiest defenders in the division.

Manga was also the subject of the weirdest team news I have ever broadcast – actually at Brentford a couple of seasons ago – when pre-match, then manager Russell Slade confirmed Manga was missing because of “malaria”. Needless to say he has made a splendid recovery!!

Q – Which Brentford players will you be wary of?

A – Well, maybe not “wary of”….but I think there will be Welsh interest in Chris Mepham for obvious reasons. I know the Wales under-21  defender is highly thought of in the Football  Association of Wales set-up and with new manager Ryan Giggs at the helm, he has every incentive to impress.

Neal Maupay is obviously progressing well and so the Cardiff defence will be aware of him.

And overall Brentford have a formidable home record, so you can guarantee Cardiff will take nothing for granted  . . Neil Warnock just would not let them!

Q – Finally, are you able to give me a possible Cardiff starting line-up and formation too please?

A – Not as easy as you may think, given the injury problems and Neil Warnock’s willingness to change a winning side.

But as a rough guess (it would change if Morrison is available) I’ll go with

Etheridge

Connolly, Manga, Bamba, Bennett

Patterson, Grujic, Ralls

Mendez-Laing, Zohore, Hoilett

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD

For Cardiff fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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