Neil Warnock has done a remarkable job at reversing the fortunes of Cardiff City since last season and he’s a shoe-in for the Championship’s ‘Manager of the Year’ award. Warnock took up the job in the same week as Steve Bruce began at Aston Villa, when Cardiff were second from bottom in the league.
Since then, Warnock has out performed Bruce, despite mainly relying on free agents and loans to gel a squad together. If Bruce fails to gain promotion for Villa, then the Bluebirds boss would be the yardstick to measure the Villa boss’s efforts.
Going into the international break, Cardiff City sit seven points ahead of Villa with a game in hand, but in recent weeks Warnock has publicly expressed his frustrations at certain events that have transpired against his team.
While Villa and Bruce will probably ultimately regret not picking up any points in the last two games against QPR and Bolton, is there still a flicker of hope?
Too Snowy for Derby
In the run up to the Cardiff’s visit to Derby, Rams boss Gary Rowlett had complained about only having 10 players fit for training. Fast-forward to the day of the game and the match was called off for snow.
Warnock wasn’t too impressed and it wasn’t just due to the fact his team now faces an even more congested April.
“All week I have listened to comments from Derby, they have all been negative, and that’s before the snow came down,” said Warnock, last week.
“They have been talking about the injury situation, yesterday the manager Gary [Rowett] said they only had 10 players training and if they could get away with this weekend’s game, they would be fine.
“Things like that should be looked into.”
He went onto to say, when he arrived at Derby before the game was called off, he didn’t see any problems for the game not to go ahead.
“We got to the ground and the car park was clear, the pitch was perfect. Absolutely disgraceful really,” concluded Warnock.
Since the EFL has issued the following statement:
“We are aware of the comments that have been made throughout the course of today in regard to yesterday’s postponement between Derby County and Cardiff City and, having asked both Clubs for their observations on the matter on Sunday, will not be making any further comment until the full responses are received.”
Warnock did get his way with the rearrangement though, after his outburst about the first potential planned date.
“The Football League now will try to make us play on the first available date which will be 17 April,” said Warnock, before the date was set.
“That means we would go to Aston Villa on a Tuesday, Norwich on the Saturday and then Derby on the Tuesday, which is another disgrace.
“If it is replayed, it should be on the 24 April after we have had a home game.”
In the end, the EFL put it in the diary for the 24th April.
By then, if by a miracle Villa are still in the automatic promotion race, hopefully it won’t be a meaningless match for Derby and they still need something to make the play-offs. They will certainly be a stronger team for Cardiff to face, than the injury-riddled team they would have fielded in March.
Warnock also isn’t happy that Cardiff have to play Burton on the Friday night straight after the international break, with up to six of his players on international duty.
“No team going for promotion should play on a Friday coming back off the international break, it’s pathetic,” he said.
“We’ve got lads playing on the Wednesday night and we’re playing Burton on the Friday night? It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
While it’s far from ideal, Cardiff will still fancy themselves at home against Burton.
Cast your mind back to the Christmas period and Villa weren’t the only team having a hard time. Cardiff City lost four games on the trot. Could it happen again in April to provide the ultimate bottle job?
Sheffield United (a), Wolves (h), Aston Villa (a) and Norwich (a) within the space of two weeks is a potential minefield to Cardiff City’s hopes.
They can obviously afford to drop a few points, but if their trip to Bramall Lane doesn’t go well to kick the month off, it may snowball towards doom from there.
So, potentially, it’s not over for Aston Villa.
However, after their last two poor results, Villa will probably have to match their seven-game winning streak of earlier in the year (or at least bag seven out of eight wins) to have any hope.
Then, there’s the small matter of Fulham, who have a soft remaining fixture list.
Yes, it’s a long shot, but perhaps the automatic promotion isn’t a done deal just yet.
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