The Championship is known for being a highly competitive league where any team has a chance to win. However, looking at the current standings, it is clear that Leicester, who are essentially a Premier League team, are quickly making their way back to the top tier. They are on track to break the 100-point barrier, much like Burnley did last season, with Leeds and Southampton close behind. This is the new face of the Championship: a time of large budgets and famous managers being hired.
In recent years, there have been losses in this time period, including Cardiff City. They were previously a Premier League team less than five years ago, but they have had to adapt their goals, financial situation, and essentially start over. Erol Bulut is currently their head coach, who is not as well-known compared to other coaches in the Championship. However, in just six months, he has led them to within three points of qualifying for the playoffs. If they defeat Leeds at Cardiff City Stadium this Saturday, it could potentially propel the Bluebirds towards an unexpected push for promotion.
It is improbable for multiple reasons, particularly due to the fact that Cardiff faced a transfer restriction during the summer due to their failure to pay the transfer fee for Emiliano Sala, a £15m Nantes striker they acquired in 2019 who tragically passed away in a plane crash before being able to play for the team. While the transfer ban has been lifted this month, the club is still in the process of recovering.
The saga of Sala had a lasting impact on Cardiff, Wales. Dealing with being demoted from the Premier League in the same year also had its consequences. The years following Neil Warnock’s departure have been challenging and unfruitful, with the club going through six different permanent managers as their budget decreased due to the expiration of parachute payments.
Rubin Colwill, a hometown boy, is similar to Bulut in being a positive influence and representing the new, simplified Cardiff. As a fan from a young age and a player developed through the academy, he has faced challenges. He was mentored by Neil Harris, made his debut under Mick McCarthy, and played for Steve Morison, Mark Hudson, and Sabri Lamouchi before finding success under Bulut. “I’ve had the opportunity to observe many managers, so I have some experience in evaluating them,” he says with a smile.
Colwill and his fellow players have recognized the importance of establishing stability within the team this season, as it has been crucial to the club’s comeback. “Beginning my career with constant changes was far from ideal,” Colwill states. “I believe everyone wants to be a part of a larger vision, a plan for the future. I’m glad that our manager is implementing strategies to improve the club as a whole. It’s a gradual process, but it will pay off in the long run.”
Supporters are feeling optimistic that a solid plan is finally falling into place. Making it to the playoffs this year would be an unexpected bonus, as simply finishing in the top half of the league would have been a welcomed outcome since Bulut joined the team. For the first time in years, the club is clearly moving in a positive direction.
Bulut, a previous manager for Alanyaspor and Fenerbahce, utilized his connections with Turkish clubs to assist Cardiff during the summer transfer window when they were limited in their recruitment options. As a result, they were able to acquire Manolis Siopis and Dimitrios Goutas from Trabzonspor and Sivasspor respectively, both on free transfers. The club also successfully brought back hometown hero Aaron Ramsey without any transfer fees. Negotiations are currently underway to re-sign Kieffer Moore and striker Mehmet Umut Nayir from Fenerbahce. The club’s budget has been slightly expanded.
The only issue is Bulut’s future. He agreed to a one-year contract last year and there have been no discussions with the higher-ups about renewing it. Therefore, it is challenging to plan for anything beyond the next five months.
“I am unable to make plans for the upcoming season or for the future,” he stated. “My plans are limited to the end of this season. It is challenging to discuss anything further when my future here is uncertain.”
I expressed my contentment with my current situation. The fans are aware of this as we have had numerous discussions. I am eager to keep implementing improvements and introducing new elements to the club. It may not be a quick process, but we have already made significant changes since the beginning of the season.
I require more than that. It is necessary for us to persist in our efforts, to put resources towards acquiring talented players, and to develop young players through our academy in order to establish a strong foundation. In order for this to be successful, we must have a clear strategy. And to execute this strategy, it is essential that we collaborate and work together.
Colwill would appreciate more time for Bulut as he believes that he is improving and gaining more knowledge under the guidance of the 48-year-old. This sentiment is shared by many others as well.
Colwill praises Bulut, calling him a successful individual both on and off the field. Colwill expresses his approval of Bulut’s presence and hopes to see him remain. Colwill also acknowledges their team’s consistent effort and determination, stating that they are close to achieving their goals.
The possibility of reaching the playoffs is incredibly tempting, although achieving promotion this season may be premature for the Cardiff City reboot. The team is on the verge of returning to their former success, as long as they keep their eyes fixed on the future.