Cardiff City: Are Neil Warnock's men the Championship dark horses?

Kenneth Zohore
Striker Kenneth Zohore will again be in the spotlight for Cardiff City this season

Cardiff City's ill-fated season in the Premier League in 2013-14 is becoming a distant memory.

But as they start a new Championship campaign Bluebirds fans are asking: "Can we get back there?"

That seemed such a remote prospect when they languished 23rd in the table in October 2016 under Paul Trollope.

But Neil Warnock stepped in as manager to lift the club to 12th place by the end of last season and fill fans with optimism for this campaign.

So what are their chances of returning to the top flight?

Wonder of Warnock

Warnock has vast experience. He is one of only 19 managers to have taken charge of more than 1000 domestic league and cup matches.

His promotion record is impressive and this season he is bidding for a record eighth promotion as a manager.

Included in that track record are successful campaigns to take Sheffield United (2006) and Queens Park Rangers (2011) into the Premier League.

Neil Warnock
Cardiff boss Neil Warnock has taken Sheffield United and Queens Park Rangers to the Premier League

Cardiff are not among the division's big spenders this summer, but Warnock has his sights set on a successful campaign.

"I think it will be a lot better than last year, but we don't know," admitted the 68-year-old.

"We are one of those who could be mid-table, who could just miss out, we could be in the top six, we could be in the top two.

"I think Derby and Middlesbrough will be the two. If we can be in and around those two teams we won't be far away."

Summer dealings

Ins:

  • Neil Etheridge (goalkeeper) from Walsall.
  • Lee Camp (goalkeeper) from Rotherham United.
  • Danny Ward (striker) from Rotherham United.
  • Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (winger) from Rochdale.
  • Loic Damour (midfielder) from Bourg-Peronnas, France.
  • Callum Paterson (defender) from Hearts.
  • Lee Tomlin (midfielder/striker) from Bristol City.

Outs:

  • Rickie Lambert (released).
  • Peter Whittingham (to Blackburn Rovers).

Dibble dabble

Former Cardiff player and now goalkeeper coach Andy Dibble says Warnock is setting his sights on another promotion.

"I know he definitely wants it this year. We would be all privileged and proud to give him another promotion," Dibble said.

"I saw at first hand what he did for Rotherham... he totally transformed the football team that looked as if it was going to get relegated. He got the best out of them.

Lee Tomlin
Cardiff will be looking to new signing Lee Tomlin to provide creativity this season

"He [Warnock] is one of football's characters. He's loved and respected. I know there are a few people who are passionately against him.

"But I would rather be on his side than against him."

The pundit's view

Former Wales and Cardiff defender Danny Gabbidon says: "I think they can challenge. Neil Warnock showed in the second half of last season he's able to get the team performing at a better level.

"They have beefed up the squad with new signings and have a manager who knows the division, knows how to get out of it and knows how to get the best out of the players.

"A lot will depend on [striker] Kenneth Zohore and if he can continue his form on the back of last season. Lee Tomlin is an astute signing who adds that little bit of individualism and a bit more creativity they were probably lacking last season.

"If they can get around the play-offs in the second half of the season you would have to fancy them. A good start will be needed, they need to stay injury free as well, but I am quietly optimistic."

Rob Phillips' view

Neil Warnock has not spent a fortune of owner Vincent Tan's money, but is clearly satisfied with his lot.

Last season Zohore was transformed from a player who looked to be on his way out of the club to a striker feared in the Championship. His continued development will be a key factor.

Vincent Tan
Owner Vincent Tan could be asked for funds in the January transfer window if Cardiff are well placed

Ideally, Warnock will want his men challenging around the turn of the year and perhaps seek more funds from Tan for a final push.

Cardiff could be vying for play-offs.

The bookies' view

Middlesbrough and Aston Villa are favourites for the Championship title with both around 6-1, and the two clubs are around 2-1 for promotion.

Fulham, Wolves, Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday are in the next cluster of odds somewhere between 8-1 and 10-1 for the title.

Cardiff are rated in the middle at around 25-1 for the title and 8-1 for promotion.

Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion - who Cardiff face in Saturday's opening game - are seen as the also-rans and relegation candidates.

Bluebirds' first five Championship games

Sat, 5 Aug - Burton Albion (a) 15.00 BST

Sat, 12 Aug - Aston Villa (h) 15.00 BST

Tues, 15 Aug - Sheff Utd (h) 19.45 BST

Sat, 19 Aug - Wolves (a) 15.00 BST

Sat, 26 Aug - QPR (h) 15.00 BST

Full Cardiff fixture list 2017-18 (fixtures subject to change)

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