Neil Warnock is attempting to guide Cardiff City to the Premier League this season, but it won’t be easy with expectations rising around the capital.
It has been a fantastic start to the season for Cardiff City following a number of years struggling to achieve anything more than a top-half finish in the Championship.
However, with improved form comes bigger expectation and it has already become apparent that the Bluebirds’ faithful are expectant this season.
It was made to feel like a big season from the outset with the words of manager Neil Warnock, who, is his own worst enemy in many ways.
You can often feel him desperately trying to keep everyone’s feet on the floor around CF11, but his inspiring and experienced words of wisdom are enough to excite any Championship football fan, making it tough for supporters to remain sceptical.
And as it became apparent that performances would match ambitions this season, the bar was instantly set at an unusually high level, especially considering the struggles that Cardiff have endured since relegation from the Premier League more than three years ago.
Now 16 games in, and those expectations remain, with Cardiff placed even higher than many expected, in third, four points from the top and perhaps more importantly, six points clear of seventh-placed Derby County.
Warnock’s men have shown consistency and a real determination in the early stages and they still remain unbeaten at home in the league.
The slip-ups have been there and none were felt more by the Bluebirds’ faithful than last weekend’s defeat to Severnside rivals Bristol City, but there’s still an underlying belief that it’s just a bump in the road and not the start of the end.
Given the honeymoon period – and the unusual length of it – Cardiff and indeed Neil Warnock enjoyed since teaming up in October, it was always going to be interesting to see how the fans reacted when things started to go wrong.
We haven’t had a true sense of that yet, because very little has gone wrong, but there has been criticism, something we didn’t really see last season.
Almost every player in the team has had his off day and picked up the criticism for it, and Neil Warnock has already upset fans on some occasions with his decisions during fixtures.
That’s part and parcel of the game, but we didn’t see that at Cardiff City last season, with Warnock doing so much good for the club on and off the field.
Now that we have seen it, with standards expected to be a lot higher than last season, it’s interesting to see just how strong that belief remains around the club.
We’ve now seen that criticism for players and manager when things don’t go right, but more importantly, we’ve seen how quickly the belief in those same players and manager has returned.
There have been some grim times at the Cardiff City Stadium in recent years and we can say for sure that grudges have been held, but anger has disappeared and the attitudes have changed.
Yes, it’s easier when things are going right. Of course it is. But the club’s belief in itself this season is what could set Cardiff City apart from its hard-hitting rivals.
Neil Warnock keeps reiterating that there are going to be defeats and there are going to be times when he is blamed, but isn’t it interesting how the fans not only expect, but they believe the bounce-back will come instantly.
And that has been backed up with results – Cardiff are yet to lose back-to-back fixtures this season.
Cardiff are a long, long way from promotion and to achieve something like that, takes a lot of things to go right for 46 games, not just 16.
However, when the Bluebirds were promoted in 2013 – during that season – it was the first time in a very long time that fans travelled to games at the Cardiff City Stadium almost knowing they would see a win, and through good form and bad, that didn’t go away all season.
That sort of belief in the team hasn’t been there since Cardiff won the title, but you can see it returning this season.
There are still sceptical fans and you’re always going to get that, but the vast majority have an unwavering belief in everything to do with the club at the moment. From the way things are run off the field, to the players on it and also to the manager, there’s a belief that things are going right.
In football, you can’t buy that. You can buy a good manager and you can buy good players, but it takes a lot of judgement and a bit of luck for everything to mix correctly at a football club.
Have Cardiff got that perfect mix? Who knows, we will find out in May.
However, it certainly feels like the closest thing they’ve had to that for a very long time and Neil Warnock will be hoping that – not big budgets or a illustrious managers – is what will count come May 6th.