Junior Hoilett has been one of Cardiff City’s star performers again this season and Neil Warnock has revealed the story of how he came across the winger.
The Canadian seems to thrive under his current boss and he only has positive things to say about the man who brought him to South Wales on a free transfer.
And that’s because the story of how Hoilett and Warnock first linked up begins with the winger being somewhat rescued.
Warnock took over at Queens Park Rangers for a second time in 2015, taking over as temporary boss following the sacking of Chris Ramsey.
And upon arrival at Loftus Road, his first decision was to bring Junior Hoilett back in from the cold. The veteran boss recalled: “He was training for Under 18s when I walked into QPR, for punishment. I told him he would play on the Saturday and he was man of the match.
“He was training with the 18s, I can’t remember why, he was just being disciplined. I said to them when I went, ‘if I come in to help, can I pick anyone at the club?’ They said ‘yeah’, so when I spoke to him, I told him he’d be playing on the Saturday and that was it.”
Three years on and having reunited in the Welsh capital, Hoilett is once again one of Warnock’s main starters, and he has certainly impressed.
He grabbed his ninth goal of the season on Saturday in the Bluebirds’ 4-1 win over Leeds United and he remains the top scorer for the season.
Hoilett’s pace and trickery has caused all manner of problems for Championship defences this season and it’s that urge to beat people that Warnock likes.
“It’s very difficult for a forward to get 8/10 every week because these big lumps of defenders only have to stop people playing, whereas your forwards have to create and it’s far more difficult. That’s why wingers get stick but I always stick up for them. I was a winger so I’m in the wingers union.
“He’s a first name on the team-sheet. They’re good Championship players, underrated I think, Junior. He’s matured and developed into a far better player than been. It’s his best season.
“I just like him. I like watching him and I’d pay money to watch him. He’s like a maturing bottle of wine, it’s a bit tatty at first, then it gets smoother and then you get to the a la creme and you think ‘wow’.”
Though, it’s not just Hoilett’s attacking abilities that have the manager in awe, he’s also impressed by protecting full-backs playing behind him.
And indeed his fitness. Hoilett played in the Gold Cup for Canada during the summer and he should be wavering. However, he’s still going strong and it’s scored him even more brownie points with the boss.
“I do try and help him at times but it doesn’t seem to affect him. I think he had a blip when we lost the four games but everyone did.
“I don’t think you notice from the press box what he does. I had to change the wide players because I had to give Bruno some help at Leeds and Yanic (Wildschut) didn’t know what we wanted of him.
“I switched them and I let Junior go and do that, and that negated all the threat down that side from Leeds, so there are so many strings to his bow. I ask the forwards to be responsible when they can and I think it’s great when they help out like that.”
Like with any good relationship, the trust works both ways and Hoilett has also paid homage to Warnock.
The Bluebirds have recently negotiated their way out of a very poor run of form, and for Hoilett, Warnock can take a lot of credit for that. He said: “He loves this game and as you can see, he’s a winner.
“He likes to compete and that energy feeds off to the players, it’s great to have a manager like that.
“He told us to keep believing and to stay confident. We didn’t think we would be in this position so we are grateful to be where we are and hopefully we can keep going.”