On January 21, Cardiff City lost 1-0 at home to QPR. That was their fifth straight loss in the Championship, which led to Neill Harris’s sacking. Mick McCarthy is their new boss, and he’s turned the situation around.
Cardiff’s form makes them look destined for promotion back to the Premier League. There has been massive improvement since McCarthy took over. A bet on Cardiff City winning promotion this season has odds of 10/1. They were certainly a lot higher before the arrival of McCarthy.
Last season saw Cardiff lose in the play-off semi-finals to Fulham. That ended their dream of returning to the Premier League after being relegated last season. The 2020/21 season didn’t get off to a great start, with just 14 points earned in their first 13 league games. Promotion wasn’t looking on the cards unless there was a massive improvement.
November saw the Welsh side climbing the table thanks to four straight wins. They lost the next game at home to rivals Swansea City. Another home defeat looked likely as they went 2-1 down at home to Birmingham City but recovered to win 3-2. But then came a nightmare run of form in December and January.
Cardiff lost successive league games against promotion chasing Norwich City and Brentford. Worse was to come when losing 2-1 at bottom-of-the-table Wycombe Wanderers. Two more home league games were lost against Norwich and QPR. The latter proved the end of Neil Harris as Cardiff tried desperately to get into the play-off positions.
The loss to QPR saw City slump to 15th in the Championship. Never mind the fact they were 13 points behind the final play-off position; they were only nine points above the bottom three. Promotion back to the Premier League was not looking likely – if anything, people were glancing nervously at the relegation odds.
It didn’t take long to find a new manager as Mick McCarthy was appointed the following day. The former Ireland and Wolves boss was instantly impressed with what he found at Cardiff. “When I first got the job, I had a look at the squad, and arguably it’s probably the best squad I’ve ever inherited,” said McCarthy.
The next game was away at Barnsley, and City found themselves 2-0 down after 52 minutes. A sixth straight league defeat looked possible, but two goals in eight minutes salvaged a 2-2 draw. Would that have happened if Harris had still been in charge?
Their next game was a special one for McCarthy as they hosted his former club Millwall. Just nine minutes into his first home game, an own goal put the visitors ahead. Again, Cardiff equalized, but it was wins they needed.
They soon arrived, though, and the next six league games were all won with 15 goals scored. It could have been seven, but Middlesbrough got a late equalizer to get a home draw against the Bluebirds. A 4-0 home win over Wayne Rooney’s Derby County got them back on track before a disappointing goalless draw at Huddersfield Town.
Now comes a vital period for Cardiff City, who are currently eighth in the Championship, four points behind Barnsley in sixth. The gap would have been wider if Barnsley hadn’t been held to a home draw by Derby County on Wednesday.
Cardiff then host Stoke City before a vital away game at Swansea City. If they want promotion, then they need to get a fair few points from these three games. McCarthy has instilled confidence in them, so anything is possible. Kieffer Moore is in top form with seven goals in his last ten games.
A form guide for the last ten league games has Cardiff top of the table. They will need to maintain that form if they want to qualify for the play-offs. Looking at the rest of the fixture list, a good run is possible.
Of six remaining home league games, Watford and Stoke City are the only two top ten clubs they have to face. A vital period for them will be in mid-April. On the 17th, they go to Brentford (currently fourth) and three days later go to Reading (currently fifth). They do have to go to Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham, both battling relegation.
In fact, their last three league games are against sides currently in the bottom four. If they can successfully negotiate the four tough games against sides in the play-off positions, then a play-off position and then promotion back to the Premier League can happen.