You could be forgiven for not giving us much hope heading into the Cardiff game if the Carabao Cup performance at Walsall was anything to go by. I thought it would be a tough ask to head to Wales and take three points based on what I’d seen, and probably would have taken a draw pre-match, but the two performances were like night and day.
Watching on iFollow, like everyone else, the first half offered an insight into the communication between the lads. And from staff to players, due to the lack of commentary on the stream. We were well structured and organised throughout, and the instructions, encouragement and shouts designed to up the ante and get us working harder were crucial in this, and the performance.
I’m not going to start giving individuals ratings for their performance today, because it’s a victory achieved by the team, and everyone played their part. It’s the first game of what will be a tough season for us, so the quality at times wasn’t going to be there, and fitness the same. But, we overcame that with focus, endeavour, fighting for each other, and all that good stuff.
Garry Monk has spoken out creating a team the fans will be proud of, and about developing the right culture. It’s only one game, of course, but the promising signs are clear to see. The recruitment is much improved, we’re bringing the right characters, who were all eager to take on the challenge here.
In terms of the game, I was delighted to see Jordan Rhodes get on the scoresheet. And it came via a well-worked set-piece straight off the training ground. Rhodes is a great lad, and things haven’t worked out for him here, so far. But, if he keeps working hard, improving, and builds confidence, he’s going to play his part this season. I’m sure James Beattie will have a positive effect on him as well.
Some of our combination play and interchanges against Cardiff was pleasing to see. It’s been a while since we saw the lads playing with the swagger and confidence to complete neat exchanges, create overloads and unlock a defence with relative ease. Our confidence levels grew as the game went on. And, in turn, we saw what these players have in the locker. As well as elements of what we’ve been working on in pre-season.
My final point is again about the collective because this is what’s important. We saw everyone join in a post-game huddle, players and staff. It was fantastic to see, and a sign everyone is together, believing in each other, and embracing the challenges that are in front of us. It’s one game out of many, and there is a hell of a long way to go, but we’ve set the bar and given ourselves a platform. Let’s build on today, and let’s do it together.