Next Cardiff City Manager: Neil Harris and Michael Flynn in the mix to replace Neil Warnock

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 11 November 2019, 19:10

Neil Warnock has left Cardiff City, the club he led to promotion from the Championship in 2017-18.

Who is the right man to replace Cardiff’s contentious coach?

We give you five contenders from the next Cardiff City manager market...

Neil Harris

Why he should get the job

If Neil Warnock was the Championship’s Manager of the Year in 2017-18, then another Neil ran him close.

Neil Harris’ Millwall side, tipped by many for relegation, defied their doubters by putting together an incredible run towards the Play-Off places against the odds, only to just fall short.

That was the third successful season in a row at the Den for the former striker, who oversaw an underwhelming 2018-19 campaign – although even then the Lions stayed up and reached the FA Cup Quarter-Finals.

Harris likes his teams to play with a high line, to be strong in the challenge and play direct to a target man, which is very much aligned with Cardiff’s blueprint.

Why he might not

A big part of Harris’ success at Millwall, especially early on, was his ability to reconnect supporters as a club legend – he brought a sense of identity back to the club, he spoke their language.

Of course, it would be foolish to suggest there were not other factors, but it will be interesting to see how he fares away from the club he has represented for a combined 16 years dating back to 1998.

Verdict

The 4/11 favourite with BetVictor could be the board’s main choice.

Chris Hughton

Why he should get the job

His track record at this level.

Chris Hughton led Newcastle to top spot in 2011-12, kept Brighton up after taking over midway through the 2014-15 campaign before leading them into the Play-Offs the following season then promotion a year later.

He built a formidable spine: the no-nonsense defending of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, the tenacity of Dale Stephens and Beram Kayal then the clinical finishing of Glenn Murray.

There is not a huge gap in quality between the Brighton squad Hughton led to promotion and the one Cardiff currently have. 

Why he might not

The indications are that when Championship jobs have become available to Hughton, he has turned them down in favour of holding out for another Premier League job.

It remains to be seen whether his wish will be granted, but certainly it may dissuade him from accepting a second-tier offer.

Verdict

Hughton has moved in the market from being favourite when the job became available to 20/1 fourth favourite very soon afterwards, which would indicate there may not be a great deal of interest from the board’s side in pursuing an option that may not be worth their time.

Tony Pulis

Why he should get the job

The wily Welshman consistently meets expectations – he has the canny ability to recognize the opponent’s key strengths and devise a system to negate them.

If the other team have wide forwards who come inside, for example, he is not afraid to start with five central midfielders to condense space in central areas and from that, his side can find ways of churning out two or three clear cut chances – without needing much technically quality.

He would get Cardiff organised, especially away from home, where they have picked up just four points from a possible 24 under Warnock, conceding 16 goals already.

Tony Pulis has worked with Aden Flint before and would likely be more than happy working with an aerial powerhouse such as Sol Bamba at centre-back.

Why he might not

Last season, Norwich, Sheffield United and Aston Villa won promotion from this level with a possession-based style of football.

Pulis does not tend to put too much thought into what his teams do with the ball, which hugely frustrates fans of teams he has managed.

He was not necessarily caught out for that too much in the Premier League, because uneventful draws combined with a few scrappy wins generally leads to staying up.

In the Championship, a more adventurous outlook is required and sometimes Pulis can be found wanting.

Verdict

Does not appear to be in the running, but would not be the worst alternative to the primary candidates: Cardiff fans seem to be more tolerant than others over style of play if results are forthcoming and the team’s commitment is visible.

Michael Flynn

Why he should get the job

A young, up-and-coming manager who has done an excellent job at Newport County, where he has displayed a wide range of qualities.

Firstly, Michael Flynn galvanized the club and kept them up, despite an 11-point gap to safety when he took over in early March, which shows exceptional leadership qualities as well as the ability to connect people on an emotional level.

Secondly, he has been part of a very shrewd recruitment structure.

Newport are one of League Two’s lower-budgeted outfits who have spent the last two years focusing on infrastructure, yet Flynn has been able to pull out gems; for example, he lost his key left-back, Dan Butler, in the summer, but Ryan Haynes has proved a fantastic replacement this term.

Thirdly, he has evolved the style of play.

Newport have sometimes gained a reputation for playing direct, which they often did last season to target man Jamille Matt, but they are more than capable of the deck with technicians like Josh Sheehan and have in fact played the seventh-fewest long balls per game in League Two this term.

Could be the ideal man to tweak the template Warnock has put in place, rather than change it completely.

Why he might not

Given Flynn’s connection with Newport, he might feel he wants to win promotion with them before moving to pastures new.

Will the board take a chance on a manager with no experience above League Two?

Verdict

If the board are brave enough to attempt this appointment and Flynn is that way inclined, it could be an excellent move.

Nathan Jones

Why he should get the job

A fiery Welshman with the passion and charisma to win the hearts of natives, but also with the innovative ideas to maximize the squad’s potential.

Nathan Jones likes an attacking, possession-based diamond system which, as he showed at Luton, can be devastating.

Why he might not

Cardiff may not have the personnel to carry out Jones’ template.

The contrast in Jones’ success at Luton and lack thereof at Stoke highlighted that the pace, stamina and quality of the full-backs, who provide the width to compensate for a narrow midfield, is a pivotal factor.

With respect to Lee Peltier and Joe Bennett, who are reliable, experienced professionals, they do not have the qualities to act effectively like wingers.

Additionally, arguably Cardiff’s most dangerous players are their wide men – Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Gavin Whyte and Junior Hoilett – none of whom would naturally fit into a diamond system.

Verdict

Long-term, Jones could prove an inspired appointment for any Championship club because he has all the attributes to become a great manager.

Cardiff choosing him, though, would effectively mean writing off promotion this season, because they simply do not have the squad suited to executing his methods – and it remains to be seen whether the board will want to make that type of commitment to a manager who left Stoke in the relegation zone.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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