Callum Paterson gives Neil Warnock food for thought

Sometimes Cardiff City sign a player and you just know from the outset that this guy is something special. That happened the day we signed Gary Madine, but it also happened when we signed Callum Thomas Owen Paterson.

Stolen from Scottish Hearts and lured to South Wales with the promise of Premier League football, some Bluebirds could have been forgiven for reaching for their nearest search engine to enlighten themselves regarding their latest Scottish import.

Having signed on the dotted line, it became apparent that Neil Warnock had initially attempted to sign Paterson some 6 months ago before, only to see his attempts scuppered by a serious injury suffered by Patterson the previous December. Having been signed as an “attacking full back,” Warnock quickly decided this perhaps wasn’t his strongest position and moved him to an attacking midfield role, encouraging him to arrive late into the box.

10 league goals later and Paterson finished the season as Cardiff’s top league goal scorer (second only to Junior Hoilett’s 11 in total) and was voted Young Player of the Season by Cardiff City fans. An award which saw Warnock label him as the “oldest looking young player” to ever win such an award. Paterson’s relationship with the Bluebirds was sealed for eternity with pictures of him celebrating Cardiff City’s unlikely promotion with two bottles of 20/20.

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Fast forward five months and Cardiff are without a win in the Premier league, having taken just two points from a possible 24 and find themselves propping up the table. Kenneth Zohore had found playing time limited (not helped by a catalogue of missed chances and a concerning lack of work ethic) and Danny Ward, whilst scoring against Arsenal, had not yet convinced Warnock he was the man to lead the line. Step forward the ultimate utility man.

Paterson had found himself labelled a jack of all trades by some. This inevitably led to the “master of none” kind of thinking that had seen him play a bit-part role in the preceding eight matches. Having caused Spurs issues at Wembley, especially with his aerial ability (he can jump to the moon), Warnock saw fit to start him up front in the proverbial six pointer against Fulham and to be fair to him, he hasn’t looked back.

Three goals in four games against Fulham, Liverpool (the first away player to score a league goal at Anfield since February) and Brighton has seen Patterson take the lead in the Bluebirds scoring charts and can anyone give a good reason as to why this can’t continue? Warnock has made no secret of the fact that he has been disappointed with his strikers so far this season and probably sees Paterson as a make-shift option, but could this makeshift option turn out to be Cardiff’s wildcard?

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Paterson does not lose many battles, whether they be on the ground or in the air. Just ask the centre-backs he has faced this season. Even the vertically superior Shane Duffy of Brighton and Hove Albion colours couldn’t cope with Paterson’s aerial ability. Whilst his goal was a simple header the old saying runs true; he had to be there to score.

The downside to this is that the Bluebirds can revert to long-ball tactics at times, pinning their hopes on the second ball falling to Josh Murphy or Bobby Reid. This can be frustrating to watch and plays into the “hoofball” stereotype that Cardiff are struggling to shrug off.

In addition to the above, two of Paterson’s three goals have come from open play and on the ground. So whilst he does dominate many a defender in the air, his positional awareness in the box is also outstanding. Remember, he was signed as a defender and for him to have scored some 13 goals, the majority of which have been shots, shows he has retained his attacking prowess last seen at youth level.

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Paterson has a wonderful knack of arriving into the box at the right time. If Murphy, Junior Hoilett, Kadeem Harris and the full-backs can begin to improve their final balls into the area, you can be sure Patterson will do his very best to make sure he is in the right place at the right time.

Whilst it’s pretty obvious that Warnock wants his marquee striker in January, I for one hope to see Paterson given the remaining games between now and then to stake a claim for the number one striker berth. After all, you can’t fault his record in the last five games.

Maybe come January, the £20m potentially earmarked for a striker might be spent shoring up what is undoubtedly a leaky defence instead. One thing is certain, Madine will sadly NOT be the main man I was hoping he would be.