Writing exclusively for the View from the Ninian, Super Kev McNaughton reveals his thoughts on Aron Gunnarsson and what makes the Icelandic captain tick:
Like every Cardiff fan, I’ve been glued to the World Cup and watching my former team-mate Aron Gunnarsson leading his Iceland team in the group stages. Though they were unlucky to go out after their first three games, I’m just in awe at what Aron did. Coming back from a long term injury is never easy but he worked his arse off over in Abu Dhabi to get back for that first game against Argentina.
— Cardiff City Online (@CardiffCityLive) June 27, 2018
I know it’s hard enough coming back from injury to play at Championship level. And, to be fair, the Argentina squad are probably a couple of levels above that. So for him to return from injury, without playing a game, and to play to the level he did – it’s just ridiculous.
He’s looking leaner and fitter than ever. He worked his socks off to get ready for the tournament and I know how proud he would have been to lead his country out on the biggest stage.
Me and a few of the boys went over to Iceland to see Aron get married a couple of years ago. And he’s like Superman over there. I don’t think people realise just how much he’s seen as a hero over there. I don’t know if he was showing off but he took us to a restaurant where his face was on the menu – and they even had a burger named after him. It was just a bacon and cheeseburger but not every footballer can say they have a burger named after him.
It’s fair to say that Iceland has overachieved a little bit to get where they are today. But that’s just what togetherness and belief through the team does. They have some quality players, too – people like Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Finbogasson – but their team spirit takes them just a little bit further.
It’s something that Wales and Scotland have too – and both sides should look to Iceland as an example of how successful they can be. Wales have got quality all over the pitch and Scotland have got a handful of quality players coming through – mainly down the left-hand side – and both should be in the running for the next Euros.
As for Aron and his contract? I would love to see him stay at Cardiff. He made no secret of the fact that he wanted to play at a higher level and I would love to see him do that with Cardiff. Him and his family are happy down in Cardiff and now I’m sure he’ll sit down with the gaffer and talk about what happens next.
It was also interesting seeing Andreas Cornelius getting a run out for Denmark in Russia. To be fair to the lad, he struggled at Cardiff but seems to be doing well in Italy now. Sometimes players just go to a new team, in a new league and it doesn’t work out – and that’s what happened with Andreas. He came in during a difficult time and the money that was paid meant the expectation was high. He was a young lad and he struggled to integrate with the team. There’s no doubts he had all the attributes to make it as a top player – it’s just he never really kicked a ball at Cardiff so good luck to him.
But back to Aron. There’s a few of us former Cardiff players and current players in a Whatsapp group and we’ve all been messaging each other around the World Cup. I texted Aron after the Croatia game and told him to keep his head up. He’ll be gutted but he’ll get over this.
He’s a dedicated sort so I’m sure he’ll take some time to reflect and then he’ll be back at it. He’s been at Cardiff for seven years now and he’s been part of the furniture from the moment he walked through the door. He integrated into the team right away and started playing darts with us. He was crap at first – couldn’t even hit the board – but like anything else he does, he stuck at it and within a couple of years we were saying he’d be first Icelandic to play in the PDC.
Same with our Mario Kart school on the buses to away games – always finished dead last when he first started playing but by the end of the season, he was wiping the floor with us. Last I heard, he’d taken up golf so keep an eye out for him on the European Tour in the future – maybe if he doesn’t stay at Cardiff…