In part two of our exclusive interview with Glyn Chamberlain, we talk about Lee Tomlin, Gary Madine and his remit for a surprise promotion to the Premier League, including a failed move for Tammy Abraham.
The signing in that window that everyone was excited about was Lee Tomlin. It was strange though because his long-standing fitness issues appeared to come as a surprise when he turned up
Everyone that has watched Lee Tomlin over the past five or so years would say the exact same thing; a wonderful player, but he lacks fitness. He’s now put that right and the penny has dropped. He’s now probably in the best shape he’s ever been in his life. Credit to him, but when I was there, he wasn’t in that shape. On his day, he’s a match winner. Sometimes a manager will buy someone and it doesn’t work out, but it is a sign of their strength if they recognise that and move them on sharpish.
The following January, Cardiff identified Gary Madine as their number one transfer target. They then seemed to pay over the odds for him because he was in the form of his career. Most of the signings to that point were shrewd, but this seemed to be an indulgent, high-risk transfer. What was the thinking behind that move at the time?
I don’t think it was a high-risk signing. Gary had scored a goal every other game for Bolton and all types of goals. Far post headers, free kicks, half-volleys, six yard box finishes, outside the box, so while he was in the form of his life, I personally thought he was a signing worth making. He just seemed to lack confidence when he got to Cardiff.
If he had scored that penalty against Wolves, I think you would have seen a different Gary. He’s a northern boy, as you can see by his clubs. He’s back at Blackpool now and playing, he’s been at Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Carlisle. At any one time, you have seven, eight, nine players that you’re targeting, in each position, you’re looking at 100 players at the time. You don’t always get what you want, you get what you can get. That’s how it is.
Cardiff’s promotion was against all odds, so did it catch the club off guard in terms of planning for that season?
I don’t think so. Most of the staff had been in that position before. I remember Sean Dyche saying to me ‘we do what we do and we get what we can get. We have to hold on to the jet ski for as long as possible.’ Generally, the three that go up will be in and around the bottom four because the gulf is absolutely enormous.
When you win promotion to the Premier League, if you think the Gary Madine money was big, for a striker that will score 10-15 goals from La Liga or the Bundesliga, you’re talking £15-£20m. We were never in that bracket, so you have to scale down to see who can fit within your budget.
I remember Neil saying that Jefferson Lerma was his number one midfield target and that he thought he would cost £5-6m. He ended up going to Bournemouth for £27m. I think the point he was making was that the market was out of control, but it instead made Cardiff look a bit naïve
It is a crazy market and it’s getting crazier. Sheffield United just paid £20m for Sander Berge, who is an exceptionally good player, but they’ve just gone up. I think what Neil was trying to say is that we had a valuation for the player, then suddenly other clubs come in and it shoots up. You can look at a player in League One or Two that has 10 games under their belt and their price is already £1.5m.
There’s a boy (Jarrad Branthwaite) that recently went from Carlisle to Everton. There have been many a game where I have sent scouts to watch him, for Cardiff and Blackburn, and he’s not been in the team. He just moved for £1m. The reason Everton are doing that is because if he develops and plays, he’ll be worth more. If he doesn’t, they’ll probably get half their money back from a Championship or League One club. So they’re not really losing any money and it stops other Premier League clubs from signing him.
So did Cardiff think they had a realistic chance of signing Lerma?
We liked him as a player. We saw him play for Colombia, we saw him play for Levante in Spain. While you’re there, you see lots of other good players. I’ve just spent four days in Germany and you see some terrific players, but probably not in our market. Even in the Premier League, they still might not be in your market because of the wages and fees involved.
For the Premier League season, what was your remit? On the whole, they were again quite sensible Warnock players
We were trying to get people that could come in, enhance the squad within our budget and make us better. People like Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa were better than Championship players, but probably wouldn’t get in many other Premier League teams, yet would do a good job for us. Which they both did.
I’m particularly interested in the Bobby Reid signing, which in some respects was similar to the Tomlin signing; both from Bristol and both similar creative types without an obvious role in a Warnock side
He didn’t really fit in because we had Camarasa playing in that role and you can’t play with both. You can only play with two players like that if you’re going to dominate the ball and we couldn’t because we weren’t good enough to do that.
Reid and Josh Murphy were the two big signings, and Reid came in before Camarasa. Did he only come on your radar because you played Real Betis in pre-season?
He was on the radar and to be fair, he didn’t play against us in that game. He played at Bournemouth on the Friday night. We had scouts at the game, watched him again and made the decision to take him. You’ve got to have a 25-man squad and you want different players that can play different positions. Neil thought he fitted in with what we did and to be fair, he had a good season.
Cardiff never signed a striker in the window. Was that a show of faith in Kenneth Zohore, or was that because a move for Tammy Abraham never quite materialised?
A bit of both. He had striker targets, but because of the nature of the role, they are the most expensive. We looked at one or two loans, including Abraham, and there was faith in Kenneth aswell, but it’s very difficult to sign strikers. I know people will say that everyone else does, but you’ve got to work within budgets and try to sign the right type.
The club went big on Murphy and Reid, but why wasn’t the priority to go big on a striker instead?
Both of them had good goalscoring records in the previous Championship season, so they were expected to chip in with goals. We registered an interest in Abraham quite early, but you’re in competition with maybe 20 other clubs. He just didn’t turn up at Cardiff. You can pursue, have good relationships between clubs and chairmen, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
With regards to the most recent summer window, Cardiff managed to make a profit on sales, but still spent a lot of money. The standout transfer was Robert Glatzel. With the reluctance to buy a striker the year before, how did he come on the club’s radar, bearing in mind what you said earlier about the club not really having a European scouting network? Did he pop up when you expanded the operation in the Premier League?
He was on a lot of people’s radars, but I saw Robert in his earlier days at Kaiserslautern, before he got his move to Heidenheim. He had an excellent season with them. We had him watched five or six times and the general consensus was that he was strong, good in the air, could play with his back to goal, had good technique and was a goalscorer.
He got a hat-trick against Bayern Munich and another one against Middlesbrough. There were people at that game taking notice and things started moving quickly. You have to back your judgement if you’re going to buy these players. This was one that we could do.
It seems that the common denominator in all the strikers Cardiff go for is that they’re big target men, but you could argue that Cardiff don’t really play to a target man’s strengths. Zohore seems to be the prototype Cardiff striker because he’s big, quick and works the channels. On a good day!
Zohore was different to Madine and Glatzel. I get that. It’s availability, what you can get and price. Cardiff would have loved to have signed Tammy Abraham, for example, but there are certain deals where you think you’re half way through and then they don’t get done.