Will Vaulks says Mick McCarthy has made Cardiff City a ‘horrible’ team again.
After briefly flirting with the prospect of a relegation dogfight, McCarthy has transformed City into genuine play-off contenders, with five straight wins at the heart of an impressive seven-game unbeaten run.
City produced arguably their finest performance yet under the new boss on Saturday, crushing Preston North End with a 4-0 win at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Confidence is clearly sky high in the capital right now, and Vaulks is just one of many members of this squad whose performances have gone up a notch under the new boss, with his energy in the middle of the park a key component in City’s recent success.
That said. He’s clearly not immune to an ear bashing every now and then.
“The gaffer had a joke and said it was no point getting the ball back because I kept giving it away, which was true,” he revealed after the win over the Lilywhites.
“But I’ve really enjoyed it and felt confident. So long as you give everything for him then he’ll back you and that makes a massive difference as a player.”
It’s not exactly a secret that man management forms the bedrock of the Yorkshireman’s methods, but few would have tipped McCarthy’s impact at the club to have been this significant.
Indeed, many fans might well have been busy frantically deleting a few social media posts over the last few days.
Let’s not forget, a sizeable portion of the City following wrote McCarthy off as a footballing dinosaur before he’d even passed through the door at the Cardiff City Stadium.
When he was unveiled, the man himself admitted he was, in the eyes of many, at the bottom of a “long list” of preferred options.
But just like fellow Yorkshireman Neil Warnock, proving the critics wrong has always been a favourite past-time for the 62-year-old.
And, while it’s not quite the same brand of street fighting direct football that underpinned Warnock’s successful stint in South Wales, Cardiff are at least making life deeply uncomfortable for opponents again.
Granted, it’s not always too pretty, but few can argue against the effectiveness of McCarthy’s methods – for the time being at least.
Certainly not Vaulks, a player that clearly relishes the art of the battle, and is quickly establishing himself as one of McCarthy’s most trusted generals.
“It suits me as a player, because I always felt, ‘why can’t we just embrace what Cardiff City is?’,” Vaulks added when discussing the manager’s methods.
“We are horrible to play against, we are physical, we run further than other teams, we win our battles, but we also have quality now.”
Indeed, Vaulks believes his appetite for taking care of business in the middle of the park has helped give City’s attacking talents a platform on which to thrive.
As he explains, there’s more to this team than simple brute force.
“I’ve only been here 18 months, but I know we have great quality. Look at the likes of Murphy, Sheyi, Kieffer, Harry. I could name lots more,” he added.
“The quality we now have on top of that solid foundation, why do we need to change what Cardiff have done before? Not every football team should play out from the back.
“It suits me to say that because I wouldn’t play that style, necessarily. But the gaffer is by no means just a long ball manager. It’s just whatever it takes to win a football game and that’s what people forget.
“Win the game of football first. If that means turning it behind there back four, being direct, or slowing the game down, then great. Win the game.
“I think he’s just got Cardiff back to what we’re good at. Why can’t we be the best in the league at what we do?”
It’s a philosophy that’s paid dividends so far, although admittedly McCarthy’s critics (if he still has any) will likely point out that there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong.
Then again, he will likely be telling his players exactly the same thing.
All eyes will turn to Wednesday night’s clash with sixth-place Bournemouth, a game that may well offer up an indicator on where Cardiff are in terms of the play-off reckoning.
“I don’t think this one result will play a part in the outcome at the end of the season, but it’s not wrong to say it would be great to beat them,” Vaulks said.
“It would enable us to catch another team and maybe go above them on goal difference. A win there would be fantastic. We’ve won five on the bounce but now we’re looking to make that six on the bounce.
“There’s no denying that Bournemouth and Middlesbrough are big games, but after that there are still 13 games to go.”