One of Lee Peltier’s biggest frustrations is that he never had the chance to say thank you to the Cardiff City fans.
His Bluebirds departure back in January came so suddenly that within the blink of an eye his contract was terminated and he was on the M5 en route to the Midlands to sign with West Brom.
Of course footballers come and go in this game, but it is cruel that the circumstances often mean players never get to say goodbye.
Well, Peltier wants to put that straight.
“As soon as I joined the club the fans took to me,” he tells Gist Vile.
“I know when I first arrived the club was in a bit of disarray and one of the fans’ favourites, (John) Brayford, had left and I came in for him and I knew straight away, after what he had done there, there would be a bit of pressure on me to hit the ground running.
“But from day one the fans were brilliant with me.”
Expiring Cardiff City contracts have been a theme throughout this season.
Back in January, mainstays Peltier and Lee Tomlin were the constant talking points at Neil Harris’ press conferences, but while the latter penned a two-year extension before the South Wales derby, there was radio silence for the right back.
It was all the more curious for Peltier because just months before, he says, he was told this would not be the case.
“Before Harris came in, with Neil Warnock, we had agreed that I was going to stay on,” Peltier says.
“When Harris came in, he asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I was happy and I wanted to stay.
“Time went by and I never heard anything, but I was playing every game and I was playing well. I had a good first half of the season.
“I am a critical person, within myself, and I know how I’m doing and I thought I was doing well. I played 25 games up until I left and I felt good. I still feel good. I keep myself in good condition and I train hard.
“Because he was a new manager he wanted to see how the group was and what he needed, which is fair enough, and then something came up for me which I felt I couldn’t turn down.
“My contract hadn’t really been sorted properly because of the circumstances the club were in, they didn’t know which way they were going. So I couldn’t just wait around until the end of the season and I couldn’t wait to see if a contract was going to be there or not.”
Peltier, understandably, felt he couldn’t sit around and wait for a contract which might never be tabled – we have seen the likes of Matthew Connolly, Omar Bogle and Jazz Richards all leave in this window, while there is still uncertainty surrounding Danny Ward’s future.
So, when promotion-chasing West Brom came knocking, it was of course difficult for Peltier to refuse.
Around the time of his exit, Peltier was responding to City fans on social media, telling them that if a new deal was forthcoming, he would have put pen to paper. No such contract was offered.
There was even talk, on some forums and message boards, of a training-ground dust-up between Peltier and Harris, but the defender laughs off those claims.
“We didn’t come to blows,” he explains. “We had a discussion, not even on the training ground, it was in his office, about moving forward and that was it.
“He was totally honest with me and I was totally honest with him. I’ve got nothing but respect for him, he’s done a fantastic job, and I hope he feels the same way about me.
“When he was my manager I gave him everything I had. There was no bitterness.
“Even when I signed for West Brom, I came back to Cardiff the next day and he took me in the office and said, ‘Thanks for everything, I’m made up for your move, it’s a great opportunity for you.'”
Peltier is, in fact, effusive in his praise of Harris. He says as soon as the manager walked through the door you could sense his hunger and desire to be a success.
He is happy Harris took the Bluebirds to the brink of the play-off final, even if he is doubtless tinged with a little regret that he couldn’t have played a part in the second half of the season. City certainly could have used him in those final few matches.
And while few would disagree that his performances under Harris were excellent, it was under former boss Warnock when he earned his status as a City fan favourite.
So, what was his favourite memory while wearing the blue of Cardiff City? It happened with just a minute to go in that promotion-sealing clash against Reading.
“A minute to go in the game and I turned to Mozza (Sean Morrison) and he’s looked at me and I said to him, ‘F*****g hell, we’ve done it!’,” he recalls.
“He’s looked at me and started laughing, ‘Yeah, we’ve done it!’
“Then Rallsy (Joe Ralls) turned around and said to me, ‘Concentrate on the game! We haven’t done it yet!’ That was actually one of the funniest times I can think of.
“Afterwards were great scenes, the lads deserved it and deserved to enjoy ourselves after that season. To this day we still rip Rallsy.”
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Morrison and Ralls are great pals of Peltier’s and he keeps in touch with them regularly, he had even spoken to both of them on the day we conducted this interview.
Their bond was forged and strengthened by those shared, euphoric memories of winning that promotion to the Premier League.
Let’s not forget, Peltier did that this season, too, with West Brom, but it won’t have been the same.
There were no fans to celebrate with and Peltier’s role was largely one on the training ground, having not featured in a single match for Slaven Bilic’s side.
At the time of his move, Peltier, 33, appeared to be the perfect fit for the Baggies, who looked certain to lose Nathan Ferguson to Crystal Palace.
Ferguson’s switch never materialised back in January, however it was eventually confirmed last month, which meant Peltier undertook a far lesser role than what he might have anticipated. While the experience has been enjoyable, he understandably admits it was not been all he had hoped for.
“To be fair to Slaven Bilic, a great manager, he called me and said, ‘Look, the team is going well, Nathan might be leaving and I just need a bit of cover and experience, you tick all the boxes. If you’re happy enough to come down, I’m not guaranteeing you games, I want you around the place’,” Peltier says.
“That was fine, it worked out for me. They offered me a contract – and it was closer to home.
“It didn’t materialise to what I wanted it to be. It’s been a pretty weird period for me.
“But at the same time I have enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed working under the manager and the lads there are great. The club in general is a quality club and it’s run great.
“It sounds strange, but in some respects it was good for me.”
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The right back is in a situation with which many footballers up and down the country are familiar, elongated contracts which are set to expire.
So what is his current situation?
“I’m still in contract,” he says. “We are still speaking at the minute, just going over my options with my agent, nothing is off the table.
“In the next week or two, we should know what we are doing going forward.”
As all Cardiff fans will know well, Neil Warnock is a manager who often turns to players he has worked with previously and who he trusts.
In Peltier’s own words: “Once he trusted you and knows what he’s getting from you every week, you can do no wrong. As long as you give 100 percent he knows that and he appreciates it.”
That’s a pretty good summation of Warnock as a manager.
Warnock worked wonders in this corner of the world, as all Bluebirds fans know, dragging the Welsh capital city club from the depths of the Championship into the Premier League in a little over 18 months.
The 71-year-old took a post up at Middlesbrough just after football restarted, tasked once again with consolidating the club’s Championship status, which, of course, he did.
Warnock has admitted he has a job similar to Cardiff on his hands and needs to strengthen in all areas of the pitch.
With Peltier’s future still undecided, has there been any contact with his former manager?
“I spoke to him when he got the job, just to wish him well and stuff like that, that’s it really,” he says.
“He had a big job on his hands to keep the team up and I was at West Brom, enjoying my time there, but a few texts here and there just to wish him well, that’s about it.”
One thing is for certain, Warnock could do far worse than calling on Peltier this summer, as thousands of City fans will surely agree.