When Lee Tomlin left Cardiff City for Nottingham Forest on a loan deal in January 2018, it was widely accepted that this was likely the end of Tomlin’s time with the Bluebirds.
Prior to that move, he had been unable to get many minutes on the pitch, was visibly out of shape, and supposedly had an attitude that rubbed Neil Warnock up the wrong way. His summer move to Cardiff City looked like a disaster, and it would be hard to argue anything different.
But, with talk now heating up of Nottingham Forest entering into talks to sign him permanently, I find myself wondering if Lee Tomlin is actually a player we would be better off keeping on our books as we enter our first year back in the Premier League?
Although he wasn’t starting many games for us, and was often just a late substitute, it’s fair to say that Tomlin’s departure in January happened at the same time Cardiff City started to play less attractive football, and instead became more direct. I’d argue against anyone who would label us long ball merchants until my dying breaths, but there’s no disputing that we DID become less attractive on the eye. Creativity became less a part of our game plan, and more a spur of the moment flash of excitement. It worked for us, though, and got us promoted.
The Premier League will be very different. We’ll need Plan B’s, Plan C’s, D’s, E’s, F’s and G’s. We are bereft of those kind of ideas right now, partly because we don’t have all the players to carry it out. The Premier League LOVES a player who can create magic out of nowhere, and one can only look at Lee Tomlin and think that he could do that for us next season.
He doesn’t need to play every week, nor does he even need to start. But, when we are chasing a game, or looking for a way to break down a tough defence, Tomlin would be a genuine option on our bench. And we got him for less than £3m, when we’ll now find ourselves paying upwards of £10m for someone of the same ability.
The only problem, for me, is his attitude. If he didn’t have the attitude that Warnock wants in his changing room, then there’s no way that Warnock would keep him around even for a minor role in our season. This is why I believe the move might be going ahead, and likely makes it impossible for Tomlin to have a future with us even if the Forest deal didn’t go through. Aitor Karanka appears to be able to get the best of out of Lee Tomlin, whilst Neil Warnock either can’t, or doesn’t have the patience to. It’s probably a bit of both.
Ultimately, the sale of Tomlin represents a loss of creativity from our team, just as we enter a league where creativity will be incredibly important to our survival chances. Warnock hopefully has some players lined up who the will strengthen that part of our squad, but I would have hoped we’d have got them in before we started offloading what we already had.
If Tomlin does seal his move to Forest soon, there’s no question that we’ll only be able to look at his time with us as an absolute disappointment. Which sucks, because we had such hope when he arrived!