Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is hoping to teach Wolverhampton Wanderers a lesson on Saturday as the latest graduate from the Neil Warnock school of second chances.
The A-level results are out, but at Cardiff City it’s the grades being gained by the club’s former footballing waifs, strays and wasters that is really catching the eye.
Manager Warnock is the patron saint of the game’s lost souls – mixing old school psychology with modern sports science to coax and cajole players other clubs had given up on.
Mendez-Laing is the latest, following in the footsteps of Junior Hoilett and Kenneth Zohore and forming a front three who have made a devastating start to the Championship season.
Rejected by Wolves as a youngster after playing just one senior game, 25-year-old Mendez-Laing is thriving after arriving from Rochdale on a summer free transfer and puts much of the transformation down to the influence of 68-year-old Warnock.
“He’s very inspiring,” says the winger of his new manager.
“He talks to me during the week and we had a conversation when I first arrived.
“I want to do well for him and myself. I’m not the first player he’s taken in my kind of situation.
“But to see the titles he’s won and the times he’s taken clubs up, it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing.
“He has been perfect for me. He is my ideal type of manager. He talks to me a lot and tells me where I’m going wrong. I’m always there to listen, take the advice on board and hopefully keep improving.
“I have heard it said a few times in my career that I’m a player with a point to prove.
“I didn’t go the way I should have done at a younger age, but hopefully this is the turning point.”
“I need to listen and take things on board. I don’t really know what it is, but we just click.”
Mendez-Laing scored twice in the 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa and then followed that up with a stunning goal in the 2-0 win over Sheffield United.
He already looks a key player for the Bluebirds and as they go in search of their fourth successive victory of the campaign at second-placed Wolves, he admits he has surpassed his own early expectations.
“I wouldn’t say I expected to be so involved early on, coming from Rochdale, but I know what I’m capable of doing on the pitch. If I’m given the chance I will always try and do my best.
“When I went to Rochdale, the manager there got me working hard and I became more focused. Now, I’ve got another manager who’s similar.
“There were times before when things were slipping away for me, but I’ve worked hard, got back on my feet, and haven’t looked back.”
Now, he is going back to Molineux, where his career began as an academy player before loans and cheap moves took him to Peterborough, Sheffield United, back to Peterborough, Portsmouth, Shrewsbury, Cambridge United, Rochdale and now Cardiff.
His immediate rapport with Zohore and Hoilett was highlighted by Villa manager Steve Bruce and Mendez-Laing believes it can continue to develop and flourish to keep Cardiff among the promotion-chasers.
“We had a good pre-season and they understand what I’m about and I understand what they’re about.
“The more we play together, that understanding will grow and we’ll do better.
“It’s a very good three. Big Ken is so strong and fast and he can finish as well.
“Junior is similar to me on the opposite side. We can go inside and outside. It’s very versatile and hopefully we can get a lot of goals between the three of us.
“It’s was a great confidence boost to do that to Villa and overall the three games means we are carrying momentum. We just have to go again.
“I had heard about the atmosphere at home games at Cardiff and it’s pumping.”