Lee Tomlin’s re-awakening at Cardiff City has come after the hardest summer of his life, according to manager Neil Warnock.
The controversial midfielder turned in a convincing claim for more game time on Wednesday night as he laid for the foundations for the Bluebirds’ 2-1 victory over Huddersfield.
Tomlin has made just six league starts for the club since he joined from Bristol City in a £2.9m move from Bristol City two years ago.
But despite Warnock’s own previous reservations over the player’s general fitness levels, the 30-year-old has exceeded his manager’s expectations of late.
“He worked hard in the summer,” said Warnock. “He’s never worked so hard in his life. So, full credit to him.
“I thought Lee did very well. He’s only played a couple of U21 games, so I had a chat with him beforehand.
“I asked him to give me 45 minutes, or even an hour, and he gave me 77 minutes. So, that was encouraging.
“We had nothing to lose because we were so poor at Reading and we have got so many injuries.”
Tomlin has spent loan periods at both Nottingham Forest and Peterborough over the past two seasons and it appeared he was highly unlikely to figure much in Warnock’s plans earlier this summer.
But a combination of injuries to others and the abject display of Warnock’s side in their defeat at Reading, persuaded the manager to re-assess.
Tomlin responded with an influential performance, showcasing moments of creative spark that Cardiff had so far been lacking this season.
But Warnock also proved he still has a shrewd eye for the timing of a substitution as the player Tomlin made way for – Junior Hoilett – went on the strike the winner.
Tomlin is not the only player to have altered the manager’s opinion. Striker Omar Bogle, another forgotten face from last season, has also changed his boss’s outlook and improved his own prospects.
Bogle came off the bench for Robert Gratzel to hit the crossbar with a free-kick just moments befor Hoilett’s winner.
“Robert was disappointed because he could have scored a hat-trick. But that will come and I’m pleased with him,” added Warnock.
“I wanted to be positive with the substitutions. There were some disagreements in the discussions and a view that we needed to be more solid.
“But I felt only Junior could do the role I wanted him to do.
“When young Gavin (Whyte) got tired, I felt we needed Bogle. Since pre-season, Boges has been a revelation and I never thought I’d say that. All credit to him, he’s really knuckled down and he was a threat when he came on.
“That’s what I asked from them before the game – a passionate performance the fans could get behind. Reading was not something I recognised as a performance from my type of team, so we needed to put things right.”
Cardiff – who moved up to 12th place in the Championship – now travel to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.