By Paul Jones
Mick McCarthy has won praise from Preston manager Alex Neil for being true to his principles at Cardiff City.
McCarthy remains unbeaten since he took charge of the Bluebirds and will be looking for his fifth straight victory when Preston visit on Saturday afternoon.
The former Republic of Ireland boss has earned two draws, followed by four victories which have lifted his side from 15th in the table to seventh.
According to Neil, the Yorkshireman has done it by sticking to his beliefs, ignoring those who dismissed his methods as old hat, and making the best of his resources.
“Football at times is full of nonsense,” said Neil, whose team have slipped back to 13th in the Championship after three defeats in their last four games.
“Mick did a really good job at Ipswich and then all of a sudden his methods became outdated.
“You go from being the flavour of the month to being forgotten about really quickly in football. It shifts from person to person.”
“That Cardiff squad has shown in recent years that they’re capable of getting out of this league, they’re capable of getting into the play-offs and I think what Mick’s done is simplify a lot of things for them.
“It’s always difficult to distinguish why a team does better with one manager and not another manager, and equally a team that is doing well – you find next year they’re not doing so well.
“What you’ve got to recognise, and I think any manager will tell you this, is that you’re as good as your players and your squad. Managers are not magicians.
“You don’t just go in and make a team that is not capable or not functional into top-six contenders or top-two.
“If you look at the league table at the moment, if you look at that top six, most people would have that top six as being the top six.
“Swansea are probably the one that are doing extremely well in my view. Although they have got a good squad and a strong team, I think they’re having a great season.
“The rest I think you would expect to be in and about it and if they weren’t, there would be serious questions getting asked.”
Cardiff defender Joe Bennett is set to make his 350th career appearance and his 174th for the Bluebirds.
The full-back has been part of a revamped defensive structure since McCarthy’s arrival at the club with the selection of three centre-backs allowing Bennett to push further forward in a wing back role.
“I actually came as a wing back when I first signed for the club,” said Bennett. “It’s nice to get a little bit further up the pitch, and to try and help the forward lads.
“The gaffer and Terry Connor have come in and done an unbelievable job.“We’re unbeaten in six, and have won four on the trot against difficult opposition. The games have all been really tough, not one of them has been easy.
“The gaffer has said that we’re going to have to scrap to start with, be resolute and defend well. Obviously, you can build a base from there if you’re solid at the back and not conceding, and then go on and win games.
“It’s going to be a tough game on the weekend against Preston, but hopefully we can get another win on the board and get into that pack with the top six.”