Lee Tomlin has shed two stones – and unappreciative Neil Warnock – and can’t decide which has been the biggest factor in his rebirth at Cardiff City.
The Bluebirds midfielder insists his gym sessions were not to grind out his frustrations with the club’s former manager who wouldn’t pick him, but he could have been forgiven for dark thoughts as he hammered the punch bag.
Either way, Tomlin is loving life under new Cardiff City boss Neil Harris and looking for another full outing against B this weekend as well as a possible new contract.
Having shed two stone to force his way into the starting team in the new regime he is ready to prove he is now fit to go the full 90 minutes after failing to impress Warnock.
But the new slim-line 30-year-old, for whom Warnock paid £2.9m to bring to the club from Bristol City in 2017, admits to coming into work with a smile on his face now that Harris has appeared on the scene.
“It’s just much better and we’ve stepped up another gear. You can see in the past few games how well it’s gone with seven points in three games,” said Tomlin.
“Waking up in the morning and smiling makes you want to do well, not just for yourself but for everyone at the club. It’s been good – new manager, new ideas and new thoughts.
“He’s asked us to go out and express ourselves and it’s a much better foundation. I’ve played against him before and he knows what I can do.
“He said, ‘I can’t believe how fit you are and what you can do with a football’. Hopefully, I’m paying him back.
“It was hard under the old gaffer. This one has more of an understanding and we’re just more solid as a team.”
Tomlin played the full 90 minutes in the win at Nottingham Forest last weekend in what was his first complete league match for the Bluebirds since arriving at the club 18 months ago. Under Warnock, his last full game was in the FA Cup against Mansfield on 6 January, 2018.
“I don’t know what Warnock really thought of me deep down. He obviously knew what I could do with a football, that’s why he brought me to the club,” added Tomlin.
“If I play, I give everything – that’s how I’ve always been and how I always will be. But even now, after 60 or 70 minutes, I still look around and think ‘Oh, this is me coming off’.
“There was always an excuse against me before, which is fine because everyone has their own opinions. I felt like people listened to the reasons why I wasn’t playing – not fit, not this, not that.
“If that’s what people want to believe because that’s what the gaffer said, then that’s fine. I know myself, you can’t get less fit by losing two stone – that’s a fact.
“I’ve worked so hard and now it’s unbelievable. I feel really fit and in the last game I ran nearly 12km.
“I went through a lot, not to do with Warnock, but I found my therapy is in the gym. I’ve started to get my head straight and I’m in every day at 8.15 am doing extras even though we don’t start until 9.45 am.”
Tomlin has yet to start talks on a new contract – his current deal ends next summer – but added: “I’ve got no reason to leave. At the start of the season I said that I don’t want to leave.
“I feel now is when I feel like my contract should have started. I’m ready to go. I feel like a new player at the club but I know everything around it.
“It’s a no-brainer for me. I’ve always wanted to stay but that’s not up to me. That will be with the manager, chairman and chief executive. If you want that to happen, that will happen.”