Neil Harris has told Sol Bamba he is going nowhere and hailed the influence of Lee Tomlin after Cardiff City revived their promotion challenge by beating Championship leaders West Brom.
An exquisite free-kick by Tomlin earned the Bluebirds a 2-1 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium, where Bamba was among the unused substitutes hours after suggesting in a TV interview that he may look to go out on loan with three days left of the transfer window.
Harris has admitted he was taken aback by Bamba’s suggestion on Sky Sports News but insisted he intends to keep the veteran defender – who missed the first three months of the season through injury – at the club.
“It was a bit of a surprise to me,” said Harris, who revealed that Tomlin was left out of the starting line-up because of a knee injury.
“What’s great about that is Sol is desperate to play football. We’re certainly not thinking about him going anywhere.
“It shows his hunger to want to play, how he’s progressed from where he was 10 weeks ago to where he is today – leaner, fitter, stronger, hungry to play.
“Sometimes when you’re out a long time, you have that mindset of ‘will I get back to my best?’
“You want to play, you feel that need to get on the pitch, that hunger. When he’s played, he’s done really well and he’s got that burning desire to still do it. Hopefully, it’s in a Cardiff shirt.”
Bamba and fellow central defender Aden Flint were both on the bench after Harris decided to pair Sean Morrison with Curtis Nelson at the heart of defence.
It proved a justified selection as the Bluebirds knocked the Baggies off top spot thanks to goals from Callum Paterson and Tomlin, following an equaliser from the penalty spot by West Brom substitute Charlie Austin.
The victory has moved Cardiff up to 12th place in the table and leaves them five points short of the play-offs.
Harris paid tribute to Tomlin’s determination as well as his skills as a free-kick specialist, having thought the midfielder would be unable to play earlier on the morning of the match.
“His goal is a moment of magic. To be able to bring a player of Lee’s quality off the bench is brilliant for me and he showed his real class.
“It was a workman like performance that epitomises us as a club and a group and I’m really proud of the players because we played against a really good West Brom side who have shown their qualities over the season.
“They might not be on the greatest run but still very difficult to play against.
“Lee hadn’t trained for four days, he wasn’t in the squad at all until this morning. He wasn’t in the training group, he’s been carrying a knock that we’ve nursed him through.
“Having the opportunity to bring him on with half an hour to go, I just felt we needed to retain the ball a little better.
“We had a good disciplined attitude but you have to keep the ball as well. If you work that hard without the ball, when you get it, you have to use it.
“In the first half we didn’t do that well at all. Tommo just gives you that ball-carrying ability in tight areas and brings other people into play.
“He had a knee injury – just a niggle, and felt uncomfortable. In the conditions at the moment, the pitches are so wet that you tend to slip quite a lot. So, we have to be really careful with him.
“But he showed his temperament to want to play and want to come off the bench and put himself forward, and also his quality and class when he came on.
“To get the ball up and down, that was his range. We have seen that before this season, like against Sheffield Wednesday. Sometimes as a player you just know, you just feel that it’s there. He’s had that feeling.
“I’m delighted with the victory. There’s been a lot of times when I’ve been frustrated that we haven’t got games over the line. so I’m really pleased.
“I’m delighted with the character of the players, the determination to want to succeed and do well. It wasn’t pretty at times against a really good footballing side and to limit them to what we did was an outstanding effort by the players. We showed there are different ways of winning games.”
Paterson broke the deadlock straight after the restart before Albion substitute Austin converted from the penalty spot with his first touch.
But Tomlin’s brilliant free-kick 14 minutes from time ensured that the visitors’ miserable recent league run would continue and see Leeds leapfrog them.
Alex Smithies protected Cardiff’s three points with a brilliant one-handed stoppage-time save from Bluebirds old boy Kenneth Zohore.