Kenneth Zohore has won back the approval of Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock who once described him as “close to being a waste of space”.
The Bluebirds striker is set to resume his renaissance at the club on Friday night when Watford will attempt to deny Warnock’s team a third successive Premier League victory.
Zohore – who was instrumental in Cardiff’s promotion surge out of the Championship at this stage of last season – has played a pivotal role in both of his club’s recent victories.
With only two league starts behind him in a campaign beset by injuries and poor form, Zohore came off the bench as a late substitute in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth.
The 25-year-old Dane then went on a substitute with half an hour remaining against Southampton and scored what could prove a critical winning goal late deep into injury time.
Those contributions have reprieved Zohore in Warnock’s mind from an immensely frustrating player, to one who could now be key to the club’s chances of avoiding the drop.
“It’s not just the goal, his attitude has been tremendous,” said Warnock on his return from Argentina where he attended last weekend’s funeral for Emiliano Sala.
“I can’t fault him in the last six weeks – he’s tried really hard to get back into my good books.
“He looks as sharp as I’ve ever seen him and he’ll get his opportunity soon with Oumar Niasse not available against Everton. People who can score goals are few and far between and we’ve got to hope one of those hits a purple patch.
“I think only Wolves have scored more goals than us in the 90 minutes plus period. I hope Ken continues to help with that.
“He did well when he came on against Manchester United earlier in the season. He’s now got to get a good run and we’re going to need him. He did well in his linking with Oumar, which gives us an option of playing both.”
Warnock may have returned from South America and Sala’s family may have laid Cardiff’s record signing to rest, but the story of his transfer and the disputed £15m fee refuses to go away.
Nantes and Cardiff have agreed to delay the deadline for the first £5m repayment to February 27, but Warnock remains optimistic a settlement can be reached despite the unanswered questions, acrimony, and complications that appear to surround the deal.
“I’ve got every confidence in Mehmet Dalman (Cardiff chairman) that it will come to a conclusion in the near future,” said Warnock ahead of the league visit of Watford. “Certain things were done that on reflection shouldn’t have been done. That stirred everybody up.
“I’ve known Mehmet since I’ve been here and I’m sure the club will deal with it in the right way in the next few days.
“It should have been kept between the clubs really. All I can talk about is the football side. Mehmet and Ken (Choo, executive director) are dealing with all that side.”
Warnock said he was glad to have made the trip to Sala’s home village to pay his respects.
“They are a very close-knit community,” he said. “Everyone came to the wake in the village hall.
“I have never seen anything like it. I don’t know how the mother coped really, people were coming up to her talking about when he was four years old, seven years old.
“Every time a story came up, she was crying her eyes out and it was a non-stop day. After we had been to the crematorium, she had a bit of closure.
“It was nice to be there, I had no doubt it was the right thing to do. It was an experience seeing all the emotion.”