‘You can’t stop him’ – Callum O’Dowda warns defenders about new signing and is excited by Cardiff City’s new style of play
Callum O’Dowda believes Cardiff City will dominate teams with their possession this season as he lifted the lid on life under new manager Erol Bulut.
Often in recent years Cardiff have been a one-dimensional, direct team who bypass the midfield and hit target men and channels to get up the pitch.
It has its uses and has proven to be effective, but generally it does get worked out unless you have a Kieffer Moore or Sory Kaba at your disposal.
READ MORE: What will really happen to Cardiff City this season — our experts make their predictions
It’s been tricky to decipher just how a Bulut side plays, with the Bluebirds having adopted a number of different styles of play in their pre-season matches, from counter-attacking to possession-orientated.
O’Dowda, though, believes Cardiff will surprise a few teams with their new-look this season.
You can probably tell from when his first interview came out, I listened to that and how he wants to play, it’s very front foot, aggressive football. He wants honest players,” O’Dowda said.
“Ultimately, it’s down to us on the pitch but it’s a real mix I’d say. We’ll be really dominating teams much more than we did last season. From our point of view, I think we have improved much more.
“I know in pre-season we haven’t blown teams away 5-0 yet, but it’s working towards that.”
The new signings will no doubt make a difference to that. Having ball-playing No.10s and wide players will add to that dynamic to no end.
One new face this week is Josh Bowler, the Nottingham Forest winger who has penned a season-long loan with Cardiff. He looks a really shrewd pick-up and O’Dowda agrees.
In fact, the Republic of Ireland wide man believes Bowler is unstoppable when at the peak of his game.
“Josh Bowler is a very clever player. He is one of those players, you know what he’s doing but you can’t stop it,” he said.
“He is very effective on the high wide role he does. He can mix up his game and go down the line, he is very effective.
“When I played against him he would dribble, cut inside and finish near post. He is someone you want in your team. He can carry the ball well, is very direct and contribute goals. We were lacking in that last year.”
O’Dowda was one of the standout players for the Bluebirds last season, beginning the campaign on the wing before moving to a full-back role.
We were told in no uncertain terms that he was brought to the club as a winger, but it looks as though he is set for another stint in the back for under Bulut. So how does he really feel about it?
“I had a good conversation with one of my family members recently, it’s something I don’t mind. I’ve worked with managers in the past they had wished they’d played me and really pushed that on me,” he said of his position.
“I like the versatility of it. In a left back position I can roll into the middle and receive, I’ve done that before at international level and at previous clubs.
“My first few games at Cardiff I was playing as more of left forward, using those out to in runs and in behind runs. But from left back it’s nice to come on to the game and really see that picture.
“The games I had with Karlan, when we are dominating possession, I’ve really enjoyed being able to express what we can do. Because I know what he wants, because I know what it’s like to play there. So at times I don’t join in because I want to leave him isolated in a one-v-one.”
The initial signs out in Portugal were positive. Linking up with Karlan Grant, another electric new signing who could offer this Bluebirds side a lot this season, out on that left-hand side was one of the real positives from that pre-season Algarve trip.
Fans are looking forward to seeing how that partnership progresses throughout the season and so, too, is O’Dowda.
“We have been lacking someone like that. Playing against him over the years has been tough so it’s nice to have a player like that,” said O’Dowda.
Despite having a positive season himself, battling relegation and playing under three different managers — four if you include Dean Whitehead — is certainly not what O’Dowda envisaged when he made his move across the Severn Bridge.
Thankfully, he says things are looking up heading into the 2023/24 campaign.
“It was hard,” he said of his maiden season in the Welsh capital. “Me, personally, I think I had a good start. I was contributing a lot on the goal front and as the season went on I was brought back more, positionally. I found that quite hard to affect the game going forward, which was frustrating for me.
“The expectations everyone sets at the start of the season. The situation we were in, it was quite hard. But this season I am definitely a lot more optimistic.”
Dare the prospect of promotion enter the reckoning in the changing room?
“Definitely!” O’Dowda says firmly. “Even from a common sense point of view, look at our squad this season and you would say we should be achieving X, Y and Z.
But the whole of the Championship, if I’m sitting here as a football fan, I’m looking at the teams who have come down and come up, I can see it being one of the hardest Championships I’ve been involved with in terms of teams and personnel of the teams.
“Exciting. I’d also include us as one of those teams where people will be saying, ‘Woah, I don’t really want to be playing Cardiff!'”
The Bluebirds’ season begins on Sunday, when they take on Leeds United at Elland Road. Kick-off is at 2.30pm.