In this article we look at how Kenneth Zohore has transformed from barely a bit part player under Slade/Trollope, to one of Warnock’s first names on the team sheet.
It’s the 1st of February 2016 and City announce a loan signing from KVK Kortrijk, in Kenneth Zohore. The big Dane had only just signed for the Belgian club, from Danish outfit ‘Odense BK’. Don’t forget, City were under a transfer embargo at the time and were only able to sign players on loan. KVK Kortrijk are another football club who are owned by Mr Vincent Tan, and it seemed they were used in order for Zohore to join up with City for the remainder of the 2015/2016 season on loan. Although, it is likely that it would have been planned for Zohore to join City on a permanently deal once the transfer embargo had been lifted. It is fair to say that no City fan had heard of the Danish striker before his arrival in South Wales. Fans, such as myself, searched up the striker online, in order to find out the sort of player we had on our hands. He came across as a powerful striker, with a bit of pace, who did have an eye for goal. However, online videos have deceived City fans before when it comes to looking at videos on new signings, which meant that fans weren’t getting their hopes up. With Idriss Saadi glued to the injury table, Anthony Pilkington was deployed as a make-shirt striker, by then Bluebirds boss, Russell Slade. Although Pilkington was holding the fort, and did chip in with a few goals, you always felt City were lacking an ‘out and out’ striker who could hold the ball up, and bring other players in to play. Russell Slade tended to play only one striker, and Pilkington didn’t necessarily have the strength in order to fend the ball from big Championship centre halves. City fans had their hopes pinned on Zohore, who was definitely the big presence which was required, since the departure of Kenwyne Jones. However, it is also fair to say that Zohore didn’t exactly hit the ground running in his first season in the Welsh Capital. Although in fairness, he had little chance to prove his worth.
Russell Slade preferred the attacking partnership of Pilkington and Lex Immers, which meant that Zohore’s chances were few and far between. Zohore’ first contribution of note came against Burnley, at Turf Moor, on the 5th of April (2016). The game was at 0-0 and Zohore came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute, replacing Tom Lawrence. City were desperate for all 3 points to enhance their chances of nicking a play off place at the death. In the dying mininutes of the game, Lex Immers lobbed the ball over the back line, which the Danish striker ran onto. The ball was cheated down, but was still bouncing. Zohore had the pressure of two Burnley players emerging behind, plus the tough task of beating a very good goalkeeper, and former bluebird, in Tom Heaton. Zohore lobbed the ball over the Goalkeeper, and the travelling City faithful thought Zohore had scored his first goal for the club, and one of great importance too, for only the ball to hit the Burnley crossbar and bounce over.
Fast forward three matches later and Zohore had scored his first goal for the club, a goal at Brentford in 89th minute. The goal only ended up being a constilation in a 2-1 defeat at Griffin Park, however, it was an important one for Zohore, as it had earned him his first start for the club. The first start came against an already relegated Bolton Wanderers, on April 23rd. Zohore has taken his chance and has scored his second goal for the club. A mazey run by Craig No one has his driving at the Bolton back line, he then passed the ball wide left to Zohore, who took one touch and struck home from a wide angle, nutmegging Bolton Goalkeeper (now City Goalkeeper), Ben Amos. City won the match 2-1, thanks for a 94th minute Peter Whittingham penalty. Next up, was a crucial match at Sheffield Wednesday, with City have to won in order to keep their play off place chasing dream alive until the last game of the season. The bluebirds were thumped 3-0, although, it was another start for ‘Ken’, as he is known by many of the City faithful. The match painfully ended City’s slim chance of promotion. Zohore didn’t have the best games away at Sheffield Wednesday, his touch was a bit heavy and missed a good chance to go one on one with the keeper, when it arose. He did not come across as a ‘natural footballer’, and seemed rather clumsy on times.
On the 6th of July 2016, it was announced that Zohore had joinsed the bluebirds on a permanent deal, with Paul Trollope now at the helm. Zohore didn’t start any competitive matches under the then new ‘Head Coach’, and at one stage, he was not even included in the match day squad for four consecutive matches. On the 5th of October 2016, Neil Warnock was appointed as Cardiff boss and slowly, but surely, this is where it all began for Zohore. Let’s not forget, it took eight matches until Zohore was even included in a Warnock match day squad, and a total of 10 matches until Warnock gave him any first team action. It was against Wolves on the 13th of December, under the Cardiff City stadium lights, where Zohore was finally given a chance against. The Denmark Under 21 striker replaced Lex Immers at half time. After the match, Warnock said in his press conference, “Zohore was surprised by his performance, not me! It was do or die for him. I told him at the end ‘that’s what I want to see from you’”.
Warnock was on the verge of sending Zohore out to Belgium, so this match was literally his last chance to prove his worth and to show Warnock what he could produce. Although he only played 45 minutes, Zohore put in a great shift, and showed the sort of work rate that hadn’t been seen from the Dane before. He was that big presence up front who held the ball up to get team mates into play. He even picked up an assist for his troubles too. Zohore used his strength to shrug off the Wolves defence, to slide a pass into Pilkington’ who slotted home. This match against Wolves sparked Zohore’s run in the team, starting every match to date (12/02/17). During this run in the team, Zohore has scored 3 goals in 11 starts. An average return rate yes, but it’s been the Dane’s work rate and ability to hold the ball up which has been earning him the plaudits from the Bluebirds faithful. Of late, he has been chasing numerous ‘lost causes’, and sometimes profiting, by winning throw ins, or even winning possession back for the bluebirds. His hold up play is improving game my game, and even though he is no where near the finished article, he’s doing himself no harm with his performances of late. He’s adapting to the lone striker role very well, and is the pin point of many City attacks, as he holds the ball, bringing the City midfield in to play. Let’s not forget his superb solo goal against Preston Norh End either (here it is https://youtu.be/DfO1QMICPjU). A goal any player would be proud of. The City front man’s composure in front of goal is coming along nicely.
His last goal came against Leeds United, on the 11th of February 2017. City winning 2-0. Check out our Match Report here -> https://mightybluebirds.co.uk/2017/02/11/leeds-united-0-2-cardiff-city-match-report-mighty-bluebirds/
(Photo Credit: Cardiff City FC, Zimbio, & Wales Online)