The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Paddy von Behr

FIVE years af­ter cross­ing the River Sev­ern as a teenager, Joe Ralls has ex­tended his stay in Cardiff af­ter man­ager Rus­sell Slade de­scribed his value to the south Wales club as mas­sive.

In 2010, a fresh-faced Ralls swapped Non-League Farn­bor­ough for the Blue­birds, left Hamp­shire and landed in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion with land­lords Mike Collins and Linda Hoskins.

It may have been a bold move, but fast-for­ward five years and the for­mer Eng­land U19 man is a key cog in a Cardiff side eye­ing a re­turn to the Premier League.

A new con­tract ar­rived this month, keep­ing the 22-yearold in Cardiff un­til 2020 and Slade could do a lot worse than ex­tend a thank you to Linda and Mike, who wel­comed a young Ralls to their home all those years ago.

“When I was in the trial pe­riod at Cardiff, I stayed with them,” re­called Ralls. “Then, I asked if I could stay on af­ter­wards – they are nice peo­ple.

“About two years ago, I got my­self a lit­tle flat but he [Mike] still of­fers to come around and cut the grass!”

On the Cardiff City Sta­dium lawn, Ralls es­tab­lished him­self as a reg­u­lar in the side and a ver­sa­tile as­set.

The young­ster has played all across mid­field this sea­son, hav­ing made a sig­nif­i­cant break­through last year when Slade re­placed Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer soon into the 2014-15 cam­paign.

“I am al­ways look­ing to im­prove, but I’m en­joy­ing it at the mo­ment,” he said. “I have played in a couple of dif­fer­ent po­si­tions and it is nice to have that va­ri­ety.

“To­wards the back end of last sea­son I was play­ing ev­ery week.

“This was the first pre­sea­son where I had the chance of start­ing the first game of the sea­son. Be­fore that, I was al­ways look­ing to go out on loan or to im­press as a young lad. In­stead, I was look­ing ahead to the first game of the sea­son.

“Now I’m es­tab­lished, the aim is to try and get Cardiff back into the Premier League.”

That dream is re­al­is­tic, with Cardiff head­ing into the week­end just three points adrift of the play-offs, and Ralls ad­mits the com­ing weeks could make or break their am­bi­tions.

“We have had good pe­ri­ods and lit­tle dips in form, but we have stayed in touch,” he added. “If we can put a few re­sults to­gether, we can get into that top six.

“If you lose a game you seem to drop a couple of places and if you win you go up a couple.

“We have trimmed the squad a bit but we still have plenty of play­ers to help in the busy Christ­mas pe­riod.”

ES­TAB­LISHED: Joe Ralls, left, is a big player for Cardiff

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