VERSATILE JOE ENTHRALLS THE CARDIFF FANS
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