As the Sky Bet Championship journey continues this weekend, sitting just two points outside the Play-Offs, Cardiff City are raring to go, with captain Sean Morrison eying sixth spot.
The Bluebirds' first game back will be played in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday 21 June, against league leaders Leeds United, and whilst Morrison predicts what will be a difficult end to the season, he says with confidence that the squad have come back from lockdown in positive fashion.
“I am really looking forward to that one,” he admitted looking ahead to this weekend’s game against Leeds United.
"Obviously before we went into isolation and lockdown, that week would probably have been a season-defining one for us, as we’d got ourselves into a fairly good position just outside the Play-Offs,” he said.
“Since the boys have been back there has been a lot of hunger and desire in the group. I think after having such a long lay-off three-quarters of the way through of the season, and the break lasting longer than people first thought, the boys were excited to get back into training to see each other and just get back to work.”
With just one point separating the top two and three points between 6th and 11th place in the table, the Championship run-in is expected to be one of the most exciting in recent years, particularly the race for that final Play-Off spot, which, Cardiff City sit just two points outside.
“Obviously we have a really good opportunity to finish the season in style and end up in a Play-Off spot,” Morrison continued.
“But it's not going to be easy with the games we have left this season, there is a tight little gap between 7th and 11th position but we have definitely given ourselves a great chance.”
Neil Harris’ side have some difficult opposition to face in their remaining nine games, with the likes of Fulham, Preston North End and Bristol City still to play, but Morrison is certainly hoping to finish the campaign in style and lead the side back to the Premier League.
“The end to our season is going to be extremely tough because of the teams that we have to face. Leeds are trying to get automatic promotion and Fulham are not far off, with Bristol City and Preston North End both going for a Play-Off spot, which we are also pushing for as well, so it’ll be tough and there’s a lot riding on those games.
“It's going to be strange without the fans being there, but we know we still have a job to do and that job is to help Cardiff City get back into the Premier League.
“Hopefully in the short amount of time that we have been back, we can continue to build on the fantastic work that we have done already. We've been working hard and trying to squeeze a five or six week block into a two week block, so it’s a little bit different but we are all excited to get going again."
Morrison, of course, has been there and got the t-shirt when it comes to promotion with Cardiff. He was part of Neil Warnock’s promotion-winning side two seasons ago, and the defender says the 2017/18 campaign was one of his best at the club.
“That season was a fantastic season from the get go really,” he recalled. “A lot of things went in our favour with last-minute winners and in the last five minutes of games we would score important goals to win us that fixture.
“I think we won the first five games of that season, and from that moment it just gave us the confidence and belief that we could get promoted. We had a solid foundation, and we broke the record for the least amount of goals conceded during the season as well as points total, so that year was a big year on the pitch for everyone really.
“We went up having finished second, it would have been nice to win the league but Wolves were by far the best team in the league that season.”
With Neil Warnock vacating his position as manager back in November, new manager Neil Harris has come into the club and steadied the ship, leading the club to within two points of the Play-Off places in the Championship, and even though the 29-year-old admits to a difficult start to the campaign, says the club are back on track this season.
“It has been a hard season for us, obviously getting relegated last season wasn't how we wanted it to end and then the start of the season things weren’t going particularly well. We've drawn a lot of games which has probably been our downfall, and we've conceded too many goals in certain games too,” he added.
“It’s been a very up-and-down season, we've gone through moments where we thought we were on the right path and then a small stumbling block throws it out a little bit. For a change of manager to come in midway through the season is never easy, because putting their ideas into practice sometimes takes time.
“But I think come the turn of the year, towards the end of January things started to click into place for us, we started to pick up a little bit of form and we could see that we we heading in the right direction, and we are, which is the reason we have given ourselves a little bit of a chance of getting into those Play-Off places.”
With the football returning in England behind closed doors, Morrison admits that although it will be strange to play without supporters in the stadium, it is the only safe way for it to resume in the current climate.
“It is going to be strange but look at it this way, there are going to be ways to access the football like never before, so hopefully when we get back out there this week with the Championship restarting, there is going to be loads of football for people to watch,” he said.
“I think it will actually bring a lot of joy to people and fans, it can be such a big part of someone’s life. For them to tune into as many games as they possibly can will be great.
“As hard as it's going to be for fans not to turn up to games and try and get a peak of their favourite players inside grounds, they are going to be able to watch it from the comfort of their own living rooms and if people do that then we can all stay safe and finish the season."