Cardiff's Nicky Maynard discusses title-winning, stepping up into the Premier League and derby dates.
Last Updated: 11/06/13 1:50pm
The 2012/13 campaign has come to a close, with promotion pushes providing ecstasy or agony and relegation battles either won or lost.
Here at Sky Sports we have taken you to the very heart of the Football League over the past 10 months, with our Spotlight features intended to give you a greater insight into the clubs and players that keep us on the edge of our seats.
We have been able to bring you the views and thoughts of a representative from each of the 72 teams over the course of the season, with those involved asked to give their take on the division they compete in, the club that pays their wages and those we should all be keeping an eye on.
The last man onto our hot seat is Cardiff's Nicky Maynard, with the Bluebirds striker taking time out to discuss title-winning, stepping up into the Premier League and derby dates with Chris Burton.
Has it all sunk in what the club has achieved - now you've had to time to reflect on it and celebrate it?
As a club, it has been a massive thing. For me personally, I obviously didn't play as much as I would have liked because of my injury, but our main aim was to get promotion and to finish the season as champions was a massive achievement for the whole club and the players. Hopefully we can kick on and establish ourselves as a Premier League team and Premier League players.
On a personal note, I take it you were delighted to end what was a frustrating season on a high with a goal on the final day?
Massively. As soon as I got the injury I was a bit devastated to be told that I would probably miss the whole of the season. Coming into a new club, that's always a tough one to swallow. But I was determined to get back as quickly as possible. I went the right way around it and the physios were a massive help. Then to get a run out on the last day of the season and for the lads to let me take the penalty and score a goal was probably the best finish I could hope for at the end of a not so good season for me personally.
That's all in the past now and I take it you are the kind of person who prefers to look forward and can't wait to test yourself in the Premier League?
Always. I had an injury where I was out for four months when I was at Bristol City. That was put behind me and I kicked on from there. I got a move to West Ham, got promoted with them, and things didn't work out there so I moved to Cardiff. It's one of those things where if you've been injured and got over that, it's about looking forward. I want to prove that I can play in the Premier League and my team-mates will be no different.
You were promoted with West Ham but then dropped back down to join Cardiff, does that make you more determined in a way to prove yourself at a Premier League level?
Yes, I'd say so. There were reasons I left West Ham, obviously to play. Sam Allardyce told me that he was looking to get a few more strikers in - Andy Carroll etc - which would limit my chances of playing. My main thing was to play, not sitting on the bench collecting whatever you are collecting. For me, I prefer to be playing and when I knew Cardiff were interested it was a no-brainer and I'm glad I made the move. Obviously I didn't expect to get injured, but I'm really happy at Cardiff and I hope I can prove to the fans that I have been a good signing and we can establish ourselves as a Premier League team.
Looking at the Premier League, movement and pace can be crucial in an attacking sense so do you feel you could strike up a really useful partnership with Fraizer Campbell?
Definitely. It's down to us to stake our claim in the first XI, and first and foremost get a good pre-season under our belts. It depends whatever the gaffer chooses, but I would like to think that myself and Fraizer could form a good partnership and we could surprise a few teams.
There will inevitably be arrivals as well, but you have to build, improve and bring in added competition don't you?
That goes without saying. The team that got us to the Premier League was obviously good to be around, but you still need to improve your team and enhance your squad depth as well. It's down to us to do as well as we can, but still add new faces without disrupting the team too much. You always need good players. Not a lot of us have played in the Premier League so to have experienced players there as well - obviously Bellas (Craig Bellamy) will be great to have around, but you can't expect him to do it all on his own. I'm sure the gaffer has got a few faces in mind, but we just have to wait and see who he brings in. It's down to us to do as well as we can in pre-season and put on a good show when we finally get that first game of the season.
You've got a good mix haven't you? You've got the experience in the likes of Craig Bellamy, but you've also got a lot of promising youngsters who will be eager to prove that they can handle the step up?
Definitely. Obviously the gaffer knows the sort of characters he wants in his team and he does his homework on them before signing those players. We have got a great bunch of lads who all get on well on and off the pitch, and a think that was a reason why we were so successful in the Championship. If we add a few more faces to that, I'm more than confident that we will do well in the Premier League.
On the manager, Malky Mackay has done a great job and deserves to be linked with jobs like the Everton post, but I take it you are all delighted that he is sticking around?
100 per cent. He was the main reason I came to Cardiff. He was really good with me when I was injured as well, he's still kept me involved with the team and has still been talking to me and telling me to keep going. He's a massive person in the dressing room and he's done so well to be linked with so many teams, but it's massive for us as players and a team that he's staying here and that will give us a little bit more of a confidence boost - not that we need it - going into the new season.
We're getting close to the fixture announcement date - on the 19th - is that the day when everything will really sink in, when you see when you are going to Old Trafford and the Emirates etc?
Yes, I think so. I will be in Dubai when the fixtures come out, but I will no doubt have my phone on and can't wait to see the fixtures come in. It's a new season, it's a new start for Cardiff City Football Club and we will be looking forward to it. It doesn't matter who we get, whether it's a big team or a not so big team, we are going to be ready and I'm sure we can make a great start to the season and kick on from there.
And you've got the games with Swansea to look forward to. There are some big derbies in the Premier League but that will be right up there won't it?
It's massive. I saw Lee Trundle not that long ago - we were at Bristol City together - and he was telling me that the Swansea derby is one that you can never really describe, it's something special. There is obviously a lot of hostility there as well, but with both teams being in the Premier League now that will make it even more of a contest. He said, 'Be prepared'. I haven't played in many derbies, to be honest, but it's something that I'm looking forward to.
For you, I imagine you are itching to get going aren't you? Do you feel you've had enough waiting around and just want to play?
Yes, to be honest I didn't want the season to finish. The lads have done so well and they deserve their break, but I'll be coming back probably a week or 10 days earlier than some of the lads just to make sure that everything is fine with me. Hopefully we can hit the ground running come pre-season and get some good games under our belt and, for myself, get some goals before the season kicks off.