An ode to Neil Warnock
“Those changing rooms were a pigsty. In fact, pigs would have seen it and run away.”
Yet another famous quote that can go down on the list of Neil Warnock’s best moments. The veteran coach has never been one to shy away from making his opinion known.
His damning critique of Stoke City’s changing room arrangement is only the most recent on a list that includes calling El Hadji Diouf a ‘sewer rat’ and defending himself against criticism after the infamous Battle of Bramall Lane by saying that he “wasn’t as bad as Osama Bin Laden”.
The man affectionately nicknamed “Colin Wanker” has a massive cult following in English football, his no-nonsense demeanor and his love for the old-fashioned side of the game make him one of the most interesting managers in the game.
Reliant on a solid base and a lot of effort and drive, Warnock knows what he likes and he knows how to be successful too. With eight career promotions and three of those to the Premier League, Warnock will surely go down as one of the best ever Championship managers, if not the best.
We at Second Tier, with it having been the great man’s birthday recently, have decided to delve into his career, looking at his promotion sides and some of his most famous moments.
Warnock took over in December 1999 following a successful start to management, winning promotion to the Football League with Scarborough, getting back-to-back promotions with Notts County and getting Huddersfield into the second division.
He arrived with Sheffield United languishing in the second tier of English football for the sixth successive year and immediately started to implement his style of play at his boyhood club. He brought in youth team players, most notably Phil Jagielka and built relationships with players he would come to rely on later on in his career such as Paddy Kenny and Leigh Bromby.
It took a few years for Warnock’s side to really kick off but in the 2002/3 season Sheffield United did brilliantly, under the coaches influence they reached the semi-final of the League cup and FA Cup as well as the play-off final unfortunately they lost these games to Liverpool, Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively.
It was a season of improvement though and a sign of things to come for the blades though and within three more seasons, the Yorkshire side were promoted on Easter weekend having never left the top two throughout the season.
The team struggled in the Premier League, but seemed to have done enough to stay in the division, until a controversial Carlos Tevez winner against Manchester United sent the Blades back down. An unhappy ending for a nearly-perfect period for Neil Warnock.
Queens Park Rangers
One of the most famous sides in Championship history. A team overflowing with talent, spearheaded by the brilliantly impressive Adel Taraabt. Warnock catapulted a team that was struggling with relegation only a year earlier to an emphatic promotion with only six league losses across the season.
His period at QPR is probably the most indicative of the impact that the former Scunthorpe winger can have on his teams, completely transforming a team into an exciting, dangerous proposition who made life hard for even the Premier League teams that they would face.
This team is perhaps best remembered for being the side that lost to give Manchester City their first Premier League title but the achievement of the team in the Championship should not be underestimated.
Warnock had a few spells in the Championship with Leeds and Rotherham before picking up the team with which he would win his eighth overall promotion.
Warnock arrived at an average Cardiff side in 2016 and steered them to 12th in the league during his first season. Then they go out and achieve second place behind Wolverhampton Wanderers. Another feather in the cap of Neil Warnock.
The bluebirds had a strong Championship squad, but struggled to adapt to the Premier League and, with a combination of poor fortune and poor refereeing, Warnock’s side were relegated once again.
The Battle of Bramall Lane
One of the most violent games in the history of football. It’s no surprise that it was a Warnock team. Having been accused of telling his players to feign injury in order to have the match vs West Brom abandoned, after already having had three players sent off before the 65th minute.
Warnock is not the type to take those comments calmly, he denied the accusation and then said: "The way it has all come out so far, you would think I was guilty of committing more crimes than Osama Bin Laden."
Warnock didn’t even criticise his players for the red cards, instead complimenting them for their drive and aggression.
The points were eventually all given to Gary Megson’s West Brom side, so it was a game that yielded purely negative results for Sheffield United. Nonetheless, it is hard to see any game coming close to it for entertainment value.
It is a testament to Neil Warnock’s massive personality that he was the subject for a fly-on-the-wall documentary covering Sheffield United’s 2004/05 season and it is something that has firmly stood up to the test of time.
The short film, named after the manager aired in 2005, allowed us to see Warnock send players to the bathroom before he throws up at the mere sight of them. The site of him doing sprinting warm-ups with his team in the dressing room will brighten any day. It also gives an impressive insight into just how strong the Yorkshireman’s man-management skills are as well as what a unique experience it is to work under him.
El Hadji Diouf
"For many years I have thought he was the gutter type – I was going to call him a sewer rat, but that might be insulting to sewer rats. He's the lowest of the low and I can't see him being at Blackburn much longer."
It’s fair to say that this is not a complimentary statement. Indeed, you could be forgiven that Neil Warnock hated El Hadji Diouf and would do everything he could to make sure their paths never crossed again.
You’d be wrong.
Warnock later signed him for Leeds United.
There are endless cases like this. For example, calling Phil Thompson Pinocchio, stating
about Gary Megson and Stan Ternent that he “wouldn't p**s on them if they were on fire”. Repeatedly telling Nuno Espirito Santo to f*** off after confusion over hand-shaking. And, after a game against Chelsea, just staring daggers at the match officials, silent, after some questionable decisions potentially cost his Cardiff side a place in the Premier League.
Warnock is the type that will never be universally loved, but he doesn’t care. As he once said: "When I pass away, I don't want clapping or a minute's silence, I want a minute's booing at Bristol City".
He knows where he stands, and he relishes that. He is a true icon of Championship and English football.
By Theo Hewson-Betts | @thewsonbetts