Published on January 6th, 2019 | by Fred Atkins1
Neil Warnock: the trouble-maker of English football🕓 Reading time: 3 minutes
Another disappointment, another target to blame – that’s the usual routine for Cardiff City boss, Neil Warnock, who now has Liverpool in his sights
Dumped out of the FA Cup in humiliating fashion by lower league opposition, the Cardiff City manager knew exactly who was to blame.
It was Liverpool’s fault they’d just been beaten by third-tier Gillingham. Well, ok it wasn’t their fault directly, but they’d promised to loan him Nathaniel Clyne but Clyne, for some reason, had wanted to spend the second half of the season at Bournemouth instead.
“They’ve promised that he’s my player from this week,” Warnock raged. “It’s a disgrace and a lack of class.”
And it’s a lot easier than accepting the blame for picking a side that’s just lost to the 63rd best team in England.
Being accused of “lacking class” by Neil Warnock,” is a bit like being accused of being “a bit right wing” by General Franco and yet he’s the manager English football just can’t flush. He’s managed professionally for nearly four decades and you don’t survive for that long, in an industry like this, without knowing a few tricks.
In that time he’s won a record eight promotions, but it won’t astonish our readers to learn that this isn’t the first time he’s suggested a rival “lacked class.” He threw the same accusation at Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo last season, for the crime of celebrating after this absurd end to their promotion showdown.
He effectively accused Gareth Southgate, then Middlesbrough’s manager, of throwing a match in 2007 …
… and his nadir arguably came with the Battle of Bramhall Lane in 2002,
This is the Warnock way: Always find someone else to blame. He hops from one vendetta to the next like a pint-pot psychopath getting thrown out of every pub in the town and always looking for the next fight.
Warnock targeting teenagers
With reporters and broadcasters, Warnock can be charming, plausible and articulate. On the touchline he acts like a man who could easily be sectioned.
Anyone with even the loosest connections to the football industry has at least one Warnock story, so here’s mine. 15 years ago I was working on the sports desk of a regional newspaper when the phone rang. This in itself was unusual as it was the kind of area where a custard powder shortage was front page news, but the caller had an actual story for us.
Did we know that Warnock’s Sheffield United had been training in the local park? No, we didn’t. On its own that wasn’t much of a story but the caller had more. Did we know they’d been taking the piss out of a local boys team? Specifically, mocking an under-16s team who’d been training nearby, for their lack of playing ability, before surrounding them, falling to their knees and pretending to worship them.
We had a story. We rang Sheffield United’s press officer, whose world-weary tone said it all. “What have they done now?” He promised to call us back when he’d found out what had happened.
The deadline came and went without a reply, so we published, with the words: “Sheffield United were approached for a comment,” added at the end.
Normally that would have been the end of it. Most clubs would either deny or ignore a similar story, but a couple of days later the press officer rang us back, asking for our fax number. Warnock’s assistant, Stuart McCall had drafted a hand-written response, accusing the boys of having had a “sense of humour by-pass operation.” It ran to five pages and the crux of the defence was … It was just banter!
And on Planet Warnock, where no one is ever to blame for anything, it was all the fault of a gang of sensitive 15-year-old boys who were at fault for failing to see the funny side in having their technique monstered by professionals.
On Planet Warnock the word “disgrace” applies to anyone who can in anyway be held responsible for Team Warnock losing, whether it’s a referee, a rival manager, or a 15-year-old boy who finds himself in the wrong park at the wrong time.