FFC columnist Josh Learner takes time out to analyse why Neil Warnock has become such a figure in English football, and in particular Championship football. Love him or loathe him, there's a case fir both.
There is no other manager quite like Neil Warnock. An extrovert would be a disastrous understatement in describing the Sheffield born 59-year-old. Infuriating to many, endearing to others, Warnock is one of the most controversial mangers of our time. But in pure football terms, what do we really think of the man who once called referee David Elleray, a ‘bald-headed bloke' over his refereeing ability?
In his career as a footballer, Warnock went through clubs like nobody's business playing for eight different teams and never lasting more than two years with any of them. Starting at Chesterfield in 1967, and finishing at Crewe Alexandra in 1979, Warnock was a competent wide midfielder but never did enough to attract attention from the bigger clubs.
Warnock's managerial career is similar, managing nine different clubs in the space of 21 years and is now with play-off hopefuls Crystal Palace.
Kind words are something Warnock may not be well acquainted with. He's the manager fans love to hate. Rival fans have been known to call Warnock ‘Colin', which, combined with an expletive that starts with the same letter as his surname, works as an anagram of Neil Warnock. You get the gist.
Sheffield United fans will probably take a different line on this; ‘A true Blade' is a line I'm sure any United fan would agree with. Promotion to the Premier League in 2006, and FA and League Cup semi-finalists in an eight year spell at the club explains all. It doesn't stop there; promotions with Scarborough, Notts County (twice in succession), Huddersfield Town, and Plymouth Argyle are an indication of his managerial pedigree. All promotions bar Scarborough and Sheffield United came via the play-offs.
His most recent job at Crystal Palace has been a huge success saving Palace fans from the perils of flirting with the bottom four to flirting with the play-offs.
An impressive start and Warnock's frenzied (and sometimes psychotic) behaviour that he shows toward his players (and likewise officials) could once again be the influential factor behind his success. This brings me to my next question though, is Warnock's sometimes cringe-worthy and absurd outbursts good for the image of football? Do referees and linesmen deserve the torrent abuse they receive from Warnock? (If you want an idea of the extent of this abuse just check out YouTube and type Neil Warnock and click on the video at the top, case closed.)
I'm all for managers showing passion on the pitch, it brings football to life and encapsulates fans and viewers alike. And what's more, it makes fans feel like their manager really does care about the club. But there has to be a line somewhere, and Warnock continually seems to cross it. It simply isn't fair on the referees. I for one experienced a slice of the Warnock hysteria when Crystal Palace visited Ashton Gate a month ago. We scored a 95th minute equaliser in the last minute of the game when only four minutes were supposed to have been added on and as the final whistle sounded, right on cue, Warnock proceeded to rally towards the ref in what can only be described as a man possessed by the purist form of malice. Stewards had to form a human barrier to stop this crazed man getting to the referee. Is this behaviour really needed? Couldn't Warnock invest in a punch bag to use pitch side? That would be a fantastic way to vent aggression and what great TV it would make.
This is one side to Warnock, the other side is the one that endears me and I am sure many others. He is one of the characters of modern day British football. A family man at heart and he boasts a gift for being able to reflect on victory and defeat in a refreshingly warm manner (after a Kit Kat and a cup of tea of course). No matter how much he can agitate you with his constant tirades towards officials, opposition players and the public; we have to place Warnock in a special category invented for himself. He gets away with his behaviour with his post match charm, his passion and his way with words, which all football fans love to see as managers of this nature are fast fading.
Whether his outbursts are acceptable, I'll leave that up to you. But one thing is certain, Warnock will never change, as managers like him never do.