‘You pick Lescott. If one of the others scores, I don’t f*cking blame you. You pick your f*cking man up and if it is the spare man, I take the f*cking blame!”
Neil Warnock’s famous rant at Craig Morgan typifies his career as a football manager. Always passionate, fierce, old-school, yet with the canny knack of consistently getting the best out of his players. This is typified by his record in the Football League. He has recorded the most promotions of any manager, with eight, proving he has the unquestionable talent to get a side out of any division.
It is a record which encouraged so many clubs to give him a job. He managed 16 teams in total spanning almost 40 years ranging from Gainsborough Trinity in 1980 all the way through to Cardiff City, whom he left by mutual consent this week.
Having said the Cardiff job would be his last, we may have seen the last of Warnock for now. But it is safe to say he has left an indelible mark on football whether or not he returns for one last effort.
Warnock is the perfect example of a manager who you would love in your corner as a player, but would hate in the opposition dugout. Constantly in the ear of officials trying to get any advantage he can, the 70-year-old knows exactly what it takes to achieve success at the end of a long season.
We saw more into the life of Neil Warnock than most managers when he featured in his very own documentary, aptly named ‘Warnock’, shown on Sky Sports when he was in charge of his boyhood club Sheffield United. This was the gaffer at his dogged best, it showed his elite level of man-management while also giving us the perfect insight into life in the dressing room at half-time.
That was old-school Warnock at his very best yet continued to evolve over a decade later and perhaps his best-ever achievement came as he led an unfancied Cardiff side to promotion in 2017/18. In a league packed full of quality, this was the perfect set-up for Warnock. A team with players such as Sol Bamba, Sean Morrison and Kenneth Zohore battled their way to a second-place finish in the Championship, finishing with a remarkable 90 points ahead of the likes of Fulham, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.
The rise of social media has allowed some of Warnock’s most memorable moments, many of them coming in South Wales, to go viral. His clash with Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo after a feisty top-of-the-table clash in the Championship is now iconic but is perhaps topped by his Premier League staredown with the officials after a home defeat to Chelsea.
Glad we're not the referee or linesman right now 😬
To call Warnock superstitious would be an understatement, but it is another incredible part of his personality. Former player Andy Booth told the BBC of one of the strangest days of training he witnessed under the charismatic manager:
"I think he must be one of the most superstitious managers ever. We were training one Friday morning, doing set-pieces, and a magpie flew onto the pitch. He's shouted: 'Stop, stop... did everybody see that magpie? Right, we've got to wait for another - one magpie is unlucky, we've got to wait for another one before we start training again.’”
There is surely at least a small part in all of us which hopes that there is life in the old dog yet. His passion for football does not seem to have fully extinguished and the fire may yet rekindle over the coming months.
His football may have been robust and his touchline manner far from perfect, but Neil Warnock was ever the entertainer, on and off the pitch.