Neil Warnock’s three-year Cardiff reign ended on Monday when he left the Sky Bet Championship club by mutual consent.
Here, the PA news agency reflects on Warnock’s colourful Cardiff career and asks what the future holds for the veteran manager, who turns 71 next month.
What job did he do?
Pretty good. Warnock was appointed in October 2016 with Cardiff second from bottom in the Championship and steered them to a respectable 12th position. Cardiff were not expected to challenge for automatic promotion in the 2017-18 season, but Warnock’s uncompromising side collected 90 points to finish second behind champions Wolves and above the fancied quartet of Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby. The success saw Warnock claim a record eighth promotion in English football.
So he was really popular then?
Well, we are talking about football’s original ‘Marmite Man’. Cardiff fans loved his passion, both on the touchline and after the final whistle when wins were celebrated on the pitch in front of the supporters. But there were grumbles about tactics and playing style as Cardiff were relegated from the Premier League in 2019. Warnock was accused of being too negative and criticism reached deafening levels after Cardiff lost to Welsh rivals Swansea in timid fashion at the end of October. From that point he was doomed.
What is his Cardiff legacy?
Warnock often expressed pride in managing to unite a fractured club where the ownership and fanbase had been at war. Owner Vincent Tan’s controversial red kit rebrand created a toxic atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium, but Warnock’s success healed the pain after the Bluebirds had gone back to their traditional colours. Warnock’s time at Cardiff was overshadowed by the Emiliano Sala tragedy and the ongoing transfer dispute with Nantes after the Argentinian striker was killed in a plane crash in January 2019. Warnock was visibly shaken by Sala’s death and the entire episode took a huge toll on him.
What next for Warnock?
Warnock celebrates his 71st birthday on December 1 and has spent over half a century in football. He made his debut for Chesterfield in 1967 and has managed 15 different clubs – including his boyhood favourites Sheffield United between 1999 and 2007 – in a 40-year management career. Warnock said he would retire at the end of the season and spend more time at his farm in Cornwall. But Warnock has promised retirement before and returned to management, so do not be surprised to see him in a dugout again sometime soon.
Would we miss him?
You bet. Love him or loathe him, it is never dull when Warnock is around. What other Premier League manager would have offered up his view on Brexit – “I think we’ll be far better out of the bloody thing… to hell with the rest of the world” – or his wish to get a “minute’s booing” at old rivals Bristol City when he dies. Referees, assistant referees, fourth officials and the Football Association’s disciplinary department, however, might not be so dewy-eyed if this really is the final chapter of an extraordinary career.
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