Neil Warnock – The Marmite man of English football – Love Him or Hate Him?

All English football fans know all about Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock. He is a manager who you either absolutely love or absolutely hate. For those fans not in England you might not know too much about him.

He is a loud, opinionated and vaguely unpleasant man during games and is constantly in trouble with the FA for comments made, usually involving referees, before, during and after games. Off the field, Warnock seems like a very pleasant family man who is just very passionate about the game of football. He also happens to be a damn good manager.

He has taken Crystal Palace into the play-off positions in the Championship after taking over the side in October when they were second from bottom. That is a remarkable achievement by a remarkable manager.

Warnock’s playing career saw him play for eight lower league clubs and never hit the top levels of the game. He qualified as a referee although never pursued that avenue. It probably gives him more right to criticise than most though.

He has managed at nine clubs, most notably Sheffield United from 1999 to 2007. He took Sheffield United to the Premier League last season for his one and only experience of managing at the top level.

In his time as a manager at mostly unfashionable clubs with little or no resources, he has achieved six promotions and taken teams to two major semi-finals.

He has a long history of upsetting other managers, players, fans, referees and the FA. He is always good value when he is interviewed after games and is likely to provide great TV. It is best to interview him after 9.00 pm though, as his language can be colourful.

There have been so many incidents involving Warnock that it is difficult to get over the scale of just how many people he has upset.

After a game against Norwich City the then Norwich manager, mild mannered Nigel Worthington refused to shake Warnock’s hand. Warnock responded by sticking two fingers up at him. Another FA charge of improper conduct.

When Sheffield United were in the Premiership, fighting against relegation, one of their fellow strugglers, Manchester City, played against Middlesbrough. Gareth Southgate fielded a slightly weaker side than normal for a number of reasons but Warnock accused him of doing it deliberately to help out his friend Stuart Pearce the City manager. He called Southgate a ‘disgrace’.

During a televised match against Ipswich, Warnock could be heard telling the Ipswich manager that his best and most effective player was the referees’ assistant.

After conceding an equalising goal deep into stoppage time earlier this season Warnock said after the game that he thought the referee had gone too far when he celebrated the goal! Another trip to the FA!

After a game against Nottingham Forest the then Forest manager Joe Kinnear called Warnock a ‘complete prat.’ Warnock said, “Because Forest are struggling and he’s under pressure, Joe couldn’t find anything about his team to talk about. Any comments Joe has to make about me are water off a duck’s back.”

When disagreeing with a decision made by referee David Elleray, Warnock said the decision was given by, “some bald-headed bloke standing 50 yards away”

Following Sheffield United’s 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal, Warnock was fuming about referee Graham Poll.

“It’s my pet subject, referees. I am disappointed with refs. I shouldn’t really say what I feel, but Poll was their best midfielder in the goal. I thought there was a foul before the goal, but they are given at one end and not the other. You heard him at the end. He loved every minute of it. I don’t know why they smile so much.

“You saw him coming off at half-time and at the end. He smiled so much, he obviously enjoyed that performance.
“We lost in the semi-final of the Worthington Cup at Liverpool when their goalkeeper Chris Kirkland should have been sent off. The referee then was Alan Wiley, who was the fourth official here, and they love every minute of it. The manner in which we have lost the game was an absolute disgrace.”

There are so many more classic Warnock moments and quotes that I could go on forever. Two of his more famous quotes are:

‘It will be a cracking match and a close one – maybe decided by a referee’s decision, an odd bounce or something like an over-the-line goal.’

‘Matches don’t come any bigger than FA Cup quarter-finals’

When manager of Sheffield United, a reporter asked him what he would do if he was the manager of their fierce city rivals Sheffield Wednesday. Warnock replied, “I would buy some bad players, get the sack and then retire to Cornwall”

He was asked what he thought about taking on Jose Mourinho in the Sheffield United against Chelsea game. “My wife will be glad about Mourinho coming to Bramall Lane because he’s a good looking swine, isn’t he?”

After a defeat Warnock was quoted as saying, “Somebody’s just given me a video of the game. I don’t know why they handed it to me because there’s no way I’m going to watch that again.”

Watch this tape of Warnock in action and you will see just how vociferous he is.

To see him in action in the dressing room, watch this. It is for over eighteen’s only!

I’m not sure whether I love or hate Warnock. I know that like almost every other fan in the country I hate him when I’m at games and he is the manger of the opponents.

I suppose, as a supporter of the respect agenda, I should dislike him. Somehow though, I can’t bring myself to do so.

I can’t help but feel that the game in England would be less colourful and less entertaining without people like him.

Love him or hate him?

Graham Fisher writes at Views of a fan. Article originally written for Soccer News.

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