Chris Goreham: The staying power of Neil Warnock must be admired

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock was not happy after his side's defeat to Norwich City. Picture: Paul

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock was not happy after his side's defeat to Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Nothing says ‘three crucial Championship points’ better than the sight of Neil Warnock waiting to confront the referee at full-time.

If you hadn’t watched Norwich City’s win over Middlesbrough you would have been able to guess the result just from the pictures of the touchline at the end. Warnock’s snarl when his team loses is an expression most of us can only pull-off when we’ve taken a big swig of tea that contains some milk that is on the turn.

He’s managed to perfectly capture the sweet spot between disgust and outrage. The only other time I’ve seen anything like it is in that split second before a teacher says “you’ve let me down, you’ve let yourself down and you’ve let the whole school down”.

There was a time when beating a Neil Warnock team would have felt like a form of footballing justice. He’s achieved a pantomime villain status that arguably only Robbie Savage can match.

There have been a few memorable clashes with the Canaries over the years. He aimed a V-sign at Nigel Worthington after one stormy encounter at Carrow Road when he was Sheffield United manager. Simeon Jackson’s famous late winner for Norwich against Derby in 2011 had the added bonus of cutting short QPR’s celebrations when they thought they had clinched promotion under Warnock.


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They did win the league in the end but his last Premier League game in charge of The Rs, before he was sacked the following season, was a 2-1 loss to City at Loftus Road. It was the game in which Joey Barton was sent off for a clash with Bradley Johnson. Both Warnock and Barton were incandescent with the Norwich midfielder’s reaction to the incident.

Despite all of the above I’ve actually grown to quite like Warncok. It was his time as Cardiff City manager that made me realise that I’d been getting him wrong.

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His preferred tactics may place substance over style but sometimes it pays to look deeper. A chat with our colleagues from BBC Radio Wales in the press box before Norwich played at Cardiff a couple of years ago changed my mind. They talked so warmly about how he’d brought everyone at all levels of the club together with his enthusiasm for the game. Cardiff had been through a lot, remember when owner Vincent Tan decided the team should ditch their traditional blue shirts and play in red instead? Taking them back into the Premier League after that was no mean feat.

That night in August 2018 Norwich went on to win impressively at Cardiff, knocking them out of the League Cup. A young lad called Max Aarons scored one of the goals and he’s hardly been out of Daniel Farke’s team since. It was another pivotal Norwich City moment that happened on Warnock’s watch.

Ultimately he’s still going strong and doing his thing at the age of 71. It’s impressive. The bruising world of Championship management has claimed many victims three or four decades younger than him who have never been able to find another dugout that would have them.

I expect Middlesbrough will mount a challenge for the top six of The Championship this season. They were unbeaten in 10 before Teemu Pukki’s penalty on Saturday. It means there is bound to be another lively chapter of Norwich City v Neil Warnock when they come to Carrow Road at the end of January.

The biggest surprise must be that he’s never actually managed Norwich. When you consider how many jobs he’s had over the past 25 years and how many times the Canaries have pressed the button that operates the revolving door on the manager’s office it’s remarkable that neither he nor Steve Bruce’s stars have ever aligned.

You could say it’s because Warnock’s face wouldn’t fit at Carrow Road. But when you see the look he gave the referee on Saturday I’m not sure it truly fits anywhere.

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