Gary Speed’s class, Neil Warnock’s style and football uniting

Having made the move from the stands to the press box over recent years, there is one subject where it seems my opinion has left the terraces behind – and that is on Neil Warnock.

I know – and I’m sure he does too – that stick will usually come his way when he’s down here.

It is seemingly fuelled by his comedy turn in an interview for City’s top job a few years ago – ‘Would your style of football suit Norwich City’ asked the likes of Roger Munby; ‘What, winning football?’ retorted Warnock.

Then there was the V-sign directed at Nigel Worthington as the Canaries boss supposedly failed to put out a post-match hand.

I’m sure there are plenty of other examples City fans would happily put forward too.


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It might surprise some in these parts but Warnock is a big fan of the Canaries.

He openly admits to loving his trips to Carrow Road – plus a bit of envy at the support.

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And presumably, that is despite the ‘banter’ of pretty harsh chants from the Barclay.

But honestly, from my position doing this job he has been by far the best opposition boss I have had to deal with.

In a time when managers can leave the press well alone, Warnock is usually available for a pre-match chat.

As it happened, my call last week got a ‘not really today, thank you’, apparently down to Warnock feeling a bit under the weather.

Yet as late evening arrived, he rang back – only with a warning it would have to be quick because the interview would most probably end in a coughing fit. It did – but he held out long enough for a five-minute chat that did the job nicely.

Most people in football don’t pick up their phone at all. And if you leave a message, they rarely ring you back.

So for a Premier League manager to return the call, when not feeling particularly well, late in the day, because it would help someone out – to me, that shows a bit of class.

Clearly football gets Warnock’s goat more often than not – but a lot of that is from his passion.

And I bet if he was the manager at your club, you would love what he does as well.

The word ‘class’ is one we have heard a lot since Sunday – almost entirely in respect to one of English and Welsh football’s most consistent players of the modern era, Gary Speed.

If there is one thing everyone in football has felt this week, it is great shock and sadness at Sunday’s news.

I, like millions, was watching BBC1’s Football Focus on Saturday as Speed enjoyed a joke alongside his old Leeds team-mate Gary McAllister, with the Scot talking of how good a player Speed was – and about the manager he would become.

By Monday, McAllister was on Sky Sports News almost in tears as he gave one of many heartfelt tributes to football’s loss.

The reaction in Swansea at the weekend and across the nation has been incredibly respectful – one where you feel genuinely proud to see so many rivalries and rages unite in complete admiration for one of the game’s good guys.

Whatever the reasons behind Speed’s decision to take his own life, it will remain a terrible tragedy for his friends, his wife and his two boys.

A minute’s applause will be held across Premier League grounds this weekend – and you can guarantee it will be well observed.

It may be naive to hope fans could rely more on the comic side of banter than the abusive – as Warnock was treated to at the weekend. But at the same time, maybe this Saturday’s tributes to Speed will at least offer a little perspective for everyone.

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