Warnock’s not all bad – but this was out of order
There is no truth in the rumour that Neil Warnock has been hired for the Theatre Royal’s next Christmas spectacular.
But the Queens Park Rangers boss has certainly excelled in his role of pantomime villain this week. The man Norwich City fans love to hate has been incandescent with fury over the sending-off of Joey Barton in Monday’s Premier League game against the Canaries at Loftus Road – and even more so over the failure of Barton’s appeal. Warnock yesterday launched a scathing attack on the Football Association’s disciplinary commission, branding the decision to uphold the red card and three-match ban “farcical” and “scandalous”, comments which could yet land him in hot water.
Now while Warnock is loud and outspoken and, very often, as biased as they come, I don’t entirely dislike him. Sometimes I feel he actually enjoys being in the spotlight with a good rant, but I believe the man with the famous anagram has his good points. He has said nice things about City in the past – “I think Delia is a wonderful woman and Norwich is a great club” – and at least one member of our sports desk has found him to be courtesy itself, not once but twice, in calling back to give interviews at a busy time.
I have a feeling that if he lived next door, he’d be the kind of bloke to help start your car if the battery was flat or clear the snow off the garden path.
But it does seem that his team – and there have been many – can never lose, or even drop points, against Norwich City without him finding something to complain about. And this week, I believe he has gone too far, especially with his character assassination of Bradley Johnson.
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It’s hard not to escape the feeling that it is Rangers’ dismal run of form, putting them on the brink of the bottom three in the Premier League, that has really got to Warnock. Focusing on the perceived injustice of the decision merely diverts the attention from the fact his team hasn’t won for eight games.
True, Barton’s red card may have been debatable – it certainly wasn’t a full-blooded head butt – and may have been administered in a rather unorthodox fashion, as Warnock argued.
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“You can’t tell me another violent conduct offence where the linesman has not flagged immediately,” he said yesterday.
“I don’t think there has ever been one, I don’t think there will ever be one.
“There is not even a report from the linesman who has seen this alleged incident. There is not even a report from him that goes into the commission. All there is are two lines from the referee saying his linesman told him that he (Barton) put his head forward. It is just absolutely farcical and I am so disgusted in it.”
But the fact remains that, whether the referee or linesman saw it at the time, replays show that Barton did dip his head slightly towards Johnson and had earlier thrown an arm in his direction. It was asking for trouble.
The theory that Norwich’s players goaded Barton into losing his rag, or that Johnson – in Warnock’s words –- got a fellow professional sent off, is overblown. Barton has shown over the years that he doesn’t need any help to get into trouble. As Rangers captain, he was irresponsible and cost his side the match. That’s what Warnock should be angry about.
What I find a bit disappointing is the fact that anyone at Norwich – though certainly not manager Paul Lambert, who maintained a diplomatic silence on the red card – should feel the need to get dragged into the tit-for-tat row.
As journalists, I suppose we should be lapping up every morsel of the ongoing debate, claim and counter-claim over who did what and who was to blame.
But I feel 99.9 per cent certain that any request from our newspapers for an interview with Johnson or another player, specifically about the red card incident, would have been refused by City.
Why then does Johnson have to respond to Barton’s self-indulgent Twitter ramblings with a rude message on a placard at a darts tournament? Why is another City player giving his views on the red card on Talksport’s morning show? And why does City director Stephen Fry need to weigh in with a “Feel great sympathy for you, Joey” message for the benefit of his 3.6 million Twitter followers?
Let Warnock and Barton chirrup and tweet for all they are worth.
There is just no need to get involved.