When Neil Warnock stepped down as manager of Cardiff in November, he brought down the curtain on a remarkable and somewhat controversial managerial career.
As a player, Warnock was largely unremarkable. He played as a winger for Barnsley, Aldershot and Scunthorpe among others, amassing 327 senior appearances before retiring in 1979 aged just 30. He focused on becoming a coach and spent time in the Sunday Leagues before managing Gainsborough Trinity, Burton Albion and Scarborough.
The latter two sides have Football League history now, but when a young Warnock first ventured into the dugout, they were just two more names in the huge pool of teams fans barely heard about. Until 1987 there was no promotion between the non-league ranks and the Football League, only a re-election process heavily weighted in favour of the league clubs.
In 1987, Scarborough, managed by Warnock, became the first side to earn promotion into the Football League, at the expense of Lincoln City, and so began the story of one of England’s most recognisable managers.
He later took up with Notts County and, along with former Peterborough boss Mick Jones, earned back to back promotions into the top flight. Former player Craig Short, a Magpies defender who enjoyed their swift rise, claimed that Warnock’s methods were to always keep things simple.
Huddersfield, Plymouth, Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield United all felt the benefits of a man who seemed to turn everything he touched to gold. It wasn’t always pretty, with the infamous Battle of Bramall Lane highlighted some of the cruder methods and approaches taken by Warnock’s sides. They were never teams of guile and flair, but always visions of his non-league days; compact and organised with plenty of aggression and character thrown in.
Whilst times changed and some managers fell by the wayside, the Sheffield native did not. He took QPR back to the Premier League in 2011, 24 years after guiding Scarborough to the Football League.
His best was yet to come. In the final years before retirement, he proved his methods were as relevant as ever. His Cardiff City side were promoted back to the Premier League in the 2017/18 season, beating the likes of Derby, Aston Villa and Leeds United to a promotion spot. They didn’t overspend but rather formed a side bonded by grit and determination. The promotion master had done it again.
His time in the Premier League with Cardiff was memorable even though they were relegated at the first time of asking due to the various rants usually aimed at the officials. He left Cardiff recently by mutual consent with them in the middle of the pack in the Championship. They’re still ranked as being in with a chance in the latest football betting tips from Betfair, suggesting they should still be able to achieve a play-off place under their new manager, Neil Harris.
How Warnock would have loved that to be him. Announcing you are leaving but staying on for a season is always dangerous; look at Mick McCarthy. However, Warnock has left Cardiff City in decent shape, with plenty of the qualities he’s shown throughout his career abundant in their focused and organised squad.