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Will Championship great Neil Warnock earn a final shot at the Premier League?

Achieving promotion to the Premier League with second-placed Cardiff City would rank among Championship stalwart Neil Warnock’s finest career achievements, writes Greg Whitaker.

Greg Whitaker

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Neil Warnock
Photo: Reuters

Earlier this week, Neil Warnock told the assembled press that he “loves it” when his Cardiff City side are not mentioned in the race for promotion this season.

The high flying Bluebirds have certainly proved a surprise package this season, with Warnock once again up to his old tricks and making good use of his vast managerial expertise.

With runaway leaders Wolves, along with the likes of Aston Villa and Derby, taking all the headlines this season, it would appear Cardiff are indeed operating under the radar.

With relatively limited resources at his disposal and no real promotion expectations prior to the start of the season, the highly divisive Warnock, even in his 38th year of football management, is once again showing why he is still the master at this level.

The 69-year-old, who is now managing his 15th club, is a rare beast in modern football.

Unapologetically honest and forthright, he is the last in a dying breed of old school British managers, and one of the very few who has managed to adapt and continue to succeed in a game that barely resembles the one he left as a player nearly four decades ago.

Cutting his managerial teeth in non-league football, Warnock soon began to make a name for himself as an up-and-coming manager during the 1980s.

His managerial career was kick-started when he guided Conference side Scarborough into the Football League for the very first time in 1987, making them first club to win automatic promotion following the abolition of the re-election system in the process.

Successful stints at Notts County, Huddersfield Town, Plymouth Argyle, Oldham and Bury followed, before he took over at his boyhood club, Sheffield United, in 1999.

Under his stewardship, the Blades were transformed from a struggling second tier side into serial promotion contenders, with the club’s long awaited return to the Premier League coming in 2006.

However, a highly controversial relegation the following season, immortalised by the image of the ‘ineligible’ Carlos Tevez scoring a vital winner for relegation rivals West Ham at Old Trafford, saw Warnock resign and take some time away from the game.

Despite the Blades receiving a £20 million settlement after a lengthy court battle, Sheffield United are yet to return to the Premier League – surely Warnock’s biggest regret of his career.

The former winger returned to the dugout with Crystal Palace, before getting his second shot at the Premier League after guiding fellow London outfit QPR to the Championship title in 2011.

Time spent at Leeds United, a second spell at Selhurst Park, and a relegation scrap with Rotherham all came and went before Warnock was announced as Paul Trollope’s successor at Cardiff City in October 2016.

Admitting when he took the job that it would likely be his last in football, Warnock has unashamedly stuck to his tried and tested management style, once again with great effect.

Packing his teams with leaders on the pitch and in the dressing room, organisation drilled into each and every squad member, and a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality, rarely so effectively implemented by anyone else in the modern game, has made him enemies over the years, but also brought him a great deal of success.

This method of success, along, of course, with his infamous short temper and frequently observable explosions of rage, often aimed at match officials, has given Warnock an almost pantomime villain image, and one which he loves to play up to.

Indeed, as he noted in a recent interview, when discussing how the past greats of football should be remembered, he said, “I don’t want silence. I want them all to be chanting “Warnock’s a w*****” over and over again. For a whole minute. That would be my ideal.”

However he presents himself, it cannot be argued that the man gets results.

Cardiff City were deeply mired in a relegation battle when Warnock took to the hot seat at the Welsh capital club in October of 2016.

Less than 18 months later the Bluebirds sit in second position, behind only runaway leaders, Wolves.

A turnaround made all the more impressive when Warnock’s transfer budget is taken into account.

The Welsh outfit have spent a little under £15m on incoming players during the last two transfer windows combined – a shadow of the money spent by other names in the promotion mix, including Wolves, Villa, Derby and Middlesbrough.

Although he has claimed in the past not to enjoy managing in the Premier League, it is hard to imagine Warnock is not itching for one last shot at the big time.

His Championship credentials are unquestionably up there with some of the great Football League managers.

However, fate has been unkind to the Yorkshireman during his only two spells managing in the top flight.

Football is all about theatre and narrative.

Despite a great deal of ‘pantomime’ animosity aimed at the Marmite-esque Neil Warnock, if he manages to take this unfancied Cardiff City side into the Premier League this season, it would surely rank as his finest achievement, and cement his status as one of the second tier’s greatest managers.

Greg is a freelance writer and broadcast journalist who has previously worked as a sports journalist at the likes of the BBC, Yahoo Sports UK, and the Hull Daily Mail. A long-standing Hull City supporter, Greg has also spent time as a Director on the Board of the Hull City Supporters' Trust. Follow him on Twitter - @Greg_Whitaker

Cardiff City

Neil Warnock should target Robert Snodgrass reunion this summer

Cardiff City boss Warnock worked with Snodgrass previously at Leeds United.

Mathew Nash

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Leeds United fans know the story of Robert Snodgrass’ exit from the club well. Snodgrass joined Norwich City in July 2012 after four excellent seasons with Leeds United. One of his managers during his Elland Road stay was now Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock.

Whenever the Bluebirds boss gets a chance, he likes to bring up the sale of Snodgrass. Just last week, he shared the story again, telling talkSPORT:

“A week before [the season started], Norwich came in for Snodgrass and Ken Bates said to me: ‘you’ve got to sell him for £1 million as we need the money’.

“In the end they got £3 million, and he said: ‘you can have half of whatever we get’. Then, unfortunately, two days later Ken told me the bank had stopped him from spending any money.

“Snodgrass… I could have cried. He was the one chance we had. He came to see me and I said: ‘I don’t want you to go’.

“He said: ‘just for the family gaffer, I’ve got to go!’

“And he was right and I had to let him go. That just about finished me off up there… I had no chance!”

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Well, this summer, he surely has the chance to team up with Snodgrass yet again. Warnock has done a marvellous job at Cardiff this season. He has taken the relegation candidates to the Premier League with a disciplined season based around hard-working players playing for each other and a shared cause.

Next season, they might need a little more spark to stay in the Premier League.

It now looks as though Snodgrass will be available. He spent the season on loan at Cardiff’s promotion rivals Aston Villa, who lost in the play-off final this weekend.

It leaves West Ham’s Snodgrass in limbo. Villa now need to cut their wage bill to comply with FFP regulations so taking on Snodgrass permanently is an unlikely feat.

A recent report from Claret and Hugh suggested that West Ham want £12 million for the Scotland international. Despite the promotion, that fee might be a bit rich for Cardiff’s taste.

But if it came down to another loan deal then Snodgrass could be a great recruit. With his dead-ball delivery, Warnock’s powerful side could be a real danger in the Premier League. The Cardiff manager would certainly love the chance to work with the Scot again, who performed so well under his management in West Yorkshire.

This summer might present the Cardiff boss with his last chance to work with the one that got away before he ends his brilliant management career. It is an opportunity he will surely not miss.

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McKay twins have landed on their feet since being released by Leeds United in December

The former Leeds pair are now pushing for a career at Premier League newcomers Cardiff City.

Mathew Nash

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December last year saw Leeds United release two players prematurely from their contracts at Elland Road. Paul and Jack McKay were both told they could find new clubs by Leeds, six months before their contracts at Elland Road were due to expire.

It came as little surprise to Leeds fans. The pair had failed to make much of an impact at the club. The twins made a combined total of just the one first-team appearance, defender Paul playing in the FA Cup loss v non-league Sutton United.

He also spent time on loan at Gainsborough Trinity whilst Jack had a half-season with Scottish club Airdrie.

Leeds fans were fairly unanimous that the pair would not be missed. The sons of football agent Willie McKay had failed to make a lasting impression after their arrival at Leeds from Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers in 2016.

But as soon as they were told they could depart the duo embarked on trial periods at Cardiff City. The Championship rivals, managed by former Leeds boss Neil Warnock, wanted to see if the twins could help in the Bluebirds under-23s set-up.

Clearly, the decision was that they could, as Cardiff soon offered the McKay’s two-and-a-half year deals in South Wales.

Now the Welsh capital side will be playing in the Premier League next season. Cardiff finished second in the Championship this season, with former Leeds captain Sol Bamba a pivotal figure in their rise.

Next season the McKay twins will be trying their best to push on in the under-23s and will be hoping for a shot at Premier League football.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Whilst that would seem an unlikely scenario, a few injuries and some good form with the youngsters could certainly see it happen. Leeds fans won’t be too concerned, as in the long-run the pair are surely not good enough to play Premier League football.

But it certainly appears that they have managed to fall on their feet after being given a premature boot by Leeds United just before Christmas.

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Neil Warnock deserves Premier League chance after Cardiff City promotion

Cardiff became the eighth side Neil Warnock has guided to promotion.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Cardiff City failed to win on the final day of the Championship season, but due to Fulham’s loss to Birmingham City, the Bluebirds were promoted to the Premier League.

They had been the frontrunners to clinch the second automatic promotion spot for the final few months of the season, but the form of the Cottagers meant that it wasn’t as comfortable as they would have liked.

Neil Warnock deserves a lot of credit for the achievement as he took over 19 months ago with the club in the relegation zone.

It looked like a battle against the drop was inevitable, but the wily veteran manager led them to a comfortable mid-table finish and established a playing style that was difficult to come up against.

Every Championship supporter will attest to the challenge posed by a team managed by Warnock and the Cardiff squad were quick to buy into his principles.

At the beginning of 2017, they went on a run of seven wins in ten Championship matches and proved that they could compete with the best in the division.

Kenneth Zohore emerged as an effective striker to lead the line, while the famous discipline of a Warnock team was on show with four clean sheets in their last seven matches.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

The foundations were in place for a top-six push and it was important that they were built on.

Although they made several signings during the season and made further reinforcements in January, it was the core of the squad that was already at the club that was mainly responsible for promotion.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was the standout signing, adding attacking threat from the wider positions.

Meanwhile, Callum Paterson, Neil Etheridge and Marko Grujic all had a part to play.

There were failures in the market that need to be looked back on, with Lee Tomlin and Gary Madine unable to live up to their big fees.

The latter cost over £6 million and he didn’t score a single Championship goal for the club, despite proving his quality with Bolton Wanderers during the first-half of the season.

A quick look at the stats show why the majority of neutrals were willing Fulham to get promoted on the final day.

Cardiff averaged 45.4% possession and completed only 59.4% of their passes during the campaign. They relied on disciplined defending and a direct approach to get results.

It may have been primitive, but Warnock has a great record at winning promotion with this being his eighth as a manager.

He knows what is required and it shouldn’t be a surprise that he has managed to get his team over the line.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The next few weeks will be for celebrations, but Warnock will turn his focus to next season very quickly.

Throughout his time as a manager, he has failed to make an impact in the Premier League.

He was relegated at the first attempt with Sheffield United and was sacked mid-season by both QPR and Crystal Palace.

At the age of 69, he wouldn’t have been expecting another opportunity to prove himself at the highest level, but it has now arrived.

Despite his previous shortcomings, he is the main reason why Cardiff City were promoted and he deserves a chance to continue the good work at the next level.

It won’t be easy, but it would be foolish to back against him having more success this time around.

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