Warnock can make Blue­birds fly

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

THERE IS a scene in The Four Year Plan doc­u­men­tary on Queens Park Rangers, when both Flavio Bri­a­tore and the door to the man­ager’s of­fice are about to come off their hinges. It’s when the then owner de­clares: ‘What we need is a strong man­ager.” En­ter Neil Warnock.

Cardiff City owner Tan Sri Vin­cent Tan reached the same con­clu­sion yes­ter­day and although the Welsh club have ex­pe­ri­enced nei­ther the num­ber of bosses nor the lev­els of frus­tra­tion that drove Bri­a­tore to dis­trac­tion, they were in a sim­i­lar plight in the depths of the Cham­pi­onship and have opted for the same man to turn them around.

Seven pro­mo­tions from the sec­ond tier and sev­eral other no­table res­cues might have been enough for the 67year-old York­shire­man to head­line his CV ‘cri­sis man­age­ment’, but he didn’t want to be type­cast sim­ply as football’s Red Adair.

Such a record might also make you won­der why he was still avail­able when the oc­cu­pa­tion is still as haz­ardous as that of a bomb dis­posal ex­pert and the sack­ing sea­son is al­ready un­der way. And es­pe­cially when one of Warnock’s finest achieve­ments in sav­ing “doomed” Rother­ham was as re­cent as last sea­son.

There have been fail­ures, too, and it is no se­cret that he was of­fered sev­eral posts but, com­fort­ably off and hav­ing re­tired a cou­ple of times al­ready, he can af­ford to be choosy. He fan­cied a shot at Not­ting­ham For­est but felt “the chair­man wouldn’t let me pick the team”.

Oth­ers were not quite right or too far from his home in Corn­wall in Bri­tain’s south west cor­ner, but this one “feels right,” he said. Nor does he re­gard it as sim­ply a res­cue op­er­a­tion. Cardiff may be in the bot­tom three but Warnock is not go­ing there just to avoid rel­e­ga­tion – he’s al­ready talk­ing of pro­mo­tion. At QPR he took them up the fol­low­ing sea­son.

Be­fore that he was at Crys­tal Palace and Bri­a­tore had to pay com­pen­sa­tion to break his con­tract, some­thing the F1 man did not do lightly af­ter chang­ing man­agers as of­ten as his Re­nault cars changed tyres. But the Ital­ian came to re­gard the de­ci­sion as the best he made while in charge.

Glar­ingly ap­par­ent from the film was how dif­fer­ently Bri­a­tore treated Warnock to his pre­de­ces­sors. He knew in­stantly he’d got a “strong” char­ac­ter and gave him the re­spect that he had pal­pa­bly failed to af­ford the likes of Ian Dowie, Paolo Sousa and Paul Hart – none of them shrink­ing vi­o­lets - and sev­eral hap­less care­tak­ers.

Warnock, a fiery, pas­sion­ate man, takes no non­sense which brings us to per­haps the other rea­son for his avail­abil­ity. Known as a Mar­mite char­ac­ter – you ei­ther love him or loathe him - he has rubbed a few peo­ple, in­clud­ing chair­men, up the wrong way. Which is why there was sur­prise in some quar­ters that he should agree to work for an owner who is also per­ceived as be­ing strong­willed and very much his own man.

Like Bri­a­tore, Tan had to open the purse strings to get Warnock and although Cardiff were nowhere near the mad­house Rangers were off the field in 2010, there was a pro­found sense of dis­ap­point­ment among the hi­er­ar­chy and de­spair among fans about their plight – felt more acutely af­ter the suc­cess of Wales at Euro 2016. Gates have matched the Blue­birds’ plunge down the ta­ble and clearly some­thing had to be done.

It is a bold move and a pack­age that should be marked “Very Frag­ile”, but one that has al­ready gal­vanised the fans. Some have even placed bets on pro­mo­tion. That may be a lit­tle too op­ti­mistic for this sea­son but Warnock has bet­ter play­ers to work with than he had at Rother­ham and his ap­point­ment has been hailed by the Welsh me­dia as “the best in 10 years”. It could also be a pos­si­ble turn­ing point.

“I’ve al­ways liked it here,” Warnock told the Cardiff City web­site. “Ev­ery­where I go I get stick but I’ve al­ways had good ban­ter with the Cardiff peo­ple. They’re my type of crowd - blood and guts and all that, which I like - and I know that if I can get it right for them, they’ll get be­hind me.” A quick scan of fan fo­rums and com­ments in the lo­cal pa­per sug­gests they al­ready are.

Hav­ing taken time out of the game a few times, he found he was get­ting un­der his wife Sharon’s feet at home and was per­suaded back into the game. Now, his fires rekin­dled, he wants an eighth pro­mo­tion and that record all to him­self.

The truth is Cardiff fans never thought they’d see Warnock’s like in the job – he’s a ball of fire on the touch­line and whether “the Jose Mour­inho of the lower leagues” or “an English Jur­gen Klopp”, he com­mands at­ten­tion. And although a qual­i­fied ref­eree, he’s not slow to ques­tion their judg­ment. Nor that of op­pos­ing man­agers.

His first game is at home against Bris­tol City a week to­day, a lo­cal Seven­side derby, with whose man­ager Lee John­son he has a per­sonal feud. It should be a lively oc­ca­sion – the first of many. (car­i­ca­ture)

Cardiff City’s new man­ager Neil Warnock pos­ing with the club’s football jer­sey at his first press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

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