Why Blade Warnock’s so keen to cut Owls down to size

South Wales Echo - - SPORTS -

NEIL Warnock didn’t say much to his play­ers after their first de­feat of the sea­son, even though they might have been ex­pect­ing it.

And there won’t be much of a speech to Cardiff City’s stars ahead of the visit of Sh­effield Wed­nes­day.

The rea­son­ing for the for­mer was per­haps a mix­ture of things. The vet­eran man­ager ac­cepts that he should have made changes at Deep­dale, some­thing that be­came ap­par­ent “within the first 15 min­utes” as an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally off-the-pace per­for­mance led to Pre­ston’s 3-0 mid­week win.

But, as he ad­mit­ted play­ers might have an­tic­i­pated the “rol­lick­ing” he could have dished out in the dress­ing room, the fact that he trusted them to know in them­selves they weren’t good enough may have had a big­ger im­pact. After all, as any­one would re­mem­ber from child­hood, you’d know when you’d re­ally up­set your par­ents when you suf­fered the silent treat­ment rather than the shouts and scolds.

Of­fer­ing the chance for some in­tro­spec­tion from the play­ers per­haps ex­plains the lat­ter and why there won’t be any mo­ti­va­tional march­ing or­ders now Cardiff are back on home soil.

But, again, there’s more to it, with Warnock no doubt ex­pect­ing his play­ers to know and un­der­stand the vet­eran man­ager’s back­ground as a boy­hood Blade and what it means to him to take on ‘Steel City’ ri­vals.

Loy­alty doesn’t – or shouldn’t – leave when colours change, and it will be no dif­fer­ent for the for­mer man­ager of United when up against the Owls.

And yet it’s more than a base ri­valry, just as Warnock is more than the dugout per­son­al­ity he of­ten plays up to. Both go deeper than that and the Sh­effield na­tive’s mo­ti­va­tion this week is as touch­ing as it is trib­al­is­tic.

“I was born in Sh­effield and I’ve al­ways like the un­der­dog,” said Warnock when asked why he be­came a Blade rather than an Owl. “When I was a young lad in short trousers, Wed­nes­day were the best team in the county from what I re­mem­ber. I can re­mem­ber a big cen­tre-half called Peter Swan with his shorts up his waist­band.

“I re­mem­ber I went to watch San­tos at Hills­bor­ough one night as a lad. Pele was play­ing and I stand­ing on the Kop with my sis­ter who was a Wed­nes­dayite. That tells you the fam­ily was split be­tween the clubs.

“But Wed­nes­day were al­ways the favourites and so, be­ing the black sheep of the fam­ily like I was, I wanted to be the un­der­dog and that’s how I ended up a Blade.”

The mem­o­ries prompt Warnock to re­call how much he en­joyed go­ing from boy on the ter­races to the man who led United above Wed­nes­day and into the Premier League, the smil­ing side­swipe a tell-tale sign of how much he’d love to get one over the Owls re­gard­less of the cur­rent crest on his track­suit.

“I al­ways have ban­ter with them, ev­ery time I go there, it’s fab­u­lous. I love it,” he said.

“It’s a spe­cial game for me, with all my fam­ily up in that area; quite a few are com­ing down as well as my mis­sus and daugh­ter.”

Sadly, not all those Warnock would like to be there to wit­ness a win over Wed­nes­day will be at Cardiff City Sta­dium.

“I’ve got one or two good mates who are Wed­nes­day fans, but un­for­tu­nately one of my best mates passed away a cou­ple of months ago,” Warnock said of a long-stand­ing friend.

“My mate Tony was a Wed­nes­dayite and would ring me reg­u­larly call­ing me all names. He had can­cer for many years and fought it, but even­tu­ally lost his bat­tle. But be­fore he did I said, don’t worry, I won’t let you down when we play against you. I hope he’ll be look­ing down.”

And so tells a story of a ri­valry strong in Sh­effield steel, but more smil­ing than spite­ful where the only true hate in Warnock is the ha­tred of los­ing to give friends and fam­ily from other half of his home­town the brag­ging rights.

It’s why los­ing to Wed­nes­day at Hills­bor­ough last sea­son was one of those fix­tures that fu­elled Warnock’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to make the changes he wanted this sum­mer and give the Blue­birds the chance of a dream that all are rev­el­ling in.

After the late 1-0 loss there last year, Warnock wound up play-off chas­ing Wed­nes­day by con­grat­u­lat­ing the pro­mo­tion of United and say­ing how much he was look­ing for­ward to the re­turn of the Sh­effield derby, dis­miss-

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