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