Neil Warnock – 43 years and counting
Last Wednesday, Neil Warnock took charge of his last game as boss of Huddersfield Town. The 74-year-old took over the Terriers earlier this year for what would be his second stint at the club, making a return from his claimed retirement. Signing on a short-term deal, Warnock’s job was to keep the Yorkshire sides’ Championship status in tact; seven points adrift in March, it looked all but done but with help from long time assistant Ronnie Jepson, Huddersfield finished 18th – three places above the drop zone.
Subsequently, this earned the Yorkshireman and his team a one-year extension. But, after seven league games, the board had other ideas and now ex-Sheffield Wednesday manager Darren Moore has taken over the reins. But it appears that Warnock is still open to a fresh start. “I’m buzzing” he said. “I don’t know what’s around the corner but it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
The desire from Warnock is evidently still there.
In 43 years as manager, Warnock has managed 16 different teams and has gone from non-league level to the Premier League. His career in management started after what was a successful career as a player; playing for the likes of Barnsley and Rotherham United, before joining Burton Albion – where he would finish his professional playing days and concentrate on coaching.
Northern Premier side Gainsborough Trinity is where it all began for Warnock – a small team from a town situated on the outskirts of Lincoln. A year later he re-joined Burton, where he became player-manager, and for five years he continued to learn his trade. This then came followed by a three-year spell at Scarborough Athletic, a spell in which he led them promotion to the English Football League.
Just beginning his journeyman career, Warnock then took charge of Notts county, taking them from the previous Third Division to the First Division in just four years. During this period, clubs such as Chelsea and Sunderland offered him roles, but neither took his fancy. However, these could be choices that he may have lived to regret. Sacked after a relegation, his first stint with Huddersfield was set to take place – a cup final but 2 failed promotions saw the start of a disappointing end to the 1990’s. A short spell at Plymouth Argyle ended with a relegation two seasons in – just the first of three sackings in three years with Oldham Athletic and Bury.
A lengthy spell at Sheffield United came next, where he gained promotion to the Premier League in 2006 after finishing second in the Championship. A dream fulfilled, guiding his boyhood club to the top flight of English football. This, however, was the beginning of the end for Warnock; relegation after Sheffield United’s first season saw Warnock lose his job and was the start of unsuccessful short stays at various other clubs. Four clubs later, he found his way to Cardiff City, in 2016. Reportedly some of his best times in football, Warnock had gained another Premier League promotion, becoming the first manager to win eight promotions with his various teams. Unfortunately, it was soon the same old story for the 69-year-old, who after a poor first season in the Premier League, oversaw a relegation straight back down and his time came to an end in Wales later that year in 2019.
300 miles up North, and seven months later, Middlesborough came knocking and Neil Warnock once again found himself burdened with task of gaining survival for another struggling Championship team. The Boro were 21st upon his appointment and amongst all the setbacks due to the weird season that Covid-19 provided, the North-East side were safe and secure – finishing 17th.
Later that year, in the following season, Warnock broke the record of most games managed with 1,602 games. However, a month later his time at the club ended. In April of 2022 it was reported that he was retiring – a phrase fans were familiar with.
Returning to Huddersfield for his second spell, it was evident Warnock had not yet fell out of love with the game; and with the announcement that he was leaving this week but not yet retiring suggests he could be set to enter his 44th year in management. A true fan favourite known for his distinguished direct approach and his old school ways, Neil Warnock will definitely be remembered for years to come as an English Football legend.