Across large parts of the country this weekend, members of the public will celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, a 74 year old man who has been waiting 70 years for this moment. In Huddersfield, they have re-anointed a 74 year old man who has been waiting 30 years for another spell on the throne. King Neil Warnock.
Warnock has been defying expectations throughout his extraordinary 43-year managerial career, but keeping Huddersfield Town in the Championship this season ranks amongst his greatest. On 8 March 2023, three weeks after Warnock came out of retirement to attempt to rescue the Terriers, Town were bottom of the league - played 34, with 31 points on the board - seven points off safety and with the second worst goal difference in the league. On 4 May 2023 (58 days later), Huddersfield Town beat Premier League-bound Sheffield United 1-0 to secure survival having played 45 games, and hit the magic 50 points marker. He’s done it all with one game to spare.
Not only has he achieved one of the most miraculous achievements in Championship history, he has reinvigorated a club that was on the brink of a worrying level of disconnect. When Town picked up a point against 10-man Norwich City on 15 March, many fans had written the season off after one win in 14. Even more pertinently, there were persistent rumours in the 24 hours that followed that game that the club were to enter administration, potentially incurring a points deduction and condemning the club to League One in the 2023/24 season.
Since then, they have picked up 18 points from 9 games, losing just once. Coupled with the announcement that the club has a pending takeover from American businessman Kevin Nagle, there is a new-found optimism around the club. Entering during a time of off-field uncertainty and on-field underperformance, Warnock has shifted the entire outlook of the club in a matter of weeks.
When he took the job, he insisted that he could only do ‘10 week jobs’ nowadays, starting in February every year when his wife Sharon ‘gets sick of him’. He claimed that he ‘wasn’t with the dinosaurs yet’. And he was absolutely right. His football was exciting, watchable and fun. It changed the mood of every person linked to the club. This was shown none more so than in the atmosphere that secured survival against Sheffield United. In 25 years of supporting the club, I’ve seen three promotions and two survival battles, but I can’t remember a stadium as united as that in my entire time watching Huddersfield Town.
But Town fans of a certain age should’ve known that he could achieve miracles, having taken Town to two Wembley finals in his two seasons managing the club between 1993-95. My Dad, having followed Town home and away during Warnock’s first reign, told me his second spell would be an extraordinary 10 weeks regardless of the final outcome, but nothing could’ve prepared Town fans for what was to follow. That we and many other Town fans got to share those memories together is extremely special and shows the power of what Warnock can do, even at 74.
And even as he carries on getting older and you keep wondering if he will finally retire, you can never ever write Neil Warnock off. He’ll be back next February, rescuing another club from the brink with another miracle job and turning fans in to his loyal subjects. Football is a better place for him. For now though Neil, enjoy relaxing by the pond in Cornwall. Long live the real King.