One last job Sharon. Football’s favourite pantomime villain, Neil Warnock, is back for one last job - taking over at Huddersfield Town until the end of the season with the simple aim of keeping the West Yorkshire club in the SkyBet Championship.
Warnock, who has flirted with the idea of retirement for the best part of 20 years, has once again leapt out of post-management relaxation, following a 10-month retirement filled with live shows and sight-seeing.
The fact that Warnock doesn’t start at the John Smith’s Stadium until this Thursday (once he returns from a holiday and Valentines Day is over) sums up Warnock’s career over the past 10 to 15 years perfectly.
There are a couple of old adages about Neil Warnock. One goes that he only starts work after Valentines Day. The other is that if in relegation danger, you break the glass for Neil Warnock. But relegation survival becoming his modus operandi in the past few years does a disservice to the dedication the 74-year-old has given the game over the past 50 years. Warnock is football itself.
His relationship with football is exactly the same as the average fan. He will moan incessantly before, during and after games about referees and the state of the game, but he always comes back. He will say at every club that this is his last job, but there’s always one more in him.
There is clearly the same child-like obsession in him as there is when you are a young fan that makes the game so difficult to put down. Maybe that’s why so many fans love the man, or at least love to hate him. Wherever he goes, at whatever age he is, he will reignite people’s passion for the game and get clubs showing signs of life once again.
And in a club like Huddersfield, he has found a good fit for the type of job he has become renowned for. Warnock is tasked with breathing new life into a club that is desperately flapping to stay afloat. In May, the Terriers were 90 minutes from the Premier League, losing the Championship play-off final narrowly to Nottingham Forest.
Some nine months later, they are (technically) on their fourth manager of the season in February. Carlos Corberan resigned on the fourth day of pre-season, Danny Schofield lasted just nine games thereafter, and Mark Fotheringham lasted just 20 games after that. In truth, none of the managers in charge of games this season have been good enough and fans have become disenchanted with the lack of progress on and off the pitch. It needs a saviour. One last job Sharon.
Despite the dreadful season Town have experienced so far this season, there hasn’t been a feeling this good around the club for some time, since the news was announced. Warnock, of course, is returning nearly 30 years after he left the club, where he managed two trips to Wembley and one promotion, before leaving in 1995.
Older generations of fans are like little kids again, excited at the prospect of seeing one of the club’s most popular managers returning to save the club. Younger fans are delighted to see one of football’s great characters in charge for 15 games. He’s already started reigniting people’s passion before he’s even stepped foot in the club.
By the time the season comes to an end, his total number of games in management will have reached 1,618. There’s no guarantee that he keeps the club up. But even at 74, Warnock is unwilling to go extinct or let one of his much-loved former clubs drop down a division. So whatever happens in these last 15 games, he’ll make you love football once again. He can’t put it down, and neither can we.
Apologies in advance to opposition fans, fourth officials, linesmen and referees.