QPR’s victory over Watford this weekend finally secured their long-overdue reinstatement to the big-time (FA recriminations permitting following the Faurlin mess).
It also heralds the return of one of the most unhinged, temperamental, petty, argumentative, wind-up merchants the game has ever known.
Neil Colin Warnock. A walking, talking persecution complex writ large.
Here at the Cutter we heartily salute such insanity and look forward to the pantomime post-match performances to come. The Premier League, a billion pound circus of madness and exaggerated tribulations, is made for Warnock, a man who makes Wenger seen like a perfectly reasonable chap.
Seeing him rant on a Championship touchline is akin to watching King Lear performed by a local rep company in a dingy studio. His borderline psychosis is too large to be contained within such an environment. The man is annoying as hell but genuine box office.
So welcome back to the main stage and the bright lights Neil. And to celebrate his return here are ten of our favourite moments of managerial lunacy from a guy who probably argues with himself in his sleep.
10/ El-Hadj Diouf the ‘sewer rat’
Usually Warnock’s perceived slights are entirely personal and often confounding. They spew forth from twisted bowels after festering deep within for some considerable time.
Not in this instance; a rare occurrence of the QPR gaffer speaking instinctively and from the heart and, uniquely, airing thoughts shared by the entire nation. Hell, for one glorious minute, he was our spokesman.
Following a disgraceful leg-break by Diouf on one of his players during an FA Cup tie against Blackburn Warnock spoke with almost calm, admirable restraint. Yet each word was laced with pure arsenic.
Movie madness rating – 3/5 For rather fabulously evoking karmic justice upon Diouf and therefore believing he controls exterior forces – John Forbes Nash in A Beautiful Mind.
9/ Graham Poll, the Arsenal twelfth man
In 2003 Warnock guided his beloved Sheffield United to the semi-finals of the FA Cup where they faced a formidable Arsenal side who had yet to be beaten all season. On a sunny Spring day at Old Trafford their task was onerous enough without the unintentional assistance of ‘Three-Card’ Poll. The injustice occurred in the 35th minute. First Blades striker Wayne Allison was clearly fouled as United launched a rare attack. He then lay prone on the deck whilst Poll waved play on. As the Gunners quickly moved the ball upfield Michael Tonge raced back to help out his exposed defence. Seeing that Freddie Ljungberg was unmarked he changed direction, only to clatter into the hapless official. The Swede duly received the ball in space, 1-0 to the Arsenal. Poll compounded his error by smiling broadly as he departed the field at half-time, the intention being to show defiance to the loud fusillade of boos emanating from half the ground. The wide grin however only sent Warnock into, what Poll himself later described as, ‘a vein-popping apoplectic frenzy’.
Not surprisingly the post-match interview was a veritable gold-mine for rant enthusiasts, Warnock attesting that the ‘Thing from Tring’ had been Arsenal’s ‘best midfielder’, a remark that earned him a four-match touchline ban from the F.A.
Movie madness rating – 2/5 Points deducted for his ire being perfectly understandable under the circumstances but still an impressive display of fury – Jack Torrance in The Shining
8/ Graham Poll. The sequel
Warnock’s old assistant Kevin Blackwell had recently moved across Yorkshire to take charge of Leeds, a ‘defection’ that was predictably viewed as an act of betrayal by his mad-as-cheese former boss.
Some months later the two sides met in the league and trench warfare broke out almost immediately in the opposing dug-outs as insults were hurled and bickering ensued, the match itself becoming almost a side-show.
That was until Sheffield United’s Craig Short and Leeds full-back Gary Kelly clashed in a meaty challenge, prompting Warnock to loudly exclaim, ‘Next time I hope he breaks his fucking leg!’ The fourth official called over Poll who sent an incensed Warnock to the stands. At least that was the plan. Our favourite loon however refused to budge until he was forcibly ejected by a police officer.
Movie Madness rating – 5/5 A full-scale blow-up this one, requiring the law and even ending in a tunnel bust-up. For the false perception of betrayal and the leg-breaking connotation this can only be Annie Wilkes from Misery.
7/ Nigel Worthington, the snubber
Just another day at the office for barmy Neil as he takes offense at Worthington’s refusal to shake his hand after a fractious affair at Carrow Road. His response is to hurl a two-fingered salute in his direction. Another fine followed natch.
Movie madness rating – 1/5 A rather mild rebuke by Warnock’s standards but for his diva petulance – Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
6/ Wally Downes, the big man out of shape. For Warnock madness is a full-time job
During a fiery 3-1 defeat at the Madejski Stadium for his Palace team Warnock was infuriated to see one of his players sent off when it was the home side who appeared to be dishing out most of the dirty stuff. Shortly afterwards he visibly, almost comically, made an exaggerated stamping motion to…well here the ambiguity lies. Was it to his players, to encourage them to seek revenge on Steve Sidwell after he’d followed through on Chris Armstrong? Or was it for the benefit of the referee to highlight Sidwell’s challenge? The Reading bench all assumed it was the former and briefly all hell broke loose.
Reading coach Downes, a rather rotund man clearly out of shape and more Alf Roberts now than Michael Caine, but still a formidable figure, angrily approached Warnock, initially to thump the agitating twat. Separated by a melee of backroom staff he had to settle for hurled accusations and a wagging finger.
He said later ‘I was so angry I felt like strangling him. I clearly heard him on several occasions tell his players to ‘do him’’.
Both Warnock and Downes were sent to the stands.
Movie madness rating – 4/5 Our resident provocateur in chief comes up with the goods once again creating carnage. Tony Montana in Scarface.
5/ Bristol City and the goal that never was
It’s exceedingly rare that Warnock elicits sympathy from his peers and public. On this occasion however millions watched in astonishment a decision so ridiculously poor that it even made the teatime news. Palace were struggling along in the league and under a transfer embargo for financial irregularities, when they visited Ashton Gate for an extremely tricky fixture. Young Palace loanee Freddie Sears pounces on a long ball and slots it home. Unfortunately all four officials seem to share the restricted vision of Gordon Brown with cataracts and bizarrely rule that it hit the post rather than the back of the net before bouncing back out. Watching Warnock’s…whisper it…almost dignified exasperation here we’re reminded of Father Ted on the aeroplane, when calmness descends once his worst hysterical fears about flying come true and actually happen. When Warnock finally encounters a situation that fully merits his outrage his madness is stymied, curtailed into virtual reasonableness. Though we still love his dig at City boss Gary Johnson. Even with an injustice so incontestable he still has to throw in a left-field grievance.
Movie madness rating – 2/5 A perfectly reasonable venting of frustration at an outrageous decision. Warnock here is the (still deranged) good guy seeking justice – Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon.
4/ Stan Ternent, the arch enemy
Gruff old-school gaffer Ternent (who once head-butted one of his own players during training and took pride in doing so) revels in the long-standing sour animosity between himself and Warnock. Although no Christmas cards had ever been exchanged between the pair the rift truly came to a head (quite literally) when Ternent, then the boss of Burnley, caught the Sheffield United number two Kevin Blackwell listening at the door of the changing room to his half-time team talk. Ternent, in his own words, ‘smacked him in the face then butted him for good measure, banging him hard.’
Warnock took the – non-violent – brunt of the ensuing fall-out, accused of being the instigator of ‘spy-gate’.
‘Our feud goes back years and I cannot abide the man’, Ternent reveals in his autobiography, ‘I’ve had a friendly beer with Blackwell since but I won’t look Warnock in the face.’
Warnock meanwhile bought some fish and named then Stan and Gary (after Megson, see number two on the list).
Movie madness rating – 2/5 Not so much mad as bad. For slightly deranged skulduggery though – Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
3/ Rafa Benitez and the threat of legal action
Some guys you expect to go down fighting. Warnock you expect to go down in a flurry of insanity, paranoia and ill-feeling. So it proved in 2007 when Sheffield United was immersed in a bitter relegation battle. Their rivals for the drop Fulham faced Liverpool needing an unlikely victory to remain safe. Liverpool, with one eye on their forthcoming Champions League final fielded a significantly weakened side. To the immense chagrin of our Neil obviously. Yet at the time, even with his vast reserves of crabby indignity, he was spreading himself too thin with hate. He had his own club’s turmoil’s to deal with, a contract dispute with his chairman, not to mention West Ham Football Club (more on which coming right up). So, like any decent petty lunatic, he stored up the grievance and unleashed it the following year when, in a quirk of fate, again Fulham faced Pool requiring the three points for safety.
In the week leading up the match – a match that did not concern the now out-of-work provocateur – Warnock pounced, seeking his revenge. He predicted that they would again face a weakened team and, far more seriously, speculated idly about bribery between the Fulham chairman and Liverpool boss. ‘Maybe Rafa gets a yearly hamper from Harrods every year for his team selection’.
Rafa, a man not known for his easy-going, water-off-a-ducks-back tolerance for such matters, threatened legal action and added, ‘We knew he was bad as a manager and prehistoric. But we didn’t know he was a person like this.’ Ah Rafa my old chum, you need only have asked.
Movie madness rating – 4/5 Outright slander that could have seen Warnock’s big mouth get him in serious schtuck. For the sadistic glee in which he wound up the Spanish waiter – Orin Scrivello, the dentist, in Little Shop of Horrors
2/ Gary Megson, the other pea in the pod
The ginger whinger shares so many of Warnock’s character traits that it was inevitable they would clash, and clash memorably, at some point. Either that or be the bestest of friends.
It all began on a cold crisp March day when Megson brought his West Brom team (who were chasing promotion) to Warnock’s stamping ground. The match has consequently gone down in lore as The Battle of Bramall Lane with United ending up with six players and the referee forced to abandon it with just eight minutes remaining. Keeper Simon Tracey was the first to see red, early on and by half-time the Baggies were a goal to the good too. After the interval a bad-tempered affair exploded into absolute chaos. Midfielder George Santos was dismissed for a wild two-footed lunge and, in the ensuing melee, Suffo swiftly followed for headbutting an opponent.
At no stage did things calm down (Keith Curle should also have walked for throwing punches in a later scuffle) but at some point a brief interlude of football broke out and West Brom scored two more. United were now three men down and three goals down. Enough drama? Enter Warnock stage left.
First Michael Brown limped off injured, followed soon after by defender Robert Ullathorne. Were these injuries feigned under the instruction of their manager? Megson alleged so publicly and loudly and received no punishment for his comments from the F.A during the subsequent investigation.
The match official had no other choice, with one team fielding less than the required seven players, but to abandon the whole shoddy affair. As it was the result stood and no replay was ordered (Megson had threatened to take his team back up to Yorkshire then retreat back to the tunnel in protest as soon as the whistle blew) yet the vocal recriminations, from both sides, have persisted up to the present day.
Megson – ‘I have been in football since I was 16 and I’m 42 now. I’ve never ever witnessed anything as disgraceful as that.’
Warnock meanwhile has never missed an opportunity to throw unnecessary digs in his newspaper column and elsewhere at his new arch foe and unstable alter-ego.
Its love, of a sort.
Movie madness rating – 4/5 Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction
1/ Carlos Tevez, the pawn that took down the king
In May 2006 Kia Joorabchain, the mysterious football super-pimp, stated that Carlos Tevez would be leaving Corinthians in the summer for a figure between 69-83 million pounds. Joorabchian obviously dislikes round numbers.
His team-mate, and fellow Argentine, Javier Mascherano would also be departing Brazil for presumably a lower amount but still hardly loose change.
Three months later the pair rocked up to Upton Park to join lowly West Ham and shock the footballing world in a secretive deal (looking back on the deal now its noticeable how often the word ‘undisclosed’ appears) that would ultimately cause a legal shit-storm by the end of the season.
As we all know the Hammers were found to have breached rule 18 of the FA’s regulations and probably should have had points docked. Points that would have sent them down at the expense of the eventual relegation casualty Sheffield United.
What greatly exacerbated this complicated and unsavoury business was that West ham looked doomed regardless until Tevez of all people went on an end-of-season goal-glut that kept them up.
The ramifications were lengthy and bitter. Warnock left his beloved Blades in disgust and….wait.…huh? He left the Blades? Isn’t that akin to leaving your wife because you’ve both been gazumped on your dream home? Ah but there’s more to the story. For whilst the media were gleefully printing every word of his bitter diatribes behind the scenes at Bramall Lane Warnock was embroiled in a contract dispute. It seems keeping a club rooted in the bottom three for eight months warranted a significant pay rise.
That didn’t stop him having plenty to say over the Tevez travesty however, insisting the matter was brushed under the carpet due to United being a ‘small club’, blaming the London press, and regularly aiming venomous broadsides at Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.
Movie madness rating – 5/5 For challenging authority – Alex de Large in A Clockwork Orange