Looking back 4: Neil Warnock, a repeat of his Rotherham United 'Great Escape' and d*ckhead journalists

Neil Warnock and I together during his time with the Millers. I can't remember what we're posing with or whyNeil Warnock and I together during his time with the Millers. I can't remember what we're posing with or why
Neil Warnock and I together during his time with the Millers. I can't remember what we're posing with or why
You don't want to get on the wrong side of the Millers messiah.

THE miracle-worker did it again, didn’t he?

After pulling off the Great Escape with Rotherham United in 2016, Neil Warnock achieved a similar against-all-odds feat this season and kept Huddersfield Town in the Championship.

The wily old veteran was a joy to work with when he arrived at AESSEAL New York Stadium for that unforgettable three-month spell seven years ago.

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Usually, it’s journalists who contact the incoming manager first. You track down their phone number, send a welcome text, introduce yourself, break the ice etcetera ...

Warnock was different. My phone pinged at home late one Wednesday night. Unknown caller. ‘Hello.’ read the message. ‘You’re going to enjoy the next 12 weeks, Son. Regards, Neil.’

He had — still has — an unbelievable talent for bringing people on board. Paul Warne, who would one day became boss himself but was fitness coach back then, says he has learned more about man-management from the maestro than anyone else in his career.

I remember attending Warnock’s press conference before the Millers went to Hillsborough and won 1-0. He and Sheffield Wednesday, as everyone knows, have history!

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However, it was all a bit low key and I came away disappointed. That was until I transcribed the interview and laughed out loud a dozen times as I realised he’d quietly dropped an Owls bomb into every answer.

“Are you the messiah?” he was asked after Matt Derbyshire’s famous winner in S6. “I’m the knackered messiah,” he fired straight back, thinking of all the travelling he was doing from his Plymouth home.

Then he came up with another beauty: “I’ve got a big pond in my garden. I might have a walk across to the island in the middle when I get back later tonight.”

He was gone from New York too soon. Short yet so sweet. When his departure was announced, it was me doing the texting.

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Most managers when they leave will respond to a reporter’s farewell message. One or two don’t bother. I’ve been completely ignored once and got into a spat on another occasion. They’re stories for another time. Everyone else has been decent.

Warnock took the trouble to ring me and we had a long, warm chat. There have been a few catch-ups since too.

He liked the media but wouldn’t suffer fools. During his Rotherham reign he once showed me his phone and any reporter he didn’t like was listed as ‘D*ckhead’. There were lots of them as well. D*ckhead 1, D*ckhead 2, D*ckhead 8 ... the number went past 20.

“It means they’ve crossed me in the past and I know to give them a false story,” he grinned. “Warnock to Real Madrid.”

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I’ve been a d*ckhead plenty of times in my life so suddenly I had cause for concern. We were sitting next to each other at Roundwood and I rang him. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see plain old ‘Paul Davis’ flash up on his screen.

Neil Warnock doesn’t think I’m a d*ckhead. It’s my biggest claim to fame.