Neil Warnock will write his name in the history books over the next four days.
When his team hosts Middlesbrough in Birmingham on Saturday, he will equal former Crewe coach Dario Grady’s record of 1,601 matches as manager of the Premier League. Then on Tuesday, in Luton, he’ll overtake him.
To celebrate this exceptional record, sat down to chat with SunSport Justin Allen about his career.
When did you start training?
While playing in Hartlepool, I lived in Seton Carew by Village Green and some kids used to wear their cardigans for kicks.
Someone knocked on my door and said, “Mr. Warnock, would you mind training us?” So I got them in the green at 5pm the next day and put them in a proper session. loved it.
We went into a league, and when we scored from a corner kick in an early game, which we used to do, I ran up and down like a sack from the movie, which whistled around his neck, shooting the players. This sparked my appetite for training.
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First managerial role?
I was running a Sunday League team called Todwick, a village near Sheffield. We had one spotlight and we trained one night a week.
I was taking all the laundry to the dry cleaners after the games. We got into a national Sunday league competition and drove all night to Stoke. loved it.
Tell me about your first jobs at GAINSBOROUGH and BURTON?
I was closing in as a player, and Lee Harris, a longtime Barnsley teammate who played for Juul, told me his team was looking for a coach, so I went to the game.
Their opponents Gainsborough were also looking for a manager. I asked their boss if he imagined a player-manager and he did! I had six months there.
However I decided to go to Burton because I played with them and knew their boss Ben Robinson, who is still around. He’s the only CEO you’d want as a young manager because he trusted you and was so helpful.
They paid me £1,000 in compensation. I had five fantastic years in the non-league with Burton and my highlight was reaching the third round of the FA Cup with Leicester in 1985.
Wasn’t this first match in the FA Cup major remembered due to congestion issues?
Yes really. Goalkeeper Paul Evans was injured by a log thrown from the stands with a score of 1-1 at Derby Baseball Stadium. It was worse than the wear and we ended up losing 6-1 as Gary Lineker scored a hat-trick.
Nobody wanted to fight our corner except for The Sun, which was great. Senior sports writer John Sadler has taken it upon himself to say what stigma is and how we should get replay.
He’s been outsmarting it for days and we got the replay! We lost 1-0 behind closed doors in Coventry.
How would you describe your teams?
Every team I won promotion with was full of good characters willing to put their bodies to the test.
Craig Short was a bank employee making £20 a week when I signed him in Scarborough. I ended up taking him to Notts County and he was one of my best quarterbacks. I struggled a lot up front and that’s because the forward moves I tried to sign never came.
Though, I’ve always had good goalkeepers.
The most memorable game?
Plymouth vs Colchester, the semi-final second leg match in what is now the Second League in 1996.
We lost the first leg in Colchester 1-0 but took a 2-0 lead in the second half when Mark Kinsella hit one of our players who crossed the goal.
The referee failed to send him off and he continued to score to make it 2-2 on aggregate.
I was sent off but Paul Williams scored our late goal and we went on to beat Darlington in the final.
What are your worst moments?
At Sheffield United, when we lost 2-1 to Wigan at Bramall Lane in 2007 on the last day of the season for relegation from the Premier League.
The West Ham and Carlos Tevez saga was an injustice. I’m sure if Sheffield United had illegally fielded a player, we would have gotten points. Still stuck in the throat.
Sheffield United also lost 1-0 to Arsenal in the 2003 FA Cup semi-final when referee Graham Paul Michael Tong miscalculated in the run-up to Freddie Ljungberg’s victory.
Graham left the first half smiling and joking with the Arsenal players!
Of the eight promotions you won, which one would you prefer?
They were all special, but if I were to single out one, it would be my first game for Scarborough from the Conference to the Football League in 1987.
We were 50-1 off the field and we were one of the favorites to go down.
Notts County’s move from third tier to first tier was also huge, as was the promotion with my hometown club Sheffield United to the Premier League.
But the memories of Plymouth, Cardiff, Huddersfield and QPR are all I cherish.
You have 100 percent of the final record in play. . . TWO WITH NOT COUNTY AND ONE WITH HUDDERSFIELD AND PLYMOUTH?
There is no better way to get a promotion. I loved the bus trips home afterwards, seeing all your fans partying with cars, coaches, and trains with scarves all over the place.
I have had associations with PREM but also with OLDHAM and BURY
I didn’t have a lot of money to spend in the Premier League, which is a pity.
But, yeah, I didn’t have good spells with Oldham or Berry. I attribute it to being the fate of a Yorkshire policeman running in Lancashire.
Still, it’s great to see Bury on the way back with the impending takeover of the club and Gigg Lane. We should not lose these clubs.
The fiercest management competition?
Barnet’s Barry Fry while I was in Scarborough at the convention. We were close to the bottom of the league when goalkeeper Kevin Blackwell, now my assistant, sold me, but we went on an incredible run.
Barry attended many of our matches when they weren’t playing and we kept winning. We applaud him while he’s in the stands!
Which manager do you respect the most?
Arsene Wenger. He was a gentleman – he would always invite me and my family to his office afterwards for a drink. No one has done more for the English game than Arsene with all the nutrition and ideas he has given.
Tell me about your heroes who work in the United Nations Environment Program – your assistants?
Paul Evans, Mick Jones, Kevin Blackwell and Ronnie Gibson have all been great.
Paul lived two doors away from me when I was running Sunday League football and was with me in Scarborough and Notts County.
Mick was my assistant for many years, he always spoke of common sense and had a calming effect. He is a great friend of mine.
Now I have Kevin and Ronnie. Blackie is very reliable, and would do anything for me when he fell out of a hat which is my business, while Ronnie is abrasive.
None of them are “yes men” – they will give their opinions when I make decisions and I will change my mind if I think they are right.
The best head?
Muhammed Dallman from Cardiff. He could not have been more helpful during my time there, it is a pleasure to work with him.
I won the title with QPR in the tournament. What does that mean to you?
It was a team of misfits. We were able to keep the club when we got in.
I bought a couple from my old guys at Crystal Palace, Shaun Deere and Clint Hill.
Heidar Helguson is back from loan to Watford and has been great and we built a team around Adil Taarabt, who was pulling people in his own box when I arrived.
He had a lot of ability and I taught my team to let him move on. I told them he would rise to us if we dealt with him.
It was a shame when we entered the Premier League that Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore didn’t want to spend a penny because they were selling the club to Tony Fernandes.
A constriction that is stuck in the throat?
Knotts County was tough. We have taken the club to the first tier of the third tier.
Chelsea turned it down before they hired Ian Porterfield and also Sunderland.
But President Derek Pavis sacked me six months after we landed. “Be careful because the grass is not always greener and it will be interesting to see where Knotts County ends up,” I told him. They are now out of the league!
Will Boro end up being your ninth promotion?
Three weeks ago I was the second best coach to be fired! Now, after three straight wins, we’re sixth and people are talking about promotion.
We had a lot of injuries but we should have got eight or nine more points.
If we can finish in the top six, with the match record, let’s say I’m pretty confident.
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