If Neil Warnock hadn't opted for a life in football he could have become a successful journalist, as followers of his column in The Independent can attest. Instead, combative, controversial, never short of words, he was rarely out of the news in a 33-year managerial career that spanned 13 clubs the length and breadth of England, from Plymouth Argyle to Leeds.
Along the way he masterminded seven promotions, three of them – Notts County, his beloved Sheffield United and QPR – into the top flight, so his credentials to write about the manager's lot are unquestionable. The Gaffer centres largely on his last three stints in the hot seat – at Crystal Palace, QPR and Leeds – all of which ultimately came to grief. In pithy, conversational prose he presents his own side of the story, along the way railing against ignorant owners, wayward players, useless referees and duplicitous agents, but the book is far more than an exercise in self-justification (though there is an element of that). In the words of Harry Redknapp, he "tells you what managing is really like", conveying the nerve-jangling, 24-hour-a-day tensions of the job better than any other manager's memoirs.
Some of his views may be eccentric, such as: "It's no coincidence most top managers are in their sixties or older," (Warnock is 64); Jose Mourninho, David Moyes and Pep Guardiola, to name but three, might give him an argument about that. Others seem a touch hidebound: "I'm not a great fan of international football. I can't get excited about all that sideways passing." But they are never dull.
Warnock claims to have hung up his manager's tracksuit for good and to be enjoying semi-retirement, but still feels he has plenty to offer a club, perhaps "acting as a link between the board of directors and owner and manager without being a threat to the manager". We shall see; there will be a few nervous managers out there after reading that. But one thing's for sure: we haven't heard the last of him.
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