Football: Warnock calls for Blades `passion'

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The Independent Online
NEIL WARNOCK was yesterday confirmed as the new manager of Sheffield United at a Bramall Lane press conference.

The Sheffield-born Warnock, who has quit Second Division Bury to take over at his home-town club, succeeds Adrian Heath, who resigned at Bramall Lane along with the plc chairman Mike McDonald last week.

Heath quit the struggling First Division club nine days ago after mounting pressure from fans angry at the sale of leading players. He and McDonald both resigned on the day of a 3-1 home defeat by Port Vale.

Warnock, 51, has been in charge at Gigg Lane since June 1998 but has twice before been linked with the job at Bramall Lane. He began his management career in the Football League when he guided Scarborough out of non-League football in 1988. Two seasons later he joined Notts County and steered them from the old Third Division to the First Division in successive seasons.

In 1995 he won his fourth promotion in nine seasons when he took Huddersfield Town into the old First Division, and a year later he guided Plymouth Argyle to their first Wembley appearance and promotion via the Third Division play-offs.

He took over at Oldham Athletic in March 1997 but was unable to prevent the Latics being relegated to the Second Division and succeeded Stan Ternent at Bury 17 months ago. He also took the Shakers down from the First Division.

Warnock insisted that he will not allow financial constraints to undermine his "dream job". A Blades supporter, Warnock, 51 yesterday, said that there is now more stability in the board room with the former Sheffield Wednesday player Derek Dooley installed as club chairman.

However, Warnock admits that he was only appointed due to the problems at the club. "I don't think Neil Warnock would have been in for it if the club had been in a healthier situation," he said. "Results-wise it's been disappointing, and there are some horrendous fixtures coming up.

"But at last I think the club is together and that is the most important thing. The boardroom now has unity and the fans have got to realise that. I am a fan as well which helps and my job is to try and get the players believing as passionately as I do in the club. I want the fans and the players to back me.

"There have been a lot of mistakes. I remember the day, as a fan, when they sold Brian Deane and Jan-Aage Fjortoft. It was like when President Kennedy got shot - that's how deeply I felt. That's how all fans took it and I don't think the directors put themselves in the good books with the fans. Now it is time to regroup."

Warnock is now urging the long-suffering Blades supporters to back his side in the fight against relegation from the First Division.

"I came to the last Sheffield derby a couple of years ago and I thought what a fantastic atmosphere it was," he said. "As always, Wednesday were looking to get a draw. But the atmosphere generated that day has always stayed with me. And I remember being in short trousers and crying when we were knocked out of the FA Cup. You've got to actually live that to know how important and vital it is to feel for the club like that.

"I know there is no money available. Everybody knows that. It is a difficult situation and we've got to rectify that as soon as possible. But I have done a 15 to 20-year apprenticeship to be here. It is a job that has always been at the top of my list.

"The fans have said their piece in the last few years and I think they've been right in most cases. But they've also said that when certain people leave the club they will come back in numbers.

"My objective is to make sure they come back and I need to put No 12 on my teamsheet as the crowd. I want them to influence officials and other teams. I believe when the United crowd are on song, they are a gold star. They have to forget their differences with the players and if a player has a nightmare now they've got to get behind him.

"If anyone thinks it is going to be an easy job staying up, they've got another thing coming. I want them to help me to fulfil my long-term ambition to be the best club in Sheffield in the Premier League."

Warnock will bring Kevin Blackwell, his assistant at Gigg Lane, to Sheffield, which leaves a question mark over the future of Russell Slade.

Dooley admitted that caretaker-manager Slade had "not been very happy" about Warnock's appointment after staking a claim for the job himself. Slade has now been advised to stay away from the club until Monday, when his future will be decided.

Bury say they hope to announce a replacement for Warnock in the near future. Gary Megson, the former Stoke manager, is a contender.

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