Neil Warnock, the Leeds United manager, admitted tonight that he is ready to walk away from the club if asked, after his side's comprehensive defeat by Manchester City played out to a tirade of abuse towards him from the Leeds fans.
Warnock, who was appointed to the Elland Road job a year ago today, said he knew his contract would not be renewed this summer if he did not secure promotion to the Premier League for the new owners, GFH Capital. But after refusing to criticise supporters for their abuse of him, he said it was the owners' "prerogative" to choose another, younger manager if that was their decision. "If we don't go up, I won't be here. The fans have known that all along and we are eight points off [the Championship play-offs] now," Warnock said.
His back four was overwhelmed today by Sergio Aguero, whose £38m transfer fee is more than twice the £17m GFH are understood to have paid for Leeds. The former Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has already been linked with the job at Elland Road.
Asked if it was possible that GFH might remove him before the end of the season, the 64-year-old Warnock said: "It's their prerogative. If I can help them, I'm not against it. I'm a bit too old in the tooth [to fight with people]." GFH chief investment officer Salem Patel said on Saturday that he wanted a young manager to replace Warnock "whether Neil goes [in the summer] or not."
Warnock wrote in his Independent column in December that he believed one of the conditions of the GFH takeover from Ken Bates was that he stayed on and that he had been told his presence at the helm was one of the reasons for the acquisition. But he stated then that takeovers carry risks for managers. Warnock returned to that theme this evening, observing that he had been "unlucky" in the past six years to have managed three clubs which had been at the centre of takeovers: Leeds, Queen's Park Rangers and Crystal Palace.
"I saw in the press that [the owners] said they want a younger manager. That rules out Sir Alex [Ferguson] doesn't it?" Warnock added. "My contract… [is] up in the summer and there is no way I want to stay in the Championship next season. The club has known that all along. My one intention was to go up. My wife let me have one more go at winning my eighth or ninth promotion.
"I came at a difficult time and I think, with what has gone on behind the scenes, I deserve a medal, to be honest. You can't be sure of any job: 11 managers have gone in the Championship. It's a difficult league, isn't it? It's a massive financial thing to go up. The [Leeds] fans are probably top six of the Premier League with their numbers. The owners told me they couldn't do it quickly, that they would take their time, investment-wise."
The City manager, Roberto Mancini, who was last night dealt an excellent quarter-final draw, at home to Barnsley, said: "You know the FA Cup is difficult; Arsenal showed us this today. They showed the FA Cup is difficult if you don't have the right approach."
Mancini, who expects to have Gareth Barry back to face Chelsea on Sunday and hopes to "recover" Vincent Kompany for that game, said the prospect of being 15 points behind Manchester United by then did not concern him. Javi Garcia's fitness will be assessed today after he limped off.
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