Neil Warnock is considering his legal options after Jason Puncheon issued a series of potentially libellous tweets about the veteran manager. Puncheon reacted angrily to Warnock's observations about the player's now infamous penalty miss at White Hart Lane on Saturday. The game, between his current team Crystal Palace and Tottenham, was scoreless at the time. Palace went on to lose 2-0.
Warnock, who signed Puncheon on loan for Queen's Park Rangers in late 2011, said on TalkSPORT: "There's no way I would've trusted him with a penalty. You've got to have somebody a little bit more cool, and he's not like that, Jason. He can whack a 35-yard free-kick in here and there but a penalty, with all the pressure on him at a place like White Hart Lane – not in a million years for me."
Warnock, a Saturday columnist for The Independent, also praised Puncheon's progress in the Premier League and described him as "brilliant". Puncheon, on loan to Palace from Southampton, responded on his verified Twitter account with a series of tweets. The first read: "In the wake of a bad penalty and people's opinions and banter which I accept @mattletiss7 on @talkSPORTLive this morning gets it right..." This tweet, with a reference to Matt Le Tissier, was followed by a series of tweets about Warnock that he subsequently deleted and cannot be repeated for legal reasons. They were, however, widely repeated on the social media networking site, also a potentially libellous act. The Football Association are also looking into his tweets.
Having spoken to his lawyer, Warnock's initial response has been to issue a statement in which he said: "The first tweet 'everyone is entitled to their opinion' I haven't got a problem with, but moving on from this is his later tweets. He's made comments I know nothing about. If it has been suggested I have done anything untoward I confirm I most certainly have not. I notice Jason has removed his tweets. The matter is being addressed directly with him on my behalf. In the circumstances there is nothing more for me to say."
The Croydon-born winger has led a chequered career and even dropped out of professional football for six months in 2006. That summer Puncheon was arrested in connection with the robbery of a woman's handbag, although he was never charged. A loan spell at MK Dons finally saw him realise some of his early potential as he was eventually signed by Southampton, although personality clashes with chairman Nicola Cortese and manager Nigel Adkins saw him frozen out of the first team.
Puncheon was so keen to play for Warnock he paid £50,000 towards his loan fee himself. As Warnock details in his book, The Gaffer, Southampton immediately raised the proposed loan fee from £150,000 to £200,000 and Puncheon offered to make up the difference. It was, wrote Warnock, "a fantastic gesture. Everyone thinks players are take, take, take but here was one so desperate to play for us he footed the bill".
Unfortunately Puncheon proved a disappointment and made two substitute appearances totalling 15 minutes play. Upon his return to Southampton he fell foul of Cortese after using Twitter to express his dissatisfaction. "I'm not going anywhere," he tweeted, "Gonna sit and train with the kids for 18 months, see how Cortese likes that, then go on a free.
Puncheon later apologised and was rewarded with a new contract last season after helping Southampton retain their Premier League status but was granted his request in the summer to move closer to home when he joined Palace. They had been expected to make him a permanent signing this week after he scored his first goal for the club against Norwich on New Year's Day – ironically from the penalty spot.
Now Puncheon must wait to see whether Warnock decides to forgive and forget.
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