Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock has admitted that his long feud with Rafa Benitez is finally over, after the former Sheffield United manager held Benitez partly responsible for the Blades’ relegation from the Premier League in 2006-07.
On the penultimate weekend of the season, Benitez played a second string Liverpool side against Sheffield United’s relegation rivals Fulham ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League final, which was 18 days away. Fulham beat the Reds 1-0 and all but secured their Premier League status, making things harder for Sheffield United, who went down on the final day.
“At least I knew the players that were playing. I didn’t even know two of those that played for Liverpool at Fulham last week,” Warnock said at the time. “I’d never heard of them but when you are a foreign manager like Rafa Benitez, you probably don’t give two hoots about what Sheffield United think.”
In 2011 Warnock said he would always hold a grudge against the Spaniard for fielding a weakened team against his relegation rivals. “You don’t ever forget things like that. I’ll always remember that.
“Benitez sent me an email once saying that if I mentioned it again he’d take me to court,” added Warnock.
However, the Cardiff manager appears to have a new outlook on the situation and suggested their feud is over. “Everything’s been said about what happened and we’ve met a few times since. Life’s too short and I’ve got to enjoy this now with a full house.
“The one person Newcastle can’t afford to lose is Rafa, I think they can get away with any player,” Warnock said at his pre-match press conference.
The pair meet again on Saturday and Benitez will want to extend his superior record of four wins and a draw in their five meetings.
Warnock also praised Newcastle's controversial owner, Mike Ashley, who Benitez has appeared to have a challenging relationship with during his spell at St James' Park. When asked if he is happy with Newcastle's summer business, Benitez said he is pleased he has players who have experienced playing in the Premier League.
"When I say that I am happy with our players who came in, it is because some of them know the Premier League and can give us something from day one," Benitez said, before adding that he will refuse to let any more players leave.
"We will not allow anyone who is already in the team or part of the squad to go."
Summer signings Salomon Rondon and Yoshinori came off the bench in their 2-1 defeat against Tottenham, while Ki Sung-yueng, Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez are yet to feature.
Cardiff have been tipped by many to go down this season and lost at Bournemouth in their opening match, but Warnock is hoping that a ‘cracking’ home crowd will be able to help them put up a fight.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone at the club, it’s going to be a cracking crowd, nearly a full house and it’s what we’ve been striving for.
“When I came to the club, they’d though I was in cloud cuckoo land if you’d said we’d be playing in front of a full house. The Cardiff City stadium is an intimidating place, the Welsh anthem sends a shiver down my spine and I’m an Englishman!
“The next couple of games will show us more, but we were in the game until the end at Bournemouth and despite the critics, I was quite pleased with it really. I think we’re capable of getting results against anyone at home and then pinch one or two away.”
Cardiff will have Kenneth Zohore, who scored nine goals in the Championship last season, available to come on from the bench after recovering from a groin injury. Harry Arter will make his first appearance on loan at Cardiff after being unable to play against his parent club Bournemouth last weekend. DeAndre Yedlin is Newcastle’s only doubt after picking up a knee injury in their defeat last week.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies