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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Neil or No Neil?

After his appointment as the new manager of Queens Park Rangers, Nobes weighs up the pros and cons of Neil Warnock.

Part pantomime villain, part football manager.

Neil Warnock's ability to divide opinion has seen him labelled everything from Marmite Man to many other, far ruder, things.

However, away from all the controversies surrounding one of the game's most colourful characters, Warnock is undoubtedly one of the top managers outside the Premier League.

It's that ability which is why QPR have come calling. It is a mark of the manager's ability that their expectations for promotion next season will be high - despite the difficult nature of the Championship.

From Warnock's perspective too it is an attractive offer. He is in the autumn of his career and will see the job at Loftus Road as a last chance to get back into the top flight he believes he can manage in.

Would you want him as manager of your team though?

The Case For

You might not like him, but Neil Warnock's managerial record demands respect.

Along with new Bradford boss Peter Taylor, he holds the record for the most number of promotions in the Football League - an impressive five.

The Yorkshireman has masterminded promotions at Plymouth, Huddersfield, Sheffield United, and twice with Notts County.

When you add those to taking Scarborough into the Football League in 1987 - his credentials are unrivalled.

He has also never been at clubs who have had a lot of money to spend. His ability to forge sides greater than the sum of their parts has been key to his success over the years.

He has also helped bring through and nurture talented young talent like Phil Jagielka and Victor Moses - turning them into top flight players.

It could also be argued that, had the FA done the right thing and relegated West Ham in 2007, Warnock would still be a Premier League manager today.

Sheffield United were only relegated on goal difference that year and, with the added revenue of Premier League football, could have begun to establish themselves at that level.

He has always had the ability to foster great team spirit and camaraderie in his sides. Warnock's teams can never be accused of not working hard or giving it their all.

His fans, and he had many amongst the Palace faithful who were sad to see him leave, would also point to the fact that nice guys don't get anywhere in football.

Indeed, before the Eagles's entry into administration which saw them deducted ten points, the Londoners were firmly in the play-off race.

It is testament to their former manager's character that, despite their woes off the field, he managed to keep achieving results on the pitch.

That included taking Palace into the FA Cup fifth round - bringing in much needed funds to the financially-striken club.

His record in the cups has always been good - once taking Sheffield United to both the FA and League Cup semi-finals during his time at Bramall Lane.

His outspoken nature - particularly against referees - is well known. However, being a qualifed referee himself, the 61-year-old arguably has more justification for criticising officials than other managers.

As for QPR, they now have a manager with a proven track-record. Someone who knows how to win promotion from this level.

His first task though will be to use that motivational ability to steer the West London outfit away from the drop zone - they currently sit just a place and three points above Palace.

And, for all the brickbats of ugly football and ugly touchline behaviour that are thrown towards him, none of that will really matter if Warnock can guide Rangers back into the top flight.

The Case Against

Neil Warnock has a promotion record that is the envy of all other managers.

However, along the way he's managed to upset opposition managers, fans, and the footballing authorities in a manner only bettered by Sir Alex Ferguson.

His run-ins with other managers have become infamous.

In 2001, the then Burnley boss Stan Ternent accused Warnock of sending his assistant Kevin Blackwell to spy on the Clarets's half time team talk.

He lambasted everyone from the aforementioned Ferguson to Rafa Benitez for playing understrength teams against Sheffield United's relegation rivals when the Blades dropped down from the Premier League in 2007.

Most famously of all, in 2002, a game at Bramall Lane with West Brom had to be abandoned after the Blades, who were losing at the time, were reduced to only six players.

Baggies boss Gary Megson accused his opposite number of instructing his players to feign injury, saying he'd "never witnessed anything as disgraceful as that."

Whilst undoubtedly saving money on his Christmas card list, the frequency of his run-ins paint a picture of Warnock as a temperamental man who can often let his passion for the game boil over.

And, like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, his constant moaning makes feeling sorry for him difficult when things really do against his side.

It was almost inevitable that the worst decision of this season - Crystal Palace having a clear goal at Bristol City missed by the officials - would have to happen to Warnock's side. Many, because of his constant moaning, found the decision funny though.

His latest outburst after Palace's FA Cup game against Aston Villa has landed him in hot water with the authorities. While some make annual donations to charities, Warnock's contributions seem to end up at the Football Association.

Some critics might argue too that his antics on the touchline are actually more entertaining than the football his team's produce.

He has a reputation for sacrificing style for substance. It's results, not performances that count most for the straight-talking Sheffielder.

When he finally did reach the Premier League with his beloved Blades he seemed intent on building a squad jammed full of journeymen and utility players.

He must spend any money he gets at Loftus Road more wisley - QPR fans expect more than just endeavour from their side.

He must also get the best out of a squad of talented footballers, not just marshall them into an effective unit grinding out ugly wins.
It's time for Warnock to do his talking on the pitch.

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