Warnock bows to fan pressure and turns back on Owls

Neil Warnock

Neil Warnock

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Sheffield Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric rejected the chance to hire Neil Warnock because he feared a fans revolt at Hillsborough.

News of Wednesday’s desire to bring in staunch Blades fan and former Sheffield United manager Warnock was filtered out this week to “test the water”, following the sacking of Dave Jones.

Mandaric yesterday admitted there was “an intention by both parties” to complete the deal – although Warnock was never formally offered the job – but an angry reception from Owls supporters has vetoed the appointment. Some Owls fans had threatened to boycott games, and with Wednesday embroiled in a relegation battle, supporters’ unrest was the last thing Mandaric wanted.

Mandaric, who will resume interviews next week while caretaker boss Stuart Gray can enhance his own claims with back-to-back victories when Nottingham Forest visit today, claimed he had been surprised at the level of anti-Warnock resentment among Wednesday fans.

“I called Neil and explained it’s not a good situation going forward,” said Mandaric. “Not good for him, not good for the club – which is more important to me – for the simple reason that he has divided supporters.

“I didn’t realise that it went that deep, that some fans would be totally against it. He was very understandable, and wished me good luck.

“It was always a little bit touchy, because of the relationship with the other club (United) and some feelings within our supporters. I never realised they went so deep and I don’t think he realised that either. There was an intention by both parties, but there was no firm offer and we never really talked about the money situation in firm detail. That was our next step. That never materialised due to listening to supporters. I have enough headaches as it is, without having an additional one.

“He’s a very experienced manager, a good manager and he had a desire to do the job. But we now have to move on.

“There is no reason to hurry, we have Stuart there who is doing a good job. The right person is more important than the timing.”

The 65-year-old – who was Blades boss for over seven years and despised by many Hillsborough supporters – has been working in the media since leaving Leeds earlier this year.

“I did speak to Milan Mandaric last night and I think we both realised then that it wasn’t going to be,” admitted Warnock.

Only Danny Wilson has ever managed both Steel City clubs.

“When Milan phoned me originally, I did tell him it would be pretty much impossible to manage Sheffield Wednesday when I’m a Blade, but he asked me to have time to think about it.

“No disrespect to the other candidates, but he wanted me to try and keep them up. He has tried to bring me in as his manager about four times over the last 20 years so I have got a lot of respect for him.

“I have been really pleased about the number of people in Sheffield – Sheffield Wednesday fans as well – that wanted me. But I think it’s time to put myself to bed.

“I spoke to Milan last night and we both realised that it wasn’t the right time. I don’t think it was going to benefit anybody by dragging it on.”

Football previews: Pages 4-5.

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