Palace return could be Warnock’s toughest test

AFTER leaving Sheffield United with a heavy heart in the wake of his boyhood team’s relegation from the Premier League, Neil Warnock was in need of not only a break from football but also a lift.

He got both, as a five-month lay-off – during which plenty of quality time was spent with his family – was followed by an offer that he felt was just too good to turn down.

“Crystal Palace gave me the love back after Sheffield United,” said the 64-year-old ahead of today’s return to Selhurst Park with Leeds United.

“They got me to come back into football. (Then Eagles chairman) Simon Jordan and the fans were brilliant with me and I really enjoyed my Palace spell. That is what pushed me on to QPR, where we won promotion to the Premier League.

“So, I am looking forward to going back. I was pleased they won the other night (at home to Hull City) and I do hope they go up. They are a club close to my heart. But we’ll do our best to get a result.”

Warnock’s time at Selhurst Park was eventful, to say the least. After inspiring an unlikely charge up the Championship table from second-bottom in October to a play-off place in May, his reign went awry as Palace’s financial troubles led to the club being placed in administration.

An offer to take charge of QPR proved enough to tempt Warnock away to west London in March, 2010, and although the Eagles struggled for the next couple of years, there is little doubt now that the London club are back on track.

Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat of Hull means automatic promotion is very much in Palace’s sights, making today’s trip to the capital a daunting one for Leeds.

Warnock said: “Palace come under the heading of automatic promotion and every team we play we’ve got to take points off, wherever they are in the league.

“That is how I look at it. There are games that seem more winnable than others and if you look at the fixture list, Palace is probably the most difficult game we have got left.

“But who is to say that Peterborough at home (on Tuesday) won’t be a difficult game? In our league, you just don’t know. We have got six home matches to come yet and I am happy with that sort of run-in.

“I would take my chances of getting in the play-offs with that.

“We have got a great platform now and a great base to build from. We are not going to give up this season.

“Instead, we will go right to the death. We are playing well at home and away, and can feel confident.

“So, let’s give it a shot. That is all I have said to the players – give me a great end-of-season run.”