Middlesbrough FC v Huddersfield Town: Neil Warnock on sticking up for Teesside, his one regret regarding Steve Gibson and the Boro chairman's similarities with Kevin Nagle

NEIL WARNOCK will be remembered by Middlesbrough supporters not just for ensuring that the club avoided a painful relegation to the third tier of English football for the first time in 34 years back in 2020.

Alongside his managerial achievements in steading the ship at a club in choppy waters when he arrived - just as Huddersfield Town were in mid-February - Warnock left a legacy with Teessiders which is just as important.

In a much-maligned part of the country which has grown used to receiving a barrage of often unwarranted criticism over many years - whether that be due to its industrial landscape, socio-economic problems or whatever - the Huddersfield Town manager showed that he cared for its people and did his bit to try and change the narrative.

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He lifted spirits at a difficult time when the whole country which was grappling with the wretched Covid pandemic, which affected the mental health of scores of people as well as tragically costing many lives.

Huddersfield Town manager Neil Warnock, who makes his first return to the Riverside Stadium on Saturday since his exit from Middlesbrough in November 2021. Picture: Tony Johnson.Huddersfield Town manager Neil Warnock, who makes his first return to the Riverside Stadium on Saturday since his exit from Middlesbrough in November 2021. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Huddersfield Town manager Neil Warnock, who makes his first return to the Riverside Stadium on Saturday since his exit from Middlesbrough in November 2021. Picture: Tony Johnson.

When restrictions started to be eased, the Yorkshireman - who makes his first return to the Riverside today since November 2021 - was a regular sight on his 'pushbike' around the villages close to Boro's training ground, talking and engaging with locals.

He championed the James Cook University Hospital when he received some medical treatment and spoke consistently and warmly about ordinary Teessiders. In his own way, he helped. He stuck up for Teesside.

It is why whatever happens today, he will retain the respect of home fans. Expect a show of thanks along the way.

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Warnock told The Yorkshire Post. “I loved it at Middlesbrough and everybody was so pleased. I did make an effort and felt I was the focal point of the whole club and felt I had to be positive and be smiling.

"I’d tell a few stories as everyone around Middlesbrough tuned into my press conferences on the Zoom’s or what have you. I just felt I was important.

"It was hard work at times, let me tell you. When there’s no crowds or anything, it’s difficult for a manager. We had a lot of problems, but I came through that. I will never forget my time there, it was great.

“I was on my pushbike going around and everyone was taking pictures of me on my bike.

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“It was a very difficult time for all clubs and managers. I felt really proud how I played my part up there and thought the fans repaid that. I thought they were amazing at a difficult period.

"Middlesbrough are bread-and-butter fans, like Huddersfield’s. Yorkshire people are bread and butter and say it is as it is and you appreciate things like that.

“I thought they were nice in the (recent) cup game when they kept asking me to clap them during the game. I'm not going to do that, am I! But I did say thank you after as they were really good.

“When we went to (former club) Cardiff last year, nobody went early and everybody stayed at it was just very emotional. I’ve had a few of them lately; bloody hell they must think I am on my way out!"

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Warnock found himself on his way out of Boro in November 2021.

A newspaper report confirmed his impending departure on the morning of the club’s game at West Brom. He took the team for one last time and received a heartfelt ovation from visiting followers afterwards.

Chris Wilder was soon sworn in as his replacement and the manner of his exit bruised Warnock.

To this day, he has issues with certain people at Boro. But not chairman Steve Gibson, with their relationship thankfully surviving.

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Warnock, whose side were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Boro in West Yorkshire just 11 days ago, continued: “It’s one of those where I am really glad I had an opportunity with Steve. I always got on really well with Steve.

"I have not really got a grouse about Steve; it might be other people around (him).

"When you look at what Steve has done for the club over the years…Even Steve has had his ‘pelters’ from the fans. I don’t know why, but he’s had some over the years.

“I probably wish I could have dealt with Steve a little bit more personally than the people that I dealt with. But I have nothing but respect for Steve and Kevin (Nagle) is the same."

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Most people remain of the view that Gibson has proved an admirable custodian of Boro over many years and shown a duty of care.

His counterpart Nagle is at the start of his own particular story at Huddersfield. Warnock, no bad authority on football matters, likes what he is seeing.

Warnock said: “What pleased me about Kevin is when I found out that he would have bought the club whether we went down to the next division or stayed up. I thought that was really good commitment.

“Now he is talking about the academy and applying for the academy (new academy status) and (pushing) the kids again and the stadium and the surroundings.

"He’s got really good ideas. That won’t come overnight, but I am hoping we can just steady the ship and give then the chance of getting their feet under the table and moving forward."