Middlesbrough v Sheffield Wednesday - Neil Warnock hopes respect for Owls is mutual

NEIL WARNOCK’S allegiances to Sheffield United are well known across the land, but he is a Sheffielder first and foremost.

Much would be made later today if his Middlesbrough side beat Sheffield Wednesday – the side he seemingly loves to hate – and Derby defeat Birmingham. Those two results would relegate the Owls to the third tier for the third time since 2000.

Now 72 and approaching the end of his long and epic managerial career, the Boro chief would take no pleasure in that scenario.

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Should that occur, it would represent an unwanted first in Sheffield football. Namely, the first time that both Wednesday and United have been relegated in the same season.

For someone who has memories of two of England’s historic clubs in their pomp, who reside in the city which is the cradle of football – it would be pretty sad.

Another consequence of the Owls going down is that it would also mean that there would be no Sheffield derbies next season – something both Wednesdayites and Unitedities always revel in and which puts the city in the spotlight.

Warnock told The Yorkshire Post: “It is a great city. All the people around the country talk about the Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow derbies. But Sheffield derbies are special and I am very lucky I have had some great Sheffield derbies.

“It is a depressing time as the football club lifts people’s morale (in Sheffield). In a pandemic where it is already depressing, it is hard for both sets of fans to be where they are but you can accept it probably if you have been disappointed like Sheffield United.

Neil Warnock: Respects Sheffield Wednesday. Picture: Getty Images

“Whereas if you are a Wednesdayite, your side have had points deducted and it is not just the playing side. I find that more difficult to accept than having a poor season just on results. For fans who cannot go to games, where can they voice their opinions apart from Praise or Grumble?”

A dyed in the wood Unitedite he may be, but Warnock was offered the Owls job during the Milan Mandaric era, only for the club to ultimately have a rethink.

Wednesdayites have been quick to vent their spleen in the direction of Warnock when his sides have visited S6 in particular, with the vastly-experienced manager having been happy to don the guise of ‘pantomime villain.’

But deep down, despite the retorts, he believes there is respect for what he has achieved in the game – and he has a point.

TOUGH TIMES: Sheffield Wednesday manager Darren Moore. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA

Would Wednesday have been in the bottom three if Warnock had been in charge from the start of this season? Probably not.

Warnock, whose sister is an Owls fan, added: “Some of my best mates are Wednesdayites and they pleaded with me to take the job when Milan offered it me. It was for them why I thought: ‘All right, I will have a go.’ Even though one or two said: ‘Wow, you will get some stick if you lose two or three games, can you imagine what they would be saying? You are trying to get them relegated as a Unitedite.’ But that did not bother me.

“It’s a great club traditionally. When you go in the old boardroom there, you feel the aura, like going into the old Highbury. Derek Dooley used to talk about the boardroom and oak tables.

“Growing up, they were the biggest club around when I was a kid and the crowds were unbelievable. I used to look at Peter Swan’s shorts and they would be just under his chin and he used to stroll about with the ginger-haired Tony Kay kicking chunks out of people. They had great teams.

“Yes, we always have a go at Wednesdayites and call them all sorts and everything. But we have respect. I was surprised when the Sheffield Star did a poll and 60 per cent said they’d have me which was a compliment at that time. It would have been interesting and a ‘what if’?”

In all likelihood, relegation for Wednesday would also probably mean that Warnock would not be afforded the prospect of ever returning to Hillsborough with home fans present again.

It is something that he would like to sample again after two soulless visits behind closed doors in the last nine months.

He said: “It is always the highlight for me, getting off the bus at Hillsborough. You have to walk 40 yards and they are waiting. In fairness, they always have a laugh and there’s a dad and two kids at the front.

“I always stop where the kids are and say: ‘I am sorry you are going to be disappointed tonight when you go home, son’ and ‘don’t let your dad upset you when he’s banging his head against the wall.’ That’s the type of things I miss.

“The Wednesdayites chant horrible things about me. But deep down, I think there’s a mutual respect if I am honest.

“I think they will miss me when I have gone and I think a lot of clubs will be like that.”

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