Neil Warnock: Farewell - possibly - to pantomime villain who had plenty of nous during time in charge at Sheffield United, Leeds United, Huddersfield Town, Rotherham United and Middlesbrough

On Saturday, the life of fourth officials became a little bit less stressful when Neil Warnock announced his retirement from football management after a record-breaking 42-year career.

Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock during the Premiership match against Wigan at Bramall Lane in May 2007, which saw the Blades relegated Picture: John Giles/PA
Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock during the Premiership match against Wigan at Bramall Lane in May 2007, which saw the Blades relegated Picture: John Giles/PA

At least that is the theory. The Middlesbrough job he was sacked from in November was not his first “last job in football” so you can never discount the Sheffielder being tempted out of retirement for one last fire-fight.

But if this is the end, football will be poorer for it.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In an era where an absence of characters is often bemoaned, Warnock had charisma to spare. Has. We will still hear from him in the media, and announcing his retirement live on Sky Sports during a punditry shift, he cannily slipped in a plug for some “Audience With” nights.

Neil Warnock.

Not everything Warnock did was savoury, pure and perfect. The regular tirades against fourth officials, almost invariably for something someone else had done, were never a great advert for the game, some of his vendettas were unnecessary, the 2002 “Battle of Bramall Lane” with West Bromwich Albion crossed a line, and some of his teams’ football did not exactly epitomise the beautiful game.

But football is not just supposed to be beautiful, pure and nice.

It needs different styles, aggravation, rivalries and pantomime villains.

Warnock knew his role and played up to it, famously saying he wants his death marked by a minute’s booing at grounds.

Neil Warnock, during his Leeds United days Picture: Nick Potts/PA

His answer when a fanzine asked would he consider managing Sheffield Wednesday probably infuriated one or two highly-strung Owls but had he swapped the word “Wednesday” for “United”, they would have laughed too.

You could have hours of fun looking that and all manner of clips and quotes up on Google.

His press conferences seldom failed to entertain either. But to just focus on that is to miss the point: Warnock was an extremely good manager too.

You cannot take charge of more English professional matches than anyone else – 1,603 – by just being a figure of fun.

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock in action against Barnsley's manager Markus Schopp Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

You cannot win a record eight English promotions without a lot of nous amongst the snarls.

The former winger whose clubs included Rotherham United, Barnsley and York City started in management with Gainsborough Trinity in 1980.

He was a part-time chiropodist when he took 50-1 title outsiders Scarborough into the Football League in 1986-87, he took Notts County from the third to the top tier in successive seasons, led boyhood club Sheffield United to League and FA Cup semi-finals and the Premier League, and rescued Rotherham from a relegation that felt inevitable in 2016.

He got Huddersfield Town promoted at Wembley and even counted Leeds United amongst 14 clubs managed, constantly drawn back north decades after moving to Cornwall.

At 73 years-old, enjoying retirement instead of whipping himself into a frenzy on freezing touchlines is sensible but the man who turned down Chelsea and Sunderland to stay at Notts County rarely opted for sensible.

There will never be another Warnock – unless he changes his mind again.