Why Neil Warnock has a sense of unfinished business in the Championship with Huddersfield Town - Leon Wobschall comment

WITH the best will in the world, it is somewhat wise to treat some of Neil Warnock's comments with a pinch of salt.

Like back in February when – at the start of his most recent and spectacular 'Great Escape' mission at Huddersfield Town – he spoke about the lack of leaders within the Terriers ranks.

"I think it will probably be myself and Hoggy (captain Jonathan Hogg) that has to lead,” he opined.

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Some shrewd observers of Yorkshire football instantly thought otherwise and were ultimately proved right in their opinions.

Huddersfield Town manager Neil Warnock and assistant Ronnie Jepson celebrate after the full-time whistle following the late-season win over Cardiff City. Picture: Nigel French/PAHuddersfield Town manager Neil Warnock and assistant Ronnie Jepson celebrate after the full-time whistle following the late-season win over Cardiff City. Picture: Nigel French/PA
Huddersfield Town manager Neil Warnock and assistant Ronnie Jepson celebrate after the full-time whistle following the late-season win over Cardiff City. Picture: Nigel French/PA

What about Tom Lees, Matty Pearson, Danny Ward, Michal Helik? David Kasumu even?

It was classic Warnock. Publicly playing down a perceived lack of leadership at his disposal, while inwardly knowing that there was actually a fair bit to work with.

Which brings us to the here and now amid strong indications that the veteran manager will, after all, be sticking around at the John Smith's Stadium in 2023-24 as opposed to fishing on the Tamar as many suspected.

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Looking understandably tired at the end of his latest 'Red Adair' firefighting act in dousing the relegation flames which had ravaged Huddersfield's season, Warnock stressed he was not interested in a return to the managerial furnace at the start of the new campaign.

He said: "I couldn't do 10 months of this. I'll be back (somewhere) in February and people will say: 'Not again!'"

Warnock would seemingly go back to the speaking circuit and the odd appearance on TalkSPORT and Sky Sports for the summer, autumn and most of winter then..…

But still part of you wondered. You just never know with the wily old fox of English Football League management at the Championship level which he knows like the back of his hand.

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The 74-year-old, at one of 'his' clubs, had a fanbase eating out of his hand by late Spring.

"One more year Warnock, one more year" was the gushing chant after the Terriers' 1-0 safety-clinching win over Sheffield United on May 4. All that was missing was an image of him walking across the nearby Calder.

The players clearly hold him in massively high regard as well. They ran through brick walls for him in the final part of 22-23. It's nice to be loved, after all.

Most importantly, an owner dipping his toes into English football for the first time seems to have come to the eminently sensible conclusion that he needs someone who is a safe pair of hands who he can trust with the first team, more especially in his first transitional year in charge.

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American businessman Kevin M. Nagle's takeover of Huddersfield is said to be close to a successful conclusion. Some reports suggest that the green light could be received by the end of the week.

Achieving that and announcing that Warnock is staying, as was reported in the Daily Mail late on Tuesday evening, would box things off nicely and allow Huddersfield the best chance of harnessing the momentum they generated under Warnock in orderly fashion.

Nagle should also be acutely aware that Huddersfield have had six permanent managers/head coaches in just under four-and-a-half years. There has been precious little continuity.

It would hardly be the worst call should a way be found to allow Warnock the time to rest and recharge in his beloved Cornwall to accommodate him returning to a club which he genuinely holds dear.

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Tweeting a message to Terriers supporters on social media recently, Nagle, seeming to point towards good sense, said: "To our supporters at HTFC: My principles of leading and managing businesses should be no surprise.

"There are certain principles I have applied everywhere: invest in the business methodically, invest in the employees of the business, be passionate and create a competitive and winning environment, be patient to ride out the downside, maintain poise under pressure.

"Stay disciplined and have morality. Best practices."

A much more experienced figure in English football than Nagle in Middlesbrough's Steve Gibson famously turned to Warnock shortly after the Yorkshireman's previous act of relegation escapology at Boro.

Just as there was mass relief in Huddersfield recently, there was a similar feeling of gratitude on Teesside at the end of a Covid-disrupted 2019-20 when Warnock maintained Boro's second-tier status and prevented the club from descending into the third level of English football for the first time in almost 35 years.

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In re-appointing Warnock for the following season, Gibson clearly did not countenance sailing so close to the wind again. Just as Nagle won't be now.

In that 2020-21 campaign, Warnock steadied the ship. Boro finished a comfortable and creditable 10th. Something along similar lines at the John Smith's Stadium would represent progress. Warnock would quietly want a bit more, in truth.

Plenty has been made about his seniority and will continue to be. He turns 75 in December after all.

But even accounting for his age, he possesses a sense of unfinished business with the Championship.

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He was sacked by Boro in November 2021 with the Teessiders just four points adrift of the play-offs.

The Yorkshireman has gone public on several occasions to state that Boro, in his view, would have finished in the top six if he had been kept in charge and supported in January.

Gatecrashing the play-offs? Wouldn't that be another Warnock story...