In the four years since leaving Crystal Palace for QPR, a lot has changed for Neil Warnock. At the age of 65, the former Sheffield United boss had settled nicely into the world of sporting punditry, but when Steve Parish formally offered him the chance to return to management with Palace, it seems he simply couldn’t say no.
Although much has been said in the ensuing years about the circumstances in which he left his role at Palace last time, it seems Warnock feels as though he has a lot to give back to the club, with his comments at yesterday’s press conference alluding to the fact that he feels a touch of guilt over the way things were handled in 2010.
“Things happen for a reason at times and I’ve felt this time that it’s an opportunity to pay [Palace] back a bit. To give back to the fans, who have been brilliant. It’ll take a lot of hard work, I know there’s going to be ups and downs and criticisms along the way, but for the next eight months I’m going to work as hard as I’ve ever worked.
“You don’t often get a chance to repay and I think I owe them a little bit, so it’s great to be given that chance.”
Originally I would have liked to keep Sheffield up and then packed it in, but it didn’t work out like that and I had two or three months of moping around feeling sorry for myself. Then Simon [Jordan] came along, who I’ve known for donkey’s years, and we became very good friends. He got me down on false pretences of having a look at what they’ve got and asking me about a few players, and then it was ‘why don’t you just do it for a few months?’.”
I wouldn’t have come [if she had not wanted to]. There were a couple of clubs – you know me, I get tempted with anyone, even in the bottom division – where I thought I ‘I’ll do that’, until she (his wife) said she’d leave me.
“I think before Tony came there was a possibility that he wasn’t going to and we talked then, but then he changed his mind and did fantastically. So I think Steve’s always known I’m available – I didn’t really have to tell him. He says he never offered it to anybody beforehand, and if I’m honest I’m not really bothered. I’m not bothered who was here, who was in the running, what the betting was.”
I didn’t talk about money or anything, it’s the opportunity. You don’t get opportunities like this very often – in different circumstances there might have been four or five other managers who would all have enjoyed it as well. I’m very fortunate that I’ve got the job now and I’m going to really enjoy it if I can.”
“I think it’s right for Wilfried. I think there’s still a lot more to come from him. He’s one of those lads that people accuse at times of not having the right attitude, but I’ve never seen that. If you’re willing to spend the time with Wilfried, he wants to learn all the time and I think that’s a great attribute. So I think you’ll see a different Wilfried and hopefully he’ll have a great season.”
Understandably, there is a general sense of trepidation over Warnock’s Premier League track record, but given his familiarity with the club, there is definitely hope that after a failed survival bid with Sheffield United, and the frustrating end to his time at Loftus Road, he’ll have the experience required to make it work.
Four years on from his departure, we’re about to embark on another spell under Neil Warnock’s guidance. It certainly won’t be boring.