Imagine a manager having four decades of illustrious coaching career but never had the recognition he deserves. We are talking about Neil Warnock here who has silently transformed Cardiff City into promotion favourites from a mere midtable Championship outfit within a year. The veteran Englishman had colourful as well as controversial stints in his managerial realm but still continuing his legacy in Football League at the age of 68.
Warnock, who is adored for his passion, emotional outburst and dedication went through severe criticism three years back when he returned to Crystal Palace and a poor run of outcomes resulted in a sack. The Eagles, who were in the drop zone, survived a relegation scare under Alan Pardew who succeeded Warnock at Selhurst Park back in January 2015. It was thought to be the end of Warnock’s distinguished spell but the veteran returned to management following a short and temporary stint with Queens Park Rangers and accepted the challenge of managing Rotherham United on 11th February 2016 despite having a few months only to save relegation. But the Millers had an incredible 11-game unbeaten run and eventually came out of drop zone under his guidance.
The gaffer, however, did not extend his contract but Warnock had another assignment within months when a struggling Cardiff City asked for his help last October being down in the drop zone of Championship table. Warnock again influenced an upsurge as the Bluebirds eventually finished 12th in the league.
But they still looked like a squad far from contesting a promotion fight considering the strength and quality of Cardiff’s league counterparts Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Derby County etc. to name a few. Yet, Warnock remarkably registered back to back wins in first five Championship outings of the new campaign and guided his side to clinch the top of the table spot. The Welsh outfit are currently third in the league behind Wolves and new boys Sheffield United with four points off the league leaders from West Midlands.
Warnock’s old school and direct football might seem tedious and mundane at times, but he is perspicuous with his tactics and game-plan where the entire squad works as a unit and distribute the load among themselves. The likes of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Junior Hoilett, Joe Ralls, Kenneth Zonore and Danny Ward are among goals whereas the backline of Lee Peltier, Joe Bennett, Sean Morrison, Sol Bamba and Bruno Manga have maintained discipline, composure, and consistency. Neil Etheridge, the Philippines custodian, has been an absolute bargain between the sticks since completing a Bosman transfer from Walsall and the entire squad have managed to grind out results so far this season.
Cardiff City might take inspiration from Huddersfield Town, the Championship minnows who earned an incredible Premier League promotion under David Wagner but at the same time should be aware of Hull City and Sunderland’s state who are struggling to retain Championship status following a Premier League relegation.
Leeds United’s downfall in recent weeks has to be another instance what the Bluebirds must stay away from and considering Warnock’s vast experience at Championship level, the supporters might just have enough reasons to celebrate at the end of this campaign.
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