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January 8, 2012 / ultrafox1963

Why Neil Warnock will NEVER be welcomed as Leicester manager

Neil Warnock became the first Premier League managerial casualty of 2012, as Queens Park Rangers confirmed his departure in a media statement this evening.

Although the move shocked fellow managers and observers alike, many within the fanbase of the struggling West London club accepted that change was inevitable.  QPR are a place and a point above the top flight relegation zone, without a win in their last eight league games.

The owners of the club will have been keenly aware of the number of signings made by Warnock during the summer, which failed to bring the on-field stability that they sought.  They will also be worried about the effect relegation could have on the club, with an inflated wage bill, a low ceiling on gate receipts and new “financial fair play regulations” due to take effect next season in the lower leagues.

Warnock’s exit signals the end of his third attempt to keep a club in English football’s top flight following promotion.  Previous attempts at Notts County in 1992 (the last before the start of the Premier League) and hometown club Sheffield United in 2007 ended in failure.

As soon as the news was announced, online speculation began as to where the much-travelled manager would end up next.  Several Championship clubs were suggested, including Leicester City.

Such sources clearly overlook the long history of antipathy, dating back decades, between the Foxes and this most abrasive of figures.

Indeed, Warnock first gained national prominence in 1985, after an FA Cup clash between Burton Albion (whom he was managing at the time) and City.  Although the visitors won 6-1, Warnock successfully appealed to the FA to declare the result void, claiming goalkeeper Paul Evans had been injured as a result of a missile thrown from the crowd.  City again won, this time by 1-0, when the match was subsequently replayed behind closed doors – the first occasion in Cup history that this had ever happened.

For the next few years, Warnock worked his way up the football pyramid.  In 1990 he guided Notts County into the second tier of English football.  The Magpies exceeded expectations and eventually secured a second successive promotion, beating Brighton in the play-off final.  However, the season was also notable for two defeats, both in contentious circumstances, against Leicester – outcomes which proved enough for the Foxes to stave off relegation to the third tier, as well as deny County automatic promotion.  Warnock reacted bitterly and vociferously to both results, especially in the local media.

The most toxic clash of all, though, came during the 2002-03 season, when a combination of circumstances (many unforeseen and therefore unavoidable) saw Leicester forced into administration.  A groundswell of condemnation spread throughout the Football League and Warnock, by now manager at Sheffield United, was among the first to join the bandwagon.  City’s case eventually led to the league introducing an automatic minimum 10-point deduction for entering administration.  However the sanction was not imposed retrospectively and even if it had been, City would still have finished ahead of the blades in 2nd place at the end of the season.  Meanwhile, the attitude of City fans towards Warnock dipped even lower following an ill-tempered clash at Bramall Lane (accompanied by inflammatory statements by the home manager in match programme notes.   Defeat for the Foxes effectively ended hopes of an unlikely league title and provoked a vitriolic response on the then-emerging internet message boards.

Such ill-feeling remains a feature to this day, even being cited by at least one former City chairman as a deterrent to Warnock’s potential appointment as Leicester manager.  For his part, Warnock has said or done little during the intervening years to suggest that the loathing is unrequited.  While minority elements within the City fanbase have hailed his achievements in the lower-leagues, his repeated failures at the highest level have surely ruled him out of contention for Nigel Pearson’s post for what remains of his future in the game.

But there may well be other options available to him at Championship clubs, possibly even within his native Yorkshire, which could arise before the end of the season.

Warnock is a competitor.  He will want his managerial career to end a higher note than this.

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