Neil Warnock has turned from chiropodist to psychologist over his 40 years in football management and is banking on his tough mental approach keeping Cardiff City in the Premier League.
When he first took over as manager of non-league Gainsborough Trinity he was working as a chiropodist, but rose through the managerial ranks to earn a record eight promotions and manager of five teams in the top flight of English football.
But now he faces the biggest fight of his life to keep the Bluebirds flying high after gaining an unlikely promotion last season. With rumours of dressing room unrest, and some fans beginning to questioning his approach, the pressure is mounting.
“You have to be a mix of everything as a manager and I think I’m a sports psychologist really. It has always been one of my strengths,” admitted Warnock, whose side takes on West Ham this weekend at Cardiff City Stadium.
— Cardiff City TV (@CardiffCityTV) March 7, 2019
“I was more psychologist than tactician last season when we were going for promotion. When we lost at QPR you wouldn’t have thought we’d have won another game if you listened to what people were saying.
“You can’t afford to read too much into other people’s opinions, you have to focus on what you think is the right thing to do. We have lost our last three games, but we’ve also won two of our last five – everything depends on how you look at things.”
Warnock insists there are no splinter groups in his dressing room and firmly believes he is the man to keep Cardiff in the Premier League. But he does admit the confidence in his squad is ‘flat’ after losing to Watford, Everton and Wolves.
“You’re always going to get some criticism. Even last year when we were going for promotion, with three weeks to go, there was talk about ‘is he good enough to take us up?’ when we had a couple of sticky results,” said Warnock.
“You always get people who know better than you having an input, so you’ve just got to do your own thing at a time like this. It’s not something I worry too much about, all I can do is do the best I can.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) March 7, 2019
“If I thought it’d be better to have somebody different in the place, I’d say good luck to them. If they thought that, it wouldn’t bother me one bit, but I still think I’m the best one to get us over the line this year.”
What Warnock doesn’t admit is his players are down after their recent beatings and need a psychological boost against the Hammers as they battle for their Premier League status after gaining promotion last season.
“When you lose three games like we have you are flat. Your body language is flat and training is not the same,” he added.
“There is disappointment in the camp and I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t because I don’t like getting beaten. We’ve just got to get over that disappointment.
“I don’t think there’s any rift whatsoever in the dressing room, it’s just that you stop thinking about how good you are and start thinking about the opposition. You can’t afford to do that and we need to regroup against West Ham.
“I think we’ve got more team spirit than the teams around us and we’ve got to keep those team above us nervous. We’ve got to hit the heights for nine games and we are going to need goals.”
Cardiff are currently two points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table with Southampton their nearest target.
“We may have lost our last three, but we’ve also won two of our last five. It just depends on how you look at things. I think we can still do it,” said Warnock.
Cardiff City (probable): Etheridge; Peltier, Manga, Morrison (captain), Bennett; Gunnarsson, Camarasa, Ralls, Reid; Niasse, Zohore.