By Terry Phillips
Former Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock is backing his old club, Notts County, to play-off success at Wembley Stadium – where one former Bluebird and one current loanee are set to play their part.
Warnock twice led County to promotion via the play-offs three decades ago and now they take on Harrogate Town in the Vanarama National League final.
The winners will earn a place in the Football League, joining National League champions Barrow as well as Newport County in the fourth tier.
Notts County are likely to include Turner, who played his part in manager Malky Mackay’s team that won promotion to the top flight in 2013, and Cardiff teenager Joel Bagan, who is currently out on loan from the Bluebirds.
Former Southampton Academy prospect Began, 18, is highly-rated by Cardiff’s coaches and Notts County manager Neal Ardley, who signed the left-footed defender on loan.
Ex-Bluebirds secretary Jason Turner is the County chief executive, working closely with Ardley.
Warnock wore his original Notts County blazer for his interview with the club’s media department during the build-up to their trip to Wembley – and revealed how comedian Chubby Brown played his part in their play-offs preparation during 1990.
“People were asking how we would use videos to prepare for the play-off final against Tranmere Rovers, wondering whether we would be looking at free-kick scenarios, tactics or whatever.
“But I decided on playing Chubby Brown instead!”
That came after Warnock had taken his players to Wembley for the Associate Members Cup final between Tranmere Rovers and Bristol Rovers.
“We sat with fans and they were looking at us thinking ‘what have they come for’, but we were there to sample the atmosphere and thankfully we went on to win at Wembley.
“I was an average player and wanted to get to the top. The only way was through management.
“I played under Len Ashurst at Hartlepool and he was brilliant. I took a lot from Len and rang him after taking the Cardiff City job.
“Cardiff and Notts County were similar clubs in that when I joined them they didn’t appear to be going anywhere and the job involved changing the whole format at the clubs.
“Other clubs would feel they were better than us, but we worked hard and competed.”
Warnock, now Middlesbrough manager, will watch the County v Harrogate final on television, while Turner and Bagan are likely to be in the thick of the battle.
Turner has allowed his hair to grow over the last three months just in case, like Samson, it means he retains his immense strength.
“I don’t have any superstitions, but the only thing I’ve had is people keep asking me if I am going to get my hair cut because of what I’ve ended up with on my head,” he says.
“I couldn’t get a hair cut in lockdown. I came back training and felt good so I said I am keeping the hair.
“Maybe I am getting a bit of strength from my hair.
“I want to win the play-offs and get my hair cut. That’s the plan.”
Harrogate Town play Notts County at Wembley at 3pm for a place in League 2!
Harrogate have spent their whole 106 years in non-league.
Notts County have been out of the EFL for just one season in their 158 year history.
The story of the playoffs so far⬇️pic.twitter.com/bl0ES0ax8u
— Ollie Bayliss (@Ollie_Bayliss) August 2, 2020
Ardley believes Bagan has a highly promising future and told WalesOnline: “Joel will become a very good player for Cardiff, but people need to be patient with him. He needs time.
“He’s going to learn from experience and the experience he’s having with us is bringing him on quicker than I thought.
“But I look at him, physically, and by the time he’s finished (growing) he will probably be 6ft 1in or 6ft 2in and when his muscles fill out he is going to become a proper athlete.
“Now he is a little wiry and in his running style sometimes lessens the power he can produce.
“This is not disrespectful, because I think when he physically and socially matures in two or three years, you could have a real player.”
The play-off final is at Wembley Stadium this afternoon (3pm).