Neil Warnock Gets Ready For The Final Step On Cardiff’s Journey

Like Phileas Fogg – who went around the world in 80 days – Neil Warnock is a man who seems to enjoy the journey more than the destination.

The Cardiff City manager is one stride from the Premier League, but you could be forgiven for thinking he will be disappointed when the travelling is over.

The Premier League? Yeah, it’s alright if you like that sort of thing, Warnock seems to imply. But a record eight promotions? More than any manager has ever done before? More than Graham Taylor, Jim Smith and Dave Bassett – who Warnock reminded all present on Friday pipped him to the award of Sheffield United’s greatest manager (not that it still hurts)? Now, you’re talking.

If Cardiff beat Reading on Sunday, no matter what Fulham do in trying to extend their unbeaten run to 24 matches, then the Bluebirds will be in the Premier League.

But what about if they went straight back down again, just as they did five years ago. Would he be crushed, devastated, a broken man?

“If we got relegated it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” says the 69-year-old. “When Sean Dyche got promoted, the first season he went down with Burnley but look at them now.

“You’ve got to get into the Premier League to get the money to make the infrastructure better for the next generation and beyond. That’s what it would do for Cardiff.”

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Strictly speaking, Warnock’s mark would span the top five tiers of English football since his first promotion was from the Conference into the old fourth division back in 1987.

“I think when you die and pass away it’s nice to be remembered for something,” said Warnock. “That is what I have strived for – to get to the top of the list.

“I was never very good as a player so I wanted to be a manager. I have done it right from the bottom, from Sunday League managing to Gainsborough, and so forth, and every division.

“Proving ex-chairman wrong provably provides my biggest drive. It still burns with me and I still like to show people who I’ve not had a great relationship with what they have missed.

“I want to be remembered in the right way, but this will be my biggest achievement by an absolute mile, when you look at the state of the club 18 months ago.

“To be challenging at this stage is a miracle, but miracles do happen and I’m hoping this can be another one.”

The first promotion of Warnock’s 38-year managerial career came when he took Scarborough into the Football League, before back-to-back successes with Notts County.

He found the formula again with Huddersfield and Plymouth Argyle and then took his beloved Sheffield United to the promised land of the top flight.

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He made it seven with QPR seven years ago, and now only Sunday’s opponents Reading stand in the way of breaking a record

But Warnock has always had an ambivalence towards the Premier League and its excesses, with a disdain for some of the modern day managerial requirements, particularly the managing of owners and agents rather than players.

It way well stem from some of his unhappy experiences in the top flight with Notts County, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and QPR.

“I think I have brought the club together. That is the biggest plus over the 18 months I’ve been here.’

“Dave Bassett was voted best Sheffield United manager ever, so that bugged me,’ added Warnock. ‘But they’re all good managers, Graham obviously, they’ve all done fabulous jobs over the years. I’m just glad I’ve got my health to have a go.”

Cardiff have a clean bill of health for the Reading game, apart from talismanic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson, who has a race to be fit for Iceland’s World Cup campaign.

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