Promotions, bowling and a pigsty in Stoke: Neil Warnock’s most iconic moments

After spending over 50 years in the game, there's bound to be some stories to tell. From miraculous promotions to bizarre anecdotes, here’s a handful of Neil Warnock’s best moments.

Neil Warnock announced his retirement from football on Saturday, as the 73-year-old calls an end to his career that spanned over five decades.

His last management stint came in Middlesbrough, and after departing the Riverside Stadium back in November 2020, Warnock announced his retirement via Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports.

The 72-year-old has overseen over 1,600 games with 16 different clubs to surpass the record of former Crewe Alexandra manager Dario Gradi.

Yet despite his longevity, Warnock remains something of a Marmite character as his nickname Colin (a play on an anagram of his name) testifies.

Known for his brash Yorkshire humour and witty quotes, the Sheffield-born Warnock has experienced all the highs and lows the sport has to offer, and left a number of iconic moments in his wake.

Planet Sport takes you through some of them.

A promotion pro

After a modest playing career that spanned 12 years, Neil Warnock hung up his boots in 1979, but wasted no time in rejoining the sport as a manager.

Initially taking charge of Northern Premier League side Gainsborough Trinity, Warnock settled in quickly and after a year found himself at the helm of Burton Albion and then Scarborough.

In 1987, in his first season with the Seadogs, Warnock won the Football Conference title, resulting in them being the first team to win automatic promotion to the Football League.

It was the first, but certainly not the last promotion of his career. In fact, Warnock has made quite a habit of winning promotion as a manager.

Warnock's success at Scarborough earned him a chance at Notts County in 1989, and he didn't disappoint. Two successive promotions later and County were in the First Division, with Warnock subsequently rejecting offers to take charge at Chelsea and Sunderland.

He departed County after relegation cost them a place in the inaugural Premier League, but went on to gain further promotions with Huddersfield Town, Plymouth Argyle, Sheffield United, Queens Park Rangers and, most recently, Cardiff City.

Warnock currently holds the record for most promotions in English soccer with eight.

If you weren't already impressed, Warnock managed four successive promotions in the 1990s, and only lost his first play-off game 19 years into management with Sheffield United, when his Blades side lost 3-0 to Wolves in 2003.

Five decades of soccer

Having started his professional playing career in 1967, Warnock has been in the game for a staggering 54 years.

Warnock briefly held the record for the oldest English manager, but Roy Hodgson's return to the sport with Watford means the Hornets boss now boasts that record.

Warnock, who turned 73 back in December, did surpass a legendary duo of managers though, carrying on past the age at which both Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Robson retired (71).

A Premier League homecoming with his boyhood club

Warnock was given the chance to take charge of his boyhood club, Sheffield United, in 1999 - an opportunity he grabbed with both hands.

The Blades had been flloundering in the Championship in previous seasons and were in search of the right man to return them to the top.

However, Warnock's promotion magic didn't have an immediate impact on his local side. They made the play-offs in 2002/03, but for the first time in his career, Warnock was unable to see it through.

But the improvements under Warnock were apparent, and the Blades reached the semi-finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup, bowing out to Liverpool and Arsenal, respectively.

In 2005/06, Warnock once again mustered his squad for a promotion push, and they overcame their play-off blues to finish second and gain automatic promotion to the Premier League.

In the process, Warnock had ended United's 12-year stint in the Championship, and was able to celebrate the promotion as a true boyhood fan.

Unfortunately, Sheffield United's time in the Premier League only lasted one season, as they were relegated on the final day of the 2006/07 campaign following Carlos Tevez' controversial winner for West Ham United against Manchester United.

The battle of Bramall Lane

While Warnock's promotion to the Premier League is likely one of his favourite moments from his time at Sheffield United, the award for the most bizarre would probably go to a match now known as the Battle of Bramall Lane.

Famous for reckless challenges, punch-ups and a complete loss of discipline, it has gone down in soccer folklore as one of the most unique yet entertaining games of all time. I mean, not every match gets its own Wikipedia page.

Late in the 2001/02 Division One season, Warnock's Blades faced promotion-chasing West Brom.

There wasn't any animosity between the two sides prior to the fixture, but there was bad blood between United's Georges Santos and Albion midfielder Andy Johnson due to an injury sustained bv Santos the last time they faced each other.

Despite their feud, Santos started the game on the bench, and United quickly found themselves a goal - and a man - down, after goalkeeper Simon Tracey was sent off for handling outside of the box.

Warnock's side remained stubborn and went in at the break without suffering any further damage. However, after Albion striker Scott Dobie doubled his side's lead, Warnock took action, introducing both Santos and Patrick Suffo from the bench.

Memorably, both substitutes received red cards within moments of their introduction. Santos was dismissed after a dangerous lunge on Johnson (who saw that coming?), and Suffo quickly joined him after headbutting Derek McInnes.

Having just made his final two substitutions, Warnock was down to eight men, and the situation worsened when two of his defenders suffered injuries.

With United reduced to six men, referee Eddie Wolstenholme was forced to abandon the match in the 82nd minute.

It was the first time in the history of English soccer that Law 3 of the Laws of the game - that a match should not continue if there are fewer than seven players in either team - had been implemented. West Brom were duly awarded a 3-0 win.

Farcical? Sure. Entertaining? Definitely.

Gary Megson West Brom Jan02

Warnock was accused of cheating by Baggies boss Gary Megson, who claimed he was telling his players to feign injury in order to get the match abandoned. Warnock responded by describing the comments as "disgraceful".

And while the two clubs were quick to put the bad blood between them to bed, Warnock and Megson continued their feud long after Megson left The Hawthorns. 

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Megson's Nottingham Forest, Warnock said: "I wouldn't shake his hands in a million years. I wouldn't p**s on him if he was on fire."

Bowled over

Who doesn't love an anecdote? Especially one regarding Warnock and his ingenious plan to get one over his Sheffield United players.

Speaking to talkSPORT, Warnock told the tale of his brilliant money-making scheme on a team bonding session at a bowling alley.

To add a sprinkling of competition, Warnock convinced his side to each put £20 on the line. However, his players should've done their research first.

If they had done, they would have discovered that their charismatic manager had another string to his bow - he was a bowling instructor in his teens.

After building up the winnings, Warnock took out his own bowling shoes and personalised bowling ball and scored a remarkable 248 to scoop the pot.

Best quotes

Warnock's iconic moments wouldn't be complete without a section devoted to his weird, wacky and often hilarious quotes that have tickled us over the years.

We'll start with his dying wish:

"When I pass away, I don't want clapping or a minute's silence, I want a minute's booing at Bristol City."

It also turns out that Warnock was an advocate of VAR way before its time, either that or he has a hatred of bald people.

Speaking of a refereeing mistake against Southampton in 2001, Warnock said:

"I really think it's about time we use the means to sort these things out rather than relying on some bald-headed bloke standing 50 yards away."

Or how about his brilliant stint as a pundit?

Not afraid of upsetting anyone or speaking his mind, Warnock delivered this unbelievable line regarding El Hadji Diouf, only to go on and sign him during his time in charge at Leeds United. Never change Neil:

"For many years I have thought he was the gutter type - I was going to call him a sewer rat, but that might be insulting to sewer rats. He's the lowest of the low and I can't see him being at Blackburn much longer."

Warnock's also not the biggest fan of Stoke. Specifically their changing rooms:

"Those changing rooms were a pigsty. In fact, pigs would have seen it and run away."

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