Sometimes you have to climb right down off that fence. It’s Neil Warnock for me at Sheffield Wednesday.
There. No splinters in this column’s backside. Maybe a few kicks up the rear instead. So be it.
And I mean a “few.” There’s no sign of the howling lynch mob many envisaged when I floated the prospect of Warnock managing the Owls at the start of the week.
If my Twitter timeline is any guide, Wednesdayites are roughly two to one in FAVOUR of the lifelong Blade taking charge.
Of course, some say not at any price. Warnock always divides opinion, as he did even among his own beloved at Bramall Lane. But what some might regard as unthinkable is actually very possible.
And in all but the controversy, it’s damn near perfect. One of the game’s most successful bosses, boasting seven promotions, and a renowned firefighter taking over the relegation-threatened Owls until the end of the season. Is there anybody better? Or more motivated? (Two fingers across the city for not having him back?) Or better able to take the flak in playing the pantomime villain.
Warnock has been sounded out and is on a shortlist of up to five. Milan Mandaric is brave enough to confront any criticism – and this would provoke far less than his replacement of Gary Megson with Dave Jones.
Mandaric has courted Warnock twice before, at Portsmouth and Leicester. Everything adds up, including the acceptance, however grudging, of most supporters.
Others in the frame? Maybe Stuart Pearce and Ian Holloway not completely out of it, plus some yet to emerge as this went to press.
Caretaker Stuart Gray, with Lee Bullen alongside, could yet stake a claim if a rejuvenating win over leaders Leicester creates a pause and leaves them in situ for Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Credit to all concerned, though teams jolted by a sacking nearly always win the next game. The effect can fizzle. Even at 65, Warnock is one of those characters – a bit like Ron Atkinson – who can lift players by his presence alone.
As for Jones, I don’t think he ever recovered from a round of low grade recruitment after the promotion triumph he shared with the very unfortunate Megson.
Neither club nor manager seemed to set their sights quite high enough.
There were still four Megson players in Jones’ last line-up where his omission of free scoring Matty Fryatt (now back at Hull) was extraordinary.
Jones lost his way on whether attack or defence was the best way out of the crisis and, having given some the misguided impression that he never blamed himself, I have to be honest in the view that his dismissal was overdue.
Doubtless his close relationship with Mandaric bought him more time. But there is no questioning Jones’ pedigree as a manager or his quality as a man.
Those who knew him best saw beyond the dour, defensive demeanour he presented to the world. He was loyal and fair to those who served him.
For whatever reason, it didn’t work out here.
He’s by no means the first but hopefully he’s the last – for a while.
Sheffield United: Blades foundations are finally in place
It’s been said before but it’s worth repeating. Because this time I think it’s right. Firm foundations are finally in place for Sheffield United to build upwards again.
Consider the transfer framework of recent years, rickety at best. The impression was that it was dictated – often from some far flung corner of the globe – by owner Kevin McCabe.
If so, there were inevitable delays as club officials sought final approval on deals in and out.
How many potential signings, particularly in advance of window closures, were lost this way?
And in some cases after key players were sold without then being replaced?
Whatever, I understand the whole process has been streamlined and very much for the better under McCabe’s team control share with Prince Abdullah.
A cynic might think it now involves chasing TWO wealthy men around the world. Far from it. In most cases neither need be consulted.
Control and trust is in the hands of a few people led by manager Nigel Clough and chief executive Julian Winter, working to a budget and wage structure. Providing they adhere to those, they can do the deals – and let their bosses read about them!