Sheffield Wednesday: Milan explains Warnock affair

Neil Warnock is off the Owls shortlist
Neil Warnock is off the Owls shortlist

Milan Mandaric judged today that the appointment of Neil Warnock as manager would have been too upsetting to Owls supporters.

The Hillsborough chief thought that the ex-Sheffield United boss could do the job but he realised via many anti-Warnock messages from fans that if he was chosen then it could have been disruptive when the club are fighting for Championship survival.

Mandaric said on the Owls website today after it was confirmed that Warnock was out of the reckoning:

“I was quite unaware that the situation would go this way. Most important at this club, their (the fans’) club, is being united, getting behind the club and not being divided. That makes a huge influence on me.

“As for Neil Warnock, I think he is a good manager. I think he could do the job. But the emotional issue is prevailing in my decision because I don’t want to be a chairman working against their (the fans’) wishes.

“For that reason I am going to take Neil out of the shortlist. I called Neil yesterday. I explained to him the situation. I told him it was imperative to have supporters solid and going forward together in this very difficult time. He understood that.

“He said ‘I wish you all the best’. It was very professional, which makes me feel good about the whole thing.

“He said it’s not going to help us if supporters are divided.

“From that standpoint I am going to concentrate on other candidates.”

“Stuart Gray is put on the shortlist. He is a good coach, a good man, and he cares for the club. I think he has a lot of approval from supporters as well.

“As far as other people are concerned, I need a bit more time to change the whole scope and direction and will bring everybody up to date after the weekend game. We’ll concenrate on this game (against Forest.)

“I hope the supporters come and get behind the club, because their support is crucial. You saw at the last game how great they were.

“We need to be united. My call for this is to demonstrate my feeling for them and my thinking on what we need to do and where we need to go.”

It appears that the feeling between Warnock and Mandaric was mutual. though Warnock has put a different slant on the process.

HWarnock, who spent eight years in charge of United before joining Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and Leeds, told The Star his presence could have divided the Hillsborough support at a critical moment in the club’s season.

“I considered the job out of respect for their chairman Milan,” Warnock said. “He’s someone that I have a lot of admiration for and we’ve spoken about three or four times in the past about the possibility of working together.

“I think I could definitely have done the job and, if I’m honest, I think I would have kept them up. But I spoke to Milan and told him that, on reflection, I think it would have been impossible for me, who everyone knows is a Blade, to take it.

“It’s a time when the whole club needs to be together, although I must say,what has been very heartening is some of the messages I’ve had from Wednesday fans saying that they would have liked me to go there.

“Yes, there have been some vitriolic ones. There’s no point in denying that. But, by and large, people were positive.”

Warnock steered United into the semi-finals of both the League and FA cups before securing promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He departed soon after their controversial relegation following the Carlos Tevez Affair which later saw United awarded £20m in compensation.

“If I’d have gone to Wednesday I’d still have been a Blade,” Warnock said. “You don’t change the club you support, every football fan knows that.

“But football is my profession and that means I will give 100 per cent to any job I have within the game. It wouldn’t have changed how I feel about Sheffield United but that wouldn’t have meant that I’d have given any less to Sheffield Wednesday either.”

Warnock, revealing he offered his services to United following Danny Wilson’s departure in April before approaching them again on the eve of last season’s League One play-offs, added: “I’ve heard a lot of people saying that I only entertained the Wednesday job because I wanted to prove some sort of point to the people at United. That’s not the case at all.

“Yes, I’m not going to deny that I was disappointed they didn’t take me up on that. I really wanted to help out at what was an important time.

“But that’s not what was behind this. That’s just not true at all.”

“Listen, I’m a Sheffield United fan,” Warnock added. “But when I was there we were getting 33,000 people going to the derby games and, because I’m from the city, I want to see those times back again as soon as possible.

“That’s what football in Sheffield should be all about. These two clubs shouldn’t be where they are the moment, I don’t think anyone connected with them likes to see it.

“Like every fan, I just want to see those times when the place was buzzing before derbies come back as quickly as possible.”

Warnock, aged 65, first explored the possibility of joining Wednesday soon after Dave Jones was sacked following last weekend’s defeat by Blackpool.

However, although they remain in the relegation zone, Tuesday night’s victory over leaders Leicester City means Wednesday now trail 21st placed Charlton Athletic by only three points.

“I told Milan that result has bought him a bit of time,” Warnock continued. “He’ll have had a lot more emails from people after that and he can sift through all of those and consider his next move.”