Neil Warnock: The Magic Man for Middlesbrough?



Can Neil Warnock bolster Boro?

Just three seasons ago, Middlesbrough Football Club were playing Premiership football. Now, they face a battle to survive in the Championship. But why did it not work out for Jonathan Woodgate? Could he have done more? Is Neil Warnock the right man Middlesbrough? Well, let’s take a look…


A tough act to follow

With Boro sitting just one place above the relegation zone, Jonathan Woodgate quickly discovered the brutality that is management when he was sacked last week.

For someone that played 112 times for the club, one that he supported as a youngster and loved as his hometown team, this decision will have hurt him – make no mistake about that.

In Woodgate’s defence, this was never going to be an easy job. Replacing a manager like Tony Pulis who, regardless of what you think about him, always manages to get wins was always going to be tough. Not to mention that this was his first taste of management.

During Pulis’ year-and-a-half at the club, in which he managed 80 matches, the Welshman accumulated a win percentage of 43.75. Given that the Championship has proved time and again that it is an unforgiving division, Pulis’ win percentage just short of half should not be underappreciated.

Woodgate’s woes

Woodgate’s record, however, proves less impressive. During his year in North Yorkshire, the former defender only managed to secure nine wins from 41 games – giving him an underwhelming win percentage of 21.95.

Furthermore, Middlesbrough are the lowest scorers in the Championship, which shows that, for whatever reason, his front-men just haven’t been able to find the net on enough occasions.

Not only are Boro the lowest scorers, but they are also heading for the their lowest placing since 1990. That year, the Smoggies narrowly avoided relegation after they beat Newcastle on the final day of the season. They finished 21st, just one place and two points above the drop zone.

Woodgate’s arrival as manager raised a lot of eyebrows when it was announced, but his belief in attacking football and creating a ‘new identity’ understandably pleased a large proportion of the Boro faithful.

Following his appointment, BBC Radio Tees’ Middlesbrough commentator Mark Drury told BBC Sport: “It was a change of tack, you went from a grizzled old campaigner to the hope or promise of a brave new way of playing.

“Woodgate said in interviews with us he wanted fast, attacking football; to promote young players and work with the youth system – and that was a big part of the decision.

“Because he cared, it’s his club and the way he talked about playing, who wouldn’t want to watch that? You want it to work.”

For a number of reasons; finances, loss of experienced players and juggling tactics included, Woodgate’s tenure as Boro boss did not go to plan. Football is a brutal game, often void of sentiment, and he had to go. But who could replace him? The notorious Neil Warnock, of course.

Jonathan Woodgate made 14 appearances for Real Madrid before joining Middlesbrough in 2007.


Warnock? Why not?

A handful of managers spring to mind when a team is struggling at the bottom of the league and are desperate to survive – Nigel Pearson, Sam Allardyce, the already mentioned Tony Pulis and, of course, Neil Warnock.

Certain managers, for whatever reason, just get labelled with the stereotype. Good or bad, they are often thought of as miracle workers, capable of achieving the ‘great escape’.

Warnock, who is now 71, has been without a club since leaving Cardiff City last November, after more than three years with the Welsh side.

Warnock labelled his move to the Riverside Stadium as a ‘no-brainer’ and is now at his 16th club as manager.

Kevin Blackwell and Ronnie Jepson also join Warnock at Middlesbrough and have worked alongside him at a number of clubs.

With just seven matches left in the Championship season, Neil Warnock has got a challenge on his hands to try to keep Middlesbrough in the league. The Teesside club sit just one point above the drop zone in a very congested bottom six.


Warnock pedigree perfect for Boro

Warnock achieved promotion with Cardiff in the 2017/2018 season and became the first manager to achieve eight promotions in professional leagues. However, their first season back in the Premier League did not work out and the Bluebirds were immediately relegated.

His experience could go a long way in keeping the Boro up, and is arguably the main reason that Steve Gibson and the rest of the hierarchy at the club decided to appoint him.

For reference, while at Rotherham United in 2016, Warnock and his side went on an 11 game unbeaten run. The final game in the unbeaten streak saw United thrash MK Dons 4-0 and all but seal their league status.

So, Neil Warnock has proved that he can keep a team in the Championship. He has also shown that he can take a team up from it.

Is this a short-term fix? Or are there plans for his reign to last longer than many people expect?

Much of the future will be dependent on whether or not he manages to keep Middlesbrough in the league. Relegation to League One simply cannot become a reality for an historic club like Boro.

One thing is for sure, love him or hate him, Warnock has shown he can be a successful manager.

Middlesbrough don’t quite need a miracle yet, but if things start to go from bad to worse, Neil Warnock might just have to bring out his survival wand once again.


We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Neil Warnock: The Magic Man for Middlesbrough?’ Can Warnock work his magic or will Boro suffer a similar fate to Sunderland? Let us know!


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Since beginning a degree in Sports Journalism at the University of Chester in 2018, Daniel has learnt and practised essential journalism skills while also gaining relevant and invaluable work experience with professional sports teams such as Tranmere Rovers and Cheshire Phoenix. Daniel has worked at the Liverpool Echo’s sports desk, honing his industry skills and knowledge in the process. You can contact Daniel at: [email protected]


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