Neil Warnock riding Cardiff City bus after being promotedNeil Warnock riding Cardiff City bus after being promoted to Premier League (Credit: Jeremy Segrott)

Neil Warnock will turn 76 in December 2024 and at an age when most people are very much winding down, at least if they are lucky enough to a) have the financial means to do so and b) still be alive(!), the divisive Yorkshireman has recently taken on the manager’s role at Aberdeen. As a player, he was something of a journeyman, playing for 10 clubs. But that’s nothing compared to the 18 he has now managed!

Warnock has had a tendency to rub people up the wrong way, his brusque, forthright Yorkshire ways sometimes seeming like self-parody. That said, a career win percentage of almost 41% means he has won far more games than he has lost. Moreover, he has stacked up a lot of wins – exactly 800 at the time of writing – due to the incredible longevity of his managerial career, with the Sheffield native closing in on 2,000 games in the dugout! To put that into perspective, Sir Alex Ferguson managed 2,155 games during his career and it is safe to say he had many more European matches and cup ties than Warnock has had.

Warnock the Player

Before we look in more detail at his time as a manager, let us briefly consider Warnock the player. He made over 300 league appearances for a range of clubs including Chesterfield, where he began, Hartlepool, where he was named Player of the Season in 1972, Scunthorpe, the club where he made the most league appearances (72), and Burton Albion, where he ended his career and was player-manager for a time.

He was a winger who wasn’t quite fast enough, strong enough or skilful enough to ever make it at the very highest level. Even so, he had a respectable career and managed 36 league goals. His time as a pro was cut short by injury though and he stopped playing completely after the 1981/82 campaign in his early 30s, without having garnered any honours of note.

Managerial Career Stats

Warnock has enjoyed a far longer and more successful career as a manager than he did as a player. Below we can see all the clubs he has taken charge of (to date!), along with his stats at each (correct as of 15/2/24).

Club Year(s) Win % Played Won Drawn Lost
Aberdeen 2024-? 33.33 3 1 1 1
Huddersfield Town 2023 39.13 23 9 6 8
Middlesbrough 2020-21 38.67 75 29 14 32
Cardiff City 2016-19 40.97 144 59 29 56
Rotherham Utd 2016 37.50 16 6 6 4
QPR 2015 50 4 2 1 1
Crystal Palace 2014 17.65 17 3 6 8
Leeds United 2012-13 36.51 63 23 15 25
QPR 2010-12 39.29 84 33 27 24
Crystal Palace 2007-10 36.43 129 47 39 43
Sheffield Utd 1999-2007 42.86 385 165 98 122
Bury 1998-99 24.68 77 19 29 29
Oldham Athletic 1997-98 31.88 69 22 20 27
Plymouth Argyle 1995-97 40.22 92 37 24 31
Huddersfield Town 1993-95 42.50 120 51 37 32
Torquay Utd 1993 33.33 9 3 4 2
Notts County 1989-93 42.43 221 94 54 73
Scarborough 986-89 47.11 121 57 35 29
Burton Albion 1981-86 43.20 303 140 70 93

In the earlier part of his career, he tended to stay at clubs longer than he has more recently. He took charge of over 100 games with four of his first five teams, registering almost 650 matches at his first three clubs. His longest spell by some distance, however, came in the middle part of his managerial career, at Sheffield United.

Beautiful Time with Blades

Sheffield United Stadium - Bramall Lane
Sheffield United Stadium – Bramall Lane (Credit: Richard Barrett-Small)

Warnock is a diehard Sheffield United fan, so managing the Blades must have been a dream come true. He was there for almost eight years in all and a winning percentage of almost 43% is very good for a club like United. What’s more, he led his hometown team into the Premier League for the 2006/07 season after they finished second in the Championship.

Managing his beloved Blades in the top tier of English football was an incredibly proud moment for Warnock and they put up a good fight too. They ultimately went down on goal difference, by just a single goal, having accrued 38 points, very often more than enough for a side to stay up. They only won one of their first 10 games but Warnock soon managed to get his troops playing better football and winning games.

Five wins combined in November and December gave them a great chance but they stumbled in spring before a late rally meant everything would be settled on the final day. Their fate was in their hands but they were beaten 2-1 by Wigan, which meant the Lancashire side moved to 38 points as well but with a goal difference of one better.

It was a truly agonising way for the club to be relegated and hurt the fans and their manager immensely. What made it worse was the sense of injustice because they felt that West Ham had benefited from an illegal signing. The Hammers finished just three points above United and survived, many felt, thanks to the goals of Carlos Tevez, who had been signed in breach of Premier League regulations. In the end, West Ham reached an out-of-court settlement for a huge sum to compensate the Blades, though it was certainly worth less, both financially and emotionally, than PL survival would have been.

The incident and the season as a whole took its toll on Warnock, who resigned and had a break from football. It turned out to be a fairly short period off though, and in October of the same year he was back in the dugout, this time at Crystal Palace.

Promotion King

In the latter stage of his career, Warnock has often been called upon when a side has sacked a manager. His experience and love of a dogfight are seen as valuable assets in keeping sides up, and he certainly has good knowledge about what it takes to survive a relegation scrap.

However, overall, Warnock’s career has been one that has often been about not merely keeping his club in the division they are in, but earning them promotion. A full list of Warnock’s promotions can be seen below.

  • Scarborough – wins 1986/87 Conference to earn promotion to Football League
  • Notts County – wins Third Division then Second Division play-offs in 1990 and 1991 respectively
  • Huddersfield Town – wins Second Division play-offs in 1995
  • Plymouth Argyle – wins Third Division in 1996
  • Sheffield United – finishes second in Championship to earn PL spot for the 2006/007 season
  • QPR – wins the Championship in 2010/11
  • Cardiff City – earns third Premier League promotion by guiding Cardiff to second in 2017/18

His haul of eight promotions is a record in English management and, quite possibly, one that will last a long time. Love him or hate him (and for many it is the latter), despite often being viewed as old-fashioned, Warnock can get the job done, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in Scotland.

Featured image credit: Jeremy Segrott


By cf378