“Merry Christmas Neil... oh and by the way, you’re sacked...’
I’m sure the conversation between Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish and former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock wasn’t quite that brutal but the end result was the same.
Following Palace’s 3-1 defeat by Southampton and with the club in the relegation zone it won’t have been a huge surprise to anyone, especially Neil Warnock in his second spell as manager at Selhurst Park. Oddly enough I was wondering whether Neil Warnock might be preparing for that.
I was sending out my new phone number to contacts and Neil, from his time at Bramall Lane, is one of them.
Two minutes after the text went out the new phone rang - the first call it had received.
Neil Warnock, Premiership manager and Match Of The Day pundit ringing me on Christmas Day night?
There was the sound of some scuffling and what sounded like a child’s voice then: “Martin?” “Hi Neil, you ok?”
“Sorry mate I just got your new number, I didn’t mean to ring you, I don’t know what’s gone on there, all the best.”
“Ok Neil, no problem, Merry Christmas!”
Short and sweet and just one of those mobile-phone-gone-off-in-my-hand-/pocket things that we all get from time to time. Then I had visions of the Warnocks’ at Christmas in their Richmond or Devon home and wondered how it might be in their household with Palace in such a precarious position and wondered whether he was sitting close to his phone expecting the chairman’s call?
Maybe not, perhaps a little too much imagination with the Christmas noggin in our house but subsequent events beg the question whether an air of unease may have pervaded the Warnock household over the festive season.
Now the man who has almost retired at least three times might finally decide it’s time to ease off a bit at the age of 66. Another former Sheffield boss Alan Irvine is probably thinking about that chairman’s phone call as his side West Brom flirt with relegation.
A decent man and a hugely respected coach, the former Wednesday boss seems only a defeat or two away from being shown the door by West Brom.
Between them Palace and Albion have had 13 managers in the last four years. The way it’s going it’s sadly only a matter of time for Irvine too.