IT’S taken six and a half years but now it’s time to say I told you so, writes Martin Smith.
In May 2007 Sheffield United parted company with Neil Warnock in the crushing aftermath of the club’s emotionally-shattering relegation on the last day of the Premier League season.
They were one goal off staying up and Danny Webber’s shot came back off the inside of the post instead of going in during the last-day horror against Wigan at Bramall Lane.
Absolute football agony. This column questioned the wisdom of that decision and so did many Blades.
But not even in the darkest recesses of United fans’ worst-case visions did they ever think it would lead to this. Bottom of division three with no manager and five points from 11 games.
No-one could have known on that day that the club would slide so deep into footballing mediocrity so quickly, but at the time it didn’t seem like a good idea and it certainly doesn’t now.
On May 17 this column read: “To lose a man with the experience, drive, strength of character and sheer ebullience of Neil Warnock is not a good idea. Why would you get shut of a man who has won six promotions with five different clubs and helped transform Sheffield United.”
Warnock’s transformation of the club under chairman Kevin McCabe raised expectation to the point where it became a weight round his neck, and every other manager’s since.
United’s casualties tell their own story. Bryan Robson, Kevin Blackwell, Gary Speed, Micky Adams, Danny Wilson and David Weir with some caretaker work by Chris Morgan.
So, here they go again. Would it be wise to try and bring back Neil Warnock at the age of 64? If he fancied it, it would, but too much was said between he and his former employer, Kevin McCabe, for that to be an easy reunion.
Nigel Clough is favourite now, a man with experience, quality and a man who knows how to bring young players on. Clough has the character to take on the expectations of fans and the know-how to take the club forward. But he might need time to build and time to fail before he succeeds.
Time that no manager since Neil Warnock has been able earn for himself.