Rotherham United: Warnock betting on warm Ipswich welcome
Neil Warnock knows it will be only a matter of seconds before the abuse begins when he takes his Rotherham United side to Ipswich Town this afternoon.
The 67-year-old has previous history with the Portman Road crowd and even has a little bet on when the first insult will arrive.
“When I go there now, me and the staff, we all chuck £1 in and we can have from 15 seconds from the whistle for the first time they call me a rude name,” he said. “It’s usually within the first minute. Very rarely does it get to two.”
Warnock will relish the vocal welcome as the Millers look to build on a run of three wins and a draw in four games in their bid to move out of the Championship drop zone.
The rivalry dates back to his time as Sheffield United manager and the Blades were playing in East Anglia one Saturday afternoon.
Let the man himself take up the story ...
“We were losing 1-0 and their fans were asking me what the score was. I put one finger up and made a nil sign with my other hand and they all clapped and cheered. But I also pointed to my watch because there was still 18 minutes left.
“When we equalised with five minutes to go, you can imagine I was very, very happy. I ran on the pitch afterwards with my lads. To the kop, as I call it at Ipswich, I put two fingers up - one on each hand to signal 1-1. I remember their centre-half chasing me and having a go at me.
“I looked round the press conference afterwards and there was one snake sat to my left from one one of the national papers. I think DM were the initials of that publication. He asked what my reasoning was for putting two fingers up.
“That’s what he wanted. He’d made up his story for Monday already - Warnock and the two-fingered salute, which was total rubbish. I wrote to the local paper and I was inundated with letters from fans saying they knew straight away it was great banter and they enjoyed how I was giving it back. I’ll never forget that. Their fans were fabulous.”
This afternoon’s clash against the play-off-chasing Tractor Boys pits the Rotherham boss against Town manager Mick McCarthy who used to clean Warnock’s boots in their playing days at Barnsley.
“Yeah, he did,” Warnock recalled. “He doesn’t like admitting it!”
The Millers are now only a point away from a safety spot and are exceeding the expectations of their new leader who took charge seven matches ago.
“Before the recent run of games, starting with Brentford, then Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough, Derby and now Ipswich, we said if we got five points from those five matches then, really, that would be okay,” he said.
“If we had got five points from those games we’d be miles adrift, wouldn’t we. But we’ve got 10 already with a game to go. We’ve got to work really hard to try to get something out of the Ipswich match, which would be a massive achievement for the lads.”
Whatever the outcome, the relationship between the two managers will be more cordial than the reception Warnock receives from home supporters.
“I have a lot of time for Mick,” he said. “He has his critics, but he’s always got a competitive side. He’s a bit like me, isn’t he? It’s our roots. We’re both from up here.”