Best description of a football manager’s lot I’ve heard in a while. “You’re either hero or zero... I’ve never been as GOOD as people say I am and I’ve never been as BAD as people say I am.”
Not said by Nigel Adkins but he will certainly empathise and know - as a four-times promotion-winner who’s experienced highly testing times of late - that the truth always lies somewhere inbetween.
Mind you, looking six miles to the east, it doesn’t stop one of the questions of the moment: How on earth does Neil Warnock do it? Maybe not on earth considering the “Messiah” tag bestowed on the manager of Rotherham United!
Let’s not forget folk asked the same when Adkins stepped up from physio to take Scunthorpe to the Championship twice and achieved a double leap into the Premier League at Southampton. The Sheffield United boss knows the craziness of it all as he re-charts a revival course at Bramall Lane still in with an outside play-off shot.
As for the words right at the top, they belong to Kevin Blackwell, like Warnock a former Blades boss. And with whom he is back in tandem at Rotherham where a highly probable relegation has been ridiculed by a quite phenomenal upturn.
So it’s back to the “how does he do it?” question and the best answer I’ve heard comes from Richard Wood, the Rotherham and former Sheffield Wednesday centre back who writes weekly for the Sheffield Star.
You might recall that Wood received a half-time rollicking during their surprise Hillsborough win with Warnock furious that he had given away free-kicks around the edge of the Millers’ box.
A few days later Rotherham were hanging on 0-0 at half-time at home to Middlesbrough (yet the Millers went on to win 1-0) and Wood was fearful after an error-strewn 45 minutes.
“I was shocking and expected the boss to go mad at me,” Richard recalls.
“But he didn’t. He just quietly said ‘get yourself together,’ Then, at the start of the second half, I did something well and I could hear him on the side encouraging me.
“That’s an example of knowing how to treat players. Had he gone mad at me, I may have come out and been even worse.”
It’s all a question of timing, according to Blackwell. “Neil might as well have been a psychologist,” he told this column. “It’s about a little word here and a little word there, while knowing the strengths and weaknesses of players.
“Everyone who’s played for Neil loves doing so. It’s not all carrot, there’s a bit of stick there too, but he helps players in their careers. Many contact him for advice when they’ve moved on to other clubs and that’s a big thing.”
It’s one more reason why Blackwell insists “experience is thrown away too easily in football” amid a horrendous casualty rate of first-time bosses, most of whom never get the chance to manage again.
He asks pointedly: “If I had a son, would I let him go into management in football? I certainly would not. It’s too precarious.”
n Another desperate imperative of United’s current position is that, as a third tier outfit, there is always a price for success – at any level of the operation. I understand Manchester United are closing in with an attempt to lure the Blades’ highly-rated academy chief Nick Cox, under whom United’s youth teams have excelled this season.