He achieved the ‘Greatest Escape’ and Neil Warnock signed off his short spell in charge at Huddersfield Town with a couple of celebration events. Town fan and Huddersfield Hub sports editor STEVEN DOWNES attended the fundraising dinner for Huddersfield Town Foundation and here are his thoughts on a memorable night and an unforgettable season.
The Town Foundation dinner was a fitting celebration, send off and goodbye to Neil Warnock – and the £15,000 raised for the charity was the icing on the cake.
As the evening concluded I reflected on the relaxed nature of it and thought how we could only have dreamed about this scenario back in February when Warnock took over as manager for a second time.
The 74-year-old had just 15 matches to inspire a miracle – and he pulled it off. Even more amazing was the fact the Terriers were seven points adrift of safety after Warnock’s first three matches.
By the end of an incredible – and traumatic – season the club had 53 points and were four places and nine points above the Championship drop zone. Why were we ever worried?
No one gave the Terriers a chance of staying up following that 4-0 defeat to Coventry at the start of March. But even in that disastrous game Warnock found positives and galvanised the whole squad, the club and fan base to say: “No, we aren’t giving up without a fight.”
Town played 11 of the highest ranked teams in the division in their last 15 games winning seven and drawing four. Warnock ended the season with an average of 1.67 points per game, the highest ratio since Lee Clark back in 2011.
On the evening of the foundation dinner Warnock spoke about various players and talked guests through how he and assistant and former Town hero Ronnie Jepson pulled off the impossible.
Warnock appeared to get emotional as the evening concluded with fans only too eager to have a selfie with the great man for posterity.
Despite many calls to have him here next year I doubt we will see him in the Town dugout again. In my mind that is OK. Warnock came in to do a job and dragged us to safety.
It’s a moment in time, a bit like David Wagner’s stint here. It’s now gloriously stitched into the historic fabric of the club and that’s how it should be left. Thanks for the memories.
When Warnock left Town in 1995 it ended on a sour note despite promotion at Wembley. He had a disagreement with the then chairman and left the club that summer.
He always had unfinished business with the club and now, after a horrible season with a happy ending, Town fans have been able to say their goodbyes and thank him properly.
As Warnock prepares to clamber back onto his tractor in Cornwall, he will have regular dialogue no doubt with Town’s owner-in-waiting Kevin M. Nagle. Warnock described Mr Nagle on the night as a good guy who clearly wants to get things right on and off the field. Warnock’s seal of approval is a comfort in itself.
While Mr Nagle waits patiently for the official go-ahead for his purchase of the club from Dean Hoyle, he has been actively engaging with Town fans on Twitter. He was recommended no fewer than 49 different fish and chip shops to try. He might put on a bit of overweight if he was to give all those a try before flying home.
Being American, maybe fried chicken is more up his street. He’s already paid a visit to Marstons Chicken Shop down Leeds Road. Mr Nagle has said that the deal is close to being approved (for the football club, not Marstons, that is!) and that can’t come quickly enough now.
As Mr Warnock takes his bow and heads off into the (Cornish) sunset there’s just one thing left to say. From me to you, Neil, simply: “Thank you.”
Mr Nagle spoke briefly about his trip to Huddersfield before the game against Reading which you can listen to below.
PS – the new Championship fixtures are published on Thursday June 22. Are you with me?