Neil Warnock says there's still life in old dog yet as Middlesbrough boss, 70, claims wife would choose pets over him

NEIL WARNOCK was HOUNDED out of retirement by his missus.

The Middlesbrough boss was content to spend quality time with Sharon at home without football – but he soon found he was playing second fiddle to his two dogs in the battle for his wife’s affections.

And Mrs Warnock was soon growling and barking at him for being useless at household chores.

So when Warnock opted to take the Boro job in June and then commit himself for this season, it was music to her ears.

He said: “At home we’ve a Shih Tzu called Monty and a Norfolk Terrier named Donald. They rule the roost.

“If Sharon had a choice between having me and the dogs, they would win. I’d come a distant second!”

Warnock has been promising to call time on a managerial career spanning 40 years for more than a decade.

He had aimed to finish with Sheffield United but was not happy how his time ended there in 2007 – falling out with chairman Kevin McCabe and relegation following the Carlos Tevez-West Ham controversy.

Since then, he has had 'one last job' at Crystal Palace, QPR, Leeds, Palace (again), QPR (again), Rotherham, Cardiff and now Middlesbrough.

But Warnock revealed he really had settled on retirement five years ago after his month in caretaker charge at QPR following Chris Ramsay’s dismissal … until his missus had other ideas.

The Boro boss said: “I was at home with Sharon, who had just had chemotherapy on a double mastectomy.

“I had finished collecting chicken eggs in the garden – and, with me sat there reading the paper, she told the nurse, ‘He never washes a pot and when he does he splashes water everywhere. I’ve never seen him make a bed. He never fluffs the cushions.'

“So I told her, ‘Tony Stewart, the Rotherham chairman, rang me this morning offering me a job? I’ll go until the end of the season if you want?’ Without hesitation, she said, ‘Go! Get off.’ That’s how I came out of retirement.”

And it was his brief 16-match stint in charge with the Millers – leading the team to safety in the Championship – that got his juices flowing again.

He said: “We were six points adrift when I went there and had to play seven out of the top eight straight away. We stayed up on the next to last game.

“That was my biggest achievement ever and that was all down to Sharon!

“I love making, with no disrespect to those Rotherham lads, average players feel invincible.”

After another spell driving Mrs Warnock around the bend with his lack of domestic skills, Warnock took on his next big project Cardiff City.

My wife told the nurse, ‘He never washes a pot and when he does he splashes water everywhere. I’ve never seen him make a bed. He never fluffs the cushions.'"

And he tells a great story about the unorthodox contract he signed to take him to the club.

He said: “I had spoken to a number of clubs and chairman Mehmet Dalman rang me one morning asking me to meet him.

“I was in Scotland so flew down and within 15 minutes I shook his hand. He said, ‘We haven’t talked money yet.’

“I said, ‘No, I just like you.’

“He wouldn’t have it. He left the room and came back, saying, ‘Vincent Tan wants you to sign something.’

“I said, ‘What are you talking about? I’ve just shook your hand, I’m a Yorkshireman!’

“But he insisted and got a serviette out, because we were in a gentlemen’s club, and I signed it. That was my contract at Cardiff!

“Mehmet was brilliant. I couldn’t do anything there without his help. He was a calming influence. I said to him once, ‘You’re like my father’, even though he’s nine years younger!”

During his time in South Wales, Warnock won his eighth promotion and fourth to the top flight.

He enjoyed eight months out of the game after leaving Cardiff last November but believes he was fated to manage Boro even though he could not live any further away in Cornwall.

He said: “Steve Gibson has been a friend of mine for years and I’ve always wanted to show him what a good manager I am.

“When I took over the media guy, Paul Dews, said an airline was thinking of doing flights from Newquay to Teesside. I thought, ‘This is a dream.’ I went to meet the people at the airport and within a matter of days they were flying to Cornwall.

“It’s a 40 minute drive to Newquay airport from my house so I can do the journey door to door in around just two hours. It means Sharon can fly up and I can commute sometimes too. It was fate I came here.”

Having been successful in keeping Boro up, Warnock believes he has a special group of players capable of winning his FIFTH promotion to the top flight.

This, he says, became apparent to him when he invited the whole squad down to his Cornish home.

He said: “I knew in the summer that I had something special happening at Boro.

“All the lads came for a BBQ. In the past, at almost every club I’ve been to, I’ve taken the players down there.

“We knock a few balls at golf, have a swim, go fishing, have a BBQ – and usually, everyone is gone by 2pm but this lot were still hanging around beyond 5pm.

“Sharon said, ‘This is the best group of lads you’ve had down here.’ She is right, I haven’t seen a set of lads like this. I thought, ‘I better work with this lot.’

“Over the years when I’ve brought players down to sign, she’ll have a chat with them and tell me afterwards, ‘I wouldn’t sign him in a million years’ or ‘He’ll do well for you.’ Women have that intuition more than men.

“I do listen to what she says because she’s never far wrong.

“I told the lads I thought we could have a successful season – although Jonny Howson did ask me how much I’d had to drink!”

The Boro boss insists that despite the huge advances in the game with sport science one thing remains the top priority in his job.

He said: “Forget tactics and managers writing things down on the bench, which is a load of b*ll unless they’re doing their shopping list.

“It’s 95 per cent down to man-management – getting the best out of what you’ve got. It’s the same whether you’re running a football team or a newsagents.”

Warnock will be first to queue up for vaccine

NEIL WARNOCK will be queuing up for the Covid-19 vaccine when they are rolled out in the UK – and had to urge his players to get their flu jabs.

The 71-year-old suffered with the virus in September but fortunately he did not require any hospital treatment.

And he revealed how he had to persuade some of this squad to take their vaccine against the common cold.

He said: “During the international break, we had our flu jabs and some of the lads didn’t want to have it.

“I said I understood where they were coming from but I was telling them that if they got the flu and the coronavirus at the same time they could be in real trouble.

“Because these lads are so fit, the slightest thing could knock them back actually.

“With the Covid vaccine, the sooner that comes in the better. I will definitely be having it.”

His daughter Amy has been on the frontline during the pandemic, working in a radiotherapy department in Truro. And Warnock said: “Some of the stories I’ve heard are unbelievable. I have a heart guy in Cardiff who had to go into the frontline.

“They risked their lives – and some of them have lost theirs – during this awful pandemic.”

Warnock believes people need to give Prime Minister Boris Johnson a break from the constant criticism.

He added: “When I had it, I was watching the news on TV every day and it was all doom and gloom.

“Nobody in the government had a clue what they were doing and I’m not just talking about Boris and that. I’m talking about the scientists, the professors and experts.

“It’s alright after the event having a go at Boris for doing this, that and the other – but no-one in the government truly knew what they were doing because nothing like this has ever happened in our lifetimes.

“For me, it was about surviving and thankfully I did.”

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