Warnock compares McCarthy to Wenger and says he’s ready to be called names at Portman Road

Rotherham's manager Neil Warnock.

Rotherham's manager Neil Warnock. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Neil Warnock is ready to resume his love-hate relationship with Ipswich Town fans this afternoon when he brings his relegation-fighting Rotherham side to Portman Road.

The 67-year-old’s touchline antics have always made him a pantomime villain with opposition supporters throughout his career and he regularly wound up Blues fans during his time in charge of Sheffield United.

“I remember being at Portman Road, we were losing 1-0 and their fans were asking me what the score was,” he recalled. “I put one finger up and 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, to the Kop, as I call it at Ipswich, and 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 wrote to the local paper afterwards and I was inundated with letters from Ipswich fans saying they knew it was great banter and they enjoyed how I was giving it back.

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“I’ll never forget that. Their fans were fabulous.

“When I go there now, me and the staff, we all chuck £1 in a sweepstake to predict when they call me a rude name. It’s usually within the first minute. Very rarely does it get to two.”

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There is huge mutual respect between Warnock and Town boss Mick McCarthy, the latter having cleaned the former’s boots when they were players at Barnsley in the 1970s. Both are in an elite group of managers who have won second-tier promotion with two different clubs.

“He’s a pain in the a***, but he probably thinks I am as well! I say that with a glint in my eye because I like him,” said McCarthy. “He’s a good character and he’s a mate of mine. I’ve got a lot of time and the utmost respect for him. He wants to win and I get that.”

With Ipswich just a point adrift of the Championship play-off places and Rotherham just a point adrift of safety, the atmosphere could be edgy this afternoon. Asked if Warnock leaping around in his technical area could help lift the crowd today, McCarthy replied: “That won’t do any harm will it? He’s had a lot of success doing it.

“That sometimes is a bit calculated, I think, from some of the older managers when they have a pop at the referee and all that. I can honestly say I’ve been guilty of it myself. Sometimes you need to just liven the game up though.”

Ipswich’s 2-0 win against Blackburn in midweek was certainly not one for the purists, but McCarthy says fans shouldn’t turn their nose up at his team’s more pragmatic qualities.

The style of play during the McCarthy era has been functional not fancy. It’s often divided opinion and, on Tuesday night, the ironic cheers that greeted a lengthy exchange of headers irked the Blues boss.

“I tell you what was interesting about that,” he said. “At the end of that bout of head tennis, (Blackburn defender) Shane Duffy tried to bring it down and Murph (Daryl Murphy) nicked it off him and got a shot away. We could have scored.

“When everyone starts moaning and jeering during those scrappy phases, someone always wants to show the crowd they are a good player. I tell you who the good player is, it’s the one who nicks it off you and sticks it in the net.

“If you’re a defender, kick it out. It has to be done sometimes. That’s just the way it is.

“We’d all love to see the ball on the floor and sexy, free-flowing football, but there are ways of winning individual battles on the pitch and the whole battle in general.

“That moment stood out like a sore thumb for me when he tried to pass it to his full-back instead of just putting his head through it. If that had been one of my players, I would have let them have both barrels.”

McCarthy expects a similarly tough scrap today against a Roetherham side fighting for their lives under Warnock, an ‘old-school’ manager cut from the same Yorkshire cloth.

“I’ve told you before, me and Brucey (Hull manager Steve Bruce) were in Portugal when we were out of work and over a bottle of beer we were bemoaning the fact that man-management is maybe not what people want anymore,” said McCarthy.

“It turns out that it is. Neil is the same as me and Brucey. I guess there are a few of us of that ilk and none of us are going to change. Just keep getting the results, that’s the main thing.

“It’s the League Managers’ Association, not the League Head Coaches’ Association isn’t it? That for me is what it’s about. It’s about managing the club, managing assets, managing people. That for me is the biggest thing of all, getting the best out of people. That is a skill and it’s not something that everybody has got.

“Some people can take a bag of balls out and put on a training session better than others, but getting the best out of people, for me, is the biggest part of the job.

“What Neil is doing at Rotherham is not a one-off. Their draw against Derby last weekend was a real gung-ho, never-say-die, remarkable comeback. He has that ability, that knack, to get teams to run around for him and work hard. He’s done that everywhere he’s been. It’s no coincidence.”

When no-nonsense defender McCarthy first came through the youth ranks at Barnsley he had to clean the boots of tricky winger Warnock. The pair have since gone on to have successful, but arguably under-appreciated managerial careers.

McCarthy took the Republic of Ireland to the last 16 of the World Cup and won the Championship title with both Sunderland and Wolves, while Warnock masterminded Notts County’s rise from the Third to the First Division and had further promotions with Huddersfield, Sheffield United and QPR.

“Mick doesn’t get enough recognition really, not even from some of the fans, a bit like Arsene Wenger at Arsenal,” said Warnock.

“Their wage bill has been slashed over the last few years. They’re self-sufficient now. That’s great. Mick has taken that on board yet he’s still got a very competitive team. He’s done well.

“I have a lot of time for him. 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.”

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