Thoughts on Warnock leaving Huddersfield Town, who might be next.

Thoughts on Warnock leaving Huddersfield Town, who might be next,

Thoughts on Warnock leaving Huddersfield Town, who might be next, the upcoming Stoke game and the win over Rotherham
September 20, 2023 by Terrier Spirit

In an ideal world, our manager leaving, last weekend’s victory over Rotherham and tonight’s game against Stoke would all get their own individual article. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so time limitations mean I’m having to consolidate these three topics into one easy-to-swallow package.


I’ll start by looking at the biggest news, which is Warnock’s departure, as it’s hard to talk about anything else without first covering that. Then maybe speculate a bit about what we might expect to be coming next, manager-wise before sharing my thoughts on the win against Rotherham and looking ahead to this evening’s game.


Warnock: a true Huddersfield Town legend

These days it’s easy to over use the word legend. If someone gets you a timely cup of tea you’ll thank them by saying, “You’re a legend.” Jude Bellingham had his shirt number retired at Birmingham after only playing a handful of games and was considered a legend despite leaving for Dortmund while still a child. OK they made a shed load of cash off him and he’s destined for greatness but he did very little while actually at the club. There are managers that get called legends but they’ve really just spent lots of money to achieve success.

Neil Warnock: Huddersfield Town boss to leave Terriers after Stoke City game on Wednesday - BBC Sport

But with Neil Warnock, he can walk away from Huddersfield Town a legend in the true sense of the word. In my eyes at least. The achievement of keeping the club up last year was absolutely remarkable and won’t be repeated again easily. But it’s not just about the raw data of the number of wins or the difficulty of the fixture list he had to take on. It’s the way he did it with an infectious smile and a willingness to have a laugh with the fans as he did it. There was a dark cloud hanging over the club when he arrived and his presence seemed to lift it almost immediately.


There’s something about Neil Warnock and Huddersfield Town that fits just right. After years of trying (and mostly failing) to be a play-it-out-from-the-back, tippy tappy sort of team, it’s been refreshing to go back to basics with an old school manager than doesn’t over complicate things and gets his team playing football in a way that gets results. It wasn’t always pretty, but it wasn’t horrendously ugly either. There were more long balls than we’re used to seeing but there were also more shots too and players were encouraged to take risks and have a go, which was refreshing after a regime before that had led to widespread fear of failure within the players.


So, Neil Warnock will be very fondly remembered by me once he leaves Town after Wednesday’s game. He brought a smile back to Town fans faces, just like he promised, saved us from relegation when it looked all but certain and it was never boring while he was here. He might be a dinosaur, as he often describes himself, but he leaves T-Rex sized shoes to fill. Not that T-Rexes wore shoes, but if they did, they’d be massive, and that’s the scale of footwear the next guy has to try and fit into.


The timing of Warnock’s departure

I’ve become more and more cynical as I’ve gotten older, so I find it quite hard to accept anything at face value. So the statement that the timing of Warnock’s departure has nothing to do with his comments about his lack of backing in the transfer market rings hollow to me. I may be wrong, but I think the search for the next manager will have been put to the top of the to-do list as soon as Warnock started using the end of pre-match pressers to swipe back at Kevin Nagle’s critical tweets.


It’s possible that there haven’t been screaming arguments behind the scenes but I equally suspect the sanitised comments we heard in the press conference had more to do with Warnock ensuring he received the (presumably significant) payout rather than him expressing his honest opinion about the situation. I’d shut up and say whatever I had to in a press conference if it was going to make me a few hundred thousand pounds richer, so fair play to him. If he wasn’t due a payout, I think we might have had a slightly more honest assessment from him but obviously, he’d be mad to upset the applecart when keeping everybody happy means he’s likely to be paid the remainder of his contract for not doing any work.


I can see why the club want to move on from Neil Warnock and have their own, shiny new manager/ head coach in place as soon as possible but I think this decision may have been rushed a little bit. Getting rid of a much-loved manager at this early stage of the season will put huge pressure on the new man (or woman – if some of the rumours are to be believed). The second Town lose a couple of games, it’s inevitable that the usual vocal minority will start screaming for Warnock to be brought back and whining about the timing of his exit.


It’s also worth bearing in mind that Neil Warnock will almost certainly take on a fire-fighting role in late winter or early spring of this season, most likely in the Championship. So if we don’t bring him back for yet another spell (and I hope we don’t need to, because something’s gone wrong if we do) he’s most likely going to end up fighting to save another Championship team from relegation. It would really sting if we ended up being relegated because Warnock kept a team such as Plymouth or Cardiff up and sent us down.


Who will be the next Huddersfield Town manager?

I don’t have any inside sources at the club or tip offs about who to expect to be announced but judging from the information we’ve given, the club already have the next person in place and will unveil them on Thursday or Friday this week. At the risk of stating the obvious, the stakes are absolutely huge on getting this appointment right.


Every managerial appointment is described as being a huge decision, no matter when it happens, but this one feels particularly pivotal because it will feel like a deliberate act of self harm if we’ve removed one of our all-time greatest managers from his post voluntarily to replace him with the next one and they end up being rubbish. What a lot of pressure to load upon them before they’ve even set foot in the door!


I’ll be very interested to see if the club keep with the manager job title or revert back to the head coach role instead. I suspect we’ll be back to a head coach, with a more restricted range of responsibilities that come with that. I can imagine the CEO and Director of Football both prefer to not have a manager poking their nose into what they’re doing, and would prefer to have a head coach who has to do what they’re told.


I’ll not reel off the full list of candidates that have been rumoured in the press, but the most prominent names have been Nathan Jones, Darren Moore and Jill Ellis. I have a feeling that the rumour mill is flying blind at the moment and the new boss is going to be a name we’ve not been expecting (and possibly have never heard of before). I’d not be too keen on Nathan Jones, because he’s such a prickly character and he’s been very critical of our club in the press in the past, which is hard to look past despite his impressive achievements at Luton Town. Darren Moore always comes across as a really nice man and he did well at Sheffield Wednesday last season, so he wouldn’t seem crazy. Jill Ellis hasn’t coached men’s football but has won two World Cups, so either has no experience or incredible experience, depending on your perspective. Her appointment would be quite interesting, if only to watch how upset it gets some people.


One name that might make sense is Bruce Arena, who is a very well respected coach in the US who recently became available under slightly mysterious circumstances after leaving his role as head coach of New England Revolution. The Guardian’s report about Bruce Arena leaving his role suggested he might have said something he shouldn’t (which sounds a bit like Neil Warnock) but specific details of his offense did not emerge. Regardless, he’s a top coach, who would probably welcome a chance to move away from the US where he’s recently been in hot water and his sudden availability might explain why we’ve wanted to get rid of Warnock now and snap him up, as he might not be available for long.


Beating Rotherham – very good but could have been even better

I was halfway through a much longer writeup on last Saturday’s game but the general gist of it was that we played well but not taking our chances meant that we didn’t get the more emphatic result that we probably deserved.


There were some very good performances, with Koroma and Thomas both providing the finishing touches, each getting a goal and an assist. Wiles and Rudoni also showed an emerging partnership forming in the middle of the park. Helik had an entertaining battle with Jordan Hugill, which he ultimately won, but he would have come away bruised and battered from the encounter with one of the league’s most unpleasant players. Pearson popped up with a few excellent tackles. Burgzorg looked very threatening in moments but also looked like Collin Quaner’s long-lost brother – so it’s a bit all or nothing with him. Kian Harratt looked very promising, with lots of headers won and signs of a good football brain with the way he used the ball and brought others into the game.


As much as Town were good in this game, I thought Rotherham were bad too, with so many of their promising attacks breaking down in the early stages with sloppy passing and poor execution. Based on this performance, I’d worry about Rotherham’s chances of staying in the Championship but then again, they beat Norwich in the game before who had absolutely played us off the park in their previou game. So who knows?


Looking ahead to tonight’s game against Stoke

It would be tempting to say that Neil Warnock should be careful to not let the emotion of tonight’s game being his final game get in the way of things, but actually, I think he’ll be able to use the emotion of this game to his advantage. He’s had so many retirements and left so many clubs, that he knows how to leverage the feelings of his players and the fans to wring a few extra percent from them and get a better performance. So I’m hopeful that we’ll see a good Town showing tonight and it being Warnock’s final game at Town should work to our advantage rather than getting in the way.


Stoke have had a fairly poor start to the season, having lost four and won only two of their opening six games. Like every season in recent memory, they spent a lot of money in the summer, expecting to compete at the top end of the table but can’t seem to put it all together into a decent team. Yet, despite poor form, I’d expect them to have lots of quality individual players who can hurt us.


In terms of players to watch, Tyrese Campbell played for them in their 1-0 defeat against Norwich at the weekend, so he’ll be one to keep an eye on tonight if he features tonight. He always seems to play well and score when he plays against Town, so he’s my pick as their danger man to keep an eye on.


As for Town’s team selection, I don’t think there will be much need to change things. If Danny Ward is fit then it’s inevitable that Warnock will want him to play in his last game but otherwise I can imagine we might play the same team as we did against Rotherham.

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