Neil Warnock was on fine form recently, filling in as a pundit on Soccer Saturday. A born raconteur, he had the panel in stitches with his tales, and here is another!
A recent book on Pep Guardiola’s time in charge at Manchester City, Pep’s City, has shed light on the relationship between the two managers. What was portrayed and drummed up in the media as a culture clash, with two wildly opposing philosophies, appeared to mask a mutual respect between the pair.
Of course, there was the whole Leroy Sane thing, with a little bit of back and forth, but it never got personal, as both managers stuck up for their teams. When, clean through on goal, Joe Bennett misjudged a tackle and clattered in to Leroy Sane, receiving only a yellow card.
When Cardiff were promoted and the first meeting with City since the incident approached, it was inevitably brought up. “Players are the artists. Referees have to protect – not just mine, all players,” claimed Guardiola. “They decided to play in that way. There is one man who has to decide what is correct and what is incorrect. If he doesn’t anything can happen.”
Warnock fired back by agreeing with Guardiola’s sentiment. “I totally agree with him. Players should get more protection,” before adding: “if you watched in the 50th minute a tackle from De Bruyne on Jazz Richards that put him out for 17 games – which was the worst? I suppose a tackle on Richards probably doesn’t sell any papers or makes any news.”
When Warnock was quizzed on Guardiola’s claim that Cardiff were a long ball side, Warnock, clearly not a fan of the media shit-stirring that comes with the territory of playing in the Premier League, was ready to pounce, confirming: “He didn’t say we were a long ball side, he said there would be more long balls, but journalists don’t let facts get in the way of a good story!”
The below exclusive extract from Pep’s City appears to confirm what we probably all expected: the Warnock, who can charm the birds from the trees, won him over in the end.
“The media work also means that Pep often doesn’t have time to have a glass of wine with the opposition coach post-match, a tradition that goes way back in English football.
It also depends on who the coach is, what time the game is, if we’re at the Etihad or not. It’s easier if we’re at home and I don’t have to rush away to catch a flight. It’s a nice tradition, but obviously the losing coach doesn’t necessarily want to spend time with me, and I get that. It’s also a bit awkward if you’ve won. What do you say to the guy?
And if the ref has mistakenly given us a penalty that we didn’t deserve? It’s happened to me and it really pisses you off. How do you look someone in the eye when you know exactly what they’re thinking? Although of course there are some really decent guys who handle it brilliantly.”
In any case, there’s always a drink and some food available in Pep’s office: some good wine, Jabugo ham, mini hamburgers and some sushi and sashimi. The fridge is stocked with juice, water and beer, just in case the opposition coach pops by. If he doesn’t join Pep post-match, which is more often the case, the two men will have a chat as they wait for their media interviews.
Pep Guardiola: ‘I remember spending time with Roy Hodgson for ages after Palace beat us at the Etihad. A disastrous result! But we had a great chat and then, before he left, he said, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to win the league.’ I pointed out how well Liverpool were playing, that game had left us four points behind them, so things didn’t look great for us. But he was adamant – ‘You’re going to win and in May I’m going to sit down and write you a letter reminding you of this moment and I’ll post it to you.’
Come to think of it, I’ve had my most interesting and enjoyable chats with English coaches, particularly the guys who have been around for a while. Before the game I’ll invite them to a post-match drink and I’m always delighted if they come. Tony Pulis is always keen to come. He’s a lovely guy, always very friendly. He invites us when we play there, so we like to return the favour, as we do with anyone who shows us hospitality. Not everyone wants to, which is fair enough.’
The Cardiff City coach Neil Warnock is another firm favourite. ‘Great guy. He came for a drink after our last match in the Etihad and he loved the wine we were serving. He’s a bit of a connoisseur and said to me, ‘If we beat Liverpool and help you win the league, you owe me some of that wine.’ So I said, ‘I’ll give you a whole crate if you beat them.’ Then Khaldoon joined in – ‘If you get a draw I’ll buy you the vineyard and if you win, you can have the whole winery!’
Cardiff 0 Liverpool 2. Pep’s not bitter and has a bottle ready to gift Warnock when they next meet.”
Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam is published by Polaris Publishing and available now