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'Be lucky' - An ode to Neil Warnock
Thursday, 17th Dec 2020 16:52 by Phil Spencer

The world was a completely different place 12 months ago - and no, I'm not talking about this global mess that we find ourselves in.

Middlesbrough showed occasional signs of promise under Jonathan Woodgate but for every encouraging moment there was at least two that suggested we had a lot of work to do.

It wasn't a surprise when Woody got his marching orders and so began what we thought would be a long, long road to recovery.

Three years was the minimum amount of time that many expected to pass before we had a team that could mount a genuine promotion push - not to mention the vast amount of alterations that would be needed to get the club on the right track again.

It turns out we only needed one man.

An underwhelmed groan was awaiting Neil Warnock when he was appointed on a short-term basis with many tipping him purely as a man who could keep us in the Championship, but after a few days at the club we soon realised that his impact was going to be much more profound.

From the moment he sent Rudy Gestede home from training it was clear that Warnock was there for one reason and that was to get rid of the dead wood and start building a team of players who A) wanted to be there and B) were capable of winning football matches by any means necessary.

It's hard to recall a football manager with a greater set of people skills and that's been clear in the way he talks to the media. Even if he's just met a reporter you'd be fooled for thinking that he was talking to an old friend at his local pub in Cornwall.

We've also seen it on the pitch with players such as Marc Bola and Anfernee Dijksteel who are now unrecognisable from fragile shells of players that they became under Woodgate.

Warnock is all about clear communication and finding a way to get the absolute best out of all of his players - something that we've already seen this season.

As we approach the halfway stage of the season Middlesbrough are within touching distance of the play-off spots - a position that even the most optimistic of Teessiders would have scoffed at as the new campaign rolled around.

We may not have the best team on paper - far from it - but what we have is a manager who has empowered his players to make every tackle, win every header and challenge every decision.

After all, football is a game of fine margins and it's that shithousery that can be the difference between winning and losing.

Would Middlesbrough have won the match with Luton Town if his players hadn't forced the referee to change his mind about James Collins' penalty? Not a chance, but they did because Neil Warnock has put that fire in their bellies.

No one can say whether we'll reach the play-offs this season - no one is expecting it and no one will hold it against Warnock if it doesn't happen.

But while the 72-year-old is in charge we have the potential to pull off the unexpected through sheer heart and determination.

We don't know how long Neil Warnock will be at the Riverside Stadium for but as supporters we must relish having a manager who genuinely cares - after all, it's a trait that is rapidly dying in the world of football management.

'Be lucky.'

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