Neil Warnock will take charge of his 1,500th game as a manager on Saturday revelling in the back-handed compliments which have fuelled his career.
The 71-year-old Yorkshireman will join an exclusive club when he sends Middlesbrough into Sky Bet Championship battle with Barnsley at the Riverside Stadium, becoming only the seventh man to reach that landmark with British clubs.
The list, which includes Graham Turner, Alec Stock, Willie Maley, Dario Gradi, and Fred Everiss, is headed by Sir Alex Ferguson and while he may have plied his trade largely in a different arena to the all-conquering former Manchester United boss, he is thrilled to be among such company.
Warnock, who is back at work after contracting coronavirus, said: “Alex has done it from a different perspective. I’ve managed to enjoy what I do at a lesser level.
“All I wanted to do when I set out was wherever I went, I wanted the club’s fans to enjoy having me and I wanted them after a match to go home talking about the game and the excitement and the team that they support, and I’ve managed to do that, really.
“I’ve always said, ‘Be careful what you wish for’ – some of these clubs, when I’ve left, they haven’t always done really well.
“But to be appreciated by your own fans is a great, great accolade. Even the people who give me stick – like when I went to Cardiff, the number of people who said, ‘Well if I’m honest, I’ve never liked you, we didn’t want you here, but I’m glad you’re here’.
“That sort of compliment, I really do enjoy that and appreciate that.”
It all started for Warnock, who had cut his teeth at non-league level with Gainsborough Trinity, at Scarborough, who he guided into the Football League as Conference champions in 1987.
Asked if he remembered his first game as a league manager, he replied: “Yes, Wolves at Scarborough.
“For some reason, they put it on a Bank Holiday Saturday at Scarborough – can you believe it – in August. I remember all the Wolves fans the night before sleeping everywhere. They were in every shop doorway on the beaches, you name it.
“I remember the fan falling through the roof. He stood on the roof drunk and feel through the roof, nearly killed himself. Fortunately, he was all right.
“Steve Bull scored a couple in a 2-2 draw. It was a great game. You look at where Scarborough are now, set up against as Scarborough Athletic, and you look at where Wolves are in the top six or top eight – it shows how football is, how close it is, what a small line it is between success and failure.”
In all, Warnock has managed 14 different league clubs – Scarborough, Notts County, Torquay, Huddersfield, Plymouth, Oldham, Bury, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, QPR, Leeds, Rotherham, Cardiff and Boro – and achieved eight promotions, a tally to which he still hopes to add before finally heading into retirement.
An eventful career has brought highs and lows, but few regrets, even turning down the opportunity to manage Chelsea in 1991.
However, he admits he should have accepted then Sunderland chairman Bob Murray’s offer of employment.
Warnock said: “That’s probably the biggest regret I’ve had in my career, not going there at the right time. I think that would have been the right time.
“But there again, I played football with Malcolm Crosby at Aldershot and he was a lovely lad and I didn’t want to jump on his toes.
“I remember saying to Bob, ‘Wait until you get knocked out of the FA Cup and I’ll come’, and they ended up at bloody Wembley! It must have been fate, that.”