We Love You, Colin
No, let me rephrase that. We love to hate you, and our life with Bryan Robson in charge at Bramall Lane isn't half as interesting. How could it be, when Neil Warnock is one of the game's most colourful characters?
When asked what he would do if he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday, Warnock once said 'I would buy some bad players, get the sack and then retire to Cornwall'. One season in the Premiership with Sheffield United and Warnock almost followed the script he wrote himself, turning down a two year Blades contract in May 2007 to concentrate on mowing the lawn and walking the dog.
More than eight years in charge of our greatest rivals, he courted controversy: his clashes with officialdom are (and continue to be, in view of his sending off for time-wasting last week) legendary.
It's unfortunate Graham Poll has retired. I wish he was the referee for the upcoming Owls contest with Warnock's new charges, a resurgent Crystal Palace. Graham loves Neil: 'Neil Warnock has been to my dressing room and we have parted as friends, shaken hands and said good luck. In the heat of the moment, some things are said to the media before other things are said in private, but there are no bad feelings between us."
However, Neil's not always been so sure about Graham, who refereed the Blades loss to Arsenal in the 2003 FA Cup Semi-Final: 'I shouldn't really say what I feel, but Poll was their best midfielder in the goal. You saw him coming off at half-time and at the end. He smiled so much, he obviously enjoyed that performance... He should be banned.'
Poll continued in the job long enough to send Warnock to the stands in a match against Leeds in 2006. He's used to watching the match from the cheap seats.. a touchline ban from the FA after the Leeds game, sent there by Steve Bennett during the 2003 playoff final, sent there by Mark Halsey at Reading in 2007.
Our very own loan star Michael Johnson copped a blast of Warnock invective when sent off after a crunching tackle on Paul Ifill in Derby's home match with the Blades in 2006. Where's Ifill now? Crystal Palace. Sparks will fly!
For that alone, this weekend's match will be one to savour. The travelling Owls support in the Arthur Wait will give full vent to their feelings without question, but maybe this year with a certain tinge of regret: that the man on the opposition bench is no longer leading out a certain team in red and white from the other side of the city.
A winning record over 388 games with the Blades is not to be sniffed at, and Palace supremo Simon Jordan will be hoping that finally he's got the man to take the Eagles into the top division and keep them there. A warning to you, though, Simon: Neil does have quite a record of being thwarted by circumstances beyond his control. By Leicester City, by an under-strength Manchester United, by referees, by Wolves, by Wigan..
But we'll be hoping to see the more eccentric side of the man they call Colin this coming weekend, and I'll leave the final thought on that to the man himself:
'It will be a cracking match and a close one - maybe decided by a referee's decision, an odd bounce or something like an over-the-line goal.'
Back the Owls to win by 'something like an over-the-line goal'.
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