WARNOCK: Part 1
Updated: Apr 23
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WARNOCK: Documentary Deep Dive Part 1
Nick Hamer takes us on a magical journey through the 21st Century's greatest sports documentary
Introduction and Matlock (A)
‘Warnock’ is a documentary covering Sheffield United’s 2004/05 season, taking place long before the lifelong Blade shocked the world by declaring that he, a 70 year old millionaire, wanted Britain to hurry up and leave the European Union. The documentary itself is Warnock by numbers. If you were to have a shot every time the camera cut to Neil berating a fourth official, a referee or a linesman, you’d probably be having your stomach pumped before you ever got to see his beloved tractor.
It starts with a trip to local side Matlock Town during United’s pre-season campaign. Warnock is seen working the crowd, talking to supporters about this season's shirt, how he doesn’t like it when the players wear red shorts, and then asks a young fan how he could know if any of his new signings are any good, as he hasn’t seen any of them play yet.
That remark reminded me of a story of a friend of mine, a Sheffield Wednesday fan. He went to watch Sheffield United play a friendly against Frecheville in 2003, Warnock looked in their direction, and said to someone: “I thought I could smell shit, is he Wednesday?” My friend was ten years old at the time.
Stoke City (H)
It’s not before long we see the Blades in Coca-Cola Football League Championship (I don’t remember that being such a mouthful at the time) action, at home to Stoke City. This is where we see Warnock’s management style up close and personal. He’s a motivator who doesn’t seem fussed about telling players what to do in transition or where to initiate the press (apart from what his two centre halves need to do when they’re on the halfway line, having a fag). Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as he says himself during a rousing half time team talk ‘it could be a knob-end in the 91st minute that wins it’. United draw the game 0-0 but Warnock wins the battle with Tony Pulis when he tells him to ‘fuck off’, probably during a point in the match when the two are arguing about which of them is dressed more like a dog walker in the Cotswolds.
Leeds (H), Jeff Winter & Sharon
We then get a wonderful cameo from former Premier League Referee turned Twitter-Pervert Jeff Winter, who claims that he always got on with our main protagonist, his soothing Teesside voice providing some light relief from a montage of Neil’s high pitched ‘fackin’ ‘ell’ whenever a refereeing decision doesn’t go his way.
What follows is Sheffield United beating Leeds United 2-0 at Bramall Lane, a game in which Warnock faces off against his old protégé Kevin Blackwell. The pair’s relationship turned sour when Blackwell decided to leave his role as Blades assistant manager to manage Leeds and Blackwell and Warnock are both interviewed about their then frosty relationship (you'll be pleased to hear that the two have since patched things up).
We also get a glimpse into his personal life. We meet the love of his life and the apple of his eye (not his tractor, I'll get to that soon), his darling wife Sharon. Sharon is a saint: she’s pretty, she’s softly spoken and one does have to wonder how she ended up marrying Neil Warnock, the complete opposite. Sharon claims that Neil is a completely different person when it isn’t a match day, and he does appear to be able to turn off his footballing persona when around his wife and children. This also appeared visible during most of Cardiff’s last Premier League campaign, when he didn’t appear to give a toss about where they finished.