Middlesbrough Supporters Forum……Minutes 42 with Neil Warnock


Monday 12th October 2020

17:30 – 19.30

 Via Zoom


The first talking point was around fans returning to stadiums and Covid 19

NW – How the club dealt with the Bournemouth game was magnificent from what I had heard, there had been no issues at all. It’s a disappointment that supporters can’t attend games, especially when we have people going into pubs, but we have to go with the government guidelines.

Question from JillBoro Supporters Club 2020:  How have things changed in management since you started out all those years ago at Chesterfield? What changes have you noticed?

Answer from NW – Arsene Wenger changed everybody’s outlook and brought a lot of new things into the country from nutrition, use of IT, video analysis and you just had to move along with it really or get left behind. All I have had to do since then is make sure that I have got the right people in for each department and ensure that I am fed all the right information. But honestly, management itself I don’t think has changed one bit.

Since I was at Gainsborough, I have always tried to get the best out of what I had. I got them up the table, higher than they had ever been. I got them all blue V neck jumpers, so they all travelled in the same gear and that was at Northern Premier League level. I said to them, if you look the part, you will play the part, and when other teams see us coming, they will think WOW, they are organised. I have stuck with the same principle all the way, trying to get the best out of the players you have. 

I don’t have anything set in my mind about tactics, I look at the players that I have at the club I take over and decide what I feel could get the best out of those players. I know I get labelled a long ball merchant which comes from my early career when at Notts County when I had a back five that could not pass water. It was no good them passing the ball around because they could not do it. So since then I got labelled with that.

If you look at the Middlesbrough team now and the games we have played so far this season, we have played a lot of the good sides and I think we have had more possession than them. I just take it with a pinch of salt  

Question from JillBoro Supporters Club 2020:  What was it that you see in Steve Gibson that made you want to work for him?

Answer from NW – Since I have known Steve, I have had some great chats with him over the years. I have always thought, ‘wow what a chairman, I would love to work for him.’ I have had three or four chances almost.

We have always just missed each other, or somebody else was coming in before he had asked me, or I was on the way to a new job, so timing just never worked. But I have always been determined when I came up against Steve to make sure I beat his teams, so I could tell him what he was missing. So, he has spurred me on. 

I did not expect a call as I did.

I was told I needed 12 appearances for my 1500 and I think there was only eight games left.

When the eight games had been completed, I thought that was it for me. Then I got the phone call, and I couldn’t resist it really. I know it sounds silly from somebody that has been in the game 40+ years, but you work best when you work for an individual or chairman that you can deal with. If you look at all my successes, I have always had a relationship with the guy at the top.  

Quite frankly in my career I have always wanted to show Steve how good I am, I have always wanted him to know what he has missed. So, for eight games I thought what a great chance to show him the way I go about the job, not just with the first team squad but with everyone that works around the club.

I also like going out and meeting the supporters and talking to supporters’ clubs. In general, supporters want you to answer questions as honestly as you can and I enjoy that, talking to them in their environment, it builds the whole club together.

With Steve, I wanted to show him what I would I bring to the club and I did not think I was going to get the chance. So I thought I would come up and make sure the club stayed in the division, then he started talking to me, and Sharon realised how much I liked working for him and she said to me why don’t you have next season and give it a go and that’s what we decided to do. 

Steve does not blow his own trumpet, but what he has done for the club in an area that everyone knows is not thriving as it should, I find amazing. I thought it would be good to put something back into that and let him have a period where he has not got any worries.

I only speak to Steve once or twice a week, that’s why I’m late tonight because I have been trying to contact him for two days and he rang me at 17:10, so whilst I had him I had to speak to him. I do not think we will ever fall out. I said to him, I don’t want to fall out with you over anything, if the time is right for me to go then we will just decide, because he is slightly more than a chairman and owner to me, he is almost like a friend. Still at 71 I do enjoy it and love showing him what I am about, what my staff are about, and how I can get the best out of players.

I also felt that this season was an open season for the playoffs etc, but I never thought we would be going into a 2nd phase of Covid like we are doing. There is only so much that you can ask of football clubs, probably because I feel he is a friend, you can’t go demanding I want four, five or six players etc, because there is not that money now, fans not coming back in, all Steve is doing is paying out.

All I said to him was, I will do my best with what we have, you will have a competitive team and you will enjoy being the chairman but I can’t promise you anything. I do think we can have a very good season; we have got a good group and I think we can give any team a run for their money. 

I have said to the players, life is too short, get out on the pitch and enjoy it. In general, we must try and put a smile on people’s faces.

Question – Matthew – Rainbow Reds – What is it about Paddy Kenny that has made you sign him for so many clubs?

Answer from NW – The best thing about Paddy Kenny was that he was a bloody good goalie. He was a bit of a nutter at times. He has a book coming out soon which I have just done the foreword for, so I would imagine that would be a decent read. 

There is also a book coming out which I think would be interesting for you to read which is coming out in the next couple of weeks by Dominic Boothe, from Cardiff, he has written about my time at Cardiff. He kept notes from press conferences etc throughout that period (good and bad times) it has got a good mixture of stories. I am really pleased with it. I’m not planning to write one on Middlesbrough, but I do make a few notes here and there.

You never know in football, you don’t know what is around the corner, who is going to get success, I still think we can get success but we are going to need a bit of luck on the injury side of things. 

We have seven games in 21 days and then 10 games in 27 days or something mad like that and we only have a squad of 18 so we must have a bit of luck. 

I have these two Northern Irishmen playing all over the bloody world, three games in six days. I think we are going to see a large amount of injuries in the next few months. People like Roberts have come in and he has not played since he last played for us

I have been happy with players that have been thrown in at the deep end, people like Bola, gradually he is getting the confidence and hopefully coming back into the supporters’ eyes a bit like Dijksteel. I make it my priority to find out what makes these lads tick. 

Dijksteel has become my favourite player in front of the lads I hold a brolly above him when I am giving team talks. I ask him if he wants a mint when I get one out of my pocket or some gum, then you have Tav spitting dust. I think because I have given him the confidence like that, he has blossomed as a player, I do not think you will find a better player anywhere in the division now. So, long may that continue. The only issue I have had with him is that he helped with the penalty the other week by not clearing it, he thought he was a better player than he was, but I reminded him after the game not to do it again… well I said words like that. 

He is a quiet lad, so I think we have just given him some confidence, I think he will end up as a massive asset to the club because it wouldn’t bother him playing against Man City tomorrow. He now has the confidence to know if he sticks to what he is good at and doesn’t try to do something that is not in his locker he is as good as anything in the league.

I look at the three centre halves at the moment with Grant Hall being injured, Dael had a very slow start as he had the virus originally and I never really saw the best out of Dael early on, he was a little bit sluggish against Shrewsbury in the cup and in training. I told him to his face that I wondered what all the hype was about him. I dropped him for the next game. Then in training he started training hard, then on the Thursday or Friday before his first game back, I called him over and said to him, bloody hell Dael, welcome back, that’s the first time I have seen you since I have been here. And he said, I do feel good again now, and I said good because you will be playing Saturday and I thought he was super.

Also, if the Northern Ireland lads can fit us in between international duties, I think they are a very good back three and they make things very versatile for me, because sometimes you can’t play with just a three, I don’t like playing three against the one striker, Paddy can push into midfield, Dijksteel can play right back in that system. I want us to go forward more and let these lads be a bit more versatile at the back. 

I thought Tav did well against Barnsley in a position as wingback, something he doesn’t really do, and he contributed to both goals. So, I think there are a lot of positives now.

Question from Ste Gibson – Season ticket holder – Do you think the players play differently without fans in the stadium?

Answer from NW – It’s different for everyone, players, fans, manager. If there had not been fans from day one, I do not think I would have been a football manager because I don’t enjoy it without fans. I even miss the away fans, I am used to being called certain names and I do not mind that, I revel in it and give them stick back and that’s part of the game. It is strange, in a way it helped me a little bit because the players can actually hear me shouting instructions on the pitch, and I’m still getting to know them. But it’s the fans that make the game, it’s nice when you have won a game and the fans are enjoying it and when they are leaving the stadium going home, walking down the road with their mums, dads and grandads and they are all talking about that goal or that shot, what about that tackle, what about that save, nothing can replicate that. You can watch it all on the TV, but its not the same, I usually turn over to something like ‘’A Place in The Sun’’. I am not a big TV football fan without fans. 

Question from Caroline Walker MSF Press & Media Officer – Does it make your job harder to motivate them if there are no fans in the stadium or are, they self-motivated anyway? 

Answer from NW – I think my motivation comes 10 minutes before kick-off, for three or four minutes at half time. There is no motivation at the end of the game, there is either praise or a kick up the backside. I think 

when they go out on the pitch, I think that is where my job ends, then at half time I think you can change things as a manager. I think if you ask players that have played for me, most of them say that they have played some of their best football under me and I think that’s because as a manager I want players to go through a brick wall for me, I want them to put their heads in where they shouldn’t do, I want them to tackle when they shouldn’t do, I want them to win battles all over the pitch because that’s the minimum I expect. When they do things like that, they win things, and when you win things you don’t forget things like that in your career and all my promotions have all been with average squads really that still get together now and have reunions 10 years later. The types of players or team I build at a club, I want them to be together, know each other outside. 

Some of my current squad are a bit too nice, I like a bit more nastiness, but some of the best footballers I have ever coached are here. I have been very pleased with the lads so far. When you watch the Watford game you saw the players that they had on their team sheet, apart from the first 10 mins, I thought we bossed the game.

I love wide players like Tav and Patrick Roberts that can just go past people, Djed Spence when he is on his game is as good as anyone. He could go to the very top, none of us will decide that it’s all in his head, he has all the skill and ability to get there. You look at players like Coulson, on their game they are as good as anyone, its just getting that consistency. But I do love playing in the other half, I like crosses, shots, tackles, headers, but I do not like 25 passes to get to the halfway line if I am honest. I do not want my keeper to be the best centre half in the league.

Question from Ste Gibson – Season ticket holder – Is there a joker in the squad that keeps the spirits up more than the rest of them?

Answer from NW – I would probably say Tav. Today there was only him and Akpom that had gloves on in training, and when I took over and had a game at the end, I made them take the gloves off. Coulson had a hat on. Tav moaned throughout the game, somebody tackled him and I didn’t give a foul etc so at the end of the game I called everyone over and I said, I know there is one question that all you lads want to know the answer to, – Come on Tav, tell us, what happened this weekend, why are you so upset son? Why are you so angry? And he just burst out laughing because that is how he is, and you need people like that. I think he is the main joker in the squad. 

Question from John Donovan – Twe12th man – What are your thoughts on Project Big Picture?

 Answer from NW – I do not know enough about it if I’m honest to comment, all I would say is that there has to be some way of the Premier League helping out the divisions below. When teams are spending £200m on transfers, surely they can help out league 1 and 2 clubs at a time like this.

Question from John Donovan – Twe12th man  – You mentioned when you first signed for the club that you didn’t see any leaders on the pitch, have you identified any players that you inherited who could take that leadership role on? Or anyone that you have brought in?

Answer from NW – There are different types of leadership, you don’t get Jonny Howson screaming at anybody, but in his own way he is a leader in the way he talks to others around him. Unfortunately, academy football kills the old type of leader like a John Terry or a Chris Morgan like I had at Sheff Utd. I think it’s been the worst thing that has happened in English football in having under 23 leagues. It lost all the aims of what it set out to achieve. I think for the under 23’s it would be better playing teams like Horden, Marske on an evening and feeling what it’s like to play against men where you have to look after yourself. In the under 23’s I don’t think it teaches you enough about the real game. I think there needs to be a real change.

Having said all of that, in the last 20 years I have not seen an academy as good as what I have got here. This is by far the best by an absolute mile. There are some players I have not seen too much of yet. I have only seen one of the lads once before, and I watched him play on the tv, think I was eating my dinner and Leeds Utd under 23 game came on and he was playing, I ended up watching him and I thought, who the bloody hell is that. They told me and I said I want him training with us next week. So, he is training with us this week. But 

some of the lads are impressive. We have brought four up into the first team squad now, and they are all comfortable and I think the academy staff do a very good job here. 

The training facilities are brilliant, I have never seen anything like it, I’m sure you have seen my comment when I first came, the only thing they haven’t got here is a pair of carpet slippers each. How he has looked after them, good job I have not been here a long time, they wouldn’t have had all this. I’m from that era where you chuck a bucket of cold water on the floor so they can’t walk around in their bare feet. You cannot do that anymore; I would get reported.

Question from Ellen – Boro North America – We have had some weird and wacky questions from our group. What is your favourite flavour of crisps and do you prefer Greggs or Nando’s? 

Answer from NW – Me the Mrs had a late breakfast the other week and we had to go into Plymouth for something, and we had a drive through McDonalds. I have not had one of those for a long time. I had a triple cheeseburger. Salt and vinegar crisps are my favourite.

Question from Ellen – Boro North America – What are the main differences between managing kids 30 years ago that had been on £100 a week to managing the kids now that are on £10k a week. 

 Answer from NW – Not a lot has changed with the players that are on £10k a week, the £50k a week player I don’t enjoy at all. That is why I have not really enjoyed the Premier League. I don’t think players do it intentionally, but I think everything comes down to money at the top level and the fans seem to get neglected. I have always said to my players, please sign two-three autographs each time when you get off the bus. I also get off the bus and I have a walk around and have 20 mins or so chatting and signing autographs with everyone. There will always be a couple of young lads with their dads from the opponents and I always go up to one and say, don’t get too disappointed tonight on your way home will you, you only play us once a year, and it always makes the dads bite. I do like speaking to fans. I think the money is immoral now, the sort of amounts we are now talking about. I do not begrudge them it, because the money that the game is generating is the reason why they get paid that money.

I would pay a lot of money to watch Messi play and my favourite player who has retired now, midfielder at Man City – David Silva. 

Question from Ellen – Boro North America – The games you watched on TV at home when you were sick, did you watch it all, or turn over to A Place in the Sun?

Answer from NW – I watched it, before the game it was good to talk to the players, I could see them all in the dressing room and at half time. But in fairness the two games that I missed, Bournemouth and QPR, wasn’t a lot to talk about really, we did fairly well in those games, there was only a couple of little adjustments that I felt we needed. Against QPR I was disappointed with the wingbacks, so I had a word with them at half time. I could not watch it on TV and then do video calls on a regular basis, I like the atmosphere and shouting at the players and giving them praise at the right time. That is what I enjoy as a manager and trying to get the best out of them so fans can have a good weekend.

Question from Paddy – MDSA – Would you have liked to manage Juninho, did you ever see him play? 

Answer from NW – Yes, he was exciting, in a tactical world you have got to let him do what he is good at, playing him behind the strikers. The skills on the ball that he had were incredible. I enjoyed watching him.

Question from Jen – oneBoro – Based on the current squad that we have, we have noticed improvements, and great progress, what would you say is the squad’s particular strength? 

Answer from NW – I think oneBoro is the forum that I sometimes read, and when I read it, I sometimes think I wish I could ring him up. I read the other night, somebody saying its time for Warnock to go. I thought come and see me to my face.

The main strength of the squad is that they play as a team, there are no individuals as such, players are realising that they all need to do a bit more for their mate, if your mate makes a mistake the next mate has to do something to get you out of it. They do realise that I want to win games and score goals, I want us to attack when we can. They have taken it on board, we needed a win, especially with the next three games coming up. They are a good group, I do think that from from that Ronnie Jepson, Blackie and myself they all know what they are doing, all know their roles. As well as being organised I want them to have the freedom to do something else in the other half of the pitch but ensure others fill in for them at the same time.

Question from Rob Nichols – FMTTM – Do you think it lifted a burden off the players in getting a win at home? It’s a bit of an unusual record between the home and away form.

Answer from NW – To be fair that is why I played a strong team against Shrewsbury, I thought it was important that we beat them. We wanted to win that game and I know we had some difficult games in the league around that period. Bournemouth game we were close, but they ended up getting a late equaliser. There is no reason why we do not do well at home really. At the end of the day you must be good enough, if you are good enough you will win games. 

I’m looking forward to Saturday’s game, if after Wednesday night the two lads on international duty do not get injured. They go to Norway on Wednesday, come back at 02:15am in the morning to Belfast, get to bed at 4am, then they must get up fly back over for Friday for Saturday’s game. Its crazy. I think because Paddy takes all the freekicks he plays every minute.

Every good team has a good home record, if you are going to go up in this league and I think we have started off alright. 

Question from Mark Motley – MSS – When you first came into the club was there one thing that you immediately noticed that you wanted change? And what was that? 

Answer from NW – Results. When you have been involved as long as I have, when I go to another club I never go to a club that is top of the league, I always go to a club that is struggling, usually a team in a relegation position. My first day is very important when I go to a club, we have small-sided game with full size nets, and I usually have 7-10 mins each way and I make them put their pads on. If they miss a tackle, I give a freekick, if they miss a header, I give a freekick or a penalty. It’s like wacky races, I do it because I want to see who I want either side of me if I get into a war, It’s amazing how you can judge a lot of players in that 20 minutes on your first day. I like them to know that that is the minimum I am going to expect from them now. The minimum I expect of them is winning your tackles, winning your headers, putting everything in for everybody that pays their money to watch and everything else is a bonus. I always say to them, if you give me that in a game, you will never find me criticising you whatever the result. I could tell you tackles now, that we pulled out of tackles and that have cost us points. I demand this type of effort every day in training. I want to see people everyday training like I want them to play.

I look after my players, If we play Saturday we come in Monday afternoon so they can have a sleep in, and when we do train I may speak to some of  the older players I may say to them you had a tough game Saturday why don’t you give full training a miss and do some work with the Physio, have a stretch and walk around etc then join in tomorrow. A lot of managers now have the fitness experts that plan everything on the computer, how much yardage you must run, you must do this, you must do that. I have had that at a couple of clubs, people telling me what I should be doing, that we have not done enough yardage etc. In a nice way I have to tell them that I have been in the game a long time and if I think they need yardage I will give them yardage, if I think they need a day off, I will give them a day off. Sometimes you need a day off when you have lost, not when you have won. It’s all psychology really is management, getting the best out of what you have got, but at the end of the day when that whistle goes, I expect them to give me 100% every game, and if they don’t they are not usually in the team. Mentally is as important as physical, a lot of players I have had could have made a 

lot of money if they put their mind right. You must have the right mental attitude to be a winner, its such a small margin to be a winner. 

I have been very fortunate to have eight promotions and even though we have not got numbers squad wise, we will be tested in these next 10 games. If we can hang in there, its amazing what can happen when you get to Christmas.

I think Akpom has taken a little bit of pressure off us, I think if Britt can get a tap in that will set his season off because he is working as hard as he has ever worked. I like Sam Morsy coming in, he is a good addition, I think you will like him for a few years, he kicks everyone in training, and I do not mind that at all. And I know he does that on the pitch too. We did have one or two players that did it in training but never did kick anyone on a Saturday, Sam does it every day.

We may have this conversation in a couple of weeks and the results may not have gone so well, but it will not be for the lack of trying. The players know we must do a little bit more because we are short on numbers, I can’t see me letting anyone go at the moment because I think we need everyone. Young Browne, I have had three or four clubs that would take him tomorrow, and he may not get in my team, but I said to him that he is too important at the minute, so I said to him we will wait until January now, let’s see if you can get in the team because he has never worked as hard in his life. I think he has changed his whole attitude and I do think he could push himself into the team. Unfortunately when we play 5-3-2, it’s not his strength, but we wont play that all the time, we will have to play 4-3-3 at times, that’s when he will come into his own, he is better on the left hand side in a three, he is not really a striker. 

Question from Mark Motley – MSS – Have you been involved in planning what the future may look like for the club? How it may want to progress long term

Answer from NW – I have one or two ideas, but I have not really had time. It’s such a good club, I do have ideas on where I think I could help, but it’s such a well-run club. Everything with Neil Bausor and Steve is really organised, maybe too much sometimes. I think coming in from the outside and having a look, I can see things that probably you don’t see as much if you have been here all the time. I will try and help, even when I’m not here I will always try and help if I can. You never know with me, I do not look bad for 71, while I look like this I might carry on, the Mrs likes it. She has just come up for a few weeks with the dogs. 

I have always got on with supporters everywhere I have been, and I have always had supporters say to me, I didn’t bloody like you before you came here, but I’m glad you came here. I like to think that when I leave a club, I leave it in a better state, not just on the pitch but as a club. I do like to get everyone pulling together and enjoying it.

Britt presented me with a framed shirt in the dressing room last week for the 1500th game, they gave it to me at 2:30pm before the game last week. It was quite emotional with the lads. I said to them, ‘all I have got to say is that thank you for this, it really means a lot to me, it’s a very special day, but do you know what would be even more special than this? Nine promotions and there is only you lot that can do that. So, get out and warm up now and lets beat these today.’

Question John Donovan – Twe12th man – You signed Akpom, but you said you fancied another striker, what type of striker are you looking to bring to the club?

 Answer from NW – It has to be someone that can adjust, somebody that can play up front but also fit in if we play 4-3-3. Fletch can do that role, but the only problem with having a striker doing that role is I do not want to see them on the edge of our box defending against their right back. I don’t want our forwards defending our own box, I would like somebody that could play upfront anywhere, need to be athletic and versatile I don’t want a big target man that can’t run, there are not many left at the moment that are available. 

Question from Mark Motley – MSS – Had you known about Akpom for a while before signing him?

Answer from NW – Known Akpom from playing in the UK, he has had a good couple of years playing in Greece. This went on for five or six weeks trying to get him. Neil spoke to about 15 different agents that are involved with him, after a couple of weeks, I said I need to speak to the player. I got his number and spoke with him, and as soon as I spoke to him, I thought you will do for me. I said to him, you will come and enjoy it here won’t you, speaking the language, a manager like me to play for, you cannot fail can you. And I said to him will you bloody score goals, and we had a good chat. He was playing in the Champions League and he kept scoring and they kept winning, I was surprised when we got him. I told him and you get a move on with it all. He went in and told them he wanted to move to Middlesbrough, we agreed a fee and I was pleased.

He is getting better in training, the relationship he has with Britt is very good. If I could find another Akpom, I would bring another in.

I was at home in Cornwall last week, I went up in the loft, I have a lot of signed shirts that I have from over the years that are framed and I put them to o charity up in Sheffield. I have got so many in the loft from Steve Gerrard, Michael Owen, Jack Nicklaus etc. And I have bats shitting everywhere, which I can’t do anything about because you have to protect them. Must have been 150 shirts up there, and downstairs I have a collection of various things like Scarborough shirts and Huddersfield shirts, so I may have a big charity auction and put them to a good cause.

My Mrs says, I’m not having any of those bloody shirts up on my wall they are too big. I did say to the LMA, please don’t give me one of those for 1500 games. 

Have you seen those EFL awards? Manager of the month, I will let supporters have one of them, you would not put that anywhere, they are unbelievable. When I first started off, I would get Wedgewood plates, fantastic but the bloody EFL things, have you seen them? Wouldn’t put a bunch of bananas on top of them.

What are you having for your tea?

Answer from NW I’m having chicken salad, I had the main course for lunch with the lads, I had cod. The chef here is unbelievable. The cod with potatoes and veg. 

You know when I take dogs out, somebody said to me Saltburn is the best beach, how long will that take me, I may do a few walks down there with the Mrs in the next few weeks.