Neil Warnock and Ipswich Town: Will it happen three years on?
Following Neil Warnock’s sacking from Queen’s Park Rangers on Sunday evening, talk quickly turned to the reigning Championship title-winning manager’s next move. That promotion was the seventh of Warnock’s career and the second time he has helped a team climb to the top flight, having reached the Premier League with his beloved Sheffield United in 2006. Like him or loathe him, he is clearly one of the hottest managerial properties in the Football League – so will he be tempted into a quick return to the dugout?
Rangers lie just three points from the foot of the table after a bright spell, coinciding with the arrival of current owner Tony Fernandes, faded in recent weeks. With an influx of high-profile signings such as Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton, Rangers looked set to match the likes of Norwich and Swansea in adapting well to the top flight but they have won just one of ten home league games so far this season. Their fellow newly-promoted sides have managed four apiece. Fernandes, perhaps influenced in his decision by the upturn in Sunderland’s fortunes since they appointed Martin O’Neill, looks set to turn to Mark Hughes.
Warnock now has two options – continue or retire. He turned 63 last month and has often talked in the past about his desire to retire to Cornwall. It seems an obvious time for this to take place, given that he could barely have done more with QPR than he did during his short reign and, despite their perilous position at present, the bottom half of the Premier League is extremely tight. Mid-table is just a couple of wins away.
Assuming he opts to continue in management, the second tier looks his most likely destination. One look at the Championship table throws one name into the equation above all others – Ipswich Town.
Back in April 2009, Warnock was heavily linked with the manager’s job at Ipswich. It was said that Jim Magilton, then in charge at Portman Road, would be leaving Suffolk that summer to be replaced by the Sheffield-born boss, then at Crystal Palace. As it turned out, it took nearly twelve months longer for Warnock to exit Selhurst Park. His departure from west London comes less than two years after his appointment despite a superb 2010/11 which saw QPR dominate the Championship – the kind of recent history all Football League chairmen admire.
When appointing Roy Keane, Ipswich must have had the Irishman’s Championship title win at Sunderland in mind and Paul Jewell’s success at Wigan will have had a major bearing on the decision to bring in their current manager. Jewell has largely flattered to deceive, however, with Ipswich’s form fluctuating wildly since he took charge. The Liverpudlian has overseen ten defeats in Ipswich’s last thirteen games in all competitions. A glorious second-half revival at Barnsley seemed set to save Jewell’s job but their latest league outing saw a damaging 3-1 reverse at home to Nottingham Forest, who have only scored against Ipswich in their past eleven games and closed the gap between the two teams to just three points.
Warnock, of course, is difficult to second guess. When arriving at Crystal Palace, he was adamant that he would not manage any club after leaving the Eagles. “It’s my last job, without a shadow of a doubt”, said Warnock in October 2007. “There won’t be another job for me.”
There was. But will there now be another?