Neil Warnock is a mercurial manager and person you love to hate. Some will find Warnock good value for just his media comments alone, he’s a bit of a joker and he is one of the few that say it like it is and doesn’t just reel off the aged old clichés that other managers seem to rely on. He even has opinions and sees all the vital moments during football matches, a few managers out there could learn from such an approach (No names…Mr Wenger). Sheffield United fans love a bit of Warnock, whereas most West Ham fans are haters after ‘Tevez gate’ – he has put a few people’s noses out of joint over the years…lucky nothing like that is going on with the man now!
Since Warnock was given his P45 from the powers that be at Queens Park Rangers, he hasn’t held back and has gone very public on his thoughts about what happened at the club. He has let go of all of his frustration and fury over what he and many others feel was an unfair dismissal, with parting shots fired at both players and officials within the club. Warnock felt ‘his reputation was being slowly poisoned from influences within the club’ as talk via micro blogging site Twitter was rife.
He had a snipe at Tony Fernandes for not informing him personally of the decision, saying he was probably too busy as ‘he was always tweeting’. It wasn’t just Tony Fernandes that felt Warnock’s wrath; Joey Barton was on the receiving end of a tongue lashing as well based on Barton’s ranting’s on Twitter. Neil Warnock thought that Twitter was the bane of all evil and played a central part to his departure from QPR. To an old school manager in the mould of Neil Warnock, Twitter is an unknown sinister world where the barriers of protection that exist around a football club are easy to breach.
Early on in his reign Tony Fernandes publically undermined Warnock by asking his Twitter followers which players QPR should sign in the January transfer window. Surely this reflects negatively on the manager and his ability to recruit, as well as negative connotations towards QPR’s scouting network – this for me was the first sign of trouble. Once you go public, start throwing out operational questions and open the lines of communications to the masses, who knows what you get back on Twitter. Any Warnock haters had an ideal opportunity to vent any dislike for the man, whether they were QPR fans or not. Maybe Neil Warnock had every right to be annoyed at how his departure came about as the situation at all levels of the club was made more public via Twitter, culminating in Fernandes sending out a warning ‘no one job is safe’ in the days leading up to Warnock’s dismissal.
Where Tony Fernandes tried to be as PR savvy as possible post Warnock’s departure, Joey Barton let off his own distasteful tirade of abuse towards Warnock, hitting back at him with extra malice and proving exactly the influence and opinion that can be conveyed via Twitter. For all of QPR’s dirty laundry to be aired in public at so many levels is a unique situation for football and a rare glimpse in to the real fallout at a club after a manager departs. You have the Chairman of a Premier League club who loves to use Twitter, as well as a team captain who is probably one of the most active and controversial personalities on Twitter. When you crossed Fernandes’ new school outlook with one of the most old school mentalities in football management, it was a recipe for disaster.
Twitter is just one form of social media that put us, the fans, in touching distance with people inside of football that used to be inaccessible. We get to talk to and offer our amateur thoughts (obviously good and bad) to those people who would normally be out of reach. Yes, some take it too far and it borders on or is abuse and we can’t condone this type of action but we, the fans, have a right to our opinion as we pay our hard earned money to support our team and are the reason clubs remain in existence. To fans, Fernandes’ request for transfer targets and his on-going communications is probably refreshing, but such things can be at a detriment to a clubs interior working and this is an important lesson to learn.
Social media, Twitter in particular, has taken football entertainment and socialising to a new level. The emphasis here is on the word ‘new’ – Twitter is a new form of communication and just because someone runs multi-national companies or has hundreds of thousands of followers, it doesn’t always make his actions and opinions on the social network correct. At the same time, you would doubt Fernandes would have been influenced by randoms on Twitter as Warnock suggested, but you never know and more worryingly he allowed himself to be put in the situation.
Warnock’s replacement, Mark Hughes, will want to avoid such public spats, but has already faced problems after Joey Barton’s recent tweets regarding the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand racism case. Although Barton was not judged to have been in contempt of court, it shows the reach and reaction that just a few tweets can have on the public. Warnock maybe seen as an out-of-touch dinosaur or a bit of a joker, but he has highlighted a major potential problem as Twitter came between key players within in a football club and this should be a warning to others in the professional game about both the positive and negatives of social media.