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Neil Warnock bids emotional farewell to Huddersfield – and sizes up next job | Neil Warnock

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In many ways, it ended how it started seven months earlier for Neil Warnock at Huddersfield Town. Few managers get the chance to leave a club as they arrived, a bona fide hero. Barely any get the chance to do that twice. But Warnock, as we have come to learn over the past four decades, is not a man cut from the same cloth as many of his contemporaries.

When he held court with the press for the first time after returning to Huddersfield in February on a short-term deal, it was hard not to feel this was the final act of an unforgettable managerial career. Sure, Warnock has promised each of his past three or four jobs would be his last but this, coming in to save from relegation a club with whom he won promotion in the 1990s, felt like a fairytale ending.

The subsequent twists – the 74-year-old signing to stay for another season then being asked to leave after seven games – meant it was an unusual evening on Wednesday at the John Smith’s Stadium, where the news surrounding Warnock’s departure almost seemed to take precedence over Town’s 2-2 draw with Stoke City. The guard of honour he received from his players at full-time perhaps epitomised how loved he is in this part of the world.

From the moment he arrived in a chauffeur-driven car with his wife, Sharon, at about 6pm, it felt like Warnock’s night and no one else’s. And given the impact he has had on the West Yorkshire town, there weren’t many complaints. “He gave the town the love for the club back 30 years ago and he’s done it again,” David, a lifelong Huddersfield supporter and one of many who waited to greet Warnock upon his arrival, said. “It’s a sad day but the club obviously want to look long-term. The bond Neil has built with the club and the town is unbreakable though. I hope he knows that.”

Warnock told stories in his final press conference of being bombarded in the local supermarket pre-match, including an emotional discussion with one Huddersfield supporter in particular.

“A bloke told me his dad wanted us to get to Wembley and had waited till I got us there [in 1994], then he died six months later and he couldn’t tell me how thankful he was. I could have cried there and then. I can’t tell you what it’s like to affect people’s lives like that, and this club has been special to me.”

Neil Warnock and his players celebrate Huddersfield’s survival last season. Photograph: John Early/Getty Images

Warnock’s departure has surprised many, including the man himself. Town found a long-term appointment – confirmed on Thursday evening as Darren Moore – and it was pre-agreed that Warnock would step aside when that moment arrived. However, it has come sooner than Warnock anticipated. “I didn’t expect to leave until around Christmas,” he said on Wednesday night. It meant the Stoke game doubled up as an impromptu farewell.

Moore, who left Sheffield Wednesday in June after winning promotion to the Championship, has a job on his hands. Warnock joked the day before the appointment was announced: “I thought I’d have an input with the new manager but I haven’t. Obviously I don’t like him because they haven’t told me who he is!”

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This sudden departure from a club close to Warnock’s heart has lit a fire inside football’s wiliest elder statesmen again. The notion that this would be his final job has gone; in asking him to step aside earlier than planned, Huddersfield have stirred the managerial beast. They will hope that does not come back to haunt them.

“Come January or whenever it may be, we’ll be in somewhere again if there’s a job available,” Ronnie Jepson, Warnock’s longtime assistant, said. “It was a shock when I was told [about his departure] but if anything, it’s whetted my appetite to go again.”

Warnock said: “I’m buzzing. I don’t know what’s around the corner but it’s a wonderful opportunity.” So what next for him? “I’ll watch the game on Monday [Huddersfield play Coventry] with a glass of wine and a cigar,” he said. But before too long, someone will put out the call to Warnock to save their season. And it sounds as if he will be ready to answer it.

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