BY: Gurdian for Mt. Kenya Journal:
Neil Warnock has admitted that walking away from management has crossed his mind every day since the awful news emerged that Emiliano Sala, Cardiff City’s club-record signing, was on board a plane that disappeared near the Channel Islands last Monday.
Speaking publicly for the first time since that news, the Cardiff manager looked emotional and drained as he reflected on “by far the most difficult week in my career by an absolute mile”.
Outlining just how much of an ordeal the past seven days have been for everyone, Warnock revealed that several of the Cardiff players had required counselling and also said he had sought outside help to try to come to terms with the desperately sad chain of events.
Warnock’s thoughts remain with Sala’s family and he backed their private campaign, funded by donations, to extend the search that was suspended last Thursday, when Guernsey police said the chances of finding the Argentinian and pilot David Ibbotson alive were “extremely remote”.
Warnock said: “If that was my boy, I would want to be looking for another week. Even beyond that if I could. You’ve got to respect the family.”
Warnock was speaking before Cardiff’s Premier League game at Arsenal on Tuesday, when the Welsh club will take the field for the first time since the aircraft Sala was travelling in from Nantes disappeared from radar.
Asked whether he would have preferred not to play the Arsenal match, Warnock replied: “In an ideal world I don’t think I’d like another game at all.
That’s how I feel at the minute. I think football is important but I think it does open up a lot more when tragedy like this happens.
“I know people say ‘life goes on’ but we’ve had 10 days,” Warnock said. “It’s not like we could have played three days later; we definitely couldn’t have played on Saturday.”
Warnock made it clear that the emotional fallout had taken its toll.
“One or two [players], I think it was only right that they speak to people who might help them in this situation because you don’t realise the trauma that it causes a lot of families, whether it’s memories brought back of different situations or what have you.
I’ve been surprised at the number of players who have required a little bit of help, from outside as well as inside.”
Warnock’s answer to a question about considering whether he wanted to stay on as manager revealed much about his state of mind.
“I think probably 24 hours a day in the last week, [that thought entered his mind]. It would be true to say, even as I sit here now.
Because there are more important things, aren’t there? But I realise I have a job to do here and it was always a massive job.
It’s doubly massive now and that’s when you’ve got to show your leadership and show the lads you’re in charge of that. We’ve got another miracle to do here.”
Sala had met a few of the Cardiff players on 18 January, when he underwent a medical at the club before flying back to Nantes 24 hours later, to say goodbye to his former teammates.
Warnock smiled as he remembered the conversation that he had with Sala that morning, when the two shared a joke about the way the club’s record signing was dressed.
“He came across to me for a few minutes and I just said to him, looking at his gear he was wearing: ‘You’ll fit in very well with my team.’
He had holes everywhere in his trousers and looked like a tramp. I said: ‘We’ve got quite a few like that.’
That’s the memory I’ll have because we had a laugh. He said: ‘I’ll score you the goals,’ and I said: ‘I know you will.’”
Warnock made exactly the same journey as Sala when he returned from watching the striker play for Nantes.
“I’d been on a couple of planes like that but I think the ones I went on might have had two engines,” he said.
“But I do think I had that pilot [Ibbotson], who I thought was a fabulous pilot. I just can’t comprehend it.”
For Warnock, who turned 70 last month, the news about Sala is even harder to accept because of the tragedy at the King Power Stadium in October, when Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester City’s owner, was one of five people killed in a helicopter accident.
Leicester’s next game was away at Cardiff and became an extremely emotional occasion.
“I know I look shattered,” Warnock said. “I am tired. I know my age is not helping me.
But I don’t think it’s down to my age. It almost feels cruel to me that everything that happened … the Leicester thing was such a tragedy, then this on top of that.
“You think once in a lifetime is enough. It does take it out of you. I’ve been in football management now for 40 years and it’s by far the most difficult week in my career by an absolute mile. Even now I can’t get my head around the situation.
“When I look at Romina [Sala’s sister] and the family, I think it’s such a difficult time. I keep looking at my children and thinking about what I would be doing. It’s very traumatic and my sympathies are with them [Sala’s family].
I think they have been fantastic and a massive plus to our fans and Nantes supporters – they’ve been amazing as well.”