words: David Marples
Warnock [noun]: There is a warnock stood on the touchline.
The portents were there. The harbingers were clear. A blackbird stared down at passers-by from atop a wall at Trent Bridge cricket ground.
The kick-off time didn’t feel right. It felt weird to be playing on a Sunday without the cameras. The sky was a foreboding battle-ship grey. This was a Neil Warnock day.
In such conditions, the last thing Forest wanted to see was Neil Warnock rocking up to the City Ground in charge of a club that Forest have found exceedingly difficult to beat in recent times. It mattered little that Forest were on a four game winning streak at the City Ground or that another hugely improved home support was expected.
The sighting of a Warnock on the touchline at the City Ground trumps any favourable factors.
Warnockesque [adjective]: The team triumphed playing warnockish football.
It would be a little simplistic to say that Forest manager Mark Warburton sent out a team of boys against a team of men but Cardiff seemed bigger, stronger and more streetwise. That’s not to say that Forest were essentially bullied out of the game; it wasn’t a particularly physical encounter. For all of Cardiff’s stifling tactics, Forest’s inability to get out of second gear was as much the cause of their downfall as the away team’s resolute performance.
Too many Forest players had the kind of day when you forget your lunch, spill coffee down your shirt and lock yourself out of your own home – all before you get to work. Perhaps they were deployed ineffectively. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been deployed in the first place. Regardless, when a Warnock team comes to town, every single player needs to be turning in at least a 7/10 performance yet too many Forest players walked out of the house with a smudge of toothpaste on their cheek.
It happens. It’s deeply frustrating but it happens once in a while. A smudge of toothpaste on your cheek doesn’t mean you can’t brush your teeth effectively and certainly doesn’t mean that you should be prevented from brushing your teeth again. More likely, it means that you should resolve to do a better job next time, taking extra care and channeling extra motivation to do precisely that. Of course, when someone is stood behind you wobbling your elbow each time you raise your toothbrush, the task is significantly harder. In addition, imagine your dentist stood watching you, ensuring that you brush fairly with no cheating while a cantankerous old bloke stands just outside the bathroom door repeatedly bellowing at the dentist – insinuating in the strongest possible terms that they should give up dentistry since they clearly have no idea what they are seeing or talking about.
Warnockly [adverb]: The team defended warnockly.
When a team make so many defensive blocks, it is tempting to put it down to pure luck or accident, yet rarely is this the case. Defending is an art but one that requires an awful lot of repetition and preparation. Burnley manager Sean Dyche knows this all too well and it is not pure accident that his team’s defensive record is highly impressive. As Rory Smith explained in the New York Times this week, Dyche’s attention to detail is a key factor in his team’s significant improvement this season:
The learning never stops: Burnley is one of the few teams to include a specific defensive drill, led by a coach, Tony Loughlan, and concentrating on heading and clearing the ball, in its pregame warm-ups. The aim is not to prevent Burnley’s conceding chances entirely — “That’s not possible,” Dyche says — but to limit the number of “golden” opportunities the opponents might have.
First of all, yes – the name Tony Loughlan rings a small bell because it very much IS that Tony Loughlan who scored for Forest on his debut after just 35 seconds.
Secondly, the manner in which a big burly Cardiff defender seemed to block every single effort on goal might be down to the fact that all of the Cardiff defenders were indeed very big and burly but might also be down to them being an excellent defensive unit – the best in the league in fact if their measly 13 goals against is a good yardstick of such things…and it is.
Cardiff City defended Warnockly.
Warnockean [adjective] A warnockean set piece.
We could talk about things we learned from being beaten by a Warnock team or assert five reasons why we need to be more physical or puzzle over whether the starting eleven was the most appropriate or trundle out the old discussion point of where exactly Ben Osborn is best deployed.
Alternatively, we could acknowledge how much Jordan Smith’s distribution has improved or how Michael Mancienne looks to be growing as a leader. Admittedly, two goals were conceded but one was a stunning strike and the opener was a typically Warnockean set piece.
Warnocked [verb – past participle]: Nottingham Forest have been warnocked. Again.
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