The Life Of Colin The Anagram

I don’t know about you but I’ve never really been a fan of Neil Warnock.

Despite his portrayal in large sections of the media as a straight talking, no-nonsense manager (a sort of Primark Brian Clough), his recent persona has been akin to Bart Simpson’s in the episode where he becomes the “I didn’t do it” boy, blaming everyone else for Sheffield United’s relegation last season.

From the EatFootball website.

However, knowing that his time spent in non league football as manager of Burton Albion coincided with Mossley’s ‘glory days’, and with time to kill before catching a train, I found myself flicking through his recently release autobiography to see if the Lilywhites garnered a mention of any sort and, lo and behold, in the index: Mossley AFC 97, 98.

And in another pleasant surprise, he's incredibly complimentary about us too! For the most part anyway...

Not only does he describe us during those heady times as “the kings of non-league football”, but it's the only place that you’re ever likely to see Mossley mentioned in the same sentence as Chelsea, unless we we strike the mother lode in a future FA Cup run or Bill Clinton’s daughter joins the club in some capacity.

There are a few anecdotes as well about “hard and relentless” Mossley including the time we sent him the bill for a new dressing room door (after he put his foot through one at Seel Park), and his badgering of David Vaughan in to getting him to sign for Burton, purely because he wanted to build a side in Mossley’s image.

His kindest words however are reserved for Bob Murphy who he “holds in the same regard as Sir Alex Ferguson”. Though the sections only brief, you're left with the impression that Warnock was genuinely in awe, and still is, of Mossley's greatest manager.

That all said, there are a couple of things that don't stand up to close scrutiny. The first being that whilst it's almost a true statement, there are a few clubs (Dagenham notably) that would contest the claim that Mossley “won everything”.

He also states that Bob Murphy was shown the door in 1983 because of our poor league form. As far as I'm aware this wasn't the case (he resigned) and it was other factors away from the pitch, mostly monetary, that saw a huge upheaval in both personnel and the clubs fortunes.

Still, it leads Colin (you can work the rest of football's greatest anagram out for yourselves) to making a rather sweeping statement about us: “Now look at them. Last season they were relegated from the Unibond Premier... They're in free-fall”

All of which bizarrely makes it sound like a managerial departure almost quarter of a century ago was directly responsible for our relegation in the summer - a conclusion not to dissimilar to two plus two equalling an elephant riding a bicycle. And how a demotion after two, almost successive, promotions can be classed as “free-fall” leads me to wonder if he knows the difference between parachuting and what we actually have been doing: bungee jumping between the leagues and divisions.

Still, it makes you wonder that if the authors can get tiny instances like this wrong, just how many other inaccuracies must there be between the covers that you don't know about. But then that's the problem with autobiographies; the views contained therein are always just one (very biased) side of a story with the conclusion usually being the Alan Partridge-esque “needless to say, I had the last laugh.”

If you’re a fan of Warnock then I’ve no doubt that the inclusion of Mossley will be the icing on the cake. If like me though, you don’t particularly want to read about how Rafael Benitez, Alex Ferguson, the FA, West Ham, an Israeli, an Argentinian and (yes!) Sean Bean conspired to get Sheffield United relegated and, ultimately, make him resign from his job, then I suggest popping into Waterstones, settling into one of their comfy chairs for five minutes and reading pages 97-98.

If you’re reading this though after receiving the aforementioned tome as a Christmas present and I’ve spoilt it before you’ve even opened the front cover, I apologise.

On the bright side though, your relatives have probably still got the receipt...