Neil Warnock is one of football’s most colourful characters – there’s no question about that.
The Middlesbrough boss is very set in his own ways and the 72-year-old is also very superstitious – especially when it comes to football.
Warnock has readily admitted he has so many pre-match rituals it would take him too long to list them.
‘Be lucky’ is a favourite of Warnock’s and one he uses to sign his programme notes and copies of his autobiography.
Charlie Austin had a brief, yet productive, stint working with Warnock while he was interim boss of QPR during the 2015/16 campaign.
Austin would later join Southampton in the January transfer window, but Warnock acknowledged how essential the prolific striker was to the Rs at the time – and kept him wrapped up in cotton wool so to speak.
Not deemed match fit following a calf injury, the club’s top scorer had to make do with a place on the bench for Warnock’s first game – against his former side Leeds – in caretaker charge following Chris Ramsey’s sacking in November.
The circumstances behind that decision, and subsequent bench role, are rather brilliant – which Austin discussed in detail on Wednesday’s talkSPORT Breakfast.
“I’d come back from an injury and it was my first time on the bench,” said Austin.
“I arrived at the ground and he was like to me, ‘go and see your family then come down at 1:30pm, let me do my meeting and then just disappear again and come back at quarter to 3’.
“I was like, ‘eh?’ and he said, ‘yeah, don’t worry about warming up, come back then’. So I said to him, ‘are you not going to play me then?’
“And he told me I’d come on after an hour; so brilliant – no problem. So no warm up, go up to see the family and see the lads come in sweating from the warm up.
“I go in and sit on the bench and after half-an-hour he tells me to grab a masseur and get myself ready for the second half.
“So I do that and came out and watched five minutes of the second half, then go and have a warm up. The next minute, it’s approaching one hour, he says to me, ‘Chaz you’re on’.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘perfect’.
“So as I get on we’ve got a corner down the Loft End and I’ve scored with my first touch – brilliant. He thinks he’s a miracle worker!”
Such is Warnock’s superstitious nature, Austin – having notched his eighth goal of the season – was then restricted to the bench for the trip to Reading five days later.
He continued: “The problem I had for the next couple of games was he was so superstitious… I never warmed up, I never did nothing than just being a second-half sub. Deep down I was fuming!”
Warnock did eventually give Austin a starting berth against Brighton on December 15 and he repaid the veteran boss with a brilliant second-half double in an entertaining 2-2 draw in W12.
Interestingly, those were Austin’s final goals in a QPR shirt – before he made a shock return to the club last month.