Thursday, 15 January 2015

Stephen Warnock gives his lowdown on Leeds exit

After two years, five different managers and two owners, Stephen Warnock's Leeds United career is over.

As I reported on Monday, he's moving to Derby on an 18-month contract.

Reading did come in with a late inquiry and mooted a two-year deal, but Warnock was set on the Championship pace-setters.

I did think the writing was on the wall for the former England full-back from the start of the season.

He's 33, was one of the club's highest earners and was not afraid to speak his mind or stand his ground (not a bad thing in my opinion).

Massimo Cellino wanted him - and the rest of the squad - to move to Leeds, but Warnock refused to relocate his family from Liverpool.

There was also that well-documented story of Cellino phoning the Leeds dugout and demanding Warnock be substituted against Watford. Manager Dave Hockaday refused and word subsequently got back to the player.

So when he scored in the next League game against Bolton, he celebrated as if using a telephone.

Cellino was not best pleased and the player ended up being dropped for two games subsequently and the matter even ended up going to the PFA (whether formally or informally).

So a parting of the ways was always inevitable in my opinion.

And it's a compliment to Warnock that promotion-chasing Derby, managed by former England coach Steve McClaren, were only too happy to take the player.

When I spoke to Cellino on Monday, he said: "He (Warnock) is older, lives in Liverpool and refused to move to Leeds — and is often complaining. So I am happy for him."

I called Warnock this afternoon, after news of his move to Derby had broken, and he refused to get involved in any tit for tat.

"To be honest, what he (Cellino) said didn’t bother me - that’s up to him," he said.

"I don’t want to get into a slanging match. As far as I’m concerned, I have to look forward.

"People understand what has gone on at Leeds and I know what happened. I’m going to keep that to myself."

He also thanked the Leeds support - despite a sometimes difficult relationship with them during his time at Elland Road.

"I'd like to thank the fans for the support they've given me," he said.

"It's fair to say that it took a while for them to warm to me and it was difficult at first, but I think we had a decent relationship as time went on.

"And I was definitely pleased with my form and performances this season.

"I think what's happened is pretty well documented now - my contract was expiring and the owner didn't want to offer me a new one.

"That's the way it goes in football sometimes.

"It's always sad to leave a great club like Leeds, but sometimes you have to do what's best for your career - especially when you're coming closer to the end. I wish the club well.

"I'm joining a very good team that plays good football, so I'm excited."

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