Neil Warnock leaves Aberdeen - the key quotes from farewell press conference, including advice to board, reasons for exit and future plans

With the Dons closing in on a new permanent manager, Warnock calls time on brief stay after guiding club to cup semis

Neil Warnock believes now is the right time to leave Aberdeen after his shock departure from the club’s interim manager position.

Just minutes after guiding the Dons into the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup following a 3-1 win over Kilmarnock, Warnock stepped down from his role at Pittodrie. He ends his 32-day, eight-game tenure on high by booking Aberdeen’s place at Hampden next month, but after advising the board that they should not wait until the end of the season to appoint a permanent manager, chairman Dave Cormack released a statement on Saturday afternoon revealing that they are close to hiring a successor.

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“The club would like to thank both Neil and [assistant manager] Ronnie Jepson for their efforts,” the statement from Cormack read. “With the search for a new manager at an advanced stage, [first-team coach] Peter Leven will assume control of all first team matters until the process is concluded.”

Neil Warnock's tenure at Aberdeen lasted 32 days.Neil Warnock's tenure at Aberdeen lasted 32 days.
Neil Warnock's tenure at Aberdeen lasted 32 days.

Leven could be in charge for Wednesday’s cinch Premiership match away to Dundee should the new man not be in the building by then. The Dons instructed a football consultancy firm to conduct a strategic review of the club after sacking Barry Robson in January and with those findings hope to find the right man to revive their fortunes, having cast the net far and wide. Domestically, former Hibs and Celtic manager Neil Lennon earlier this week stated his desire to land the job.

For Warnock, he was happy to leave on a positive note – his only two wins have come against Bonnyrigg and Killie in the cup – but said that it is imperative that the new manager gets time to work with the squad and make decisions that will have an impact on next season. Aberdeen are currently tenth in the Premiership, four points ahead of Ross County in the play-off positions and seven points behind Hibs, who occupy the last spot in the top six with five games to go before the split. They will hope to use Saturday’s victory as a catalyst, after strikes from Jamie McGrath, Graeme Shinnie and an own goal from Stuart Findlay gave them the win over an off-colour Kilmarnock, who netted through Dan Armstrong.

"I’m pleased because I asked the lads to show me what they can do,” Warnock said of the win. “We’ve worked ever so hard to lose games, really, that we shouldn’t have done. We should have seven or nine points more. But I said along I’d try to help them out and give them my advice. My advice is to get a new manager in as soon as possible now. They’re well down the line and it needs an overhaul in the summer. There’s no use waiting until then and they’ve listened to me.

“I’m glad I’ve been able to get the fans to the semi-final and we deserved it because we were superior in every department today. It was a really good way to end. I’m disappointed I won’t lead them out at Hampden but some lucky man will come in to do that. The players are starting to see what’s required now.

Graeme Shinnie scored one of the goals in Aberdeen's 3-1 win over Kilmarnock.Graeme Shinnie scored one of the goals in Aberdeen's 3-1 win over Kilmarnock.
Graeme Shinnie scored one of the goals in Aberdeen's 3-1 win over Kilmarnock.

“Kilmarnock couldn’t cope with us today. We were more physical than them but we could play as well. I was really pleased because we didn’t make silly mistakes. The goal we gave away was stupidity so there’s still a bit to learn. But it was a great atmosphere today and I knew within five minutes we were on our game. That’s how our training has been this week.”

Warnock has had to deal with a miserable run of results in the league, culminating in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat by St Mirren when two goals were conceded in stoppage time. The form had taken its toll on the Yorkshireman. “On Monday everyone came in with their heads down and chins on the floor,” Warnock continued. “I had a meeting with them and said: ‘Look, this has to stop, how do you think I feel at 75’? We didn’t have time to feel down, we had to beat Kilmarnock by being positive and winning our battles. I thought we were super today.

“How do I reflect on my time at Aberdeen? Up and down. I don’t think I can say any more. I didn’t enjoy last week after the St Mirren game. I did think: ‘What am I doing here at 75’? But I knew I had to be the one to get everyone going on Monday because you don’t have time to dwell. You don’t know what’s around the corner in life.

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“I went to the Aberdeen Sports Awards on Thursday night and it helped me. It made me think: ‘How lucky are we’? To see the disabled kids getting awards it made me think how lucky we are to be a football manager or player. That helped me going there.”

Aberdeen chief executive Alan Burrows watches on from the stand.Aberdeen chief executive Alan Burrows watches on from the stand.
Aberdeen chief executive Alan Burrows watches on from the stand.

Warnock sat down with chairman Dave Cormack and chief executive Alan Burrows two days before the Kilmarnock match to make his feelings known. “We had a chat on Thursday and I thought it was the right time to bring someone else in,” he revealed. “They’re not far away. If it’s just one game or so, Peter will be OK. The lads know what they’re doing now. I felt it was the right time. I wanted to win today and finish like that. That was the situation on Thursday. I told them how I felt and we’ve left amicably.”

When asked what his recommendations to the board were, Warnock responded: "That's between us, really. I just said they needed to bring in a manager quickly. I think he needs to have a couple of months looking at the squad now in depth. Because I think to be successful – and you can be successful with the right recruitment – they need a couple of months to assess it. The hard thing I think has been done as I think the standard has been set. I think they'll keep to them now. It will probably help the new manager now and make his job a little bit easier. And then recruitment has to be spot-on. You're only as good as your recruitment. I know which way I'd go – and I've told them that, are you with me? – but I'm not the powers that be that decides who comes in and who doesn't.

Warnock believes he has left his own mark on Aberdeen despite his brief stay. "I think they know what my teams are about, if I'm honest,” he claimed. “I am disappointed about some of the performances in the league but I think the difference in the [English] Championship is if you tell somebody, you don't have to do it twice. They don't make the same mistakes, if that makes sense. They don't do it on purpose ... some of the goals have just been unbelievable. I was glad to see a proper performance today.”

The final question to Warnock was on his future. At 75-years-old, is this finally the end of the road? "I've just been asked that and I said, 'look, it's the 16th time I've retired now',” he smiled. “I would say yes but who knows, when you get to my age you don't know what's around the corner – you just hope that you keep living. I might go down to Dunoon for a while, might catch up with Greenock Morton for a week. Big game on Monday [against Hearts], I might go to that.”