Neil Warnock pays emotional tribute to Emiliano Sala

Morning, Neil. First off, we’re so sorry, once again.. Can you tell us how you are, how the players are?

Yeah. I think one or two might be a little bit … Whilst everybody expects the worst, when it happens … I got a phone call last night in the evening, and it was strange, really. I think obviously, it brings the family peace. I think that’s what we’ve got. Offer some comfort, doesn’t it? That’s what Sharon said right from the start. It gives them comfort in that respect. To answer your question, I don’t really know. I’ve not really been with the players until we train after this. I don’t really know. One or two have always been a little bit sensitive.

It’s having time to process it. While everybody expected the worst, there was still all those memories. I suppose there was still a tiny little hermit of hope, so it’s a bit of a double edged sword, I guess?

Yeah, it is. It is. I don’t think you can say much more about it. It’s what it is, and we have to carry on.

Have you had a chance … Have you had any contact at all with the family at this stage? Will you contact them?

I spoke to … It was a French agent last night, because he’s been keeping me involved. He was telling me about the family, so I think that conversation has really got to be kept private, really.

Yes, of course. A lot is being said about having an element of closure in these sorts of things, that sometimes that can bring an element of comfort. Do you think it will give some comfort in some way to you and the squad? Albeit, obviously it’s been a tragedy, and obviously there’s the element of a record signing that you [inaudible 00:01:48].

Yeah, I mean, that’s the least of my worries, the record signing. I think the finances doesn’t come into it, from my point of view; it’s the human … I think when we said it brings the family peace and comfort, I think the same goes for the club. I think they’ve handled it unbelievable. I couldn’t be more grateful to [Mammet 00:02:07] and Ken. The way they’re keeping everything together off the field, it’s made it that I’ve been able to just concentrate on keeping the team together and things, on the field of play, which has been … Because it has been an amazing … I think the time limit and everything like that, they’ve been fabulous, those two.

Obviously, this is the news that nobody ever really wanted to hear, but there’s been such a swell of emotion from fans from the club throughout the football world and the wider world. Has that surprised you in terms of the way the kind of fans have reacted, particularly what we’ve seen at the Arsenal game and the Bournemouth game, in terms of taking it so closely into their hearts and their [inaudible 00:02:49]?

Well, when I think I’ve seen it all in football, I think our fans keep surprising me, nearly every week now. It used to be every few months when I first started, but it’s almost every week now. I don’t think there’s anything that would surprise me now with them. I have to say, I think the Arsenal fans, the Bournemouth fans, I think everybody around … You’ve seen all the tributes from all over the place, from little clubs in the second and third division, the old third division, to the top clubs. I think when something like this happens, it brings all the football family together really.

Does it make you glad to be a part of the football family when you see everybody come together like this?

I think it shows that everybody is thinking on the same wavelength, really. That’s the thing. It’s a loss to everyone. I know we’re the closest, but it’s a loss to everyone in football, because when you look at the … For example, the finance that they were able to just raise from world class players around the world in a space of a few hours, to enable the search in the first place, which I found was amazing, really. I would have wanted to do if they were mine, if it was my child, you know? I think it’s been unbelievable, the response, all the way around.

Obviously you’ve seen some lovely tributes paid at the Arsenal game and the Bournemouth game. I think there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house probably, watching that, if you look at that. What would you like to see happen at Southampton this weekend? Do you feel it needs to then go on? Does there come a point where you have to say, you prefer the family to just grieve in private now, and we’re happy to …?

I think they will do it. I think we’ve just got to pay our respects now again. Now the situation has come to an end regarding Emiliano, is that fact that I think we should, as normal, wear black armbands and other mini stars. I’m sure things like that will be adhered to this weekend. I think even the Southampton fans will want that as well.

How about you? You got to see so many people [inaudible 00:05:02] what’s happened. Does it make you … I know you probably have taken stock, but where do you feel you are at this particular point in time with all the events that have happened?

Yeah, I mean, my mind’s been back on football as well, as it’s got to be. I’m sort of … I steer the ship sort of thing. But I have to say the boys have been fabulous, and the staff. Kevin, and Ron’s been great to me, and everybody staff-wise. Ken [Chu 00:05:32], as I’ve said, he’s been around all the time, and helpful. It does matter when you’re a team, off the field as well as on it. It does make it easier. I think you could see, even at Arsenal, you could see the response from the players, probably the best game away from home against the top team that I’ve probably done. I thought the Bournemouth game, again, was a very good game for us from our point of view, football wise. I can’t really ask any more than that. I’m going to ask them again to lift their souls at Southampton as well.

Judging by what they did at Bournemouth, and obviously the things at Arsenal, you’re expecting something special from them again this weekend at [crosstalk 00:06:14]?

Well, I just want the same attitude and the same play. I think we played some good stuff, and I think that when they play like that it’s enjoyable to watch, really. I stood on the line at Arsenal and loved every minute of it, even though I didn’t enjoy the misses, but in general, to play against a side like that, I thought it was super. Same on Saturday. I can’t fault that. I don’t think there will ever be a question mark about me questioning the commitment of me players. That’s what’s got us here in the first place, probably a little bit earlier that we thought, but I don’t think that will ever be in question. They always give me everything. They might be limited at certain times, but they don’t really get much criticism from me.

[inaudible 00:07:01]

from me, I appreciate you still very much, a painful subject, but what would your personal tribute like to be to Emiliano?

I just think he was a Neil Warner type of player, really. I always thought that he was a scruffy type of player that for me would score 10, 15 goals every year at the top level. Not just that, but work hard as a team player, just fits the criteria, really, for what I look for in a player. Somebody that can do something special, but at the same time, is a very good laddy, or a really nice lad. That would be my memory of him, and his clothes.

You liked his clothes?

Sorry?

You liked his clothes? You admired his clothes?

His clothes were different, a little bit like Omar today. He’s come with some as well. There’s two or three of them now, I think, fashionable.

You want to have a [inaudible 00:07:59] threaten to undersurp their jeans?

No. I have tried that in the past, but my daughter wears them as well now, so …

Best to let [crosstalk 00:08:07].

Thank you very much.

Morning, Neil.

How are you doing?

Just to pick up on that point, you met Emiliano. What kind of guy was he? What was his potential, do you feel, at football?

I think he … Because he wasn’t a young kid, he was a lad at the prime, I felt. I think he knew that he had things to prove. He had been in a comfort zone in France. He’s improved every year for the last few years, and I think he was just ready. He was a little bit fearful of the challenge ahead, but I think he knew that he had to try and make that step now, and see. I thought he could score goals in the premier league, and he did. I just said to him, “It’s probably easier coming to a club like Cardiff where we’ve got such a good group of lads than to probably go higher to a group that’s probably a little bit …” Probably have got more ability, but not got the dressing room spirit. I thought he had all the ingredients to mix, really. I’m sure he would have been.

Could you sense the excitement for him of coming to play in the premier league?

Yeah. I mean, originally, early on in the deal, there was a newspaper report about him not wanting to come. When I first met him, I spoke to him about that. He said that was ridiculous, and had never been said. I said, “Oh, that’s the usual thing in England. You don’t say that, and it’s a headline.” I said you get used to that in England. The facts never get in the way of a good story.

You called him a Neil Warner type player. There was obviously something in his personality? I guess that’s a big thing for you, character, personality? There was something in there that you [crosstalk 00:09:50]?

Yeah, he had a dry sense of humor. His music tastes were … I heard a couple of tracks of his music. He was just a nice lad, really. I don’t think anybody … I’ve not heard anybody have a bad word to say about him.

Just picking up on Fran’s point about your feelings now. There was some suggestion this week that this could be an event that made you consider your future here. Is that still the case, or is that [crosstalk 00:10:21]?

I think that was a little bit over the top. I just said it made you think about whether you want to carry on in football. I think that was the comment probably. As always, you always get certain tabloids make a meal out of it. I went in the local paper and put that to bed, really. It’s a challenge for me, yeah, probably more of a challenge with all the things that have happened in the last few weeks. I think anybody who saw us play the last couple of games knows that we’re all up for that. I think the players are up for that. I know I am, and I know Mammet and Vincent are as well, so it’s a challenge we’ve got try and face head on.

For family and friends, obviously, the trauma of this will go on for a long time. For this football club, can you start to move on from this point?

I think so, yeah. I think everybody, we all have things like this happen in our lifetime. I think you just have to … You have to get on. It just moves on. I don’t think you ever forget things like this. I don’t think it’s something that you can just put at the back of your mind. There are times during the day that I think about it, certain aspects of this, meeting Emiliano. I could never say it. I used to say that to him. You know, it’s one of those things that you have to move on. Fortunately for me, the players have grasped that, really, in the performances. Now I think we’ve got 13 cup finals now.

How much focus have you been able to give this Southampton game? How do you view it now?

Yeah, we’ve done a bit of work, like we did last week. We had to work really hard on the Bournemouth fixture, because there’s such a … Especially after the beating Chelsea fought [inaudible 00:12:16]. My daughter asked me if I was trying to keep it to single figures in my tactics.

But you have to work on … You try and work on what you think are your strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses, and I’m sure they’re doing the same with us. It’s a difficult game for both of us. Possibly clubs like Southampton, and one or two of the other clubs didn’t expect to be in the position that they’re in, really, whereas I think we always thought we would be around this area. It’s probably expectations are higher, but we’ll go there in good spirits. I’m sure we can give them a good game.

If you manage to win, you could move out of the [inaudible 00:13:02], which would be a tribute to the players here and their focus over the last couple of weeks, wouldn’t it?

Absolutely. That’s what we’re going to try and do. In the next few games, I don’t think there’s any game that we shouldn’t try and win. Tomorrow’s game is the same as that, really. They’re all important, and it’s not going to define our season, but we want to get a good result, really, on Saturday.

Just finally, while you’re afield, there has now become what appears to be, to some people, a slightly unseemly dispute between two clubs over money. Does that disturb you over the last few days, that it had to become public?

Well, as I said earlier, I think it’s … I couldn’t be more grateful to Mammet and Ken, because they’re keeping everything away from me. I think off the field they’re dealing with all that. I think that’s the way to move forward. I think I’ve got enough on my plate trying to get things on the field of play. They’ve been, I think, pretty amazing, really, with the press and everything else over the last few weeks.

Thanks, Neil.