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Neil Warnock has relied on his family to get him through the biggest crisis of his managerial career.
The Cardiff City manager has paid tribute to his wife Sharon and children for guiding him through the difficulties of the Emiliano Sala tragedy.
As the Bluebirds prepare for their first match since formal identification of Sala’s body after its retrieval from plane wreckage in the English Channel, Warnock has admitted he questioned whether he could continue in the job.
Ahead of today’s game at Southampton, the man who met, cajoled, persuaded and pressed for the club record 15m signing from Nantes to come to Wales, says: “I can’t tell you how important my family have been, they’ve been amazing.
“That’s what families are for. You can get criticised, and I seem to get criticised a lot in different areas, but you have to have a broad back to last as long as I have.
“Things are hurtful at times to Sharon and the kids. Over the years things have happened at school and with modern media. The kids take it a little bit more personally and Sharon wants to say things when she reads things. But I tell her she just has to bite her tongue.
“I was surprised I shed a tear last week. You don’t realise in tragedies how things catch up with you.
“You can’t tell when something like that is going to hit you, it just comes on. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
“I was alright until I went on the field and across to the other side of the ground. Nobody seemed to have gone home, it was amazing.
“Then when I saw my wife and kids, Sharon, William and Amy, and I’m sure, like any parent would have done, I was thinking about Emiliano at that time.”
Warnock believes the last three weeks at Cardiff have strengthened the bonds between his players – as well as those between him and his squad.
He does, though, confess to still raising his voice at them but recalled a conversation with former Cardiff player Willie Carlin, who played under the late Brian Clough at Derby County.
“I always feel close to my players – probably a bit more so than normal in this particular case.
“Willie Carlin told me, when we were talking about Brian Clough, and I asked him ‘why is he so good?’, that if he was on the other side of the road and he was walking down the road, he wouldn’t give him the time of day.
“But when they went out on a Saturday after Brian had spoken to the team, he said he would go through a brick wall for him.
“My players know I get annoyed at times, and I can lift my voice, but they also know I will praise them. All I ask for at this level is 100 per cent.”
If Cardiff can again channel the emotional energy of what will be a day of remembrance for Sala, then they could deliver a fitting tribute to the club-mate who never wore their shirt by lifting themselves out of the relegation zone with a victory.
Warnock’s side beat the Saints 1-0 at home in December in what was Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first match in charge for the visitors.
Southampton, though, are unbeaten in their last five League matches and Warnock adds: “I expect it will be tight because they have got good players, but we’ve hit a vein of form.
“The new recruits have given us a lift and it promises to be good game. We will be outsiders again, but we are like that every week. We will just have to get on with it.
“We can start to move on now. We all have things happen like this in our lifetime and you have to go on. Things move on, but you never forget things like this.
“You can’t put it to the back of your mind. I think about meeting Emiliano at certain times of the day.
“But you have to move on and fortunately for me and the players we have grasped that in our performances. Now, we have got 13 cup finals.”
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