Neil Warnock says the “lure” of taking over at Aberdeen in time to lead the Dons into a clash with Rangers was too strong to turn down.
Having only been unveiled as Dons gaffer on a short-term interim basis on Monday, the 75-year-old veteran boss will take charge of the Reds for the first time at Ibrox in the Premiership on Tuesday night.
Warnock revealed he has prior commitments later this week, but has opted to manage Aberdeen against the Gers this evening.
He will head back down south after the game in Glasgow, before travelling back up to the north-east in time for Saturday’s Scottish Cup fifth-round meeting with Bonnyrigg Rose at Pittodrie.
Warnock said: “I was going to start next week, but the lure of taking over for a game like tomorrow night (at Rangers) is too good really.”
On Saturday, in the wake of manager Barry Robson’s midweek sacking, first-team coach Peter Leven was in charge as the Dons produced a fantastic second half showing to draw 1-1 at home to Celtic – a game where they were unlucky not to claim all three points.
Despite the draw, Aberdeen go into the fixture against Rangers eighth in the Premiership standings, but would move into the top six with a win.
They still have a realistic chance of finishing fourth and sealing European action next season via the league if they can deliver performances like the second period against the Hoops consistently under their new boss.
‘If we get battered tomorrow, it’s Peter’s fault’… but Warnock knows how much Rangers clash means
Warnock will get his Dons tenure under way proper following a just a single training session with his players on Monday.
He joked he will blame weekend caretaker Leven – who is staying on under Warnock and assistant boss Ronnie Jepson – if things do not go the Reds’ way in Govan.
He said: “If we get battered tomorrow, it’s Peter’s fault.
“If we do well, I’ve been very influential on the result.”
Warnock has previously praised Rangers in radio appearances on Talksport with Alan Brazil and Ally McCoist, while he has also attended Ibrox hospitality with Gers-supporting pals in the past – friends who have already sent him “three or four” messages about Tuesday’s match.
But Warnock, moving into serious mode, is determined to get off to a winning start as Aberdeen gaffer, saying: “I’ll be hoping we can get a victory tomorrow night as always, because once I’m in a club, I’m in there lock, stock and barrel.
“If we win at Ibrox, the fans will be standing waiting for me outside wanting to lift me up on their shoulders – I know all about how much this game means.”
‘You wouldn’t get better finish in Champions League’: Warnock on Bojan Miovski and Dons squad
Warnock watched Aberdeen’s draw with Celtic on TV.
He hailed Dons talisman Bojan Miovski’s goal to put the Reds 1-0 up as being of the highest quality – revealing he liked what he saw from not just his new star striker, but several players in what was a thrilling showing after the interval.
He said: “I thought in the second half, they did well. I thought the full-backs did ever so well.
“I don’t think you’d get a better finish (by Miovski) in the Champions League, let alone Scottish football.
“It was an unbelievable finish, wasn’t it?
“I thought the lad Killian Phillips did well for his first start. I rang my mate at Palace and he told me I’d like him – he runs all day and worked hard.
“I thought the subs did well when they came on.
“It just shows you, when they have that little bit more belief that they can give a good account of themselves.”
While admitting he will lean heavily on weekend caretaker boss Leven for his team selection at Ibrox, Warnock’s observations from Saturday will factor into things.
“I’ve got my opinions from the game at the weekend,” he added.
“I’ve told Peter what I’m thinking and he helped me on one or two.”
Warnock accepts there may be moments in the coming weeks where “fans will see my team selections, and say: ‘he doesn’t know what he’s doing’.”
But he has always been a boss who has trusted the little “feelings” he gets on line-ups and other calls.
Days of Warnock tirades are over, but he expects ‘everything’ from Reds players
Looking beyond Tuesday night’s meeting with Rangers, Warnock summed up the key demands he will put on the Aberdeen players as he tries to steer them up to fourth place and the Scottish Cup over the remainder of the campaign.
He may have toned down his trademark, lacerating verbal tirades – subject of several YouTube compilations – when talking to players nowadays, but will still expect maximum commitment from a squad he feels is a “little light in certain areas” after the transfer window shut on Thursday.
“If the players give me everything here, I’ll man their corner,” Warnock said.
“I’ll be disappointed if people pull out of tackles, headers, and they don’t stick with their men, or centre-halves try dribbling when they shouldn’t do.
“But the days have changed when you can go off like I used to do, so you’ve got to try to do it in a right way – but I want the pride back now.”
It will be a clean slate for Aberdeen’s squad under their new manager, with Warnock revealing players who have been “bombed out” will be given their chance.
Captain Graeme Shinnie will be ‘vital’ lieutenant to new manager Warnock
He expects skipper Graeme Shinnie, who he was meeting for the first time, one-to-one, following Monday lunchtime’s pre-match press conference, to be a trusted lieutenant.
“He’s going to vital to me”, Warnock said, comparing 32-year-old midfielder Shinnie’s influence to what he experienced with Huddersfield’s Jonathan Hogg and Middlesbrough’s Jonny Howson.
Warnock wants his captain to help him to get high standards from his team on the training pitch and in matches, and to create an environment his squad love being part of.
He added: “Paddy McNair told me when I left Middlesbrough that he’d never enjoyed getting out of bed to come training more than he had – and that’s what I want it to be like here.
“I want lads to want to come into training, get that spirit in them, because there are times in games when you need to hang in there.
“I expect standards from my lads and I have to get them there to do what I want them to do in those periods.”
’90-95% is man management’
The man now in charge at Aberdeen has made his name managing – exclusively, until now – in England, with 19 managerial roles down south, achieving promotions throughout the divisions.
He believes the foundation of his successes, including the fire-fighting-style quick turnarounds he has become renowned for over the past decade, and achieved at the likes of Huddersfield and Rotherham, has been man management which gets “the best out of players”.
“I get called a dinosaur and all sorts of names – some I can’t repeat – but in my career as a football manager, from start to finish, nothing’s changed in that, to be successful in management, 90- 95% is man management,” Warnock said.
He added: “I don’t think any of my promotions or successes has been down to money, and don’t think I’ve ever had a team with the best wage bill in the league.
“But it’s amazing what you can do with a group of lads if they believe and commit themselves to what you want them to do.”