‘Cheerio, Cheerio, Cheerio’ rung out around the Madejski Stadium in December 2017 as Reading led Cardiff City 2-0 and pantomime villain boss, Neil Warnock, was sent to the stands for remonstrating with the officials one too many times.

Traipsing down the tunnel 13 minutes early and looking set to be pulled back into the play off picture with defeat in Berkshire, little did Warnock know that he would walk away with a point following a dramatic turnaround and his Bluebirds team would go on to secure promotion to the Premier League.

“I knew on that day that we were going to get promotion,” the veteran told the Reading Chronicle. “We had to come from behind and I can remember Lee Tomlin and the way we came back; I knew we would go up. It was always a battle.”

Warnock- a veteran of over 1,000 games in the managerial hot seat, is a name synonymous with the golden years of Reading Football Club, involved in heated clashes against the Royals in both Championship-winning seasons, while Reading played pivotal roles in all of his top-flight promotions with the likes of Sheffield United, Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace.

Speaking regularly of his respect and admiration for his old foes in RG2, the Reading Chronicle decided to sit down with the seven-time promotion winner to look back at his battles.

“I’ve got some great memories and some disasters,” the 75-year-old recounted. “That was unbelievable [Keith Gillespie] I wanted to change the game and I told him to run at him, but he goes on and kicks him- the quickest sending-off ever.

“I had some good times too, at QPR winning late on down to 10 men with Wayne Routledge- I can still see him going through now and slotting it home. The dressing room was fantastic that night.

“The fans have always been my kind of fans. I don’t think they’ve ever been above themselves. They’re down-to-earth and support their team. I like places where the fans are on top of you- QPR and Crystal Palace. I always thought Reading fans were really behind their team and made for a good atmosphere, it’s probably why I lost so many games there.”

Indeed, no team has beaten the Yorkshireman on more occasions than Reading down the years, most recently as Middlesbrough manager in 2021/22.

Always a match with added spice, Royals supporters and players alike appeared to visibly grow taller and looked to create a tough environment for his teams- something he respected the club for greatly.

“In the last few years, I’ve had a soft spot for them. I wanted to manage them a few times, but the owners had other ideas, so it never materialised. I go back to John Madejski, and he was fabulous for the club. They didn’t spend what other clubs spent at the time, but it was always steady and there were no crises. Oh, for a steady John Madejski now.

“I always knew deep down that they respected me. It wasn’t foul and abusive, but they’d let themselves be heard. They were supporting their Reading against me and that’s how it should be. I don’t think there’s enough of it. Managers make notes on their pads these days, I never had time for that.

“I can still see the group of fans opposite the dugout [under the screen], they were the worst and used to start straight away,” Warnock chuckled.

Ironically, after more than two decades of battles in the second tier, it was Warnock and his Huddersfield Town side that dealt Reading the final blow in their survival bid last season.

Reading Chronicle:

“We played Sheffield United in the midweek and if we’d drawn that game, we would have had to beat Reading on the final day because your goal difference was better. I had a number of nights not sleeping thinking that we’re going to have to beat Reading and how difficult it was going to be because they would set out their stall and their fans.

“ To get the late winner against Sheffield United was unbelievable. It took all the pressure off. I thought your fans were very good that day. They were good to the Huddersfield team and good to their own players even though they had been relegated. I hope they get their reward and can bounce back. It hasn’t been an easy time as a Reading fan.”

Confirming his retirement after a brief spell with Aberdeen, the record-breaker is embarking on a series of shows where he looks back at his incredible career in management. The nearest venues to Reading are Portsmouth and Wimbledon.

Cheerio, Neil. It's been a pleasure doing battle down the years.