AFTER 1,500 games in league management, and as he prepares to turn 72 in a couple of months’ time, Neil Warnock admits there are moments when he wonders whether it is time to call it a day. Like his patience with referees, however, they do not last long.

“Every Saturday, when the nerves kick in about ten o’clock, I do say to myself, ‘What are you doing? Do you need this?’,” said Warnock. “But when the whistle goes, I love it. I enjoy it as soon as the whistle goes, and my nerves have gone. I love my team, I like my lads, and I think they can get even better. It’s a special club, I like the owner – it’s everything I want here. I’m loving every minute of it at the moment.”

So, there he was on Saturday afternoon, a matter of days after recovering from a bout of Covid-19 that might have floored others of his age for weeks on end, standing on the touchline in his element as the rain teemed down around him.

For 90 minutes, he shouted and cajoled. He cheered, groaned and, yes, spent a second or two bemoaning the decisions of the referee. Thirty-three years after he took charge of his first game as a Football League manager in charge of Scarborough, he felt all the same emotions still running through his veins. He has all kinds of things pumped into his system as he has battled against Covid in the last few weeks, but football remains the drug he simply cannot shake.

“I do feel it’s quite a good achievement to get to 1,500 games,” said Warnock. “Especially in the modern day. “It still feels as enjoyable as ever to win, although the thing with 1,500 games is that when you get to my age, you don’t really remember anything other than last week.”

Warnock will have fond recollections of his first Championship home win as Middlesbrough manager for rather longer than that, with Saturday’s success having provided further tangible proof that his team is heading in the right direction.

Defensively, they look rock solid, with Paddy McNair continuing to improve with each and every performance in his new role as one of three centre-halves and Dael Fry having made a seamless return to action after his own spell of Covid-enforced isolation earlier in the summer. Barnsley might have scored an 89th-minute consolation from the penalty spot at the weekend, but that was their only shot on target all game.

In the wing-back positions, Warnock proved he remains as decisive as ever as he dropped Djed Spence and Marvin Johnson after having been unimpressed with their respective performances at QPR. In came Marc Bola, Boro’s forgotten man, and Marcus Tavernier, repositioned on the right. That they both made significant contributions to the win proved the quality of Warnock’s judgment remains intact.

“I didn’t think our two wing-backs were very good the week before, so I thought, ‘Let’s change it – why not?’,” he said. “here was nothing to lose, and it might give those two a kick up the backside.”

There are also signs of a Warnock-inspired improvement in attack. After Jonny Howson opened the scoring with a hooked half-volley on the stroke of half-time, Boro’s flagship summer signing, Chuba Akpom, made it two goals in two games as he stabbed home at the start of the second half after Barnsley goalkeeper Bradley Collins parried Tavernier’s shot into his path.

“Chuba’s a good lad,” said Warnock. “For the Championship, he’s not as fit as he should be, but you can see he’s improving. Britt’s (Assombalonga) not getting any luck at the minute, but he’s working his socks off.

“He’s working hard, and I’ve said to him it’s a captain’s role he’s doing.”