AT three o’clock tomorrow afternoon, Neil Warnock will take his seat in the Riverside dug-out to watch his Middlesbrough team take on Norwich City. Had he not been appointed as Jonathan Woodgate’s successor in June, though, he could easily have found himself sitting at a table in a Welsh castle getting ready to eat some locusts and sheep’s brains instead.

I’m a Football Manager, Get Me Into There? Not quite. But while he resisted ITV’s initial attempts to get him into ‘I’m A Celebrity’, Middlesbrough’s 71-year-old manager has not ruled out a jaunt to the jungle at some stage in the future.

“I’m A Celebrity? I was nearly in it, you know,” revealed Warnock, after spotting a photograph of Ant and Dec on the wall behind his ITV questioner during today’s Zoom press call. “I’m not telling you when it was – it might have been two or three years ago – but I was approached.

“Imagine if I’d said yes – everybody would have been voting for me wouldn’t they, to do every bloody thing? I know my kids would have been. My kids – Amy and William – were straight on to me saying they would be phoning every night. They were saying, ‘We’ll make sure you get those maggots, dad’. Will it happen in the future? Let’s play it by ear, eh.”

The mind boggles, although there are plenty of Football League referees who would probably argue it would be the bugs that had most to fear rather than Warnock if he was to throw himself into the I’m A Celebrity spotlight in the future.

For now, the only trials the Boro boss is concerned about is the tests that lie in wait as he looks to keep his side in the promotion hunt at the top end of the Championship. He readily admits he could do with a few more stars, but despite this summer’s financial constraints having limited his ability to make improvements in the transfer market, he finds himself presiding over a squad that continues to exceed expectations.

Boro head into tomorrow’s game just three points below a Norwich side that boasts most of the players that were representing the Canaries in the top-flight last season, and while the Teessiders might lack some of the natural flair of some of their rivals at the top end of the table, their defensive record, the best in the whole of the Football League, is remarkable.

Warnock’s side have conceded just one goal in their last seven matches, but while plenty of pundits are starting to tout Boro are strong promotion candidates, their manager is refusing to get too carried away.

“I think it’s a little bit too early for us,” he said. “I think the main men are still the teams that came down and the ones with the big squads. I think there’s five or six above us, really.

“But below that, I think we’ve got a good chance of hanging in there. I know there are going to be problems along the way, but I don’t think there’ll be anything we can’t solve.”

So, given that last season was a relegation battle that went right to the wire, what would Warnock regard as a success in the current campaign?

“We want to give ourselves a good season, without having to worry too much about that bottom end,” he said. “As we go on and get more confidence, you just don’t know, especially if you can hang in there until after Christmas. If we could be where we are now come the beginning of January, then you might hear me starting to say we’re in the pack. But at the moment, we’re just trying to hang in there.”

Promotion, though, remains the ultimate ambition. I’m A Championship Manager – Get Me Back To The Premier League.