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Stephen Warnock blasts ‘coward’ Rafa Benitez and slates Steven Gerrard

Stephen Warnock

Former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock has hit out at Rafa Benitez and called him a coward for the way he treated him ahead of the 2005 Champions League final.

Warnock was furious that he was informed he was initially in the final squad only to be told later that he hadn’t made it. Not only did he miss out on being involved in the game, he also missed out on a huge cash bonus. As a result, he says he was left hating Rafa Benitez. It wasn’t just the former Liverpool boss who faced criticism from Warnock either. Skipper Steven Gerrard was also criticised on the Undr The Cosh podcast by the former Liverpool man.

“His man management is horrendous. I’ve said this to loads of people – his tactics are brilliant, but his man management is zero,” said Warnock, who now works as a pundit for Sky Sports.

“He has no idea how to speak to anyone or talk to anyone. It was summed up by Istanbul. Istanbul was an absolute disgrace with how he treated me and a few of the lads. He just didn’t care.

“It was two weeks after the season that the Champions League final was on, we were in [training] for those two weeks.

“Two days before we were going over to travel to Istanbul and I remember the last training session, every time a squad list of 18 would go up, it would be the first XI and the subs. There was no added two or three players to travel.

“I remember running in after the last training session thinking ‘Please be in’. I looked on the squad list and my name was there.

“I was like ‘F***ing hell, it’s the Champions League final. I’m either on the bench or playing’. I showered as quick as I could, got my phone and rang my family and said ‘listen, get the plane tickets to Istanbul’.

“I’m at home packing to get ready and my phone goes and it was Paco Ayestaran, who was the number two at the time to Rafa.

“He goes ‘We’ve made a mistake on the squad, you’re not in it’. I was like ‘What!?’ [Benitez] didn’t even have the b******s to ring me. I was like ‘You f***ing coward’. I was fuming.

“The team travelled, played the game, and after he comes up to me and says ‘I’ll speak to you next week’. He didn’t apologise.”

On the bonus he missed out on, said: “I remember thinking at the time – it shouldn’t come into it, but it did – it was one of the biggest games of football’s year, but our bonus was massive either way.

“It was £100,000 to lose it and £200,000 to win it. And I was thinking, ‘F***ing hell, that’s a massive amount of money.’ Because I wasn’t on much money at the time. [That’s for] whoever’s in the [matchday] 18, it doesn’t go pro rata across the squad. Literally, if you’re in the 18, you get it.

“I’ve come from thinking last year I’m going to be playing in the Championship with Coventry, being on decent-ish money, but nowhere near that.

“Gerrard came up to me after the game and said ‘It’s s*** what happened, we’ll make sure you get your money’. I’ve still not seen it – why say it?

“It was hard for me because I’m a Liverpool fan and grew up standing on the Kop and I was thinking ‘I hate this team’. I was fuming. It’s not like I hated the team, I hated Rafa. I was sat there so happy for the lads, but also p***** off.

“I remember that night they said the plane leaves at this time to go to the parade in Liverpool, then they changed it and said all the squad involved, and their wives and girlfriends, were on it.

“We missed the parade and I watched it on Sky Sports. We missed it because our flight was late coming in.

“The squad literally landed at Liverpool airport, got ferried to the buses and started the parade.

“I just remember thinking ‘what a s***show’. I was gone, I’d decided I was leaving.”

During the podcast, Warnock also commented that he has to pay for his Sky subscription like any other fan.

He moaned: “I’m on a non-contract, but if you’re on a contract, which is like a Carragher or a Neville, you’ll get all the perks and things like that. So no, I have to pay full whack.

“I don’t get anything [including Sky Movies or the other channels]. Do you know what, the funny thing is, I remember speaking to one of the commentators. I said ‘Do you get like perks with working for Sky? ‘ And he was like ‘Yeah, I get all my phones for about five a quid a month, then I get all the Sky package and things’. I thought ‘Oh yeah ok so I’ll ask about that’. I asked about it and they just came back and went ‘No, you don’t qualify for it within your contract’.”