NEIL WARNOCK has worked with more players than most in the game and has no doubt where Andy Booth rates among them.
The Crystal Palace manager witnessed Booth’s development in senior football at the old Leeds Road ground and masterminded his transformation into a striker of countrywide renown at the Galpharm.
Asked to assess Boothy’s impact on the game as the popular frontman approaches retirement, Warnock didn’t hesitate a second.
“I have spent fortunes over the years trying to find another Andy Booth – that’s how highly I rate him,” said Warnock.
“He is the best target-man striker I have ever worked with and, if I could have found another one like him, I would have won a lot more promotions.
“To be honest, I don’t think I will find another Boothy before I pack in, but if I do I’ll be a very happy man.”
Warnock gave Booth his first long run in the starting line-up towards the end of the 1993-94 season, when Town moved away from relegation danger and went through to the final of the Autoglass Trophy – their first visit to Wembley in 56 years.
Booth was also in Warnock’s Wembley team a year later when they beat Bristol Rovers to win promotion through the play-offs, making the scoresheet in a 2-1 success.
“It’s a long while since I was manager at Huddersfield, but I wish I had had Andy Booth at every club I’ve been at since,” added Warnock.
“Everything about him is right, including his attitude on and off the pitch and his values in life.
“As a player, his control is excellent, bringing other people into the game, and when you talk to people in football they can think of few players who have been better in the air.
“I remember one guy comparing Boothy with Wyn Davies, the old Southampton player, because he could hang in the air for seemingly impossible amounts of time.
“That’s it with Boothy, he is so deceptive when he goes up for the ball. Central defenders are convinced they are going to beat him then, next thing, he’s won the ball and they are in all sorts of trouble.
“His all-round play over the years has been outstanding and, on top of that, he’s a great guy.
“I’ve always said of Boothy, Phil Jagielka and possibly one or two others that if they were my sons I would be very proud of them, and you can’t speak more highly of someone than that.”
Warnock was always impressed with Booth’s down-to-earth nature and the fact his parents, Barbara and Ian, were on the matchday staff. They still are, and sister Jeanette also helps out as well when necessary.
“I remember one of our early matches at the Galpharm when Boothy went down injured – I’ll never forget it, in fact,” he smiled.
“He was about 30 yards to my left near the touchline when this woman suddenly came bursting across the front of the dug-out, running down the track at the side.
“I turned to the lads and asked ‘who’s that?’ and they just laughed and said ‘it’s okay, it’s Boothy’s mum!’”
Warnock joined the approving chorus of those who believe Town are wise to keep the 35-year-old on board as an ambassador, explaining: “It’s a great move by the people running the club because there is nobody more popular than Boothy and nobody with more knowledge.
“He knows the people, the club and the area and, with regard to the players, he has got bags of experience to pass on and, with injured lads, he can talk them through how to handle being on the sidelines, because no-one has had more to put up with in his career on that score than Boothy.”