It was as the sun was setting on a warm, windless day in Hertfordshire that Neil Warnock's mood darkened into silence. He had spent close to an hour speaking about his delight in getting Queens Park Rangers promoted to the Premier League as champions and how he felt the team would do in the top flight when the obvious question came around again and the 62-year-old decided he had enough.
"If the worst comes to the worst this week ..." came the query, but before the questioner had time to finish, Warnock was off. "No, thank you," he said, the smile from his lips disappearing as quickly as he did.
This is how it is going to be for QPR until Friday at least, as for the all the joy the club are feeling for having secured a place in the Premier League for the first time since 1996 after this less than convincing win over Watford, there is no escaping the threat that hangs over them. On Tuesday, an independent panel will begin a three‑day hearing into the seven charges brought against QPR by the Football Association in relation to their purchase of the Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlín in July 2009. The issue at stake is an alleged breach of rules regarding third-party ownership and the club could be hit with a 15-point deduction were they to be found guilty, plunging them into the play-offs and kicking off a legal challenge not only from QPR but, possibly, the 15 teams they have beaten en route to the title.
QPR deny all charges and on Saturday came total defiance from Warnock, up until his abrupt exit. "I'm happy with what my barrister has told me. I don't fear anything," he said. "I was brought in to win promotion and that's what I've done."
Warnock also raged at a story regarding a possible 15-point deduction, describing it as "diabolical" and an example of the country's "gutter press", and as he snarled it was difficult to feel much warmth and goodwill for a man who had just achieved a remarkable seventh promotion with a sixth different club, and one that was in the relegation zone when he took over 13 months ago.
However, that is how it has been with Warnock ever since his managerial career took off at Scarborough in 1986-87, when he won the Conference title in his first season at the club. The Yorkshireman has achieved much but also created many enemies due to his strong opinions and even stronger barbs.
Like him or loathe him, there is no denying the success he has achieved at Loftus Road. Warnock's men have dominated their division from the outset, winning 24 out of 45 fixtures and, in the process, keeping an unrivalled 25 clean sheets.
They have also attacked with fluidity and intent, an approach personified best by the captain, Adel Taarabt. The 21-year-old Moroccan, whose 77th‑minute close‑range strike here set the visitors up for the victory they needed to win the title before Tommy Smith doubled their lead in stoppage time with a shot from the edge of the area, has been an inspiration since signing from Tottenham Hotspur at the start of the season. For Warnock, the aim is to make the free-spirited midfielder a reliable hub of a team aiming to make their mark against the elite.
"Adel can be the best in the world, but he's got to be more dedicated if he wants to progress in the Premier League," said Warnock. "If he listens, he can really enjoy himself. I want the whole team to enjoy themselves in that league, we're going to try and score goals and win games."
For the manager, promotion is a shot at redemption after his last stint in the Premier League ended with him taking Sheffield United down, ironically on the back of the controversy caused by West Ham United's signing, via a third party, of Carlos Tevez.
"I'm excited about the future, partly because I'm better experienced for having suffered the bad times. You need to go through those to enjoy the good moments." Warnock would be wise to cherish that sentiment should the worst indeed come to the worst this week.