LONDON • Cardiff City's relegation fate was sealed on Saturday, but manager Neil Warnock felt that losing their Premier League status paled in comparison with the loss felt by the death of Emiliano Sala in January.
The Argentinian striker, who is the club's record signing at £15 million (S$26.9 million), died after his plane crashed in the English Channel, just days before he was set to make his debut against Arsenal.
Warnock, who saw his side go down with a game to go following their 3-2 home defeat by Crystal Palace, claimed the tragedy "puts it into perspective".
He said: "Yes, we've got relegated, but life is far more important. You can't plan for something like that and I didn't think it would affect the players in the way it did.
"I did think he would score 10 or 15 goals, he was the type we needed. It wasn't to be."
It is the third time the 70-year-old has suffered relegation from the top flight, with previous clubs Notts County and Sheffield United dropping a division in 1992 and 2007 respectively.
But Warnock, who has yet to confirm whether he will stay at the Welsh club after their second top-flight relegation in five years, was adamant his latest setback was different, insisting the home fans were proud of what his players had achieved as "they know we've given it our best".
PUTTING FOOTBALL INTO PERSPECTIVE
Yes, we've got relegated, but life is far more important. You can't plan for something like that.
NEIL WARNOCK, Cardiff manager, lamenting Emiliano Sala's death.
He added: "For a while, it looked like the remarkable resilience showed by everyone at the club following the tragedy might bring its own reward when something approaching normality returned.
"But, no matter what spirit the players showed, deficiencies in quality were clear.
"They (the fans) knew when I took over the club was in a mess, it's been reborn - everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet.
The Bluebirds boss also highlighted their 2-1 home loss to Chelsea in March as the turning point, admitting the "result killed us that night in the dressing room".
Referencing the moment defender Cesar Azpilicueta scored an offside equaliser six minutes from time, he said: "It was really low that night. They have kept fighting, so I have no complaints.
"The problems we have had to put up with throughout the season, I have nothing but praise for everybody. It makes such a difference when you hear the crowd."