Football grounds are like music. They bring back memories, good or bad. I was in the car the other day and a tune came on the radio. It took me back to having a horrendous pair of white flares and the moment I first met my wife Kim in a Bristol youth club. I'd seen her in school and fancied her. All this came flooding back as I was on the motorway because of one song – it was Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore", since you ask – and it is exactly the same when you pull up outside a certain stadium.
Until yesterday, Stoke was my bogey ground. There is nothing wrong with the Britannia Stadium. It is a lovely football arena. But a couple of years ago, on the final day of the 2007-08 season, it is where my then Leicester team were relegated. Stoke went up the same day and, while they celebrated, Leicester had to cope with the heartbreak of relegation. It was one of my worst days in football. So it was impossible to walk inside the stadium yesterday and not remember that horrible day.
However, my jinx is over after our 1-0 win. It was our best three points so far because we did it against a Stoke team who have been sensational all season. We worked so hard, defended as well as our backline ever has, and got the goal at an important time. We almost had a second when Gary Taylor-Fletcher planted a header against the bar. Well, apparently he did. I missed it because the Stoke fans near the dugout were giving me some stick about my coat, calling me an undertaker, so I was in the process of giving them a bit back. All I heard was one of my coaching staff scream "ooh, we nearly scored".
I paid a bit more attention after that but you are so close to the fans at Stoke, and they don't have locks on their gates, so you have to be sharp with the banter.
It was a cracking day but it could have gone the other way because Stoke hit our woodwork a few times. On another day they would have gone in and I wouldn't be able to sit here writing about a win. But I'll take it and I'll take 22 points by this stage – I could not be happier about that.
The last year and a bit at Blackpool have been fantastic and perhaps what happened at Stoke with Leicester has spurred me on. Maybe I was so desperate to erase the memory that I have worked harder than ever before without knowing it.
It was great to meet up for a natter with Tony Pulis, because he is one of my oldest friends in the game. We've known each other since our days at Bristol Rovers back in the early 1980s and he is a great bloke. He is one of the few managers I know who has never been relegated and that is an unbelievably rare thing.
There's another side to him that many don't know. He does a lot for the local community and for charity. In the last couple of years he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and run a marathon. It is important that managers try to do things like that.
No one has ever asked me to climb a mountain – thank goodness – but I did run a marathon four years ago in Edinburgh for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. That is a charity close to my heart because three of my children are deaf. I also wore a penguin suit for a charity calendar we produced at Blackpool last year, which was quite embarrassing, and I try to do plenty of after-dinner speaking to raise money for good causes.
Fair play to Tony for that mountain climb, though. That is going to the extremes, and rather him than me!
Cricket doesn't appeal
I am as patriotic as the next man and I'm delighted we are ahead in the Ashes, but you won't catch me staying up through the night to watch it.
I've got a problem with cricket which stems back to my schooldays. I was bowling against the best batsman in school, Martin Grimshaw, and my second ball hit his pad. I remember thinking "that was going to hit the wicket" but apparently just because I didn't shout "how is he?", or something like that, it was not out.
I didn't realise you had to appeal. I got told that if I had appealed the bloke would have been out. Grimshaw went on to win the game for his house team and I thought "that's rubbish, how stupid is that?" I lost patience with the game.
I'm like a single-cell amoeba about what I like to do. If it doesn't interest me, I don't care about it and cricket falls into that category. My Dad tried to get me into it by taking me to a local match. It was so hot, he fell asleep in a deckchair and did not miss a thing. I sat there thinking "someone's walking back, then he runs in and bowls, then it gets stopped, they all throw it round and he walks back again". Then he'd start rubbing his groin. I thought: "what's the point?" It was surreal.
Fortunately I had a mate with me so we nipped over to the cricket nets, used them as football nets and had a good kickabout. I realise cricket is a fantastically skilful sport and I wish England all the best. But it's not for me. I've neither the patience nor the talent to do it, so I'll stick to the footie.
The game let Gazza down
My heart goes out to Paul Gascoigne. What has happened to him is so sad. To see one of our best-ever players getting a suspended prison sentence is tragic. The game has let him down.
We have to help the likes of Gazza, and the Professional Footballers' Association have to lead the way. The game should put procedures in place to educate these people and ensure it doesn't keep happening.
There are some good charity organisations such as Sporting Chance, but they need to be given more funding. It breaks my heart to see Gazza like he is because he is a wonderful fella who has just lost his way.
FA Cup is off my radar
I love the FA Cup. It is an amazing competition which gives the minnows the chance to beat a shark. It amazes me to think Blackpool will be considered a major scalp, so we'll have to make sure we're up and at it when we go to Southampton in the third round.
But this season is different to any other, and the FA Cup is way down on my radar. All that matters come January will be whether I'm going to keep my players, and making sure we pick up results in the League. That means I will be utilising every member of my squad.
The way I look at it is: will we win the FA Cup? Probably not. If I got to the final then fantastic. But it is unlikely to happen and that's why the League has to be our priority.
My jaw hit the floor at shocking Hughton sacking
Nothing's black and white in football – even at Newcastle. I don't think I can ever remember a more shocking sacking than Chris Hughton's.
They finished as champions by a mile in the Championship and then he had them up to 11th in the Premier League. When you consider the mess they were in when he took over, it shows what a terrific job he did. Then he gets sacked. It made my jaw smash the floor.
As a manager, if you do well you believe it will be enough to keep you in a job. But in reality it isn't. It sums up football. It is owned by wealthy people who are used to doing what they want. We aren't party to what has happened behind the scenes, and perhaps I've no right to criticise, but what is certain is that Chris will come out of this in a very strong position. He has enhanced his reputation, so he will not be out of work for long.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. I know and like Alan Pardew. He is a friend and I wish him luck, but he has a big job to do.
Chris stopped the rot, turned things round and brought in a winning mentality. Look at Chelsea and what's happened since Ray Wilkins went – and he was only the assistant.
It will be interesting to see how the fans react. If they start protests, that is their choice. The supporters up there are so passionate and there are so many of them, and they will want to ask Mike Ashley why he has done what he's done.
To be fair to Mr Ashley, if you are a man who has put millions into a club you can do what you like, and he has. Do I think it is right? No. But I am not the owner of Newcastle and he will have to face the decision he has made with his fans. Good luck to him is all I can say.
Give Harry a knighthood
Sir H, as I call him, has done an incredible job. I'm talking about Harry Redknapp, who deserves to be knighted.
What has happened at Tottenham sums up how crazy football is. When Harry took over, Spurs were almost bottom. What he has done is phenomenal. Their Champions' League performances have been a breath of fresh air and to qualify above Inter is amazing.
The way they are playing, attacking and scoring goals, is wonderful. There is no reason why they can't go a long way in the competition, although, in later rounds, they will want to avoid Real Madrid and, in particular, Barcelona, who look unstoppable.
Well done to all four English clubs for qualifying. It is a cracking achievement, but special congratulations to Tottenham and Sir H – long may their good run continue ... though not next Sunday when we have to play them in the Premier League!Reuse content