Martin O'Neill will have been a busy man this week – your first few months at a new place always are. I've been at five clubs now – Bristol Rovers, QPR, Leicester, Plymouth and Blackpool – and that start-up time with your players is always important. You have to get to know them in the right way.
Martin will not have arrived on his first day at Sunderland, for instance, and given the players a rollicking or told them to buck up their act. He has nothing to tell them off for because they have done him no wrong yet. At this stage it is all about encouragement and trying to instil some belief.
It will also be about hard work and double training sessions. He will be making very clear, concise statements, using a tactics board to show his players what he wants, and he'll be taking them out on the grass and working them into a shape he and they are comfortable with.
He will have spent hours looking at all their games this season, thinking about their strengths and weaknesses, and what he will need to do in January.
I expect him to spend plenty. He will already have had that discussion with the chairman, and got a promise of how much cash he has to play with. You do that as a manager – before you take the job, you make damn sure the chairman is giving you the money you think you need.
The best managers are able to continue doing that after the honeymoon period. Without being inflammatory or derogatory, they need to put pressure on their chairman and make sure he stays on his toes. Tony Pulis has done that at Stoke, gradually and steadily building with the help of his chairman. Over time player standards have risen to the extent where they are now an established Premier League club and doing ever so well in Europe.
Martin will be aiming for the same at Sunderland but for the next month or so, before he gets the chance to dip into the transfer market, the biggest thing is tactics.
He will play a different style to Steve Bruce and that will affect some players as well. An older pro who might not have been fancied before might get a new lease of life in a different formation and system.
Like Harry Redknapp, Martin is a manager with nous and experience who will go in with a new zest to lift the whole place. Let's be honest, before Harry arrived, Tottenham looked a tired club. They had become a bit tight in terms of what they paid and were erring on becoming non-competitive.
Harry went bish-bosh-bash, told the board exactly how he was going to do things, and look at the transformation. He has taken them from bottom of the Premier League to title contenders.
I'm not saying Martin will turn Sunderland into potential champions but one thing is for sure: his appointment is bad news for Blackburn. With the crowd bouncing and the players giving their all, Steve Kean's men face a heck of a task at the Stadium of Light today.
Anelka right to seek final payday
Is Nicolas Anelka going to China for the money? What a stupid question – of course he is.
But do I blame him if he does leave Chelsea for the Far East in January? Not at all because you have a lot longer out of the game than you have in it. That means you have to earn enough to keep you for the rest of your life.
It is just a shame that some great blokes from the past, like Blackpool's Jimmy Armfield, didn't have the chance to do it. Jimmy is financially OK but he isn't the millionaire he deserves to be and he has to go and talk on the radio for a few quid.
But the game has changed now and there is an opportunity for players to make one last payday – like Asamoah Gyan going to the UAE, or David Beckham heading to LA Galaxy.
As for Anelka, I wish him good luck wherever he ends up. He has been sensational as a footballer, as sharp and as graceful as you'll see – and if I were Chelsea, I'd be fighting a lot harder than they are to keep him.
Great to see Tiger burning bright
Tiger Woods is the best example in living memory of why the very top sportsman have to be both physicallyand mentally right. I was pleased that he finally ended a two-year drought by winning at the weekend – but it just shows how long it took him to put his head back together.
Mental strength is absolutely everything but when all Tiger's problems came out in public, even he – a winning machine – went to pieces.
You can't do that if you want to reign supreme.
Look at Bjorn Borg. There were several players as good as him, but his incredible mental strength gave him that extra 10 per cent he needed to be the very best.
Phil "The Power" Taylor is as strong as an ox in the head and that is how he can carry on winning.
It isn't just about talent. You have to be able to do it, to win, at a particular moment and if your mind isn't right you have no chance – as Tiger has spent the last couple of years finding out.
Little Englanders are to blame for Manchester's off-night
Don't be shocked by United and City crashing out of Europe – it could become the norm in future years. We used to have the best players in the world in the Premier League and everyone else looked on in envy.
Not any more. The rest have caught up and in Spain's case, overtaken us. The days of four English clubs going through every year are coming to an end and the only way to regain our dominance is to change our style of football.
But that's the problem. Our fans won't let us. In England, supporters get edgy if their team isn't shooting or crossing the ball into the box. They start shouting "get it forward" because we're not the most patient people in the world.
The problem with that is when you lump a ball forward – the old up and under as we used to call it – it becomes a 50-50. You might win it, but so might the opposition.
In Spain they wouldn't dream of smacking a ball upfield. They retain possession and if that means knocking it around at the back for a bit then fine. The crowd are accustomed to that now and they love it, shouting "ole, ole". There is no grumbling because the fans know keeping the ball is all-important. In this country, we don't see it the same way. That means our teams can't play in that manner and as a result we are getting further behind the top teams when it comes to ball retention.
Basle are a Swiss club and yet they played in a Spanish style. It was hard for Manchester United to get the ball back when they lost it.
Barcelona rested10 players for their midweek game and still won 4-0. Staggering. But that's because the culture of how to play runs through the whole club and everyone plays the same way.
United will be more upset than City about going out. Sir Alex Ferguson will get criticised but you won't find me joining in. No one plans, rotates the squad, looks after people, sticks by them or trusts them as well as Sir Alex.
What happened in Europe was just one of those things. Had they taken their chances, they could easily have won.
But, long term, even the best teams in our country need to alter the way they play, otherwise we may get left behind.
The day I got the wind up
If only someone had been filming our training session on Thursday – it was like It's A Knockout.
Our training ground is right by the sea in Blackpool and the wind was gusting in at 70mph.
I was screaming instructions and the lads couldn't hear a word I was saying. Then when we got the ball out it just blew away. Our first team coach spent the entire two hours chasing after disappearing footballs. And after two hours in that wind, my skin has never been so smooth!Reuse content