Neil Warnock: A birthday bash then it's back to inconvenient business of transfers

What I Learnt This Week: It's a case of dealing with the groundless speculation and trying to hang on to my best players
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The Independent Online

1. No time for scouting on my Scottish jaunt

For those of you who saw me in the departure lounge at Glasgow Airport on Thursday night, no, I'm not buying a player from Celtic or Rangers, or Partick Thistle either, which with my budget is a bit more likely.

I was in Scotland not to get an early start in the transfer window but to commemorate my 60th birthday which, you will recall, was shortly before Christmas. The run of matches then meant it was impossible to celebrate properly but I took advantage of a small gap in the calendar to invite family and best friends to join me on a mystery trip. All I told them was to arrive at Gatwick with their passports and some warm clothing. The betting, apparently, was on Salzburg or Switzerland. Instead we went north, to Glasgow, then on to the Ardkinglas Estate on Loch Fyne.

Keen film buffs will know the place, it has featured in several recent movies including "The Water Horse", "My Life So Far" and even, apparently, an episode of "Eastenders", though I can't imagine what the Cockneys were doing in a Scottish castle. It was a joint party with an old friend, between us there were about 25 of us. We had three fabulous days with the main feature on Tuesday. We had the most wonderful meal, then went outside on to a terrace for an amazing firework display set on the banks of the Loch. The castle was all lit up, there was a piper playing and the fireworks reflected off the water. It was a fantastic, memorable evening. Almost worth reaching 60 for. I even had a kilt on and danced a few Scottish reels. We had a couple of relaxing days, with William and James, my sons, proving too good for the girls at Monopoly, then came back.

Typically, there I was at Glasgow airport waiting for the flight to be called, when my phone rings. It was a journalist from a Scottish newspaper. Oh no, I thought, someone thinks I'm here to do some transfer business. It turned out to be a coincidence, he was asking about an old player of mine now at a Scottish club and if I was interested in buying him back. I wasn't. All these conversations start the same way. The journalist starts by saying, "I know there's nothing in it, but do you want to comment on..."

To managers like me the transfer window is just an inconvenience. It is only for teams with money. For me it is a case of dealing with all the speculation, most of it groundless, and trying to hang on to my best players. Which reminds me, Ben Watson's got an injury at the moment. The medical boys are optimistic but I've already told them he'll be struggling until about 2 February. That's right, the day the window shuts.

2. Gerrard case shows how careful you must be

Obviously I don't know the details of the incident that Steven Gerrard was caught up in last week, I don't suppose any of us will until it comes to court. What I do know is how easy it is for these situations to develop. When you are in the public eye, particularly in a passionate game like football, you have to be careful where you go, and how late you are out because when it gets late and the drink starts to kick in people can be difficult to deal with. In Sheffield, with two clubs, and me being known as a Unitedite as well as their manager, I obviously used to get a lot of rivalry with Wednesdayites but it never went into nastiness, there was just a healthy respect.

You can get problems though in the most unlikely of places. Earlier this year I was by the London Eye with the family when we became engaged in some banter with some Millwall fans. At first it was fine, all light-hearted, but then some more became involved who appeared to have had a drink and it began to escalate. One of them threw something which hit Sharon on the back of the head. I couldn't see any police around, you never can when you need them, so we just had to get our heads down and keep walking, keeping the kids in front of us in case anything else was thrown.

3. We need to find a cure for the seven-day itch

I heard this week that a Football League manager loses his job every seven days this season. It shows how itchy-fingered directors are becoming. I think expectations are just too great at too many clubs, there are only so many teams that can win something but fans and directors think their own teams should be up amongst it even when their resources mean they have no chance.

To me, it underlines the need to have experience. If there is a young manager, and we all have to start somewhere, he needs help, not necessarily a director of football type, but someone on the board who knows the game. For me, at my stage, the challenge with our wage bill is to unearth the youngsters and free transfers who can compete with clubs who have parachute payments to play with.

4. Stoke's pitch battle was beyond belief

I've been in this game a long time, but I've never come across anything like the dust-up between Stoke's Ricardo Fuller and Andy Griffin last week. I've witnessed a couple of fights in the dressing room, and plenty of rows in training, but not on the pitch.

The one I remember best in the dressing room was between Marcus Bent and Paul Devlin. Marcus was disappointed with something that had happened on the pitch so he walked up to Devlin and put his head in front of him like rutting stags. That was a mistake as Devlin didn't need asking twice. There was blood everywhere. It wasn't a problem long term. They were back to being mates 24 hours later. I loved it. It shows a bit of passion. You have to have a bit of devilment in the dressing room.

5. It's been a few years so I'd like a Cup run

We're at Leicester today, which isn't the easiest FA Cup tie we could have had. They are flying, looking good bets for winning League One under Nigel Pearson, and will want to keep their run going. I'm hoping my lot will be just as motivated as injuries and suspensions mean I'll be giving some fringe players a chance.

I'd like a run in the Cup, it's been a few years since I took Sheffield United to the semi-final so I'm due one. I just hope the fringe players take more advantage of the opportunity than they did in the Carling Cup when we got battered 4-0 at Leeds.

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