Neil Warnock: A chairman's new year resolutions: 1 Get fit. 2 Cut down on drink. 3 Sack the manager
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 08 January 2011
Since my last column, seven days ago, six managers have left their jobs in the Football League, two in each division. That's at the time of writing, it could be more by the time you read this.
What is it about the first week of January? Is it something to do with new year resolutions? Do chairmen have a list: 1 Get fit. 2 Cut down on the drinking. 3 Get a new manager? I remember at Plymouth losing an FA Cup match against Peterborough around this time and it ended up being my last game.
I can understand the Premier League being affected by the transfer window with clubs feeling they have to make their minds up about the manager before deciding to back him with money, but it is not the same in the Football League, you can always get loan players in. Obviously everyone is panicking and once somebody departs it seems to have a domino effect.
Earlier this season I compared the way Craig Short was not given a chance at Notts County to how fortunate Paul Peschisolido is to have a chairman like Ben Robinson at Burton Albion, who doesn't have a knee-jerk reaction to losing three or four games. Ben takes the view he appointed the manager so he should stick with him, as he did with Nigel Clough for 10 years of ups and downs. I said to Paul, "Enjoy your time there, because you will find that's not the case at most clubs."
Look, for example, at Charlton. I get the South London Press delivered as I like to keep a check on events at Crystal Palace. On Tuesday morning, I read an article with Charlton's new owners, Tony Jimenez and Michael Slater, in which they said: "This week we will start to identify players that Phil [Parkinson] wants that we think we can secure and can take from there." Slater and Jimenez, the piece added, "also spelt out that Phil Parkinson will get the players' backing. 'He is going to remain the manager,' Slater said, 'the fact the club are third in the division speaks for itself.'"
Later that same day, Charlton, having lost 4-2 to Swindon on Monday, sacked Parkinson and the next headline was, "Dennis Wise is expected to return to football as new manager of Charlton." The article read: "Chairman Michael Slater said: 'Clearly, improvement is needed on the field.'" What chance have you got if people react like that? In fairness to Phil, he is better off gone.
In my division, we have had another two dismissals, George Burley at Palace and Roy Keane at Ipswich. That means nine clubs out of the 24 in this division now have a different manager to the one they began the season with.
2. We've all been unwilling participants in the sack race
Only two Premier League clubs have sacked their managers so far this season (Newcastle and Blackburn) but from what you read and hear it only seems to be a matter of time before someone else does. Four men are under enormous pressure and their situations say a lot about modern-day expectations. Roy Hodgson, Avram Grant, Gérard Houllier and Carlo Ancelotti all had bad results in midweek, and being a manager it made for gruelling listening while driving up from Cornwall on Wednesday.
As they went from one ground to another I went through all the emotions they must be feeling. Carlo conceded the first goal of the night, Avram was three-down at half-time, Roy was two-down and Gérard lost Emile Heskey to a red card before going behind. When I got home to watch Match of the Day I looked at their faces and could only feel for them. As managers we have all been through that and their expressions did not make for happy viewing.
Listening to a phone-in after the Blackburn defeat I could understand where Liverpool fans were coming from given the results, and people have the right to dislike Roy as much as they want, but the facts are the squad of players Rafa Benitez left behind was nowhere near up to the club's standard. One of the presenters said, "Do you think Liverpool fans are kidding themselves because of where they were 20 years ago?" He might have a point.
3. City must come out and play
Manchester City are flexing their muscles again in the transfer market, though I don't know why they are bothering buying a new striker when they never get out of their own half away from home. You have to wish Arsenal had scored from that great early chance on Wednesday as that would have made City come out and play. As it is, the manager can argue he got it right as they got the point. Yes, and as always, to hell with the paying public.
It was a strange ending to the game with the two red cards. At such a late stage referee Mike Jones could have given both players yellow. I certainly couldn't see what Pablo Zabaleta did to deserve red. I don't know whether referees have been told to get players off for confrontations but it seems they are over-reacting. We had Clint Hill's red card rescinded after he was dismissed against Swansea because he simply didn't do anything.
Referees are taking too long to get into the middle of confrontations to sort them out. If they are being told to stand back so they can see everything, guidelines might have to be changed because if the ref gets in immediately it does not escalate.
4. High-fives for Pardew
Before Alan Pardew took over at Newcastle, Leon Best was being touted to every club in the Championship, so he must have been thrilled to get a hat-trick in his first Premier League start for Newcastle against West Ham. How satisfying for Alan to have his faith in Leon rewarded and for his team to get five against a club who sacked him.
5. Happy that Christmas is over
I am glad the Christmas programme is over. After four games in 10 days I was shattered, never mind the players, and the expense on supporters must be phenomenal.
We were a bit unlucky last Saturday to catch a Norwich team who had their Boxing Day game called off but credit to the lads for bouncing back against Bristol City on Monday with a fabulous performance even though we only got a point.
We're now trying to get two or three players in on loan to supplement the squad before our next League match. We have a couple of injuries and were disappointed to lose Kyle Walker. Spurs want him to play Premier League football and he has gone to Aston Villa. He has done well for us and I hope it goes well for him as he's a good lad.
6. More musicals, please
While I was at Norwich last weekend, Sharon took the kids to Oliver! She says it were wonderful and I think the kids appreciated it. Then they went for a walk around Covent Garden. Needless to say, another CD was purchased to go with our collection from one of the musicians there. They are wonderful. When people ask what would you do if you were not a football manager, I always think about being a musician. We are lucky down here to have places like Covent Garden.
It was back to school for the kids on Wednesday. William started well with three tries in the afternoon while Amy looks so grown up as each week passes. Suddenly she's 12 going on 20. You notice the traffic difference when the kids go back to school. On the way to training on Thursday I took a wrong turning as I was distracted and went through Richmond instead of around it. It took me 35 minutes longer.
7. Cup still makes you think
I am not going to lie to you, the FA Cup is not a priority, but I am sure the lads will relish a day off from the pressure of the league season at Blackburn today, despite being disappointed that they will not be facing Ronaldinho and David Beckham.
Steve Kean's obviously looking to improve his squad but their victory over Liverpool showed how many good players he has. I am sure Blackburn are one of those clubs who are thinking they could have a real go at winning the FA Cup.
There are a few ties that have caught my eye including Dover at my old club Huddersfield, though I don't hold much hope for them, and Sven Goran Eriksson's Leicester facing Man City. If I were to recommend an upset for the bookies that would be it. I wouldn't want to be in Nigel Clough's Derby dressing room on Monday at Crawley. They are the current millionaires of non-League football and Steve Evans will no doubt be revving them up. That's not a game for the faint-hearted.
Bolton v York might not be a top tie in everybody's eyes but it did make me think. In 1987, I was at Scarborough. We had just been promoted to the Football League and we beat Bolton 4-0 early on at Seamer Road. York were our local rivals, but they were in the division above us. Now look at where those clubs are. The grass is six-foot high on Scarborough's pitch with the stands falling down, York are non-League, and Bolton pushing for Europe. What a difference.
What happened at Scarborough is an absolute tragedy. They have reformed but it is a long haul back and at the moment they play in Bridlington in the Northern Counties East League.
I feel sorry for Carlisle, they get to the third round and are drawn away to Torquay – what a journey. It brings back some happy memories though. When I saved Torquay from relegation we made ourselves safe at Carlisle. I was supposed to drive back to Sheffield with Kevin Blackwell but it was such a good atmosphere after the game we got on the coach, with someone following in our car. We pulled off at Lancaster and had a Chinese with the chairman and all the lads. You'd think we'd won the World Cup. That's how this game can make you feel, which is why, despite all the trigger-happy chairmen, there'll always be someone else willing to have a go.
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