Neil Warnock: After a rollercoaster ride Blackpool's brilliant display showed some real front
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 15 May 2010
I've never seen two more exciting Championship play-off games than this week's.
They had everything, though I wasn't surprised Blackpool won at Forest. I spoke to an old-team-mate, Graham Collier, a mad Forest fan I used to play with at Scunthorpe, after the first leg. He was buoyant but I warned him that in the play-offs it is difficult to overcome a first-leg defeat because of the expectation and pressure. On the night Blackpool were unbelievable. Ollie [Ian Holloway] must be pinching himself. I've got to say the club itself has probably illuminated Blackpool more than other things, it's a towering achievement. Sharon says it's a rollercoaster ride for them, and that's enough puns.
The match at Cardiff put the managers though every emotion. I can't imagine what Nigel Pearson thinks of Kermorgant's penalty. I don't know what I would have said.
Cardiff are favourites for the final but I don't see that. We'll find out next Saturday and I'm really looking forward to the day because I've been asked to do something I've always wanted to do, present Six-O-Six on Radio Five Live. The number of times I've been sat on that motorway thinking "Get him off, you're doing my head in". And that's just Alan Green. Only joking Alan. I told the BBC I'll do it as long as I have one of those buttons to press if someone abuses me. Feel free to call in and tell the world about the column. Independent readers will be given priority.
2. A long shot, but Chelsea could slip up at Wembley
There are no certainties in football, that's what makes it such a great game. Portsmouth should be 100-1 to beat Chelsea today but dafter things have happened, especially on pitches like Wembley's. I bet there are groundsmen turning over in their graves when you think of the old Wembley turf. I remember the magic when you walked on it, it was like no other turf in the country, like a carpet.
I once played there so I know from experience how good it was. To save you looking through the record books I'd better tell you I was about 14, it was the 1964 final, when Howard Kendall played as a kid for Preston against West Ham. I had a tennis ball and I waited about an hour after the game finished then ran on the pitch. I still got shouted at, but I could tell everybody I had played there.
When I stood on that pitch I dreamed of walking out at Wembley for a game. That drove me on as a manager. I was never likely to do it as a player, there weren't so many games there then. So my ambitions from starting at Gainsborough Trinity were to manage at Wembley, and manage in the top flight. I finally got to Wembley with Notts County in 1990 and it was fantastic.
I went back last Saturday for the FA Trophy final, Stevenage v Barrow. The stadium is magnificent but I have to say the pitch, which was newly relaid, is still so bad that Portsmouth have 25 per cent more chance of getting a result there than anywhere else. I know Chelsea are capable of battering them but I've never seen so many people slipping over.
It looks in great condition but I found out when I walked on it that it is very firm underneath, so when they water it, it becomes slippery. I don't think anyone will know what footwear to wear. I'd be tempted to wear a long stud and risk the blisters. Blades and short studs will make it like playing on an ice rink.
Watching the game I couldn't stop thinking about the FA Cup final. It was so difficult to move the ball quickly on the floor because players are always waiting for the ball to roll. When Chelsea win 9-0 you'll know I've been talking rot.
3. A referee playing a blinder? I couldn't possibly comment
Stevenage were physically stronger but Barrow persevered and won last Saturday. It looked as if they were fortunate not to concede a penalty at 1-0 but the referee said no, and, wait for it ... he got it right. It was Lee Probert, who sent me off at QPR when I was Palace manager. He and his linesman were fantastic on the day in a difficult game. He seemed so much more relaxed than in the past, that arrogance was not there, he'd matured. I told him how well he'd done afterwards, but asked him to keep it to himself as I don't want to get a bad reputation.
4. Golden day beckons for new dad Michael Brown
One player who should be feeling fantastic when they kick off is my old midfielder, Michael Brown, after the birth of his son. When I read he was thinking of missing the final because of the birth I thought, "Yeah, don't give me that one, if it comes to it the baby will be born on Wembley Way" – so I wasn't surprised when I heard Ela had been induced. They've called the baby Ritz Lazlo Joseph Brown. Either they like cheese biscuits or they stayed at a very nice hotel. Good job it wasn't a Travel Lodge.
5. From wally with the brolly to the Kaiser of Wolfsburg
Did you see the quote from Steve McClaren in which he said he wanted to "take Wolfsburg back to the top of the Bundesliga, and then ve vil invade Poland". All right, he didn't say the last bit. Seriously, winning the Dutch title and now landing a plum job in Germany is a fantastic achievement. I'm delighted for him after the abuse he took with England. That said, I have been soaked a few times because of him. Every time it rains at training and I think about putting up an umbrella, I think of Steve at Wembley that night and realise I can't.
6. Brake hard if you see my little ducks looking for a pond
I looked out of the window this week to see a duck in the garden with three babies. I presumed someone had a pond nearby so we knocked on all our neighbours' doors. No one had a pond, but William made some new friends. Then I rang the RSPCA. "We can't do anything, but whatever you do don't feed them as then they'll stay," they said. I looked out of the window at them tucking into the bread and water we'd put out for them. Sure enough, eight hours later they were still there. I tried to catch them in a cardboard box to take them to Richmond Park and got the little 'uns, but the mother was too quick. In the end I had to open the gate and they waddled out. The bloke over the road said they usually get squashed by a car. I can only hope they found a pond.
7. Just William: a new chapter
William was away for two days on an Outward Bound doing abseiling. He looked shattered when I picked him up so I asked him if he'd had a late night. He said it was difficult because a lad kept shining a torch in his eyes. His next adventure is a couple of games of cricket with a hard ball. We went to get him some pads and the first pair he tried on come just under his chin. We took the smaller ones.
8. My biggest signing of the year was Wayne Rooney
I went to the Football Writers' Association's Footballer of the Year dinner with my fellow Independent writers on Thursday. Wayne Rooney won by a landslide: anyone would love a player like him in their side. Whether in the Premier League or a Sunday league, you know he would give his all. My colleagues were surprised at me chasing his autograph but I was determined to get one for William.
I also got Pat Jennings and Dave Mackay. I have to admit William said he wasn't really aware of those two, but they were two of the greats. I spoke to Dave Mackay and reminded him that in my first year as a pro, at Chesterfield, we played Derby pre-season. Dave had just signed and our manager Jimmy McGuigan told us "Play on Mackay, he can't run". He couldn't, he never left the centre circle – but he dominated from start to finish. He looked in great shape at the dinner, better than when he played.
9. Have a great summer
This is my last column for the season so I wish all my readers a happy summer. We were hoping to find some sun at half-term but with all the problems with flying we're going to Scotland instead, to Dunoon, where Sharon's grandparents lived. While Amy goes pony-trekking with Sharon I'll teach William salmon-fishing, and try to persuade him to take a dip with me in this cold, deep plunge pool at Glen Massan. I jumped in with James years ago.
We start pre-season training on 1 July and I'll be taking the team to Cornwall and Italy. We're playing two games there, but the real reason we're going is so I can get three suits from the tailor that Gianni [Paladini, QPR chairman] uses. And the World Cup? Shall I lie and tell you all England will win? No, let's face reality. We'll do well to get to the semi-finals; the winner will be Brazil or Spain.
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