Neil Warnock: An empty bench and a borrowed bus – the reality of my club's slide into administration
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 30 January 2010
Wow. What a week. Now I know what it must feel like to be hit by a bus.
I knew we had financial problems, but to find out we had been put into administration through a text message while on the runway at Newcastle Airport on Wednesday was a surprise to say the least. I thought at first someone was joking – until a couple of lads told me they'd got a similar text and heard it was on TV. Myself and the players were slightly dazed as we waited for our bags at the carousel, and then got on the bus to go to our hotel.
There I gathered the players together to explain where we all, stood. Then I said that, while we were all understandably shell-shocked, they had done brilliantly to get near the play-offs and it would be a shame if we cannot continue to perform like that between now and the end of the season – starting with the game against Newcastle.
They did me proud. After we conceded a bizarre own goal a lot of people would have expected us to roll over but we had it not been for a world-class save by Steve Harper I think we could have won it. We took an unbelievable amount of fans for a midweek trip like that and they really made a noise. I flew straight back after the game as I had to see the administrator in the morning, but the players, who went back on Thursday, told me they were given a standing ovation by the supporters at the airport. Shaun Derry, our captain, said it was "very touching".
We'd flown not because we're living the high life at Palace but because we managed to get a sponsor to cover the cost, which saved us from arriving back in London as the birds were singing. It also meant we could train up there before the game, which was great, except we lost Claude Davis and Alassane N'Diaye in training. Then the administrator said we could not play Victor Moses, in case he was injured. I'd already told Vic I was leaving him out but I didn't mention that to the administrator. I didn't want to spoil his moment.
We did our best to save a few bob. We borrowed Newcastle's coach for the journey to the ground. As I said to the fans and stewards when we got off, "That's the nearest I'll ever get to managing Newcastle United."
Come the game it would have been handy to have Vic on the bench as we had just three subs. When the linesman came to check the players' studs he shouted, having seen most of them, "Any more?" I said, "Stop taking the mickey, linesman."
Then our centre-half, Johannes Ertl, pulled up within 60 seconds. When your luck's out, it's out. We took him off after five minutes. You might ask what happened in between – Matt Lawrence, on the bench, did not have his socks, shinpads or boots on. I could sympathise with Harry Redknapp's disbelief when Tottenham's Sébastien Bassong didn't have his shorts on at Anfield last week. When, a couple of minutes later, another player said his hamstring was sore I was contemplating using a centre-forward at centre-half. Fortunately he was OK and I could save the other subs until later.
The match itself was cracking, a real old-fashioned game, excellently refereed by Russell Booth, with lots of chances and some tasty tackles from the likes of Alan Smith and Kevin Nolan, and one or two of ours. It was almost as fiery on the touchline – I thought we must be playing well for them to be having a go at me. I really got into it, it was lovely, but even though both benches were shouting their piece I think we both respected what we were doing. When I shook Chris Hughton's hand at the end I said, "Don't complain about having no money please."
I just hope it didn't take too much out of us. Today's game is, in many ways, tougher. Newcastle away takes care of itself, Peterborough are in the relegation battle and we have to get our heads around the fact we are too.
2. We need to sell but won't be left with eight
The administrator promised me my coaching staff are safe (we have not got that many compared to most clubs) and I said I'd be fine with him as long as he was honest with me, and he didn't sell players for silly prices. Obviously some will have to go, probably starting with Vic, but our staff is already small and there is a limit. At Newcastle one of the press guys asked what would happen if we sold six. I said, "I doubt the League will let us play with eight men." Everyone laughed except the questioner. I think he thought I was serious.
You can't plan too far ahead in this situation. I'm just going to work hard, enjoy myself, and try to get results. I still can't understand why anyone would put us into administration with the transfer window open. I can't really go into details, but it doesn't actually help the people who did it.
3. Don't take spelling tests too literally
Sharon went away for the evening on Thursday and I did William's spelling. He had about 25 words to do, in two columns. I was doing all the words, then came across a line saying, "extra words". I read it out, and said, "spell it". "Dad, that means that column has more words in it," said William. My mind must have been elsewhere.
4. Old Trafford yobs need to be punished
I missed the Manchester Carling Cup derby. The atmosphere sounded great, apart from the mindless yobs who threw things at Craig Bellamy. One of the lads said they had narrowed it down – to everyone who's ever met him. Only joking, Craig. More seriously, the guys who did it need to be identified and severely punished. That sort of thing is very dangerous for all of us involved in the game.
5. Villa's 'long ball' game will be a prize draw
It'll be nice to relax on Tuesday when Wolves come to our place in the FA Cup. But though there's no points at stake it's a match worth winning, as Aston Villa is a great draw for the winners. Of course, they are long-ball merchants according to Arsène Wenger, but let's be honest, any team playing Arsenal have to seem long ball in comparison.
6. If Murray fancies a game he'd be welcome
The one thing I have enjoyed this week is the tennis. It's been perfect for viewing: breakfast time on the BBC and I'll certainly be tuning in tomorrow morning. I do enjoy watching Andy Murray. It's great to have someone British who has so much guts, energy and determination. I like his game too. He's got a bit of everything. He can stay back, but he has a short game, he lobs too. I bet he's decent at all sports. When he comes back from Australia he could come here on a non-contract basis, I'm sure he'd get a game.
Actually, he's not the only one. If you're coming down to Selhurst today and you've a bit of pace, and don't want too much money, bring your boots. There'll be plenty of space on our bench.
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