Neil Warnock: Another fine mess that the men (and women) in black have got us all into

What I've Learnt This Week
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The Independent Online

It has not been the best of weeks for officials, and while I've every sympathy for Michael Jones, of "beach ball goal" fame, I'm not so understanding of our ref at Leicester, the five-official fiasco at Fulham, and the teacher who took charge of Amy's hockey match.

I guess events at Craven Cottage on Thursday showed it doesn't matter how many refs you have, they can still get it wrong. If you didn't see it, both the fifth official behind the goal and the referee managed to confuse a giant blond and a much shorter, dark curly-haired player. I suppose it's easily done. In the end the players had to tell him who to send off. Have you ever seen anything like it? The official behind the goal looked shell-shocked afterwards. And it was not even a red card as Brede Hangeland was between Riise and the goal.

The beach ball goal at Sunderland last Saturday was more forgivable. Hand on my heart I thought it were a goal. I didn't know the rules, so I do feel for Jones, who I think is one of the best young refs coming through. I thought anything on the field of play was incidental, like the ball hitting the referee.

There was not as much fuss about Leicester's first goal against us on Tuesday, but I knew straight away it shouldn't have been allowed. I don't argue with the decision to give a penalty, but as Matty Fryatt takes it Paul Gallagher is actually running past the ref, who is standing about two yards inside the area. So when Julian Speroni makes a great save Gallagher is on top of him before he can gather the ball. What's happened to this encroachment rule?

Even Amy suffered. I went to watch her play hockey, but as they were warming up their teacher came over and I heard her say to ours: "I've got netball in my diary." I turned to Sharon and said: "Oh no." So they played netball as the other team had no sticks or gumshields. They did well in the circumstances but what amazed me was that the teacher did not give the girls any leeway at all. Some didn't know the rules that well but she penalised every offence.

William was also disappointed. He went bowling with Amy, Sharon and her mum. I could tell when I saw him what had happened. He has his head between his legs. He lost to his grandmother, who's apparently brilliant, but William hates losing. I hope he'll be happier tomorrow. He's playing his first game for the academy against mighty Arsenal. We're all looking forward to it.

2. Why Arsène will have been happy to have hit 60

Tomorrow's other big game seems a straightforward win for Manchester United, the way Liverpool are playing with four straight defeats, Steven Gerrard and possibly Fernando Torres missing, and the club apparently in disarray. But beware the wounded animal. More than ever this season football is, as Jimmy Greaves used to say, "a funny old game", with a lot of strange results from United losing at Burnley to us winning at West Brom.

With Anfield full to the rim anything can happen, whatever team Benitez puts out, and I'm sure he won't be resting any players. Plus Manchester United are not really functioning 100 per cent yet.

I have a sneaky feeling the happiest person at the moment is birthday boy Arsène Wenger. Even when they have lost they have been by far the better team and must be quietly confident. Happy birthday Arsène, welcome to the over-sixties, though if ever I had a team like Arsenal I'm sure I'd look younger.

3. The laws have let Kenny down over drugs ban

I was sad to see Paddy Kenny's appeal against his drugs ban dismissed. Anyone who knows Paddy knows he's not the brightest of boys. When he went to the chemist for a cold remedy I can vouch he would not have thought anything about it. Even the FA accepted he was not attempting to cheat. Perhaps if he was Italian, and captain of his national side, he might have got away with it. It is farcical banning Paddy for nine months, when you consider West Brom's Roman Bednar, who admitted buying cocaine and cannabis, and was cautioned by the police for it, only got three months and they were served between May and August, when Albion hardly played.

On the subject of drugs, the testers were at Leicester and they asked for Clint Hill and Freddie Sears. I'm all in favour of testing, but it can be a problem at away games because the rest of the team have to wait for the tested players to give a sample. When they have been running around for 90 minutes they are so dehydrated that can be difficult. We were due to leave at 10.15, and it is a long enough journey anyway after an evening match without waiting around for an hour, especially if you've lost.

I've been campaigning for years for a car to be provided to take the tested players home, allowing everyone else to get away on time. I'm sure with all the money in football today that can be done. Of course, that is just too simple a solution.

While I wait for the authorities to bring this in – and I expect a long wait – I have to use more unorthodox methods to get my team to bed on time. As soon as I found out about the tests I went to see if any of our supporters were still in the stadium. When I found one I asked if he could hang about for the players and give them a lift home. As it turned out Clint was OK straight away, but poor old Freddie started his journey at 11.30. So, thanks very much to that supporter.

4. What a way for flying Button to seal world title

I was really excited watching Jenson Button last weekend. What a fantastic first lap. If ever someone won a world championship on one race that has to be it. The guts and ability he showed made me proud to be British. And what a nice lad he seems to be. I also enjoyed Jarno Trulli's bust-up with Sutil, real handbags stuff.

Congratulations also to Beth Tweddle. Some friends went along and said she was brilliant. She's 24 too, which is old for a gymnast, but what an example for the youngsters trying to get in the team for the Olympics. What a pity she barely got a paragragh in most papers after all that work and dedication.

5. I am glad the Bluebirds saw sense over allegations

Something else which did not get much coverage was the news that Cardiff had withdrawn the accusations made after last week's game. Funny that, because the allegations themselves got a lot of coverage.

I'm glad they saw sense once the facts became known because it threatened to overshadow a good result for us at their wonderful new ground. It's the first time I'd seen it and although, like most new grounds, it lacks the hostility of their old one, I was impressed. As I said to the locals as we exchanged some banter when we arrived: "It's even got carpets – I bet you're not used to that."

Unusually, we're at home today, a breather between trips to Cardif, Leicester, Preston and QPR. Wonderful things, fixture lists, how fair they are. We're playing the form team in the country, Nottingham Forest, who've six wins from six. So far the massive spending in the summer seems to be doing the trick as they try to get back into the big time. It's another challenge for the lads, who I've been really pleased with over the last few weeks.

6. Southgate's sacking stirred up some memories

I suppose to everybody on the outside it was the timing, after they had won to go within a point of the top, which was the surprise about Gareth Southgate leaving Middlesbrough. It does seem harsh and I suppose it would have been easier for the chairman if they had got beat.

It reminded me of when I was at Oldham. Alan Hardy, who's now back there as chief executive, told me and Sharon, who was pregnant with Amy, we could go ahead with house-hunting as I would be given another year.

We then went to Grimsby, where the bench is on the opposite side to the directors' box. We scored and I found myself looking across. They all had their heads in their hands. I thought nothing of it, until the same thing happened when we scored again. When I got home I said to Sharon: "Darling, forget about buying a house, they are not renewing my contract on Monday." Sure enough Ian Stott, who was a good chairman, told me: "I didn't want you to come, but now I don't want you to go, but the board's decided."

I suppose Gareth will feel a little bit bitter, but he will have learnt from having to cut wages, slash staff and so on in the last couple of seasons and I'm sure he'll be back. I'll miss him keeping his cool at terrible refereeing decisions, something I could never do.

7. Not taking the Micky, but did you see Question Time?

Just a couple of final observations. If you watch X-Factor, don't vote for those twins again, they are doing my head in and make William dance around like a madman.

I also turned on Question Time and got the shock of my life. I thought it was Micky Adams representing the BNP. Only joking, Micky, but you do look like that Griffin bloke.

And finally, this postal strike must be a worry for the FA. It could take weeks for Alex Ferguson's reply to his improper conduct charge, for calling Alan Wiley unfit, to arrive.

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