What a mad week. I was sitting there on Tuesday night watching what happened in Serbia to the Under-21s in disbelief, then last night a moron runs out from our fans at Hillsborough and attacks Chris Kirkland.
I was appalled and embarrassed. I hope they catch the idiot and lock him up. But there was a difference. Serbia was half the crowd and a lot of the players, last night was one moron.
Dave Jones, Sheffield Wednesday's manager, was unhappy that I went to clap the Leeds fans afterwards but as I said to him, "We had 5,000 fans there, I was clapping the other 99 per cent". Dave was angry at chants they had directed at him but while there is no excuse for that he doesn't seem to have heard the things the Wednesday fans were singing about me.
The atmosphere was tense from early on when the Wednesday fans started taunting our fans about the murder in Turkey of two Leeds fans a few years ago. I could see they were getting aggravated and I said to the linesman, "Should I go on the pitch and calm them down?" He said, "No Neil, that might only make things worse."
The pity of it was that we should have been talking about Michael Tonge's goal. There were 14 passes leading up to that. And if it hadn't have been for that moron disrupting the game's momentum I think we would have won. It was a good recovery as we were poor in the first half – I think Rodolph Austin was still on the plane after his late return from playing for Jamaica – and at the break I had to tell them to calm down and stop blaming the referee. "It's us that's poor, not him, sort yourselves out," I said.
It all made for an intense few days for one of our players. We were pleased to get Tom Lees back from Serbia in one piece after the England Under-21 match. He said though he only suffered a slap in the face he feared for his life at the end because it was so wild anyone could have been running around with a weapon.
We've just been fined for a melee after our game with Doncaster last season, but Tom said this was 10 times worse. He'd never seen anything like it. It was, he said, even worse than the TV pictures suggested. They were expecting trouble as Serbia had moved the game from the capital to Krusevac as it was a noted for having a hostile crowd and right from the beginning the missiles were raining down on them. Yet they blamed Danny Rose! Now we wait to see what Uefa do. I bet Serbia just get a £20,000 fine and a slap on the wrist.
2. Warsaw wash-out
What a farce the postponed England senior game was. To not put the roof on was scandalous. I do feel for the fans who travelled. You don't mind as much when postponement is unavoidable – that is bound to happen at times. I remember when I was at Rotherham we were about to play Leeds in the FA Cup when the fog came down. We'd already done a warm-up; suddenly you couldn't see 10 yards. The fans were already coming in but the ref had no choice. Unfortunately, by the time the game was rearranged I'd been dropped and missed out on what was a really big game, as Leeds were in their heyday.
Watching the ref trying to kick the ball on the sodden pitch in Warsaw reminded me of a few years ago when I took Crystal Palace to QPR. It was lashing down and the ref was doing a pitch inspection. He kicked the ball and it went five yards then stopped. It soon became obvious part of the pitch wasn't really playable, which was fine by me as I had two good players injured, one suspended and another who would have to play with an injury. I immediately said: "I've every sympathy for you, referee, I agree with you totally, you can't play on this." He called it off.
The difference was we didn't have to play the following day. That didn't help England. The ordinary Sunday League player may find it difficult to understand how hard it is for professionals to be put back 24 hours but they are like finely tuned cars, the slightest tinkering and it goes all over the show. There is so much expertise in the game now all geared up for getting players to peak at kick-off time. The adrenalin is pumping and the comedown is massive. I am absolutely shattered an hour after the game. The lads would have found it very hard to get a good night's sleep – not that I think the sleeping tablets had any bearing on their lacklustre performance.
I rarely enjoy watching England but, whilst I know we haven't got that many world-class players, I still expect a better performance than we are getting at the moment. Roy Hodgson's had a cracking career, and it must be a dream job for him, but I think he is more comfortable in setting out a disciplined side that is hard to beat than one seeking to win matches. England are a bit like Liverpool were when he managed them, struggling a bit with the expectation of winning. Being well organised might get us qualified but it won't win the World Cup. Mind you, unless we get an unbelievable group of players come through it is hard to see us getting close to winning a major tournament in my lifetime, whoever is the manager.
3. My San Marino risk
I sat down to watch the San Marino game with the family and they asked who would win. I said: "If San Marino get a result tonight I will quit as a football manager." Sharon immediately said: "You heard that, kids, you are my witness to what Dad has said." Then every time England missed a sitter she gave me that look.
It was unbelievable how the FA managed to get 90,000 to the game because, even with my future riding on it, by the time England scored the first goal we'd turned over to watch Wales v Scotland. It was an exciting match and one that showed again how a manager's fate hangs on a thread. Had Fletcher's goal counted I'm sure Scotland would have won; instead Wales get a penalty – and if anyone tripped Gareth Bale it was himself – then a winner. The officials looked to be in the wrong, but what good is that to Craig Levein afterwards?
4. A nice (egg) break
I took advantage of the international break to spend a few days at home in Cornwall, but it wasn't that relaxing. Sharon gave me the task of getting rid of boxes we've been moving around from house to house unopened since 1996. It took me the best part of two days and I must have shredded a skip-load of stuff, including my account books going right back to when I was a chiropodist at Scarborough.
There were lots of letters from the FA charging me with things, half of which I'd completely forgotten about. It did make me laugh, reading about all the things I've said over the years that I shouldn't have.
I was also told to look after the chickens since getting them was my idea. We must have the cleanest chickens in the country; every morning their coop is washed down. When I went to clean it out I found my first egg. It was so exciting. I put it in my pocket as I carried on spraying, then as I was leaving I bent down to put the back of the coop back on. I heard this crack. I could have cried. I put my hand in my pocket and carefully pulled out a badly cracked egg. The white had leaked a bit but the yolk was unbroken. I ran down to Sharon and said: "Quick, can I have a fried egg?" It made a lovely sandwich with a slice of bread.
I was able to see Will play his first game for Plymouth Argyle's academy, a derby against Exeter. He scored and they won so it was a great start. There had been so much rain in the West Country Will's match was moved to Exeter University. I was hugely impressed by the facilities there, even if it took us 20 minutes to find the car park.
I also took Amy to Truro to play hockey, so I more than did my parental duty. How Sharon does it all when I'm not there I don't know.Reuse content