Neil Warnock: As Paulo Di Canio must now know, it’s people skills over coaching skills

Warnock's World: The Sunderland job is a great opportunity but they should have kept O’Neill

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The Independent Football

You never like to see another manager lose his job, but it was no great surprise when Sunderland sacked Paolo Di Canio. The writing was on the wall after the Crystal Palace game when he hammered John O’Shea. Having lost the ball O’Shea made a genuine attempt to win it back but he mistimed his tackle. As you may recall, he was sent off and gave away a penalty, and Sunderland lost. I can understand a manager being upset in those circumstances, but to lambast him like Di Canio did was incredible. You need everyone in the dressing room singing from the same hymn sheet – you’re all in it together.

Steve Bruce was right when he said you cannot rule by fear any more, you have to be a man-manager. Players have never been so powerful, and in general they are more sensitive to a manager’s criticism than they used to be.

Once you could fine a player or leave him out, and that would be the matter dealt with, but discipline is far from straightforward now. Not only have you got to deal with the player and his agent, or agents, but now some of them are “best friends” with owners and tweet and text them.

The manager would never have allowed that in a million years when I started – not that it would have happened. Owners looked down on players then; their social scene was the boardroom and the players were “below stairs”. Now not only can the players afford to move in the same social circles, some owners are star-struck and want to be with them.

Not that I have ever been a manager who has tried to rule his players with a rod of iron. They need to know where they stand, but I’ve always been one who man-manages. I think that’s how you get the best out of players. You need to show you care about them, and have a bit of humour about the place. People look at me shouting on the touchline and assume I am like that around the club but if I ruled by fear all those players who have followed me from club to club, from Craig Short through to Paddy Kenny, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Michael Brown, Michael Tonge and so on, wouldn’t have done.

I’ve always believed a coaching badge is not as important as the man-management skills. You need to know about their families, what problems they may have. If their kids are sick give them time off; if they have a problem with gambling, or drink, try and get them some help. Treating players with compassion and respect is self-interest as well in my nature. I’ve always found that if a player is happy at home, and in the training environment, he performs better.

The Sunderland job is a great opportunity for whoever gets it. The North-east is full of genuine supporters, owner Ellis Short supports his managers financially, and as soon as you walk into the Stadium of Light you know you are at a massive club. But the first few weeks will be tough. They have some difficult fixtures coming up and are in danger of being cut adrift.

I do think the owner has been led up the garden path. He’s been talked into bringing in all these people. I don’t know what the Italian director of football has been doing but the recruitment policy has been a disgrace. Now the new manager has got to pick up the pieces. It looks as if it might be Gus Poyet. He speaks a few languages, which is handy as he’ll need them in that dressing room.

I do feel they would have been better off staying with Martin O’Neill. People think when Di Canio came he transformed the results, but he only won two league games. One was against Newcastle – that made him a hero – but you can’t tell me Martin wouldn’t have got just as many points.

Only the Capital One Cup, but it was vital for Moyes

I enjoyed the Manchester United-Liverpool game on Wednesday. I know it was only the Capital One Cup but it was a vital game for David Moyes, with the doubters questioning him after the Man City debacle. I felt United, for the first time in a while, looked hungry and incisive. Liverpool played well themselves, which made for a good game.

It is unusual to have such a significant game so early in the competition; clubs normally take it more seriously as Wembley comes into view. Even so, I was surprised at Arsenal’s team at West Bromwich. This is a club which is desperate for a trophy yet Arsène still played the kids. He is unbelievable. You’d have thought he’d be thinking, “Let’s get one trophy in, to keep people quiet.” I bet he does the same against Chelsea in the next round too. He has got some guts, and so have those kids who took the penalties.

Everton will be disappointed to go out – that was probably their best chance of a trophy – but I’d expect Alan Pardew to be thinking he might have a chance. Man City is a tough draw but it is at home and they are crying out for silverware on Tyneside. After such a long wait – more than 40 years – the Newcastle manager who wins some will be a legend, and I reckon Alan would like to be a legend.

My congratulations to Greenock Morton on their great result against Celtic. They are our local club when we visit relatives north of the border – we have even bought bricks with our names on in their Wall of Fame.

My radio hint was just the ticket to Spurs game

There’s no mistaking the main match today. No one needs to tell me how big a game Tottenham-Chelsea is – I’ve spent three weeks trying to get a couple of tickets for a very good friend of mine who is flying in for it. It’s been so difficult. As a manager the biggest bugbear was people wanting tickets, I used to hate it, so I’ve felt really embarrassed asking around and it was all to no avail.

Finally I resorted to asking Alan Brazil, on air, when I was doing my stint on his TalkSPORT show on Monday. Guess what? Even before I’d left the studio there was a missed call on my phone. It was Daniel Levy, Tottenham’s chairman. He said he felt sorry for me and could help me get a couple. I paid for them, as I should, and believe me they weren’t cheap. If anyone knows Daniel they know he gives nothing away – it’s why he’s such a good negotiator.

I’ll not be at White Hart Lane myself – I’m at a big double-header in Tavistock instead. Amy’s playing hockey and Will’s playing rugby, both for Plymouth College at Kelly College. It’s a derby match and I’m going along to add my support. It may not make the headlines like last week’s derby in Manchester, and I know kids play for fun, but it will be deadly serious when they are playing, which is how it should be.