A referee visited the training ground on Wednesday.
Obviously I made sure there were no garlic, crucifixes or mirrors anywhere, I wanted him to feel at home. Seriously, I know that to listen to some people you would think that I have a dartboard at home with a ref's picture on it, but in actual fact I have a lot of respect for our officials. Every time I see a European game I'm reminded how good they are.
I believe the secret of good relations between refs and players is communication, so it was good to have Peter Walton, the Premier League ref, and Keren Barratt, a former ref who became an assessor and now manages the select group officials, come round before training. We gave them the red carpet treatment – well, a cup of tea. Then they set up a video in the canteen and had all the staff and the players in.
They played us a number of incidents and explained why the referee did what he did. The lads all perked up when Joey Barton appeared in a couple of clips from the Newcastle-Arsenal game. He tried to explain what he was doing but he knows he was no angel.
The main thrust was trying to save players from getting into trouble through their own stupidity. For example, Peter was refereeing Everton-West Ham last season when Frédéric Piquionne, who was already booked, celebrated a goal by running into the crowd. Peter had no choice but to book him, it's a Fifa directive. In the remaining five minutes Everton equalised. Think what an extra two points, and the confidence of a win at a place like Goodison, would have done for West Ham's relegation battle.
The players were also told that if they raise their hands above someone's neck it'll probably be a red card, and the consequences of getting into mass confrontations. It was about having respect for the game. I told the players, if they get a needless card, or into a mass confrontation and the club gets fined, they will be the ones paying the fine.
Peter and Keren also explained some new rules, regulations and interpretations which are in force this season. For instance, I've never seen it happen, but if the ball bursts during a penalty the kick will now be retaken. Previously it was a drop ball.
The lads were able to ask a few questions too. It was a good session. It helped the players realise the officials are human too, they haven't got smoke coming out of their ears or anything.
Without doubt there's a better relationship between players, managers and referees now. I thought a few years ago it was a them-and-us situation and there was a massive dividing line. I don't feel that now.
2. Late rumpus denied lads their due for brilliant display
There are times when I can understand players being upset. Take last week's match at Wolves. We're in the last minute, with the game dead, when there's a bad tackle by Karl Henry on Joey by the corner flag. Yet no free-kick is given. Then it all kicks off.
Subsequently all anyone in the press wants to talk about is the last 45 seconds, which if the linesman or ref had spotted the foul would never have taken place. That was the only disappointment about the match, that the team did not get the recognition it deserved after such a great performance. Unless you are one of the top clubs you just don't get the opportunity to be three-up with three minutes left and actually enjoy the moment.
Last Saturday must have seen a few pools coupons bust with all the promoted teams winning. If you remember, in last week's column I said once ourselves, Norwich and Swansea start scoring goals confidence would rise. With all three getting good victories, players, staff and fans at each club will have received a massive boost and will now hope survival is a realistic proposition.
We've had to wait an extra day to try and build on last week's result as we play tomorrow against Aston Villa. It will be strange this morning, getting up and going into training while most teams are playing. I suppose managers and players get used to that in the Premier League. The other big scheduling change with being promoted is that we have eight fewer league games. We've really appreciated the extra time on the training ground, having brought in so many new players late in the transfer window, and the results were there to see at Molineux with one of the best away performances I can remember from one of my sides, especially against what is, make no mistake, a good side.
3. Bad news on Kieron but Jamie is like a new signing
It was great to see Owen Hargreaves score in midweek. It takes a certain type of lad to get over the injuries he's had and bounce back. The same night Steven Gerrard and Stuart Holden returned, which were massive pluses for their clubs. They are players who have a major influence on results.
In our own camp we had two different pieces of injury news this week. On the down side the injury Kieron Dyer suffered in the opening game is going to take longer than we thought. Like Hargreaves he seems to have had so much bad luck over the recent seasons but I'm still convinced he'll have an important part to play for us.
The good news was Jamie Mackie was given the go-ahead to join in training; he immediately told me he would be available for tomorrow. That might be optimistic, having been out since January. But watching him train over the last six weeks I wouldn't put it past him to be involved sooner rather than later. As Kenny Dalglish said about Gerrard, it will be like a new signing.
4. I can pick out a top for Amy – when she's marked my card
I gave my Freedom Pass some exercise on Thursday: bus, train and Underground. We've not been into London much this season, I've been so busy, so it was nice just to sit in Covent Garden listening to this wonderful lady sing and having lunch with Sharon. Then we went shopping for Amy. Her favourite shop at present is Jack Wills. I picked a top out. Sharon went, "Oh no, she'll like this one". I have to say Amy is now of an age when she doesn't always like what mum chooses, and it turned out I made the right choice. Only later did I admit Amy had already pointed the top out to me.
5. Sorry to bore you, but new diet has stopped me snoring
You may be getting bored about me going on about my diet by now, but I have to report a new development which is good news for all wives with overweight husbands. My snoring is notorious, so much so William and Amy used to count the seconds between whistles – and film themselves doing it so they could show me. Sharon now reports I have lost so much weight I am no longer snoring.
6. How 'Football Focus' made Will and Amy lost for words
Make sure you watch Football Focus if you want a laugh before heading to a match today. Someone there obviously reads this column because they asked if they could film the family on our bikes. I agreed to do it Sunday, which proved good timing because not only was the weather good, I was, as you can imagine, feeling 10-foot high after the result at Molineux.
The kids had talked about what they would say if asked a question. But when Damian Johnson did ask them they could hardly utter a word. That is the beauty about kids, when you want them to be quiet they can't be, and vice versa.
I had to have a word with William this week. I thought he'd be eagerly awaiting the new series of Match Attax, the football cards, as QPR are included for the first time. But when I spoke to him about it he said sadly there was something new to collect, Match Stars. They are little moving action figures that look like Rooney, Van Persie, Messi etc, but they are only doing Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona so far. We aren't big enough. I said to him, "Just give us a season or two will you? We were in the Championship last year."
Stop Press: The new cards are in and William and I opened a few packs over breakfast yesterday. We got five QPR players so I took them into training to show the lads. As Tommy Smith, Heidar Helguson, Ali Faurlin and Paddy Kenny came over to see how many stars they were [each player is graded] I told them: "We've arrived now."Reuse content