Neil Warnock: Bernie's taken over at Rangers, but it is not like Blackburn Rovers – he will let me manage
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 18 December 2010
A new owner can be a worrying development for a manager, as events at Blackburn underlined this week, but I'd like to assure all my readers there's no need to be concerned by reports that Bernie Ecclestone has taken control at Queen's Park Rangers.
Bernie's not a new owner, he's an existing owner who now has a bigger stake in the club.
I have been working with Bernie, Flavio Briatore and Amit Bhatia since I came to the club and, though their relative stakes may have changed, our relationships have not. I still deal with Amit on a day-to-day basis, and also with Bernie and Flavio. All three have been nothing but supportive since I have been at the club and I've no reason to think that will change. In fact, the deal which made Bernie the major shareholder actually took place several weeks ago, and I can tell you nothing has changed. Everyone at the club is pulling together in the same direction.
Of course, new ownership can have its pitfalls, as Sam Allardyce found out. It used to be if you were struggling at the bottom the manager got the bullet; it now seems, following Sam's exit and Chris Hughton's sacking at Newcastle, if you're mid-table or just above it's time to worry. No one knows who's next.
I did fear the worst for Sam, as I mentioned in a previous column, when I heard the lady in charge said she "would be having a word with the manager about the way we play". I didn't think that augured well. But I doubt he'll be too concerned; it'll not be long before Sam's back in a job and with his pay-offs from Newcastle and Blackburn, financially he'll have done quite well, whereas Chris – in the last six months of his contract, and on a pittance compared to most Premier League managers – will be looking to get back into work as soon as possible for financial reasons as well as the usual desire to work.
It just shows the type of owners who are taking over now at some clubs. The disturbing element for managers about this particular case is it looks like an agency is not only recommending players, but managers as well. But if you buy a club I suppose you are entitled to do what you want.
2. I can't wait to feel the warmth of a Leeds welcome
Last Friday was our first defeat of the season, 3-1 at home to Watford. I suppose it had to happen some time, and if you're going to lose you might as well lose heavy. However, our rivals must have felt sympathy for us as the results on Saturday went our way, with only one team in the top six winning. That was Leeds, who came back from two-down to beat Burnley and now are now eight matches undefeated. Guess who we play today? Yes, Leeds, at Elland Road. Ignore the table, we're going into the game as underdogs.
I spoke to Eddie Gray, a real Leeds legend, this week and he reminded me what a wonderful welcome I get from the fans there. I think as a manager you have to enjoy that sort of thing, as long as it is not directed at family or silly things like that. I imagine there will be 30,000 today, reflecting a club that has been on the up now for a couple of years and, in Simon Grayson, have one of the best young managers around.
I have to take my hat off to Ken Bates. When he first took over a lot of questions were asked about his intentions, but he has turned the club round – albeit upsetting the creditors on the way when the club went into administration – and it is now on a stable financial footing. With their support and history, that can only get better as Leeds drive for a place in the Premier League – and they have as good a chance as any of going straight up. There's still a lot of clubs in contention, including the likes of Portsmouth if they can keep their first XI together, and Leicester City, who may be 13th at present but have financial backing and Sven in charge.
Christmas and New Year will shake things up. We now play all four teams in the play-off places in succession though, given the weather we're apparently going to have, I expect postponements will confuse the league table. I just hope all supporters from all clubs travelling today will take extra precautions as it threatens to be horrendous.
The only plus about last week's result is that I could invest in a nice pair of long johns and tracksuit bottoms to keep me warm on the touchline. I can assure you I'll be wearing both today, and a matching thermal vest.
3. Frankie Valli will always beat Spurs-Chelsea in my eyes
I was supposed to go to a game last Saturday, but I needed cheering up after Friday's defeat so I went down the road with Sharon and the kids to a wonderful National Trust property called Ham House. It was their Christmas Fair and I was welcomed by a Chelsea fan who was working on a fairground-type ride which had teacups going round. He said: "Not a good result last night – you can have a free go on the roundabout to make up for it." The ride was aimed at kids up to the age of about 10, and I don't think he thought I would take him up on it, but as you can see I'm always game for a laugh.
I still felt a bit down on Sunday morning, so we got on the computer and snapped up five tickets to watch Jersey Boys in a matinee performance. It was either Spurs v Chelsea on television, or the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. No contest in my eyes (or ears).
Sharon's mum was up visiting so we went to my favourite restaurant, Montpeliano in Knightsbridge, then to the show. We hadn't told Sharon's mum what we were doing, so we made a point of indicating The Ritz as we passed it to try and trick her into thinking we'd go there after the show. If she was fooled she wasn't the only one: when we came out – and bear in mind we've had a massive lunch – William says: "Are we going to The Ritz now?"
We went home instead to watch the conclusion of X Factor. It was strange for me wanting a Ferguson to win. I even voted on the red button for Rebecca [Ferguson], but it didn't do much good as Matt Cardle won what has been a cracking competition. I did think the three finalists were excellent value, including Cher, and I'm sure we'll hear more about Wagner in the next few years.
4. The Carlos Tevez situation will be sorted out sharpish
My old friend Carlos Tevez has been in the news again this week. I have to say I am so pleased it's not about money, and it's nothing to do with his agent. But it is amazing how he can fall out with members of the executive when he can't even speak the language.
Paul Stretford has obviously started something with his successful renegotiation of Rooney's deal. I suppose I could understand Tevez wanting to leave years ago, when everyone wanted to get away from Manchester City, but now they are a leading club who pay as well as anyone. It is an interesting one. No individual is bigger than a club, but whatever the differences between player and club I'd be surprised if they are not sorted out sharpish because I can't see Mancini or the club letting him go in January. Mind you, for all I know there is someone out there in Spain making a massive billboard with his face on a blue-and-maroon background with the words: "Welcome to Catalonia".
5. Arsenal's lack of urgency made Monday's game a bore
I did look forward to settling down on Monday evening to watch Manchester United v Arsenal but it was so disappointing. What I couldn't understand was Arsenal's lack of urgency when they were losing one-nil. The board went up for four minutes of injury time, which gives you a chance, but they were taking time over throw-ins, passing across the back as time ticked away. No matter who you are, you want to get the ball in the box at that stage. But I don't suppose it worried Sir Alex.
That result means tomorrow's game at Stamford Bridge is a must-win game for Chelsea. Man United will be six points clear of the champions with a game in hand if they win. That would take some bridging because United are not going to lose many games this season, if any.
6. A perfect Christmas party: no phone calls from the police
It was the lads' Christmas party last weekend. They went to Newcastle. I'm glad to say I didn't get a phone call from the hotel, the local constabulary or anyone else on Monday morning. There have been occasions in the past when that has happened, but I wasn't worried this time. They are a good bunch of lads with some experienced, mature heads among them.
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