Neil Warnock: Big Sam's the man who can teach boys a thing or two about survival
Saturday 20 December 2008
1. No substitute for experience in top flight
I hope Sam Allardyce remembered to send Harry Redknapp a Christmas card. I can well imagine that Harry's example in turning things around at Tottenham would have been in the minds of the Blackburn directors when they appointed Big Sam after sacking Paul Ince. For the last few years it seemed that almost every boardroom in the country saw a young man in a tracksuit as their ideal manager, but I sense things have now turned full circle.
We're not daft, us older managers. You don't do the job for as long as we have without gaining some knowledge of tactics and the way the game is played, though I always maintain that isn't the crucial part of being a manager. Man management is at the core of the job and it's the one subject in which young managers can't get qualifications. It has to come from experience.
Look at the managers of the big four clubs in the Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Arsène Wenger and Rafael Benitez have an average age of 58. Luis Aragones, who led Spain to the European Championship this summer, is 70. You just can't put a price on experience, particularly at the highest level.
I wonder how some of the younger managers in the Premier League will cope when they hit a really bad run. In those circumstances you really need to have had the experience of being in that situation to know what it takes to turn things around. When things are going wrong everyone finds excuses and blames everyone else, but I always think the first place that players and coaches need to look is in the mirror.
Like Roy Keane, Paul Ince will look back and think there were things he could have done differently. The trouble is that when you're in your first job at the top you don't have that pool of experience to draw on that older managers have.
When I saw how Blackburn played last weekend I thought Paul would be out before the following game. The finances of Premier League football are such that any manager whose team go through a run like that can expect to lose his job.
You do feel bitter when you're sacked. You feel you didn't get the right support and you believe you could have turned it round if you'd been given time. Maybe Paul could have done that, but clubs just don't have that time these days. They're all looking for a quick fix and for success yesterday.
As for the new man in the hot seat, he certainly has a big job on his hands. Blackburn have a decent squad, but you could describe them as an over-achieving club in recent years. It won't be easy, though if anyone can turn things around then Sam's the man.
2. Return to Sheffield shows how far I've come
Today I'm taking my Crystal Palace team back to my old club, Sheffield United. I'm really looking forward to seeing the fans and everyone associated with the club again. The fixture list couldn't have worked out better from my point of view because it's given the family a chance to visit a few friends and deliver some Christmas presents.
United are probably disappointed not to be in the top three of the Championship at the moment. The current leading trio – Wolves, Birmingham and Reading – plus United are definitely the four clubs with the support and backing that you need to get into the Premier League.
When I look at the resources they have and the money that clubs like QPR, Ipswich and Cardiff have spent, I think we can be proud of our own place in the table. We're eighth, with United just above us on goal difference. There's a lot at stake today.
3. Money makes clubs' world go round
So Manchester United are playing this weekend on the other side of the world. I'm certain if you asked the United players where they would like to be at this stage of the season they would say they would prefer to be back home. You can say all you like about the Club World Cup being a good competition to win, but I can't see it being about anything other than money.
4. Santa doesn't drive a long-distance lorry
Have lorry drivers got something against Christmas? We drove up to Sheffield on Thursday and on at least 10 occasions we were held up on dual carriageways as one lorry took 20 minutes to overtake another one. And I thought this was the season of goodwill to all men.
5. I'll spare the sherry to preserve festive spirit
Once again I've given my team Christmas Day off, even though we play Norwich 24 hours later. For me Christmas is all about being with the family. Some of my lads live more than an hour away, so if they came in for training it would be a big chunk of their day gone.
For the last 10 years I've never been let down on Boxing Day. I haven't won every game, but the players have always given me everything and been properly prepared.
My team all have heart monitors, so if we wanted to check up on them we could, but I think most players are sensible these days. However, I might just take in a breathalyser kit. Officially, we're not actually allowed to breath-test the players, but knowing that threat's there might just be enough if one or two – and I'm not naming names – were tempted to celebrate Christmas inappropriately.
I've asked Delia Smith to bring along a signed copy of her latest book. When I last saw her I said it was important that us authors stick together. When we won at Carrow Road last month Delia's mother told me off. She's apparently a bit of a fan of mine, but she wasn't too happy because she thought we were a bit rough that night. I'd better make sure I don't offer her too many sherries in the boardroom.
6. And a very merry Christmas to one and all
I love this time of year, as you'll see from the photograph on this page. We took the children up on the train to the "Winter Wonderland" in Hyde Park on Tuesday and had a great time. We went on all the rides and the mulled wine and German sausages went down a treat.
Wherever you are and whoever you're with, I hope you all have a great Christmas. And remember: please don't drink and drive.
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