Neil Warnock: Boardroom upheavals are part and parcel of football life – as is being linked with 50 players
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 28 May 2011
I've been away this week, in Scotland, but the phone's not stopped ringing because back at Loftus Road my club is still making the news, with Amit Bhatia, the chairman, resigning after the season-ticket prices were released.
Amit was instrumental in my joining the club last year, so I'm sad to see him go, but these things happen in football and people have to do what they feel is right.
Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone are now running things and both have spoken to me to reassure me of their intentions and told me to ignore newspaper talk about my position. It's not the first club I've been manager of where there's been a bit of upheaval and I've learnt from experience to just get on with my job. For me at the moment that means using whatever resources I've got to try and improve the squad as best as I can over the next four months.
At this time of year it never ceases to amaze me how many players are linked with me. I'm told the count is approaching 50. Quite frankly, some I've never heard of. I guess at this point papers can write what they want just using a bit of guesswork. When they get lucky, about one in 20, they trumpet: "We told you first."
What I can tell you is I'm looking forward to managing in the Premier League. Rodney Marsh, who is an idol at this club, once said the only way I would get a Premier League team is to take one up. He's right too. It's not just me – that applies to a lot of British managers. Look at Owen Coyle, Tony Pulis, Ian Holloway, Mick McCarthy; they all got their first crack at the Premier League through being promoted. Why would I give that up?
2. Thrift and hard work at Loftus Road go unrewarded by LMA
Before coming up to Scotland I went to Monday's League Managers Association dinner. Obviously, I was a little disappointed to be the only manager winning his league not to win a divisional award. Sir Alex Ferguson was manager of the year in the Premier League, Brighton's Gus Poyet in League One and Chesterfield's John Sheridan in League Two. Paul Lambert, of Norwich, was the Championship winner.
It's particularly disappointing because without a doubt it's been the toughest and hardest job I've done in my career. I took over a team 14 months ago that was facing relegation. I completely changed the team around in the summer, which meant it had to gel immediately. I think people look at our owners and assume we've spent billions, but we have actually been very thrifty with our money. To lead such a hard division almost every week of the season is something I'm very proud of and it is disappointing not to be recognised.
Fortunately, my family were very supportive. When I told Sharon about it I mentioned Brian McDermott and Brendan Rodgers had also been shortlisted. Sharon said she thought I would have been fourth in that list. Amy said, "What do you expect when nobody likes you?", which I thought showed what an intelligent 13-year-old she was. Until I remembered when we were doing our shopping she put a big leek in her basket. We asked why and she said she fancied a bit of celery. I asked, was she aware that was a leek? She blushed deeply. We've since been asking her whether she would like a big bowl of celery and potato soup.
At least William cheered me up. He said he's going to get me his own cup and engrave it to present to me, which I thought was super.
3. Scotland is treat enough for the kids as a holiday destination
It is a bit ironic that we've had another Icelandic volcano erupting while we've been in Scotland. We came here last year because the ash cloud meant we were concerned about flying anywhere. We had a great time, but I hadn't realised how great until we sat the kids down, after winning promotion, and told them they could go on holiday wherever they wanted to. I was expecting them to say Disneyland or somewhere like that. Instead they came back and said, "Can we go to Scotland again?" I thought, "How very level-headed."
So we've been mackerel fishing, cycling, swimming and canoeing. I got a hole-in-one in crazy golf, but didn't win the hole as Amy and William did as well. I lost all the other holes. We've not had a day hot enough to jump in one of the lochs like we normally do, but hopefully we will this weekend before we go back. There's also horse-riding on the beach to fit in, and a trip to Inveraray Jail.
We went up on Virgin trains. We're going to use them a lot next year in the Premier League now I've discovered we can get a return journey on which the players can have something to eat. It's nice and comfortable, and there's no worrying about volcanic ash.
4. Guardiola for the Chelsea hot seat? Give it a year
I'm sure everyone will be glued to the Champions League final tonight for what promises to be a fantastic game. It's a great contest on the bench between Sir Alex and the amazing young whippersnapper Pep Guardiola. Alex goes from strength to strength and Pep will know, even with his team, that Barcelona will have their hands full facing the king himself. The first goal is vital and everything rests on how good United's back four is. I think, unlike Real Madrid, United will have a go at Barcelona, though it won't be an onslaught.
I met Pep when Barcelona trained at QPR this season. He was a real gentleman, who spent a lot of time talking to people. I feel whether it's this summer, or after Guus Hiddink has done 12 months, that he will be manager at Stamford Bridge. Remember, you read it here first.
5. Play-offs are also a big draw
Tonight's match is not the only big game of the weekend, for the players, fans and staff involved the play-off finals are every bit as big. Good luck to Torquay, a club dear to my heart, in their play-off against Stevenage today. I'd love to see them progress but, whatever the result, Paul Buckle has done brilliantly on limited resources. Tomorrow's play-off pits another of my former clubs, Huddersfield, against Darren Ferguson's Peterborough. I'm sure it will be a cracking, high-scoring game. Whoever wins will grace the Championship.
Then on Monday there's the Championship play-off. Reading owe us a lot because since I loaned them Mikele Leigertwood they've hardly lost a game. Given it's just a short trip down the M4, I'm sure a lot of our supporters would love to see Reading go up, but Swansea also have a fabulous ground and Brendan has done remarkably well. May the best team win.
6. Touré ban exposes inconsistency
How is it Paddy Kenny gets 10 months for failing a drug test after unknowingly taking a banned substance, and Kolo Touré gets six months? Once again there's a lack of consistency. I suppose it all depends on who's on the panel and how expensive the defence lawyer is.
7. A busy week of family exercise
William shares his birthday with a friend called Banjo so they had a joint party in the park. Banjo's dad Chris and me built a couple of dens using some wood and stuck a flag on each camp. They then had a pretend gun battle, a bit like paintball without the paint and pain. It worked a treat. The exercise these kids did for two and a half hours was fantastic.
On the subject of exercise I have to congratulate Sharon and Natalie for completing the Moonwalk the other weekend. There was a great atmosphere with everyone encouraging one another. It's a fair walk and it was good to see the girls finish it and raise such a lot of money.
8. I could still manage Wednesday
The appointment of Danny Wilson, former Sheffield Wednesday captain and manager, is very heartening. If Danny can get the United job with his background, there must still be a chance of me managing Wednesday before I retire.
9. Until next season...
That's all for this season, but I'd like to let all you loyal Independent readers know I'm delighted to say I'll be writing for you again next year. I really enjoy doing this column and over the last few years have turned down a number of tempting offers to go elsewhere.
I always know when I write my Independent column it will say what I want it to say, and the headline will not take things out of context, which is really reassuring. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it. Have a good summer.
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