Neil Warnock: Brazilian team's visit to QPR took me back to the night I saw Pele embarrass Wednesday
What I learnt This Week
Saturday 26 March 2011
I was able to rekindle a vivid childhood memory on Thursday when the great Brazil trained at Loftus Road. We are so lucky having a ground in the centre of London, first Barcelona came here, now Brazil, who were preparing for tomorrow's match against Scotland at the Emirates.
They have got to be the most enjoyable footballers I've seen in my lifetime. I'll never forget the first time I saw them in the flesh. It was 1962, I was 13, and Pele's Santos played a friendly at Hillsborough. Even watching Santos provided a whole new meaning to football, the way they passed it around. The only English team I've ever seen play in a similar way are Arsène Wenger's Arsenal.
Everything seemed to stop and everyone in the crowd gasped whenever Pele touched the ball. Santos won 4-2 and Pele scored from a penalty, which I remember clearly because he just walked up to it, dummied, watched the goalkeeper dive one way, then rolled it into the other side of the net. No one had seen that done before – you have to remember this was nearly 50 years ago. The funny thing was Sheffield Wednesday got a penalty soon after and their captain, Colin Dobson, tried to do the same. The Santos keeper didn't buy the dummy and just picked up Dobson's shot.
Pele really was a true great and it must help the Brazilian kids at a young age, playing barefoot on the beach and in the favela shanty towns, it has to develop their technique.
They had a proper workout on Thursday which I enjoyed watching, and they were great afterwards signing shirts and, as you can see, happy to have their photographs taken. I had a good chat with their manager, Mano Menezes, and told Neymar there were other teams in London if he didn't fancy Chelsea (you may recall he turned down a move to Stamford Bridge in August), and life wasn't all about money. He had fantastic skill, he reminded me of Adel Taarabt. I also had a chat with David Luiz, who of course did join Chelsea. He was brilliant with William and his friend Louis. All in all I've never met such a polite group of players.
I told them it will be a great atmosphere because the Scots are sure to turn out in force. It'll bring back memories for me of when England used to play Scotland at Wembley. London seemed to be Scottish for two days. It was amazing and, although there was some trouble in the later years, most games it was fine. I just hope everyone approaches tomorrow in great spirit and enjoys it.
Obviously, Jamie Mackie is gutted to miss out on the match being injured but the Scotland manager, Craig Levein, has invited him to be part of it, which is a lovely gesture.
2. Even without Bale, today will be tough for England
All eyes today will be on Cardiff for what promises to be a lot closer match than most people would predict, despite the absence of Wales' Gareth Bale. I bet Glen Johnson was relieved about that but it is such a pity for Gary Speed, who would have loved to have his full team of players available. Nevertheless, you can't write off any team that has Craig Bellamy in it and I'm sure the racket in Cardiff will make for a very uncomfortable afternoon for England.
With all the talk this week surrounding John Terry's reinstatement as captain, I expect he'll be pleased to get back on the pitch and do what he does best. I was not surprised all the players backed him. Let's be honest, who would say anything and jeopardise their own position?
3. Tragedy in player's family puts game into perspective
I was in central London on Sunday night with Adel Taarabt, who was picking up an award for being the Football League's Player of the Year. It was well-deserved despite some strong competition because there's some quality players in the Championship. Grant Holt, at Norwich, and Swansea's Scott Sinclair were also shortlisted and Reading's Shane Long and Danny Graham at Watford must have been in contention as well, not forgetting Jay Bothroyd, who was picked for England earlier in the season. It shows the ability of players around the Championship.
Adel's the youngest of that six and it is easy to forget he is only 21. He's played 37 games this season and he said to me: "I've never played this many games in my life, gaffer." Last Saturday, at Doncaster, would have been his 38th. Despite having a virus all week he said at half-nine in the morning he was going to play. Then at 10 he got a phone call saying his cousin had been shot dead in Marseilles. As he was telling me I could see he was distraught and I sent him straight back to London. He would not have been in any state to play but that wasn't the point. Family is always more important than football. I told him that, and told him to get off home. Hogan Ephraim replaced him, and who scored the winner? It's strange how football sometimes works out like that.
Adel's in Morocco now. He was going anyway to play for Morocco against Algeria, which is like England v Scotland apparently, but more lively, so I told him to spend a few days with his family.
4. Strauss's side can deliver with backs to the wall
Everyone else will write our cricket team off in today's World Cup quarter-final against Sri Lanka but I'm confident. It's when our sportsmen are written off we are at our most dangerous. The flip side is that, as the England rugby team showed last week, we are at our most vulnerable when being praised.
5. Wii leads the Warnock household a merry dance
I went to watch Amy horse-riding on Tuesday. I used to dread the thought of my kids riding after a young lady in our village in Cornwall fell from her horse and suffered a bad injury. But Amy was so happy doing it with some of her friends. As she said, she has just as much chance of having an accident anywhere else in her life. You have to let them do things like that, otherwise you may as well wrap them in cotton wool. No doubt when we eventually move to Cornwall we'll get her a pony, but it's not fair to have one now when we don't live down there.
The other popular activity in our house is Wii dancing. When Natalie came to babysit William and Amy on Sunday they couldn't wait for us to go out so they could all get on it. People talk about computer games being bad for kids but this one must be healthy with all that exercise. Sharon had to sit down after half an hour, she was exhausted, but the kids somehow just kept going. And me? I was huddled on the sofa under two blankets because they were so hot they insisted on having the back door wide open.
6. The only unwanted points I've picked up this season
I was the only Championship manager to pick up three points in midweek, only it was no cause for celebration. They were for speeding.
On my way back from Cornwall on Thursday I was dictating this column on hands-free and forgot about watching the speedometer. You know what happened next. I was pulled up on the M5 by an unmarked police car and ended up with three points on my previously clean licence, and a £60 fine. It was ironic, given I had a couple of signed shirts and a ball in the back of the car for a police charity event.
Policemen always seem to be quite pleased when they are doing you. They seem to get the same thrill as I do when we score a goal. He recognised me, but said he hadn't got a clue about football so it wasn't personal. Typically, a car flew past a few miles later doing about 150mph and there was no sign of the police then.
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