Neil Warnock: Deadline day is like being in a chain to buy a house – except more exhausting
What I Learnt This Week
On Thursday night I got home late after a frantic day, sat on the sofa to catch up with the other transfer window dealings, and woke up an hour later when the phone rang. That is how it has been these last few days for me and, I expect, every other manager.
Personally, I'm delighted with how things have worked out. In the final few days I enquired about 14 players, signed four and narrowly missed out on a fifth. We've brought in Steve Morison from Norwich in a swap (plus some cash in our favour) for Luciano Becchio, signed my namesake Stephen Warnock from Aston Villa, and picked up Habib Habibou from Belgium on loan. Earlier in the window we signed Everton's Ross Barkley on loan and made the loans of Michael Tonge and Ryan Hall permanent so I feel we've strengthened well. Importantly we've also held on to players such as Ross McCormack – for whom we had enquiries – and Sam Byram. But it has been hard work.
Everyone says, "why don't you do it all early?", and we did with Barkley and Hall, but it is impossible: everybody waits until the last minute to see if they can get anything better. Those three were straightforward. Ryan and Michael were already here and as I'd been after Ross when he went to Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season, David Moyes gave me first refusal this time. We also secured Sam on a new contract until 2016 early on, and announced it, to forestall any enquiries.
As QPR manager I tried to buy Morison 18 months ago when he left Millwall for £2.8m. He's not been starting as regularly this season so I asked about him in December but Norwich said they wouldn't let him go unless they got a replacement. Meanwhile, Becchio asked us for a move and it became clear it was going to be hard to hang on to him.
His best offer was from Turkey, but if we couldn't get Morison in to replace him that was no use to us, so I put two and two together and asked Norwich if they wanted Becchio. They did, so Shaun Harvey, our chief executive, began the process of setting the deal up.
My admiration for Warnock goes back even further – I offered Liverpool £1.25m for him when at Sheffield United in 2007, but Blackburn came in. The combination of bigger wages and his not having to move home won the day.
But he remembered that when I spoke to him this time and although West Ham were interested we put a longer-term deal on the table and the chance to play week-in, week-out. So that was another deal Shaun got working on.
On Thursday morning I took training, then Shaun rang to say Norwich had agreed terms to allow Morison to come and speak to us. Logistics can be a problem on deadline day but luckily he lives in Peterborough so could get the train. Mick Jones, my assistant, picked him up at York and brought him to the training ground. His agent finalised terms with Shaun while I showed Steve round the training ground and talked about his role in the team.
Having such a brilliant training ground helps at times like this. It was difficult at QPR as the training ground was poor but Thorp Arch is top of the range.
The only concern was Steve's been injured for a few weeks and he needed a scan on his thigh as well as the usual medical at a nearby hospital. We showed the scan to a surgeon who gave it the all-clear, then it was just a matter of getting the nod from Norwich regarding Becchio. It is a bit like buying a house in a chain: everything has to be lined up before you can go ahead.
Once it was done I was delighted. Norwich usually take our best players but in this case I feel we've got the better deal.
By this stage Warnock had arrived for his medical. We quickly tied that deal up. Both moves were helped by the players having good agents. People are often critical of agents but there are plenty of good ones and these were two who put the interests of their player first.
Then came a bonus as we managed to get Habibou too. He came for a few days last week and I liked him but at that stage it didn't look as if a deal could be done. Then Zulte Waregem agreed to let us have him on loan on realistic terms. He also had a trial with QPR and Harry agreed with me that he's worth a gamble. He's 6ft 4in and built like an outhouse and he will be an asset.
I had been optimistic of getting Chris Burke from Birmingham but their valuation proved way above ours for a player whose contract is up in the summer and it didn't feel value for money. I'll look for a winger when the loan window opens.
I've got to say all through these last few days Sharon has been brilliant. Having been with me for many transfer windows she understands how manic they are. So each morning the kids just texted me and Sharon rang about half eight to say "I'll speak to you tonight", and that was it.
Unfortunately, when we were finally able to speak at length yesterday the conversations were not very uplifting. On Thursday night a Leeds fan was wandering around Thorp Arch taking pictures through the window of me and the club officials working. Nothing too sinister in that, though it is not to be encouraged, but after he tweeted a photo of me watching Sky Sports News somebody doctored it to make it look as if I was watching pornography. A lot of people might think that is funny, but it was not very funny to my 14-year-old daughter who received a number of unsavoury texts and comments on Friday morning. It shows how low some people will stoop to get a laugh. There should be a way to take to task people who put something like that on the web.
2. I got shirty with Bale
We're playing Cardiff City today which means linking up with three of the players who helped me bring QPR up, Heidar Helguson, Tommy Smith and Matt Connolly. They also have Craig Bellamy and new signing Fraizer Campbell so obviously mean business but the main reason they are runaway leaders is Malky Mackay has built a superb team spirit.
For us it is a case of carrying on from beating Spurs last week. Watching Gareth Bale's superb goal at Norwich made me realise how well we did to nullify him. I'm convinced he'll play for a team like Barcelona. I was like a little kid after the game as the result was topped off by getting Gareth's shirt. I asked AVB before the game if he could sort it for me and Andre said "no problem". I then mentioned it to Gareth in the tunnel and, sure enough, despite the result, my old player Kyle Walker brought it in to our dressing room after the match. It is for charity but I may have to hang on to it for a while because although it has lots of Yorkshire mud on it he hasn't signed it yet.
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