Neil Warnock: Drugs are a major headache for managers – though I once tricked a player with a 'magic' pill
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 05 March 2011
When the news broke that Kolo Touré had tested positive for a banned substance every manager in the country must have thought "There, but for the grace of God...".
That is not because the game is rife with drug abuse, deliberately mis-using drugs is very rare, but because the situation is an absolute minefield for everyone concerned at clubs.
The list of banned drugs is huge, there are thousands of things you cannot take, more than any individual could possibly keep track of, even an expert. A lot of them are in everyday things that you or me would take without even thinking about it, even Lemsip used to be on the banned list – I don't think it is now, but I certainly wouldn't let any of my players take it without checking. Obviously we have someone at the club with first-hand experience of being banned in Paddy Kenny. When at Sheffield United he had a cold and bought something over the counter from a chemist to deal with it. It turned out to include a prohibited substance. Paddy was banned for nine months.
It is a real worry to clubs and the first thing I did yesterday was call my medical staff and ask them to set up a meeting with the squad so they could reiterate the importance of checking with our experts before taking anything. I might ask Paddy to talk everyone through what happened to him just to hammer the message home.
The problems for clubs are not just confined to ensuring players do not take anything untoward by mistake. We have to tell the drug-testing body where our players are going to be every day of the week, as our secretary Caroline reminds me whenever I change the players' day off. We also have to notify them if an individual has a day off for a personal issue or medical appointment or something, so they can be found at the drop of a hat on any particular day.
When the testers turn up they draw lots to decide who to test. I sometimes say, if someone's been really poor in the previous match, "Can you test him?" – they never take any notice.
It is a serious issue but I must admit in my early management career to giving a player who was a noted hypochondriac, and said he felt a bit off-colour, a pill with the instructions "Don't ask any questions but take this and you'll be fine". He was magnificent. He thought I'd given him something special. It was an aspirin. Mind, I bet that's banned now.
2. Decisions break both ways for fuming Fergie
Sir Alex Ferguson's responses to the referees at Manchester United's last two games summed up the way managers can go from one extreme to another when it comes to officials. On Saturday he had nothing but praise when Wayne Rooney was deemed to have accidentally caught James McCarthy in the eyes of at least two people in the country. Actually, I don't think Mark Clattenburg saw it, he just saw the aftermath, and without 100 per cent back-up from his assistant only felt able to give a free-kick. But he's not made many mistakes this year.
On Tuesday Sir Alex was much less impressed with Martin Atkinson after Chelsea beat United with what any manager would call a soft penalty. I must admit I was surprised the Football Association appointed the same ref who'd taken charge of the fixture a year earlier, and given a contested penalty then. It was asking for trouble.
Rubbing salt into the wounds was that Luiz somehow avoided a second booking, then Vidic was sent off. United now find themselves with no Vidic, and possibly no Ferdinand at Liverpool tomorrow. But this is what Man United are good at, bouncing back from adversity.
That is what Arsenal have to do after their mind-blowing Carling Cup final defeat against Birmingham. All credit to Birmingham after being stuffed a few weeks earlier by Arsenal at St Andrew's. They never let Arsenal settle and fully merited their result, even though everyone must have cringed for the winning goal. That is something the two lads concerned will no doubt remember for many years.
3. We've gone silent after Paddy's stitch-up
Talking of goalies, being in the position we are at the moment we are inundated with press requests to speak to players. The players were doing so, but then Paddy Kenny was stitched up big time. Now the lads don't want to talk to the press for a few weeks, which is understandable. It's a pity when some people spoil it for others.
4. There's no battle quite like an Old Firm game
For a change the Scottish game got the big headlines this week, but I can't think it did them any good. Looking at the scenes involving my old mate El Hadji Diouf he seems to be in his element there.
Since I've been doing radio with Alan Brazil I've become aware just how big these Old Firm games are, though I didn't realise until listening to Talksport the day after this week's match the wider implications – such as there were 229 arrests in Scotland after the previous match, and that domestic violence goes sky high after Rangers v Celtic games.
I'm not surprised the police and the Scottish FA have asked for a meeting with Celtic and Rangers. They have to come to some agreement to cut down the associated problems, but they can't ban the matches, it's what keeps football going in Scotland.
5. Sven's big-money loans pose a real threat today
I can't tell you much about the kids this week because I've barely seen them outside of the school run, I've been so busy. There wasn't much chance for family stuff last weekend as we were at Middlesbrough. We went by train and when we arrived at Darlington to catch the fast one back we found a lot of QPR fans at the station. They were in a boisterous mood to say the least, so we were very pleased we'd won.
Today we start a tough week, which includes derbies against Millwall and Palace, by playing Sven's Leicester. They are the form team and I'm not surprised as Sven has made some excellent loan signings, among them Kyle Naughton, who we tried to get but couldn't match what Leicester were prepared to pay Spurs. They also have Yakubu and some excellent youngsters from Chelsea and Manchester City. The investment is paying off and good luck to them.
6. Green Army's faith can bring Plymouth back
I was sorry to see Plymouth Argyle go into administration yesterday and I just hope Peter Ridsdale has been able to identify someone who can come in and rescue them. It is always sad that people will now lose money they are owed but the club must survive. The one thing Argyle have in their favour is the Green Army, who still turn up in numbers and deserve better. The administrator I know well, he was involved at Palace. Unlike at Palace there are no good players he can flog off – they've already been sold – so he will have to earn his money this time.
7. Chelsea might be thrown by Blackpool's Big Dipper
Blackpool's match with Chelsea on Monday shows how far they have come. I do hope it is a typical Lancashire winter evening for the Chelsea lads. I wonder if Roman Abramovich will turn up, he might enjoy a night on the Golden Mile.
8. Things change so quickly in this game – ask Danny
Last May Swindon were a mishit away from being promoted to the Championship when a bobbling ball meant Charlie Austin did not score in the play-off final against Millwall. In September Northampton won at Anfield. This week the two managers involved, Danny Wilson and Ian Sampson, both lost their jobs. It goes to remind us all, you have to enjoy the good times while you can.
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