Neil Warnock: England's youngsters can breath new life into stale friendly fixtures

What I Learnt This Week


1. We should learn something from that fantastic night in Berlin


What was Wednesday night like? It wasn't so much England beating Germany that made it so memorable for me as the breath of fresh air that went with the match. I can't really say England do anything much for me with the normal team, but those young lads had so much that they wanted to prove – and no-one more than Gabriel Agbonlahor – and you couldn't help but feel excited by it.

So why don't we learn something from what happened out there in Germany and make these friendlies into B internationals? Maybe the first team could be a part of the set-up – have a training session, perhaps, work on a few things. But make a virtue of giving the young lads a go.

I have to say I've never seen the sense of a friendly in mid November. If I was Arsène Wenger I'd be livid, having Theo Walcott injured in the way he was. I know the lad could have done his shoulder on a training ground anywhere but it's a terrible turn of events for Wenger. The curious part about players going off on international duty for me is the way they seem to come back lethargic. What happens to them out there? When Victor Moses and others of my lads go off they somehow don't seem the same afterwards. Whether it's mixing with lads from the top of the game or what, I don't know. I've spoken to the England management about it but it's still a mystery. Still, when it comes to a friendly the younger players are as fit for it as anyone and maybe the events on the pitch aren't all we should have a think about after Berlin.



2. John Sergeant did the right thing

I thought 'Well done to you' when I saw that John Sergeant had packed in Strictly Come Dancing this week. The abuse that bloke's taken from those so-called experts on the judges' panel is more than anyone should have to put up with. Bullying is what I'd call it and I thought that was something that just happened in the school yard. Don't the judges realise that it's down to the viewer who stays on the programme and who walks? Maybe they should have read the small print of the competition rules before they started dishing out all that stick they've given. I see it this way: If they're not happy with the paying public's views on who's dancing then they shouldn't be judges in the first place. He was never going to be Fred Astaire was he? But we loved him in our house. It's that thing about the Brits and an underdog, I suppose. It won't be the same now but he's done the right thing.



3. You need to get your own back on bad hotels

Sharon and I went away overnight this week to see a friend of mine who is not too well at the moment. I booked the hotel. It was a lot more for an upgraded room than I wanted to pay, I can tell you, but I thought 'let's make it nice while we're away.' I can't tell you how bad that room was. It was the most uncomfortable bed I can remember. The pillows were like rocks and the room was so hot we had to open the windows to the noise of the traffic. I was that mad the next morning that after they'd delivered the breakfast to us in our room, I gathered up the jars of jam, the hot chocolate and the cornflakes we hadn't opened and stashed them in my bag. I'm not sure it was much revenge – and I realised later that I'd forgot to nab the shampoo, of course – but it felt like it at the time. Don't get mad, get even, that's what I always say!



4. Flavio Briatore might have met his match in Sousa

I can't say I know Paolo Sousa, the assistant coach from Portugal's national set-up, who has been hired as QPR's boss. If I'd had the chance to talk to him I might have told him already that life's far more difficult in the Championship than in the Premier League, because the standard of players just isn't as good and it's harder to win things. Sousa's impressed me already, though, and I'm enjoying watching how he goes on.

He obviously wants to have his say on selections, which was the cause of all the problems for Iain Dowie, his predecessor at Loftus Road. I'm not sure about the level of investment Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone have put in – there aren't the big-name signings you might have expected – but they are not going to have a better chance of going up to the Premier League than they'll get this season. I only see three, maybe four teams, being ahead of all the others and it's there for anyone's taking among many of the rest. Sousa looks like he's going to add to the drama.



5. I've got some talking to do at home

I heard a bit of a debate on the radio about how we should get our kids to watch less TV. Easier said than done, of course. I got in one night to find William slumped in front of the telly and there were no signs of life down there on the sofa, I can tell you. But the woman on the radio was saying she'd tried going four weeks without the TV altogether and that it had made a massive difference with the family dancing, singing and all sorts. It's the same for us when we switch the telly off – we talk more, play games maybe. It's time to try it more in our house – if I can sell them the idea.



6. We mustn't overwork our refs

I had an interesting chat with the ref from our game at Cardiff, which we were so disappointed to take nothing away from after a 2-1 defeat. It was Jonathan Moss, from Leeds, the same one I'd seen refereeing the Tranmere v Accrington FA Cup tie two days earlier on the Thursday night. "Did you go to work on Friday," I asked him and he said yes, he'd got home from Merseyside in the early hours of Friday, had a day's work, then headed off to Cardiff but he felt he'd be OK.

I know I would say so – he gave two penalties against us and you about know me and refs – but I felt he looked tired when it came to our game. It shouldn't be left to match referees to work Thursday and Saturday at games as well as do their day job in between. There's a lot of stake in games and it's not the way we should be doing things in 2008.



7. Rather William than me on the rugby field

William's just starting his first games of proper rugby. It's been tag rugby before now and he's been itching to play the proper game. He's a competitive one, I can tell you, and Sharon just winced at the sight of some of those tackles that were flying. It looks like he's going to get a few knocks playing it properly. The lads won though and so did our Amy in her netball match.

A good sporting week in our house – so far. Let's have more of the same against Bristol City today.

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