Neil Warnock: Exclusive: My one-night stand with a trophy wife. But the next generation aren't too bothered
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 14 May 2011
I had a one-night stand with a new bedtime partner this week.
There are pictures too, but there is no need to get a super-injunction to keep it quiet. Sharon knew and she was very understanding. After we won the Championship on Monday I took the trophy home. It's a special trophy and I was determined not to let anyone else lay their hands on it. It is the original Football League trophy, the one that all the champions lifted prior to the Premier League. As a kid I remember pictures of players like Billy Wright and Danny Blanchflower lifting it. So that night I asked Sharon, did she mind if I slept with it? I love her to bits, but it was only for one night. She slept in the spare room.
On Wednesday I took it to William's school and showed it to all the lads in assembly. I asked out of curiosity how many QPR fans there were in the room. William's hand went up, and another lad, and then a third lad, though I think he might have put his hand up out of sympathy. Then I asked the same question about Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. I've never seen so many hands. I did feel a tinge of disappointment when it became clear there were more fans of Brentford than QPR, but there were also more lads supporting Brentford than Liverpool, so I did not feel that bad.
Then we went down the road to see the younger kids. They were all sat down with their legs crossed when I walked in. The teacher said: "This is Mr Warnock and he has brought a cup with him, having won the league. Can anyone tell me what football club Mr Warnock manages?" This bright little boy thrust his hand up. He said: "Crystal Palace United, Miss."
2. Some writers have an amazing ability to make me nod off
That lad was not the only one who hadn't done his research properly. Our promotion has brought a few journos out of the woodwork who seem to have a grudge against me, particularly Patrick Collins in The Mail on Sunday. I take Collins' columns to bed with me, I suffer from insomnia and find after a couple of his paragraphs I drop off for a good night's sleep, but this time I managed to stay awake as it was just a long diatribe against me.
He obviously doesn't pay any attention to clubs outside the Premier League because it was hopelessly outdated. He dug up stuff from 10 years ago, picking out a few incidents when I was younger and a bit more excitable, and claimed I always blamed referees for everything. If he read this column, or simply kept in touch with football, he'd know I'm more likely to be praising refs these days. Still, he should know now, because many of his own readers pointed this out in comments on the paper's website. Collins is the chief sports writer. I dread to think what their ordinary sports writers are like. He should read James Lawton in these pages, then he might learn how to write like a proper chief sports writer.
3. Lennon shows risks we face
The attempted assault on Neil Lennon by a fan was frightening. It brought home to every manager that you have to be on your guard: it only takes one nutter. Neil was lucky, it could have been far more serious and I fear it is only a matter of time before something serious does occur somewhere.
There are certain grounds where you feel vulnerable. One of the worst situations for me came at the end of a play-off semi-final at Ashton Gate when I was caught in the middle of a pitch invasion. That could have turned nasty.
I do think when Neil looks back over recent months he will realise he could have handled himself a little bit better on occasions. That will come with experience. However, nothing he has done warrants being attacked.
4. Anfield must stay realistic
It's fantastic for Liverpool that Kenny Dalglish is staying. He's a good man and I love his passion for the club. I think everyone realises Kenny was the man for that job; even Roy Hodgson did when he was there. I am so pleased that Roy is enjoying himself again at West Bromwich, it simply wasn't meant to be for him at Anfield.
Kenny's biggest problem will be managing expectation. People are talking about getting in the Champions League next season. Fans have got to dream, and with Kenny at the helm, who knows? But I think the top four this year will take some budging.
Sadly, for every manager enjoying the moment there's one who's not and Micky Adams is among those after he parted company with my old club. Like me, Micky's a Blade, and he will have hoped to have had the same impact at Bramall Lane as Kenny did at Anfield. The contrast in what happened shows how important it is to have a good start when you take over at a club. It can be difficult managing the club you've supported and loved all your life and Micky will be very disappointed at not getting the chance to get United back up.
I was also disappointed to see Mark Robins leave Barnsley. He's a good young manager and, while he'll be upset now, it might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for his career. I'm sure we'll see him pop up somewhere else soon.
5. Stoke will ensure Cup final is no walk in the park for City
Being of the old school, I think it is a real shame there are Premier League matches today. The FA Cup final is a special day and the prospect of the title being decided beforehand is bound to spoil it a bit for Tony Pulis, who deserves his day in the sun. It used to be like a holiday day at our house. Everyone would come round from about 10 in the morning and we'd watch all the build-up while munching on fruit pancakes.
I think it will be an intriguing game. Stoke City are far better than people make out and they are just the sort of team to upset Manchester City. I'll be keeping an eye out for Jon Walters. He was my main transfer target in the summer. I chased him for weeks and even had him in my office. But Tony whisked him away with the lure of Premier League football and the fact his missus could live near home. I usually tell players they made a mistake when they go to other clubs, but he's in the FA Cup final so it looks as if he made the right decision. I do wish him well, he's a lovely lad.
I was asked by TV to go to Wembley but I felt I had to say no. Sharon and Natalie, my eldest daughter, are doing the 26-mile MoonWalk for breast cancer tonight and I thought it only right to support their preparation. I think I'll tell them our sports scientist said 3pm-5pm is the optimum time to get a pre-walk sleep in.
The walkers wear pink bras and, as Sharon and Natalie have been putting the finishing touches to their wonderful designs, the house feels very feminine, especially as William's been at an outdoor activity camp. The house is strange without him. It's funny – when the kids are in the house you tell them to be quiet, when they're not you wish they were here making a noise.
6. There are so many good books written about football
I've been having meetings with all the players and staff, plus owners, this week as we start planning for next season but I did manage to fit in a couple of big functions. At the British Sports Book Awards at the Savoy I presented the prize for the best football book, and I went to the Footballer of the Year dinner.
I hadn't realised how many good books are written about sport these days. The winning book was Anthony Clavane's Promised Land about Leeds and Leeds United. Mike Calvin's Family, a fascinating insight into Millwall, was runner-up, and I was also taken by Trautmann's Journey, a biography of Bert Trautmann. Sharon didn't believe me when I said he played in an FA Cup final with a broken neck. How brave is that? Though I suppose if you've been a German paratrooper on the Russian front you can deal with most things.
The football writers' dinner was also a good night with Aidy Boothroyd and Walsall's Dean Smith also on The Independent's table. I was delighted to see Scott Parker pick up his award. Readers may recall I said he should be the next England captain at a time when he was not even in the squad. He has been excellent this season in difficult circumstances.
7. Terriers and Gulls aim high
Good luck to two of my former clubs in their play-off semis today: Huddersfield and Torquay. I've wonderful memories of both and it's great to see Lee Clark and Paul Buckle flying high with their clubs.
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