Neil Warnock: For once there is no satisfaction at all in being proved right
What I Learnt On Saturday Night: I must admit that I described Robert Green as "anaccident waiting to happen"
Monday 14 June 2010
Sharon and I were glad to welcome a reader named Richard Romaniak to watch England play the United States on Saturday. Rick had won a World Cup competition in these pages, and one of his prizes was an evening chez Warnock, to watch the big game. The runner-up, I'm told, will get to come round twice.
It's just as well Rick was with me, because somebody had to witness what I said before kick-off. Really it was freakish the way it turned out. And it doesn't give me the slightest satisfaction, as you can imagine. But when we were talking about Capello's starting XI – and I can hardly believe the phrase I used – I must admit that I described Robert Green as "an accident waiting to happen".
I feel terrible for the lad, like everyone else. But the fact is that I couldn't really see him as an England keeper. He doesn't have the aura of David James – you see the way James runs his defence.
Maybe there was some injury issue with James. And I agree that it would have been impossible to go with Hart, as well as he has done. He does look as though he could become the long-term solution – potentially our No 1 for the best part of 20 years – but it just wouldn't be fair to pitch him into a World Cup at this stage.
Rick asked what a manager could say to the lad at half-time. And the answer is that you can't say anything. A gaffe like that, he doesn't need telling anything. All you can say is: "Come on lads, get your mate out of this mess. You all know it could have been any of you. Now let's get him out of this."
It's a tough one, though. The hardest half-time talk I've ever had was at Wembley, in a play-off final with Huddersfield. We had battered Bristol Rovers, first half, absolutely battered them – but it was 0-0 after 45 minutes. Then we scored, in injury time – and they went straight up the other end and equalised. We had been brilliant, and the dressing room was like a morgue.
As it happens, we did win that game, with a late winner – but we didn't play well for the first few minutes of the second half. You couldn't miss the deflation in England, either. Everyone feels for Green, of course they do. But the fact is that the Americans got out of jail. The question now is what Capello does for the next game. I think that if you pick him, now, you pick him for the wrong reason.
2. Stay loyal to your players
The other thing I said to Rick before the game was that Capello had to go with Heskey. He is a manager's player. Ninety per cent of pundits would not have started him. Ninety per cent of managers definitely would. And he had a cracking game, typified by his work for England's goal. Your best player has to be happy and Rooney obviously loves playing with him.
To me, though, if you stay loyal to Heskey – considering everything he did in qualifying – then you have to stay loyal to Theo Walcott, too. You don't forget people who get you out of a corner. And he gives you a different option, too, off the front man. His final ball isn't always the best but instinct would take over, and in that way he would offer you something different from Lennon or Wright-Phillips.
3. Ignore superstition at your peril
When Gerrard scored we were still finishing our dinner. And being superstitious I felt we shouldn't move from the table. We went for the comfort of the sofa and armchairs, though, and the rest is history. I remember when I didn't change some lucky underpants at Rotherham. Obviously there was a price to pay, for anyone in the vicinity, but we went 18 games unbeaten.
4. A high-tempo game is the way forward for England
I had to admit to Rick that I don't massively enjoy watching England. I always wish they played their games more like the Premier League, make the opponents work harder. When we come up against teams more comfortable on the ball, it suits them to have a slower game. Having said that, I think we were as positive as I've seen in a long time. It was a horrible game, for a manager, because everyone expects a win but you know you're up against good players who know how to make life difficult.
Overall I think expectations are too high for England. They often struggle to score goals, once they come up against world-class opposition.
5. Always keep your cool
Rick had spent the afternoon at the British Museum before coming down for the game. And then Sharon cooked us salmon and green beans for supper. All very civilised – as you would expect for a man who reads The Independent. Think of all those tabloid readers sweating in the pub!
He proved a very nice fellow, especially given that his first love is Leeds... His other teams reminded me of some of the happiest days of my career – at York and Scarborough.
And I hope he agrees that Sharon's strawberry pavlova was the highlight of the evening. After the game, my chin was on the floor – and then that came through the door. Mind you, things had got off to a bad start when Amy brought me a glass of white wine that had not been chilled. Unfortunately, thanks to Robert Green, it wasn't the last time we were missing a bit of cool on the night.
6. How to get one over on the Dutch and Germans... at fishing
At the end of the season we enjoyed a few days at a log cabin in Scotland. The weather was fantastic, we cycled miles, and I took Will mackerel-fishing. There were all these Dutch and German anglers sitting round waiting for something to happen, and William landed one with his very first cast. They all looked around and I said: "Just wait until the World Cup!"
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