Neil Warnock: Good managers always believe they can get best from bad boys

What I Learnt This Week


1. Rogue element set a coaching challenge


I've always been a big fan of Joey Barton as a player. If we had stayed up at Sheffield United I was going to pay £4m for him so that shows how highly I rate him. But I suppose, like many others, when I listen to his apologies I do say to myself: 'I wonder how long it will be before he is in trouble again?' I hope he means what he says because there are no more chances for Joey and I fear the worst if he does not take heed now. When I look at his life, if you take football away from it, I don't see what other way there is for him to go.

Obviously he had already been in a few scrapes when I was thinking of signing him but you always think you can be the one to change a player, to settle him down, especially when you've been a manager for a few years. There have been a lot of players I've signed who other managers said, 'Don't touch him with a barge pole'. I bet I have got 90 per cent of them playing well, but some you can't win with. One ex-player had loads of ability but my staff told me not to waste my time with him. I spent the best part of two years trying to turn him around, getting him out of scrapes with the police when he went back home. In the end I had to let him go. I remember saying to him that there are two ways you can go, you can be a footballer and earn good money for 12-15 years, or end up in prison. Unfortunately he didn't take the first option which saddens me.

An example of someone who did change his life around is Michael Brown, who played 150 league games for me at Sheffield United. He was coming up to 22 when I signed him. He'd been at Manchester City but he'd had a few problems in the Manchester area and I was warned off him. From the start I just classed him as a likeable rogue and trusted him completely. He gave me four good years before we sold him into the Premier League with Tottenham. He's now at Wigan but he's one of my ex-players I keep in touch with and I was pleased to hear last month that he has become a father for the first time with Ela, who is a wonderful wife. The baby's called Lally Biba. I hope I've spelt it right. It's a new one on me but that's Michael for you. I'm sure he will make a super Dad.

It's often the case that you just need to get someone out of their environment and away from some bad influences. I remember Curtis Woodhouse at Sheffield United. A talented lad but he got into a load of scrapes. In the end I had to ban him from going home to Driffield. I always got the dreaded phone call on Sunday night or Monday: "PC Plod here".

He was always a boxing fan. I'd hear he'd been sparring on an afternoon off so I'd bring him in to my office and ask him. He'd be stood there, black eye and fat lip, saying, "No Boss, not me". In the end he took up professional boxing. He's now combining playing football for Rushden & Diamonds with boxing. He's won all eight bouts and calls himself the "Driffield Destroyer". He's a lovely lad and I'm pleased he's doing well.

2. It's not what you know it's who you know...

So David Beckham is off to Milan. It proves it's not what you know, but who you know - it must help if Fabio Capello is putting in a good word. Not that I don't think David's still a good player. If Theo Walcott was left-sided I'd have Beckham on England's right. I've heard David might be one of the younger ones at Milan so I'm not sure he'll have enough pace around him. When you see the team-sheet it reads like an all-star veterans team. It's just a pity they have to play competitive football.

3. Only a llama will scare off the foxes, apparently

Last week I told you that I had trouble with the dogs eating fox poo and asked if anyone knew how I could keep them away. The Independent had only been on the streets a few hours and I was offered a solution. I went on Sky's Soccer AM and the presenter Helen Chamberlain, who I know from my days at Torquay because she's a massive fan, said she'd read my column and had an answer. I said how pleased I was to hear she was reading an intelligent newspaper, and what was her answer? She said get a llama. She has one and foxes come nowhere near. I said I can't see a llama settling down near Beckenham.

Everyone thinks I live in Cornwall and commute to Palace. I don't, even if anyone who's ever tried to drive to Selhurst Park will understand when I say it sometimes seems like a 300-mile journey into work.

4. Rent a movie? The chairman makes them

After today's match at Blackpool I'll be rushing back to London to watch a movie. Where most people rent a DVD if they want to see a film our chairman, Simon Jordan, is not one to do things by halves. He's funded a movie. It's called Telstar and it's about Joe Meek, the man behind some of the big hits of my era, songs like 'Have I the Right' and 'Telstar'. I'm looking forward to it, but I think I'll just stick to hiring DVDs .

5. Lastminute.agony

I had to endure the most gut-wrenching feeling a manager ever has at Birmingham City on Tuesday, losing to an injury-time goal. It doesn't happen very often in football, but it has happened three times to me in the last twelve months. It's a feeling you can't explain yet you still have to brush yourself down and speak to the press, which you want then like a hole in the head. First question: "How do you feel?" I felt like saying "How the flaming heck do you think I feel?" – or words to that effect.

The journey home felt twice as long. The bus finally dropped us off at 1.45am. I did feel slightly better when I spoke to someone at Preston who had lost at Plymouth. They got in at 4.45am. It makes you realise there's always someone worse off.

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