Neil Warnock: Hackett's droll sense of humour shows human side of referees

What I Learnt This Week
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The Independent Football

1. Styles' stunner adds to challenge of money men

This may surprise some people, but I shared a stage on Thursday night with Keith Hackett, the referees' supremo. Keith's a Sheffield lad so he and I go way back. He actually refereed me when I was playing.

It was a fund-raiser for our academy in a Q&A format. It is surprising what you learn on these dos. For example, did you know most refs are in favour of goal-line technology which would, at the drop of a hat, cut half the controversy. But Fifa rules the roost and won't permit it.

We were grateful to Keith for coming straight to us from a trip to Cyprus, before making the long trek home. He did raise a laugh when he said there have been occasions when the referees' department have had a good chuckle at some of the referee assessment forms I have sent in after games. A few years ago I sent in a form in which I gave a referee 100 marks out of 100. I added the comment: "He was brilliant and the sooner you get him in the Premier League and keep him there the better." I was managing in the Championship at the time.

One of the questions from the floor, from someone who had obviously read my book, Made in Sheffield, was: "Was it Keith's idea to have Rob Styles refereeing our derby against QPR today?" It was news to me. I haven't seen Rob since he failed to give a penalty in our favour at Old Trafford shortly before Sheffield United went down on a goal's goal difference 18 months ago. He had already given Liverpool a dubious penalty against us in the first match of the season for a new law I'd never heard of called intent. After what I said in the book, I never thought I'd come into contact with him again. What was already an intriguing match against the money men with their Portuguese manager, Paulo Sousa, is now even more interesting.

2. Adrenalin of winning changes my channels

Last Saturday we had "a boys and girls day" do. My eldest son, James, and his fiancée, Sarah, were visiting, along with Natalie, my eldest daughter. So James, William and me went to the football while the gaggle of girls, including Sharon and Amy, who's going to be a bridesmaid, went picking the maids' dresses.

They came back floating on air, and bumped into three lads, similarly buoyant after our 4-2 victory over Bristol City. We felt that good we celebrated with an evening of reality TV: X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, and I'm a Celebrity. In other words, when I win I'm immune. I'm not bothered what I watch. I'm full of adrenalin and the whole weekend changes.

3. Palace's taxi service crowns Canaries coup

We had a great win at Norwich City on Tuesday. I think it was the first time I'd won there since getting a result with Notts County in the top flight in 1992. I do enjoy going to Norwich, even with my previous lack of success and the fact that it cost me a couple of grand two years ago for the FA's perception of a gesture I made. The playing surface is excellent, the crowd get right behind the team, and the sausage rolls are that good Delia must make them herself.

After the game I was signing some autographs by the coach when four young lads said they'd missed their train home. One of them had been questioned by the police for jumping up and down a bit too much and the others had waited for him. It was the usual thing. One lad said: "Have you any idea how we will get home?" I rang a couple of people I knew had come in cars but only got their answerphones. They were only about 17, 18, so I said to them: "You're four lucky lads – you can sit on the team bus." We took them back to the training ground, and one of them lived nearby.

But if anyone reading this thinks they can do it as well, I'll need proof of train tickets and everything else next time. And don't bother asking unless we've won.

4. Arsenal fans in cloud cuckoo land over Wenger

It should be a cracking day's football tomorrow with the two big Premier League games. I was pleased, after the announcement of Arsène Wenger's early demise, to see them progress to the next round of the Champions League. It is amazing. You hear some of these Arsenal fans on the radio and they are going: "I know we're playing wonderful football, but we've not won anything for years. He has to go." They must be losing their heads. Who are they going to get to replace Wenger? They are in cloud cuckoo land.

It won't all be great when he leaves. I think most Arsenal fans appreciate this but some of them aren't thinking. They should look at Charlton. Remember how a few years ago fans were getting fed up with Alan Curbishley. How many managers have they had since?

Arsenal's match with Chelsea could be like a chess game. Chelsea have struggled a bit at home but Arsenal will attack them. I think the Manchester derby will be more open. It will be passionate and committed but although Mark Hughes has a reputation for physical play his City team aren't like that. It could be 5-4 to City – I wonder what the odds are.

5. Summit meeting will test toughest of tough

There's also a big match in the Championship this weekend, first v second when free-scoring Wolves play a really organised side in Birmingham. I thought Reading would be above both teams – they and Birmingham must have the biggest wage bill in the division – but their home defeat to Southampton last week showed just how tough this league. Anyone can beat anyone.

6. Sixtieth birthday lets me on bus with Robinho

I'll be celebrating my 60th birthday on Monday at the club's disabled children's Christmas party. William and Amy are coming along too. I'm sure we'll all enjoy it.

Sixty, eh? The world is my oyster. I can get in the cinema at kids' prices. There's reduced fares on the train. I'll even be getting the bus like Robinho.

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