Neil Warnock: How Arsène lent Joey wings for the birth of baby Cassius
What I Learnt This Week
Football management is full of surprises and I got one on Boxing Day.
We were in Wales preparing for Tuesday's game against Swansea when Joey Barton informed me his partner had started having contractions. I said to him: "Family comes first, you can go back to London whenever you want, just keep us informed."
He said the contractions were still a long way apart and he'd see how it went. In the morning they had slowed down, so he said he would be OK to play. Kick-off was 5.30 for TV, Joey played, and did well as we got a hard-earned point. By the time the match finished things had speeded up and he needed to get back to London fast.
This is where we owe a big thank you to Arsène Wenger, whose Arsenal team we play this afternoon at the Emirates. To go to Swansea we borrowed Arsenal's plane and flew to Cardiff. What a difference that made. It is amazing how relaxing a 35-minute flight is compared to hours on the motorway. It also meant Joey got back and to the hospital well in time to help his partner, Georgia, who had held on so considerately, through the birth of baby Cassius.
So when we see Arsène today we'll have to say "thanks very much". I even sat in his seat. I made sure I took all my rubbish out of the seat-back pocket too. I didn't want to leave it all mucky for him.
2. I set a record by not substituting anyone
I don't expect Arsène will do us any more favours today, but it is great just to be playing at places like Arsenal and we go there in good heart after coming back from Swansea with a well-earned point. You don't realise how difficult a place the Liberty Stadium is to go. Jamie Mackie's goal was only the third they've conceded at home all season. They've had huge amounts of possession even against big clubs, so we did really well to match them. We played so well in the second half I didn't make any changes which, I was amazed to discover, meant we were the first Premier League team this season to go through a match without making a substitution.
Adel Taarabt must have been absolutely flabbergasted at not being taken off but he was doing well. Maybe he was on a high after being called up for the Cup of African Nations by Morocco.
We'll also lose Armand Traoré to Senegal. It does make it difficult for us, but in a way it is a nice problem to have. I didn't think I'd be worrying about international call-ups when I arrived at Loftus Road to find a club fighting against relegation to League One.
3. Games galore and the window – it's chaos
I'd like to wish everybody a Happy New Year, but I have to admit it is not a great time of year for football managers. There are so many games and then the transfer window opens in the middle of them. It is absolute chaos.
On the one hand I'm trying to juggle my squad to make sure players get rest when they need it, while trying to combat different opponents, on the other I'm trying to get players in and these days that's a long process.
For example, last summer I spent six weeks talking to Watford and Danny Graham, only to miss out at the end because we couldn't agree with the club or player at the time. He signed for Swansea and I couldn't blame him, though inevitably he scored against us on Tuesday. I even brought him to the house to meet Sharon. When I mentioned that this week some papers got carried away, as usual, but I do think women are good judges of people. I'm always interested to see what her first impressions are.
This is an important window for us, having had to rush things in August, and we have been lining up targets for ages. I'd love to get someone in for Monday's match against Norwich but that will be very difficult. Fortunately, we then have 16 days before our next league match, so hopefully I'll get some business done then.
At least the window did not open last night. Then we might have been facing Thierry Henry as well as Robin van Persie today.
4. My tenpin bowling skills deserve a badge
The kids met me after training on Thursday night and we went to a bowing alley at Heathrow. I do like bowling. I used to work in an alley when I was 18. It was the first one in Sheffield to open 24 hours a day. It's a game I always enjoy.
The kids played well, William got 100, but I was very pleased with myself getting 178 in the second game. I even got a 4-6 split, when you have to slice one skittle across to take out the other. I've only done that once before in my life. I said to William: "You used to get a badge if you did that as a kid." So now we're looking for a family to take on.
The family have also been on the Wii. They were dancing to Michael Jackson one night. I've never known such a good workout, everybody should have it for the kids.
I had to laugh because afterwards they changed to the tennis and next morning Amy and Sharon couldn't move their arms.
5. Kids' artistic skills make my Christmas Day
I hope your Christmas was as good as ours. I gave the lads Christmas Day off and they didn't let me down at Swansea. With the game being put back to the 27th it made sense. Footballers are away a lot at Christmas and it is nice for players and staff to spend the day with the family.
We had a quiet day at home, opening presents and watching TV. I got a lovely present from the kids. The back of our house in Cornwall is all "olde worlde", with slanting roofs at different levels and the like. They took a photograph, traced it, then painted it with watercolours and put it in a frame. I love it when kids actually make something rather than buy it. It means so much more.
I also received a new autobiography. I've been reading Andy Morrison's The Good, the Mad and the Ugly. Andy mainly played for Manchester City, Huddersfield and Plymouth Arygle but he had a few games on loan with me at Sheffield United before getting injured. It's very interesting, though I'm not sure I'd let the kids read it, given his language. Having finished that I'm moving on to Ian Holloway's book Ollie, which I'm looking forward to.
My Christmas Day TV highlight was two hours of Downton Abbey. I know EastEnders topped the ratings, but I don't know why. You know in advance there'll be a fire or a murder at Christmas Day in EastEnders. Who'd want to live on Albert Square with all that going on?
6. Chucking out salmon? My mum would have a fit
When I was a lad tins of red salmon were a Sunday-best treat. This week Sharon was opening a tin for tea and, as you do, she was draining the juice down the sink, having taken the top of the tin off. The next minute I hear Amy shouting: "Mum's had to throw the salmon away because it fell into the sink."
I said: "What? Best salmon?"
My mum would have gone ballistic. She'd have said: "There's starving children would love that." I told Sharon: "I can tell you didn't come from Sheffield. We'd have picked it up, washed it and eaten it." Times have changed.
7. Why I'm always waving my arms about on trains
I spent a bit of time on trains this week and have one question: Why is it, when you go to the toilet on a train, that the soap dispenser works, the tap works, but the dryer doesn't? I've never known one work yet, though I press every button in sight and wave my arms about in case it's motion-sensitive. I always end up drying my hands on toilet paper.
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