Neil Warnock: I didn't know anyone at Hillsborough – but I still found myself crying this week
What I Learnt This Week
It all came flooding back to me this week. I was manager of Notts County and we had lost 3-0 at Preston. I hadn't been there long and was trying to build a team to get out of the Third Division. As you can imagine, I wasn't happy and feeling a bit sorry for myself as I went to do the press. They told me there had been some trouble at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, details were sketchy but it looked as if quite a few fans were injured.
For some reason I wasn't going back with the team to Nottingham, but driving straight back to Sheffield, where I lived. I clearly remember listening to the radio as I drove back across the Pennines. As the journey wore on it became horribly apparent it was not just an incident but a disaster. I remember driving down the motorway thinking, "Here I am, disappointed at losing 3-0, and it now seems so irrelevant in comparison with what is going off at Hillsborough." As the scale of the disaster became apparent, our result just became insignificant.
When I got back into the city it was eerie, like there had been an earthquake. There was a silence throughout the city.
Even Sheffield United fans like myself accepted Hillsborough was one of the best grounds in the country; it staged all those semi-finals, it had to be. Now we know it was anything but.
Hearing about the independent report this week, and reading the shocking evidence about the police cover-up, the various inadequacies on the part of the authorities, the terrible way the fans were blamed, was just unbelievable. I just cannot imagine the awfulness of having your child go off to a game of football, all excited about seeing a fantastic semi-final, and not only end up losing the child but to have their reputation smeared by claims that they were drunk and behaving like hooligans. To endure so much injustice over so many years doesn't bear thinking about. I can't begin to imagine what the parents have been through and I have so much sympathy and admiration for their persistence in demanding to know the truth when so many people have tried to tell them that the matter was closed. They must have felt such relief when the Prime Minister read out that statement. I began to cry just listening to it myself and I didn't personally know any of the victims or their relatives.
I suppose when we look at the game we have now, with the super stadiums and all the modern safety measures, it is in large part because of Hillsborough and the Taylor Report that followed. But it should not have taken such a disaster, the loss of so many young lives, for it to happen.
2. Roy must gamble
Any regular reader will know I am not a big fan of watching England play and the other night showed why. It almost looked as if England, like Scotland, had sent a team out not to lose rather than to win. You might not think there is much difference in that, but believe you me there is. It'll be interesting to see how they progress because, at some stage in the near future, Roy Hodgson and Craig Levein are going to have to gamble on winning games, rather than not losing them.
To be fair to Roy, in Wayne Rooney's absence his options are limited. While I think Jermain Defoe is a cracking player, and the best substitute there is for England, I just don't see him holding the ball up enough and bringing others into play. Andy Carroll's better at that but, obviously, he was injured too. In Carroll's absence I was surprised Roy didn't call in Peter Crouch. I understand his dilemma, as Crouch didn't want to be on the standby list for Euro 2012, but I don't think you can worry too much about past history, you have to do what's right for the current situation.
3. Enter Mr Reliable
I've been trying to work the loan market this week after we suffered a couple of injuries but our initial targets were far too expensive so I've brought in my Mr Reliable, Michael Tonge, who was with me at Sheffield United. He knows how my teams play so won't take long to settle in, which is good as we have a pair of tough matches coming up, Cardiff away today and Hull on Tuesday.
It'll be a reunion for me today as Cardiff have four of my old Palace and QPR players, Mark Hudson, Tommy Smith, Matt Connolly and Heidar Helguson. I tried to bring in Tommy in the summer but as with Nicky Maynard, another Cardiff signing, we couldn't afford him. Malky Mackay's a very good young manager but I am envious of the resources he's been given.
4. My Murray deflation
I watched Andy Murray in the final of the US Open on Monday night but I was so tired I kept dropping off. So when Novak Djokovic broke early in the fourth set I decided to Sky+ it and watch the rest in the morning.
I woke at seven when William phoned me to tell me about his day. I immediately said "Don't tell me the result of Murray's match", but it didn't matter as he didn't know anyway. After the call I decided to watch the game, fast-forwarding between points. It got to two sets all. Then to Murray leading 5-2. Then Djokovic had a medical timeout. Then Murray served to win the match. Then... the screen went blue and a message appeared saying "End of programme".
Can you believe it? Can you imagine the deflation I and thousands of others who suffered the same fate felt? I had to ring my eldest son James up to ask how it had finished. I'd been watching it for five hours to see the euphoria of victory, or the despair of defeat, and I felt robbed. I notice Sky have apologised since but that won't make up for missing the moment.
Something else I couldn't believe was the people whose response was to say Murray hadn't had to beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, so he won by default. They could not have seen the game. It was the most breathtaking match I have ever watched. I couldn't see Murray winning at 2-2 yet he showed character as well as ability. But still people doubt him. I am really astounded how negative people can be with our heroes.
5. KP needs England
As a team manager and a cricket fan I've been following the Kevin Pietersen situation with interest and I really hope he takes a long look in the mirror in the next few weeks. England are a lesser team without him, but to get the team spirit that you need to be successful you cannot have individuals undermining the group ethic. While I am sure he can make more money elsewhere, I think Pietersen needs England more than England need him. I hope he apologises because I enjoy watching him bat.
And well done to my two counties, Yorkshire and Derbyshire, in winning promotion in the County Championship. I was born in Derbyshire, but when I was a teenager they changed the border and it became a Yorkshire village, so I've always been a bit of both.
6. Well done to the FA
I was impressed at the Football Association naming the press lounge at Wembley in honour of Danny Fullbrook, the Daily Star journalist who died in the summer at the tender age of 41. As you know, I'm not a great fan of some tabloid journalists but Danny was a great bloke who is sorely missed by all who knew him.
7. A lovely little layer
During the international break I managed to get a few days in Cornwall. As you can see from the picture below, we have decided to take on some chickens. Amy's nicknamed mine Nellie, because she calls me that sometimes. Nellie doesn't produce massive eggs, but the quality is there.
EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.
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