Neil Warnock: I had a surreal birthday: Joey was happy, Jay didn't moan and Des sang

What I Learnt This Week

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The Independent Football

I would never have imagined, a few years ago, that I would spend my birthday going out in London and being serenaded by Des O'Connor.

But that's what I did on Thursday, and while 63 may seem old to some of you, I felt very young watching Des who's 80 next month and still going strong. What a pro, he must really love entertaining.

Des was in Dreamboats and Petticoats, it's a musical about the early years of rock 'n' roll. It's a bit before my time – I'm hoping they'll do a Tamla Motown musical – but it was a really enjoyable night, up there with Jersey Boys. It's one of Everton chairman Bill Kenwright's, I'll have to drop him a line. I also liked the venue, the Playhouse.

Before the show we went to Covent Garden for a bite to eat, and ended up buying another CD from one of the young ladies who sing there. All the Christmas decorations were up, the smell of mulled wine was in the air, it was fabulous.

The day began when I was woken up by William, at five past seven, with a birthday cake all lit up which he had made with his mum. It was far better than anything you could buy, and I'm not saying that with an arm up my back. Fortunately there wasn't a candle for every year, there's no way I could have blown all of them out, and it might have set the smoke alarm off.

William's card said: "I love you Daddy ... even though you are a plonker!" Children never said things like that when I was young, I'd have got a clip round my lughole. Amy's card showed a lady with a gun in her hand and a big birthday cake. She was saying: "If you don't take some of them candles off my cake I'll kill you."

I went to training and it was probably one of the best days we've had. All sorts of strange things happened. Jay Bothroyd never moaned, Joey Barton was happy, Adel Taarabt did lots of running. Happily most of the Movember moustaches had come off. Thank goodness.

I took some of William's cake in for the staff, but then we had our flu jabs. All the players have one. They are not forced to but it makes sense in such a closed environment. I hate jabs, I'm such a coward I have to look away. So we had to clear the room of players, I didn't want them seeing me like that.

2. Crisis, now that Elvijs has left the building

What would I like for my birthday? A goalkeeper would be nice, but the Premier League won't let me have one. You'll probably know by now we had our first two goalies injured and asked to bring in an emergency loan. The League said we couldn't have one as we had other keepers on our books.

One of them is Radek Cerny, who has a long-standing injury which means he has only been able to play two reserve games this season. Then there's Elvijs Putnins, a 20-year-old Latvian who we released without playing a game. However, he's a good lad and he asked if he could see out his contract training with us. We agreed, and loaned him to Borehamwood where he's been playing in the Blue Square South. He's nowhere near ready for the top flight and neither is the other lad, a first-year pro. Imagine if Radek got injured, which is not unlikely given his fitness problems, and I had to put one of these kids in and they made a mistake which cost us the game. Never mind us losing three points, think of the devastating effect it would have on them with the coverage the league gets now.

3. Anton must raise his game against Baggies

I think Anton Ferdinand's form has dipped with all the furore over John Terry's alleged racist abuse of him, and I mentioned that to the press yesterday. I thought I'd said it before, in this column, but when they all pricked their ears up and looked interested I realised I hadn't. I hope today, against West Bromwich Albion, his level of performance gets back to what it was beforehand.

Anton will need to be in good form because I'm expecting a tough game today. I've a lot of time for Albion chairman Jeremy Peace and sporting director Dan Ashworth, the way they run the club is an excellent model for us to follow, steadily signing better players and establishing themselves in the Premier League without taking risks with the club. Afterwards we're having a party for my grandson's birthday. More cake.

4. It could be a blessing for Brucie to get boot

So we've had the first managerial casualty of the Premier League season and I bet all those people who bet on it being me when I was joint-favourite back in August are gutted. I hope they had a lot of money on.

There are such fine lines at this level. Injures, refereeing decisions, they all contribute. I keep thinking how lucky Newcastle are at having a back five that's not changed all season. That's utopia. If they can keep that going to the end of the season they'll be top six. When you look back at Steve Bruce and Sunderland it went wrong when he lost Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan. It doesn't matter how much money you get, it is very hard to replace players of this calibre. How many players can guarantee you goals at this level, as Bent does? It's not easy, look at Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll, two good players, they are not even regulars at their clubs now.

I was listening to a guy on a radio phone-in and he said Steve should have been able to talk them into staying. He's obviously not in the real world. Steve didn't have a cat in hell's chance of talking either player into staying with the contracts they'd been offered elsewhere.

With Steve's experience he'll not be long out of work and he might even be feeling a bit of relief. It's always disappointing to lose a job as a manager but sometimes you get in a situation where it can be a blessing. You very quickly find yourself looking forward to the next challenge.

5. Roll out the red carpet for heroes from Palace

I was delighted by Crystal Palace's fantastic result at Old Trafford as I've still got some very good friends who are Palace fans and they've not been given a lot to shout about in recent years. It was obviously a night to remember. One of my best mates, Justin, texted me yesterday to say he was just getting home. I guess it's a long way back when you've been over the moon. It wasn't just the win, it was the way Palace played. They deserved it. I certainly wouldn't have liked to be in United's dressing room at the end. I was so pleased for Darren Ambrose scoring that great goal and texted him to tell him so. He's a lovely lad who's not been a regular recently so it will have been very sweet. Now Palace and Cardiff, and their excellent young managers Dougie Freedman and Malky Mackay, each have a great opportunity to get to Wembley.

6. Speed death hit me as hard as when we lost Di

We'll be showing our respects before the match today to Gary Speed. Although I didn't know Gary very well, I've not been so shocked since Princess Diana died. I don't know how the players and staff of Swansea and Villa got through their game last Sunday. I don't know if I could have done it, and I wasn't even close to him. I was pleased nobody lost the match.

7. Will scores top try but trying times for Sharon

Will played a rugby tournament during the week and scored a great try as his team reached the semi-finals. He was shattered when he got home and so was Sharon. There were problems on the motorway and she took two and a half hours to go 29 miles. There are some drawbacks to living down here.