Neil Warnock: I know exactly how Wenger felt – that same official sent me off

What I've Learnt This Week
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The most extraordinary thing this week was seeing Arsène Wenger being asked to leave the pitch in the last minute of added time at Old Trafford. I was not surprised in the slightest when I saw who the fourth official was: Lee Probert.

I immediately thought back to our match at QPR when he got me sent off for absolutely nothing. I tried to pick a ball up that was coming towards me so we could take a quick throw-in and miscontrolled it. In stepped Probert, for his moment of glory, and accused me of wasting time. An experienced man, or someone who understood football, would have known what had happened. The FA did not lay any charges because obviously they knew there was nothing untoward. I imagine they would have had a laugh about it when they saw the incident.

As I watched Match of the Day on Saturday I could see him in the background and when Wenger kicked the water bottle his eyes lit up. I said to Sharon, "Oh my goodness, please don't get the referee over." But he did. Then I'm saying, "Please Mike, think about football and the understanding of it and overrule him."

Unfortunately over the last 12 months I do feel Mike Dean has become more of a laws man than one who understands the game, like Howard Webb and Alan Wiley do. Maybe having seen that Mike Riley is taking over from Keith Hackett as the refs' supremo he thinks picking up on every little thing is the way to go. As I've said all through Riley's career, it is absolutely incredible that with such limited ability he has become one of the top referees in England and Uefa, and is now taking over from Keith. I can only feel his appointment will encourage robots at the expense of referees who understand the game.

I thought Arsène was fantastic in the way he handled it. I was just so happy it was in the last few seconds and he did not have to walk down the touchline. It did not surprise me in the slightest that Keith Hackett apologised to him. Keith was a ref who used man-management as well as the rules and on occasion I'm sure he was marked down by the assessor but marked up in the respect he would have got from the players in handling certain situations.

It reminded me very much of one of my earlier games in the Northern Premier League when I was at Burton. I went to watch Mossley who were a top side then, and very physical. They had two animals at centre-half, one in midfield and one up front. It was a local derby with Runcorn so the tackles were flying in but the ref was in full control, letting advantage go when he could, lecturing a few when he had to, and getting respect from both sides.

I found myself sitting next to a ref who was acting as assessor. I said to him, "The young ref's done well hasn't he?" I were gobsmacked when the assessor, who I knew was not the best ref in the world, began to tell me he had not run the diagonals correctly and had got some of his angles and positioning wrong. I remember thinking, "Surely he must see both sets of players respect him and that he's been totally in charge of the game, so what's it matter if he got a few angles wrong?" I realised it was more important to this assessor that the young ref got his trivialities wrong than the fact he totally understood the game. Needless to say, the ref went to the very top.

2. Chelsea won't be the only ones in the dock

Chelsea's transfer ban was a bit of a shock. If it sticks I expect every top club in Europe to be banned within the next few years. Everyone in football knows tapping up, and inducements, happen, they have done for as long as I have been in the game. Even at our level we have young lads who have been offered houses for their family and everything.

All managers do it. I realised that early doors at Gainsborough Trinity. We lost two players in a week. In non-League you are supposed to make what is called "seven days' notice of approach" to speak to a player with a view to signing them. But when that letter arrives on your desk you know the player's going, and that he's already been approached.

As it happens, since I've been at Palace I've played it by the book, speaking to the player's manager instead of his agent. And I know for sure I've missed out on at least two players by doing it that way. So who can blame clubs for taking the back-door route?

Not every transfer story is grubby. I hear Steven Fletcher, Burnley's new signing, has donated £125,000, half his signing-on fee, to the Hibs youth system which developed him. What a good lad. But I expect his agent will soon knock that out of him.

3. William's idea had to be stopped in its tracks

Amy started a new senior school this week so there's been a few tears from mum and daughter. After the first few days everything settled down thank goodness leaving William to show off his improved reading. He's been looking at the papers and said: "We should sign Usain Bolt because if we put the ball over the top no one could live with him." I had to explain getting a work permit might be a problem.

4. A nightclub photo can save a thousand words

We've a breather this weekend due to the international break so I've given the lads a few days off. They've had a busy time and I believe rest is as important as training. It also gives the young lads a chance to see their families, especially the foreign ones.

Before they went we had a day out at Lingfield races with the sponsors. It was a great afternoon, particularly for Mick Jones who for the first time in his life won quite a lot of money. It turned out he'd spent the afternoon sticking to Ronnie Jepson, our new reserve team coach, who eats, sleeps and drinks with horse fraternity.

The young lads didn't go, I didn't think it was the right place to take them. Maybe I should have because I picked up one of the red tops yesterday to see a picture of one of them, James Comley, flat on his back in a nightclub. This might surprise you, but I was delighted to see it.

The lad's nowhere near our first team but he's already been given the chance to learn a very important lesson. As a footballer you have to be careful about where you go, what you do and who you are with. The quicker you learn that lesson the better and seeing himself in the paper will drive that home better than any lectures from me or the youth-team coaches. He, and the other young lads, should cut that picture out and stick it on their bedroom walls as a reminder.

5. England friendlies are a risky business

Can anybody see what anyone will get out of today's game against Slovenia? Fabio Capello knows it's not important and so do the players. I just hope someone doesn't go into a tackle half-hearted and get injured. I'd love to see him experiment totally and give all the reserves a game. Why risk your main players with a big game on Wednesday?

6. Rugby's image will take time to recover

Rugby's back this weekend, under something of a cloud. Over the years I've always admired rugby's ethics. It's always appeared to me to be a wonderful sport that encourages team spirit and camaraderie, respects referees, and has the highest morals. But my image of the game, like many thousands of others, has been shattered over the last couple of weeks. I think it will take a long time to be restored.