Neil Warnock: I treated Sharon to a romantic Moroccan mini-break of snakes, souks – and two football games
What I learnt This Week
Saturday 02 April 2011
I made the most of the international break with an express trip to Marrakesh last weekend. While I told Sharon it was a holiday, it was a working one for me, as she found out when we arrived and I told her I was going to watch Morocco's Olympic team play on the Saturday, and the senior team, which Adel Taarabt plays for, on the Sunday. At least that was on the TV as they were playing away, in Algeria.
That was a shame, it looked an incredible atmosphere and I'd love to have been there. Adel explained to me they were big, big rivals, it was like the India v Pakistan cricket match. Morocco lost to a soft penalty after five minutes, a handball given by the linesman after the ref had waved play on.
Watching that game made me realise how good refs are in our country, and how well-behaved our players are. I've never seen so much diving and theatricals. I said to Sharon I could never have managed that team day in, day out; Adel's more than enough to deal with. Morocco were unlucky to lose but I still think they can qualify for the African Nations Cup. However, from a personal point of view, losing Adel for five weeks next January-February might not be so good for QPR so maybe it was the right result for us, if not for Adel.
There's been a lot of investment in Moroccan football and I can see them becoming a power again. The King has built a stunning brand-new 50,000-seat stadium in Marrakesh, but unfortunately most of them were empty on Saturday. Morocco won (2-0 against Mozambique) and when I spoke to their manager afterwards – Pim Verbeek, the Dutchman who took Australia to the last World Cup – I was a bit put out when he said he could call up Taarbs for the Olympics. Then I thought, "why worry about summer 2012 when I'm a football manager? That's miles off."
We did have time for some sight-seeing, wandering round the square and through the souks. We saw all the snake-charmers with their cobras. I was a bit disappointed no one offered to swap Sharon for a camel, though she wasn't. I think it was her dark hair – I'm told blondes are more popular. We bought a few things including a magical box for the kids; there's a secret key which involves solving a puzzle. When I tried to buy it I realised all those years negotiating transfer fees had stood me in good stead. I got him down from 600 dirham to 300. Mind you, I thought afterwards he would probably have taken 150.
I have to say thanks to Adel, it was his suggestion we go. Talking of him when I met Stan Bowles on Thursday (see above) he said he loves watching Adel play, which was praise indeed from such a club legend. I told him I thought it was because of the club's tradition of entertainers like him, Rodney Marsh and Tony Currie that the fans have so taken to Adel.
2. International teams should take more care of players
The only downside to watching Taarbs play on TV is every time he goes down I worry he's injured. That's the worst thing about international weeks and I do feel for my old mate Mick McCarthy. When his Wolves are scrapping for their lives to stay in the Premier League I can't begin to imagine how bad he must have felt seeing Kevin Doyle coming off with an injury that could finish his season. I have always encouraged players to play for their country, but there is always that worry.
Even if players do not get injured there can be problems. We had Heidar Helguson going to Cyprus to play a friendly for Iceland. Straight after the game we put him on a plane to Iceland, then he had to come back to London. By the time he got home he was as sore and stiff as could be. Then we found out that some Icelandic officials had got a plane back to England to watch their U21s play. Helguson could have been on that plane and been a lot fresher. As always no one gave it a thought.
That is how managers get disappointed. When international teams don't look after players you are bound to feel a bit bitter. We are so glad we're not playing until Monday as it took us best part of four days to get him moving freely.
3. Parker and Wilshere prove me right in England's colours
I bet Fabio enjoyed international week. Three points against Wales followed by one of the best friendlies I've seen England play. I thought it gave everybody in the country, including Capello, insight into what we have beyond his trusted core. He's struck lucky because some of these players have come to the fore by default, and grabbed their chance.
Or maybe he's been reading because I was first to say Scott Parker should be a key player – I'd make him captain, and months ago I said Wilshere should be a regular. Now it should be Parker, Wilshere, and either Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard as the extra midfielder. Not that they are certain of a place. I'd love to see Rooney in the hole where we play Taarbs. That would leave no room for those two as the wide men should be permed from Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott and Matt Jarvis. At centre-forward I'd play Darren Bent because of his mobility even though he's not as good in the air as Andy Carroll or Peter Crouch. We tend to be more direct if they are leading the line.
While I'm delighted Carroll scored, the headlines the following day were a bit premature – some papers said he is better than Drogba. I don't accept that. He took his goal well, which is how you judge strikers, but he was poor on the night. Goodness knows what Peter Crouch thought as it looks like he has been bombed completely out. Having scored all those important goals he must be devastated. I don't suppose Capello has told him why, he doesn't do that.
4. Seeing kids perform brings a lump to the throat
What will I be doing this afternoon? Will I be on the sofa with Sky Sports on, following all the scores and biting my fingernails? No, I'll be at a West End matinee with William, Amy and Sharon. It's Sharon's birthday and I'll get some right brownie points for this.
On Wednesday I went to William's school play, Robin and his Merry Men. He was Friar Nosh. We all think our kids are the best, but when you see them on stage like that you do get a lump in the throat. Amy has also been involved in the arts this week too with a singing exam. Over the last year her voice has got really good. I used to start howling when she and William sang, but now I listen.
5. I don't look forward to games against my home club
We play my hometown team, and my old club, Sheffield United, on Monday. I don't enjoy these games. There's still a lot of people at Sheffield who are good friends and I'm sad to see the position they are in. They've had injures galore, none more so than Chris Morgan, the captain, who would have been so important at a time like this. They will be buoyed after beating Leeds and are fighting for their lives so it'll be a difficult game.
6. Might Sachin flop yet India still triumph in Mumbai?
I know two of the key people at QPR, Amit Bhatia and Ishan Saksena, will be glued to the TV set today, like every Indian person in the country, for what promises to be a fantastic Cricket World Cup final. It's almost made for Sachin Tendulkar to get his hundredth hundred. But I wonder what are the odds on him getting a duck and India still winning?
7. No need for quota – good coaches like Curle will make it
I've been asked this week what I think about football bringing in a version of the NFL's Rooney Rule, which means clubs must interview a black candidate when a manager's job is available. Personally, and I say this as someone who has a black coach in Keith Curle who I think will one day be an excellent manager, and an Asian physio, I am not in favour. I believe whatever the colour of your skin if you are good enough you'll get on. Paul Ince has suggested he would have got better opportunities if he was white. He might want to ask if he would have got such good opportunities, having barely worked as a coach, and not done his badges, if he had not played for England.
My night with QPR's greats
I had the pleasure of meeting some of QPR's great names when I attended a legends' night in aid of the club's Community Trust, which does a lot of excellent work, especially with disabled kids.
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