For years the first fixture I looked for was my boyhood team, Sheffield United. That was doubly so after I had to finish managing them, and then returned to the game with Crystal Palace.
Which is why it struck me when the fixtures came out this summer that the first match I looked for was the trip to Selhurst Park. I made so many friends at Palace, and have such good memories of the club. I really owe Palace. The club gave me back my enthusiasm for the game. I was thinking about retiring, now I'm getting the vibes I had when I started 30 years ago (30years! Where did they all go?).
Obviously people have asked me what sort of reception I will get but I don't see any reason for it to be a bad one. The Palace fans were fair to me when I went back with QPR last season and hopefully today should be the same. I think the majority of fans will be OK, Palace fans appreciate people who worked hard for them.
Personally I don't have a bad word for them. I still feel bitter about the way the club was forced into administration by a hedge fund last season, especially with Blackpool having gone up. No disrespect to them, but when it happened I thought we were more likely to get into the play-offs. We were two points behind Blackpool with a game in hand. I still can't understand why the guy did it. He didn't get his money back. It was a pointless exercise.
This time Shaun Derry and Clint Hill are also going back, but they did so well for Palace I can't see them getting stick. Until the game starts that is. Once the whistle blows I fully expect Palace fans to rally round their team and give us all stick, and why not?
Shaun and Clint only left because with all the turmoil there they did not know what their futures would be. They didn't have contract offers at the time and they asked me if there might be a place for them at Rangers. I did feel they would be good in the dressing room, but if I'm honest I didn't think either would be regulars. It just shows you can never write anyone off in this game.
On the pitch I think it will be a difficult afternoon. I remember last season I feared we would be relegated if we lost at Selhurst, things were that poor. Fortunately we got the right result and both clubs stayed up. This season our respective positions are very different but it's a derby, and there's the added spice of our return, so I don't think the league table will mean anything. We'll need to be at our best.
2. Stinking cold has made this my first week to forget at QPR
This has been one of the worst weeks I've had since I've been at QPR, but before you read anything into that it's because I have had a diabolical cold which started on Sunday. I only started feeling human yesterday.
What is it about us blokes? When we get colds we think we're dying don't we? Women just seem to fob it off. I must say I was quite pleased to have to have the missus around to look after me, though she must have got fed up with me at times.
3. Derby matches are great – but you don't want too many
The only 90 minutes I have enjoyed this week was our match against Millwall on Tuesday. That was the perfect example of how form goes out of the window in derby matches and I'm glad we haven't got many of them. One year at Sheffield we had eight with Wednesday, Leeds, Barnsley and Doncaster in the division. They are far more demanding physically and that does take its toll.
Tuesday was typical, a real scrap and one of the best 0-0 draws I've been involved in. The attitude of the players was superb but Milllwall fought tooth and nail to protect their goal and we couldn't quite break them down.
I feared the worst when I noticed the referee was Lee Probert. The last time I had him at QPR he and the fourth official had me sent to the stands. For what I will never know, and neither did the Football Association because I wasn't even charged. However, I have to say Lee and his team more than played their part in a robust game. I think I only shouted at them once or twice during the match. The only grievance I had was when someone like Adel Taarabt is being man-marked and the guy fouls him for the sixth time. I think that is a good case for persistent infringement. Yet he gets off while Heidar Helguson is booked for showing his disgust at being wrongly given offside.
I do have problem with these petty bookings – like that, or players taking their shirt off in celebration – when offences like simulation, or players trying to hurt opponents, are not properly punished.
It was a great atmosphere but it was spoilt when I heard about the trouble around the ground which resulted in 11 arrests, I'm told. There really should be better liaison between the guys running the fixture computer, and the police, to make sure matches like this are not played in the evening, it is asking for trouble. In fairness, to compound the problems Chelsea were playing a couple of miles away and they could not have known that until the European draw was made.
4. Just getting your debut doesn't mean you've made it
It'll be strange to see so many of the young lads I gave debuts to playing against us. I expect to see Nathaniel Clyne, Wilfred Zaha, Kieran Djilali, Kieron Cadogan. Sean Scannall and Lee Hills might have been involved too if they were not injured. I feel quite proud.
The kids are the future for Palace, they have such a good youth system. As well as those lads they've already sold Victor Moses and John Bostock.
I gave 15 lads their debut at Palace, but it is sobering to note two of them are already out of the game. Injury was not the problem, they just lost their way a bit. There's a lesson there for all young lads coming through: getting a debut does not mean you've made it; if you don't work hard to sustain progress you'll fall by the wayside.
5. All the fun of the fair when I cut loose with my pellet gun
Will came home the other day looking all sheepish. He said, "Dad, I have something to show you." I feared the worst, but it was a certificate for being the best performer of the week in street dance. It's now got pride of place on the mantelpiece.
Amy is doing very well in shooting, she got 81/100 with her pistol. I still can't believe our 12-year-old girl wants to take it up as a hobby, but she really enjoys it. I'd love to have a go at clay-pigeon shooting myself, it looks so difficult. In Cornwall I have a pellet gun. I use it with one of those targets you see at fairgrounds, when the metal bits flip down when you hit them. I feel like I'm at the funfair.
6. Preston's comeback was the highlight of the week
I thought West Brom's victory at Arsenal would be performance of the week, then Preston came back from 4-1 down to win 6-4 at Leeds. That is just incredible, I bet neither Darren Ferguson or Simon Grayson can believe it still.
I do feel for Simon. At Plymouth once we blew a 4-1 lead at Wrexham with less than 20 minutes left. We even had a chance to go 5-1 up but missed it. Wrexham drew level then missed a fantastic chance to win it in injury time. That would have been a sickener.
On the other side I will never forget the play-off semi-final second-leg with Sheffield United when we came back from 2-0 down to beat Nottingham Forest 4-3. I can still see Paul Peschisolido celebrating his goal.
7. Mackie's been singing in the rain after his Scotland call-up
The lads have been helping out Surrey-born-and-bred Jamie Mackie with the Scots anthem after his call-up. I think he's just getting to the bit about beating the English army. Seriously, I am so pleased for him, even though it's a bit strange that nine games ago no one outside the West Country had heard of him. Now, through his Scottish grandad, he may be their best chance of qualifying.
I'm pleased to help out Craig Levein who's a good bloke, though from QPR's point of view it's not ideal. Jamie's not been training because of a tight hamstring and we were looking forward to the international break to give him the chance to rest it. We have a similar situation with Heidar, but he's desperate to play for Iceland and I don't believe you should stop people playing for their country. I don't suppose Tommy Smith and Patrick Agyemang, who are desperate to get in our starting XI, will be too upset if one of them gets knackered, even if I will be.Reuse content