Neil Warnock: I'm a poet but didn't know it. Carols reading helps us Smile - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Neil Warnock: I'm a poet but didn't know it. Carols reading helps us Smile

What I Learnt This Week

There are some things you cannot imagine yourself doing in life.

I did one on Wednesday when I did a poetry reading by candlelight in the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair. All of you who imagine me as a potty-mouthed manager would have been very surprised.

I was one of the readers at Carols by Candlelight, an event in aid of Smile, a fantastic charity which performs operations on children born in developing countries with a cleft.

Among the other readers was Elizabeth McGovern, who as everyone knows played the mum in Downton Abbey, my favourite programme. You can imagine how I felt being in her company. TV presenters Mark Durden-Smith, who's done a lot of rugby, and Michael Mosley, who's done several science programmes, were also reading along with actress Zoë Wanamaker. I'm sure the highlight for everyone though was the carol singing of the Singology Gospel Choir.

They had obviously put some thought into my reading as I had a football-related poem. It was Mike Harding's moving "Christmas 1914" about the English and German troops in the trenches playing football on no-man's land on Christmas Day instead of killing each other.

William came along with friends, which made me really appreciate how lucky we are when they showed a video about the work the charity does, and a surgeon who does some of the operations spoke. He explained that these children can suffer terrible isolation but their lives can be transformed by a £150 operation. It did underline that, as my Dad used to say: "If you have food on the table, shoes on your feet and good health, there's not much more you need."

I'll have to talk my players into donating some of their fines to this worthy cause.

www.operationsmile.org.uk

2. Hard for refs who have not played the game

There were several contentious decisions last weekend, with ourselves on the wrong end of one of them.

The different – but both mistaken – decisions were made by Mike Dean, who didn't dismiss David Luiz at Newcastle, and Stuart Atwell, who did give Gary Cahill a red card at Tottenham. They showed how difficult it is for refs who've not played the game. They get 90 per cent of decisions right because they know the rules back-to-front, but there are times when you need to have played.

Cahill's red was overturned, as we knew it would be, but that's not much compensation to Owen Coyle, who's lost 4-0 having been 1-0 down when his centre-half went off. Alan Pardew also felt aggrieved, he's lost 3-0, but would that have happened if Chelsea had played with 10 men most the game?

When you are on the wrong end of a decision like that it hurts. I felt that way after Shaun Wright-Phillips had a fantastic goal wrongly ruled out for offside against West Brom. As you know, goals are hard to come by for my team at the moment but that would have put us 2-0 up. The linesman was in the perfect position but must have lost concentration. To rub salt in the wounds, West Brom equalised. Those lost points could be vital at the end of the season. In my younger days I'd have gone on TV and got myself an FA fine, now I just wonder what the linesman felt at night when he watched it.

There were more controversial moments on Monday in Liverpool's match at Fulham. I thought Craig Bellamy was very unfortunate to be booked after Clint Dempsey shoved his face into him. How many people would have controlled themselves the way Bellers did? I thought he showed great self-control.

We play at Liverpool today and while I normally come out of the tunnel just before kick-off I'll be out early so I can hear The Kop in full voice. "You'll Never Walk Alone" is the best start to any game anywhere. I'll be telling my players to enjoy it too. This match, like next week against Manchester United, is what we're in this league for.

3. Standing ovation for me...or was it for Wills?

On Tuesday we went to the Gary Barlow concert at the Albert Hall in aid of the Prince's Trust. I'm not a great fan of Take That, but I really enjoyed it. There were some good acts: Lulu, Jason Donovan, Marcus Collins from X Factor. It's funny, as soon as the first song starts, everyone gets up, and you can always see one or two older people don't really want to, but they have to.

When I walked into the box I was in, the whole place stood up as one to applaud. I was delighted. I've really taken to London and it is nice for the feeling to be reciprocated. Then I realised Prince Charles and Camilla, and Prince William and Kate, had appeared at the same time. How disappointed was I?

As the concert got in full flow you could see Kate wanted to stand up and wave her arms around like us silly buggers, but you also see Charles on the other side saying to Camilla: "It is not what one does, one does not stand up and wave does one?"

4. United and City on Five will be a turn-off

It's going to be strange watching the Manchester clubs in the Europa League. No disrespect to Channel Five, but I wonder how many will tune in? If they get drawn together there'll be a big audience, but against other opposition it'll be interesting to see what teams Sir Alex and Roberto Mancini put out because they'll both be going all out to win the league now. That's not good news for Chelsea and the other contenders. It also makes the FA Cup third-round tie between United and City even bigger. What a fantastic tie that'll be. We've got a tricky fixture, away to MK Dons, who are flying high at the moment. It'll be my first visit to their stadium. I'm looking forward to it, and meeting up with the chairman, Pete Winkelman. He's had a lot of flak setting up the club, but he stuck to his guns and has done well there.

5. AVB was right to have a go, even if he's wrong

I was pleased to see the Chelsea manager, Andre Villas-Boas, having a go at the press, though I don't actually think he's had a raw deal so far. It'll be interesting to see how he reacts when they do get their teeth into him. But his response showed how you feel when you're young, you've been picked off, and then you get into a big game and it goes right. You just can't resist it. I was delighted to see him win and top the group. He made some difficult decisions and I'm pleased they worked out for him.

6. My grandson Charlie proves he's no diver

We went to Leeds straight after last Saturday's draw with West Brom to celebrate the first birthday of my first grandchild, Charlie. It was great to see him practising his walking. You forget all that, how they fall down, bang their heads, and get straight up. It makes a change from watching footballers who go down and stay down. Charlie even cracked his head on the fireplace. There was no rolling over, appealing for someone to get a yellow card. He just got up, giggled, and tried again.

There's not a lot else to say about the family this week, we're all gearing up for Christmas, like everyone else. The highlight was William's rugby, his team won 29-0 and he scored a try.

7. O'Neill's a touchline loon... nothing like me!

As managerial rivals, Martin O'Neill and I go way back, to when I was at Gainsborough Trinity and he was at Shepshed Charterhouse. We've had some good tussles on the touchline. If you think he's animated now, you should have seen him then. I've often looked at him dancing about and thought: "He's mad, not calm and composed like me."

It is great to see him back and I'm looking forward to renewing our friendship and rivalry in a few weeks when Sunderland come to Loftus Road. I don't think there are many clubs who could have lured him back and I'm sure he'll enjoy his time there.

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