Neil Warnock: I'm in my pants when Chris Kirkland gets hold of me and he's livid...
What I Learnt This Week
It's been a traumatic week after the events at Hillsborough last Friday, which was a full-blooded Yorkshire derby marred by our supporter confronting Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. Everybody will be delighted the culprit got a custodial sentence but most will have wished it was longer than four months.
I didn't see the incident at the time. We'd just scored and I was trying to make sure my players got their focus back on the game as you are at your most vulnerable when you have scored. Our first thought on the bench was that Chris had been hit by a missile. Then one of our staff said he'd been hit by a fan but "it looked like he went down easy". When the match finished, TV wanted to interview me straight away and, like a fool, I actually repeated this when they asked me about the incident.
I went back in the dressing room and immediately got a phone call from Sharon. She said: "You can't say that about their goalie. The fan hit him. Have you seen it?" I had to admit I hadn't, so I asked our IT guy to find the incident on his computer – we record all matches as they happen. Then I had a shower, as I usually do after a match. I came out, saw the incident on the computer, and immediately realised the guy had really lunged at Chris and it was no wonder he went down. I thought I'd better get dressed and go and apologise to him. But as I was standing there in my briefs with a towel the door opened, a furious Chris Kirkland pushed his way in and grabbed hold of me. He's a big lad and but for the intervention of one or two of our staff he might have done something he regretted. But I honestly couldn't blame him. I'd have felt the same if it had been the other way around. I apologised to him unreservedly.
When I did the other media, someone had obviously told the BBC Chris had come into our dressing room and I am sure they were looking for a response from me about taking the matter further. There is no way I was going to get involved in that. I was just glad Chris accepted my apology and everybody moved on.
There was also a lot said after the game about the chanting. I don't think it's right to rake up again "Leeds chanted this, Wednesday chanted that", but it was obviously both sides involved and I do think this behaviour has got worse across the board. I have to say I don't enjoy standing there listening to it, whether it is directed against me or my club, or the opposing manager or his team. I don't object to people calling me a name or two, but when they get personal about your families it has gone too far. And as everyone knows there are some very distasteful chants specific to various clubs that have developed. It's not going to be easy, but we have to look at ways to stop this.
When I got home, and the dust had settled a bit, I couldn't help thinking how stupid the fan was as well as nasty. I guess if he had drunk what he claimed to have drunk – three pints of lager, 10 pints of cider and three-quarters of a bottle of vodka – his decision-making would have been badly impaired, but not only did he do what he did in full view of high-definition TV cameras, he may also have cost us two wins, which, if he is really a Leeds United fan, surely isn't what he wants.
On the night, having just equalised and got command for the first time in a game Wednesday had dominated, I thought we had a great chance of taking three points but any momentum we got from the goal was gone by the time order was restored and Chris treated.
The impact was felt at our next match too, when we were fortunate to get a point at home to Charlton. I know personally it made for a very flat weekend and I think our genuine supporters were also taken aback by what happened at Hillsborough, as we had the lowest and quietest crowd since I have been at the club. The players, too, were subdued. It was our worst performance of the season.
2. Crazy time for a derby
Looking back at last Friday's match I thought how daft it was that a Yorkshire derby, between two big teams, was played on a Friday night, giving fans far too much time to get drunk and making it less likely that women and kids would attend and soften the mood. The atmosphere was so malevolent at Hillsborough I offered to go over to our fans and try and calm them down long before the supporter attacked Kirkland.
So what do we get told this week? Our match next month away to Huddersfield Town, whose rivalry towards Leeds is even greater than Wednesday's, has been moved to a Friday night for TV as well. I can't believe the local police force and Football League have allowed this. Will the authorities never learn?
3. Black union is a risk
I am not convinced that there will be any benefits from black players starting their own union. It could be a divisive move that would put at risk all the good things that have been done over the last few years.
Personally I have not encountered racism at matches, or in clubs I have worked in, for many years. As far as I can tell most people in football do not take colour into account when judging people. I certainly don't.
At QPR I signed about five or six players the summer after we went up. We came to take the team photograph and one of the players who had been at the club the previous year asked me, tongue in cheek, in front of the other lads: "Gaffer, have you got a thing against signing white players? All the players you've signed are black."
I hadn't even noticed.
4. Fletcher's a top pro
I was delighted to see Darren Fletcher get a full 90 minutes in midweek. This is a lad who would probably be one of the first names on Alex Ferguson's team sheet if he was fully fit. To come back from such a debilitating illness takes a strong mentality and Fletcher epitomises why Manchester United keep doing well. He is in the same mould as Gary and Phil Neville, Steve Bruce, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and others, really good professionals. I do wish him well.
5. A real super Sunday?
I hope Fletcher is involved in what ought to be a lively day's televised football tomorrow. First there is the Merseyside derby, which will place Liverpool's passing game under the highest scrutiny. Brendan Rodgers will feel he has cracked it if they can keep the ball under the pressure Everton will exert. The last time I watched this match the ball didn't touch the ground in the first 10 minutes as the tackles flew in.
Then there is Chelsea v Manchester United. That promises to be a thrilling match as it is obvious neither team are as good at the back as usual. But while everyone's expecting a 4-3 scoreline, Sod's Law says it will be a goalless draw as that is how football is at the moment. I think at this time of the year there is a lot of gloom around. The drizzle comes down, the days get shorter, and you've got families with colds and flu. The gloom seems to affect footballers too as it is amazing how teams that have played so well turn in such poor performances. I'm not just talking about us, but Manchester City and Arsenal on Wednesday too. Early January is the same, when everyone has got over the euphoria of Christmas.
It is obviously not a time to be a Championship manager – in the middle of the week there were five jobs vacant, which is unheard of.
6. Amy will sort me out
I tried to download a jazz album this week and ended up getting some tracks four times, some once, some three times; in total I ended up with 50 tracks. I don't know how I did it. Thank goodness Amy is coming up to sort everything out over half-term.
She signed off at school with a 1-0 win at hockey, while William is on a streak, scoring his second goal in two games for Plymouth's academy team in the Devon derby victory over Torquay. I think he is looking forward to half-term; one night last week he did two hours' rugby at school, then squash, then two hours at the football academy. Even I thought that was over the top at 11.
Myself, I caught up on Downton Abbey last week and I was shocked that Sybil died. It was so sad. There's nowt like a good cry, no matter how old you are.
7. Boyd, what a corker!
I have already seen the goal of the season: George Boyd's 50-yarder for Peterborough against Huddersfield was out of this world.
Think back to David Beckham's goal all those years ago: this was even better as he had to change feet to get his shot off. It was a great goal to take Posh off the bottom.
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