Neil Warnock: It has been an up-and-down season but it looks over now

What I Learnt This Week

I was not looking forward to yesterday's game at Reading. We had so many players out, or under par with knocks or illness, I was worried we would concede seven again, but the players gave me everything and I went back to Yorkshire last night disappointed we didn't get at least a point. We created the two best chances in the second half and if we'd taken either I couldn't see Reading getting back into it.

I knew it would be tough even before we had young Zac Thompson sent off early on. It was a harsh decision – I've seen a lot worse go unpunished. In fact, Danny Pugh made one later on in the half and he wasn't even booked while the worst challenge of the game was by Noel Hunt on our keeper. But the Madejski has always been an intimidating place to come. The players roll around and the referee gets surrounded. You can't tell me that doesn't influence decisions. I always seem to have someone sent off there. We need to make Elland Road the same fortress next season.

We had an awful build-up. With three players suspended and four out injured, I decided to give Ramon Nunez and Andy O'Brien a chance. I told them both on Monday they'd be playing. Andy pulled up on Wednesday with a hamstring problem; Ramon had a calf injury on Thursday. Another lad was away with a family health problem, Ross McCormack played with a tight hamstring and Alex Bruce with a broken nose.

I felt a little bit sorry for West Ham, Reading's promotion rivals. When we played them a couple of weeks ago we had a full squad and but for a last-minute equaliser we'd have won. It shows that when you play a team during a season can be important: whether you catch them in a good run, or when they have a lot of players absent, can make a big difference.

Yesterday's result probably finishes the season for us. The gap's too big now unless something remarkable happens. It's disappointing, but the good thing about being here at Leeds is the majority of fans understand the situation we're in and they are as tolerant as you can get.

It is difficult as a manager when you know you can't really wait for the season to end and you can get cracking on the next one. I never thought I'd have another summer of recruitment like I did when I took over at QPR, but it looks like it will have to be another busy one.

I'm lucky in that I've not often been in this situation over the years: at this stage I've usually been chasing promotion, or, a couple of times, fighting relegation. However, this is a chance to look at players and I learnt a few things about one or two yesterday that surprised me – good things. The question now is: Can they keep that up over the next five games?

2 A real rollercoaster ride for us – and I kept my eyes open

We went to Flamingo Land on Tuesday; it's Yorkshire's Alton Towers and they are sponsors of our academy. It was an open invite to the players and despite the cold and damp it was a good turnout with plenty of them coming along with their families. It's great to put something back in – sponsors are often taken for granted at a lot of clubs. A lot of fans came along as well to see us and enjoy the rides.

Our family stayed Monday night in a log cabin on site and you could easily live in somewhere like that. You have to ask why there aren't more of those instead of houses.

We were largely left to our own devices aside from a couple of photo-shoots. One of them was on a rollercoaster with motorbike-type seats. I thought we were only sitting on it for a picture, then it took off! It gets up to something like 100mph in four seconds. All I kept saying was "oh my goodness". Still, at least I kept my eyes open: we're trying to identify the player in the photo (above) who's covered up.

While I enjoyed loads of the rides, one of the best parts for me was the zoo. We got to see the rhinos really up close and were even able to stroke them – through bars, with gloves on. It was amazing to feel their power.

The thing I noticed most about the day, and the previous night, was how accommodating the staff were at the complex. So thanks to all of them.

We were supposed to go on Wednesday, but brought the day forward because the Reading game was switched from today for TV. I'm glad it was. Tuesday night I've never known wind and rain like it. There was snow in a lot of places and while we just had water we had lots of it.

3 Happy 90th birthday to one of the game's real gentlemen

I never saw Tom Finney play – I'm too young, despite what some of you might think – but over the years I met him in the boardroom whenever I played Preston. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone, and never heard anybody say a bad word about him. He is a complete gentleman and I can't imagine what he'd have been worth in today's transfer market.

You always hear what a great winger he was; he was also one of the best headers there's ever been. Happy 90th birthday, Tom.

4 Southgate would be a great pick as FA technical director

It seems Gareth Southgate is one of the front-runners to be the new technical director at the FA. He's just the type of person we need. Gareth's very good with people and I'm sure he would say the right things to the FA hierarchy, yet he also has very strong opinions on the game and I don't think he would be steamrollered into anything he didn't approve of. He's got a lot of football experience at many levels and the respect of people in the game.

5 Petrov's leukaemia battle can give Villa a lift

My prayers go out to Stiliyan Petrov; we all wish him well and I can't wait to see him back in a Villa shirt. He's a superb professional and I'm sure, with the support of everyone in football, he'll fight all the way.

Petrov's situation puts any relegation battle into context, but it is amazing how something like that can affect squad in a positive manner. Look at how Bolton have responded to Fabrice Muamba's health problems, with Owen Coyle picking up Manager of the Month. I imagine Alex McLeish must be hoping for a similar response from the Villa players to eliminate the threat of relegation as soon as possible, though obviously his first thoughts will be for Stiliyan.

6 I'm rooting for local boy Westwood in the Masters

Watching the Masters this weekend, I'll be rooting for Lee Westwood. Worksop's not far from my hometown Sheffield and he's definitely a local as far as I'm concerned. He made a great start Thursday and I hope he has kept it up overnight.

I've picked up the clubs again myself and have played a few times at a lovely little nine-hole course called the Village near where I live. It's pay-as-you-play but it is in fabulous condition. I've played with both sons, James and William. It's just my length – 300 yards is the longest hole.

7 QPR won't make it easy, but United are favourites now

This weekend is a big one in the Premier League shake-up at top and bottom. I think Roberto Mancini realises if City lose tomorrow and United win it is curtains – I think a lot of people think it is already.

United will be looking to beat my old club QPR, who will be optimistic after a good win last week. It was great to see Adel Taarabt score his first Premier League goal – in fact, it was nice to see all the old lads come in to turn their season around, Jamie Mackie, Shaun Derry and Clint Hill, and Paddy Kenny's save against Robin van Persie at 1-1 was crucial too.

City are at Arsenal, which is not exactly where you want to go when needing a win. That promises to be a fabulous game and I can't wait to watch it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot