Neil Warnock: It was Sharon, not Martin O'Neill, who put me straight after my rant about Villa's goal
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 20 February 2010
Who says the FA Cup has had its day? When I picked up Martin O'Neill's team sheet before my Crystal Palace side played Aston Villa in the fifth round last weekend there was obviously only one thing on his mind – winning the competition. It was great to see him putting out a full-strength team, even if it was a bit intimidating for us.
The match was a classic, end-to-end Cup tie, just like one from the old days. I was so pleased that we performed well in front of a national TV audience. We needed a bit of fortune at times, but I don't think anybody would deny that 2-2 was a fair result. To have led until three minutes from time was a great achievement.
I imagine quite a lot of dads took their children to a match for the first time. With the great atmosphere in the ground and the way we played I'm sure some of those kids will remember the day for the rest of their lives.
You could tell from the way Martin celebrated Villa's late equaliser how important the result was to him, but I was obviously disappointed that they scored from a corner that should not have been given. I was put on the spot immediately afterwards by the television people, who know that I usually have an opinion on these matters.
I didn't hold back and the Football Association subsequently asked me to explain my criticism of the officials. I've written to the FA so I think it would be inappropriate to comment further, but when I got in the car after the game Sharon reminded me how we had scored at Wolves in the previous round after being awarded a corner that should have been a goal-kick. She really put me in my place.
The next day I appeared, as arranged the previous week, on Gabby Logan's programme on Radio Five Live. When I arrived I was told that Martin had rung to say he wanted to go on as well. You have to admire him for wanting to put over his point of view. How many other managers would have bothered to do that? I rather stole his thunder by relating what Sharon had said to me. Martin said that we shouldn't have had a free-kick when Darren Ambrose scored our second goal, but I had the final word: I pointed out that Villa shouldn't have been awarded the free-kick that led to their first goal.
The odds will be stacked against us in next week's replay, but one or two fans have reminded me of Palace's 4-3 FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool at Villa Park 20 years ago, one of the greatest days in the club's history. You never know in the Cup.
2. Reduced to begging for small mercies
I'd agreed to go on Five Live because I was taking Sharon and the kids to London for the day. One of the things I love about going up to town is just watching the world go by. One minute we saw a guy with a stick, top hat and tails who looked really posh. Next thing he walked into the restaurant where we were having a meal and started begging for money in a threatening manner. When nobody succumbed he went into a huge rant. If the FA had heard it he would have been in trouble, I can tell you.
3. We need to take the negatives out of this
Three days after drawing with Villa we lost 3-1 at home to Reading, a result that leaves us above the Championship relegation zone only on goal difference going into today's game against Coventry. There wasn't a lot wrong with our performance other than some terrible defending and a failure to take chances. As I told the team, if you defend like that you'll lose matches, whether you're playing in the Premier League or a Sunday league. I think the Cup game left one or two players a little drained. That's where a manager has to think about changes to liven things up, but we have only 19 players, including three youngsters, so I don't have many options. That's one of the prices to pay for going into administration and being under a transfer embargo.
Three weeks ago our players went into matches without any negative thoughts in their heads. All they were thinking about was pushing for a play-off place. Now, thanks to our 10-point penalty, everything is being questioned and we're in a relegation scrap. It's all in the mind and, hopefully, nothing a good result won't change.
4. Kids lucky to miss our schoolboy defending
I didn't have anyone from the family with me on Wednesday. William had had a few late nights so Sharon took him instead in the afternoon to watch Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief at the cinema, so that he could be in bed by 8pm. They said it was fantastic. After our first-half performance I wished I'd been with them.
Amy, who is 11, wasn't at the match either. She'd gone away with a friend to Devon for three days. You would think they had gone for three months judging by her luggage. Apparently they needed three outfits for the three days. It was very swish, too, as she kept ringing me to say they were just going down to afternoon tea.
5. Rooney's got the lot but Fabianski fouled up
What a performance by Wayne Rooney for Manchester United in Milan. He's a colossus and getting better with every game. I'm sure fatherhood has given him more maturity. He used to do some stupid things, but now he knows he doesn't have to do that to be noticed. The best way is just to do what he's good at – scoring some fantastic goals.
I had to feel sorry for Arsène Wenger the way Arsenal lost at Porto. Lukasz Fabianski made a massive blunder. After the referee had penalised Sol Campbell's back pass, he asked Fabianski to give him the ball back. The referee obviously helped the home side by then handing Porto the ball, enabling them to score with a quick free-kick, but you don't have to give the ball back, do you? All the goalkeeper needed to do was keep hold of it for a few seconds.
6. There's one rule for the big guns...
I laughed when I saw that Wolves were given a suspended fine for fielding a weakened line-up at Manchester United earlier this season. Three years ago my Sheffield United team were relegated from the Premier League, thanks in part to Liverpool and Manchester United sending out below-strength sides in successive weeks at the end of the season against Fulham and West Ham respectively. My memory obviously isn't what it used to be because I'm struggling to recall the punishments given to Liverpool and United.
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