It has been another quiet week in the life of a football manager, I suppose there never is a dull moment in this job.
As I'm sure you are all aware we went out of the FA Cup last week at Blackburn and the biggest disappointment was not the result but losing striker Jamie Mackie to a double fracture. It's a terrible blow to Jamie, who was having such a good season. Sadly, these things happen in football and it made me appreciate how lucky I've been over the last few years as they have been quite rare among my players. That's not always been the case. I remember at Burton Albion I had three players suffer fractured legs in 12 months.
In the dressing room the lads were gutted for Jamie and one chirped up, "We have to make sure we get promotion now for him." I think that has to be our intention. You set targets and our first one was to be around the play-offs come the end of November. My second was timed for this weekend, I wanted us to be two or three points off the top two on our journey back from Burnley, where we play today. So at the moment we are quite a way ahead of our expectations and if we get the right players in over the next couple of weeks we'll have as a good a chance as any of the other six or seven clubs chasing automatic promotion.
We need to give everyone a boost with a few signings as we've lost three key players in a week: Jamie, Kyle Walker, who's gone to Villa, and Patrick Agyemang, who has a stress fracture. I've been trying hard to bring players in. We're not quite there, but I'm optimistic something will happen soon.
The only good thing about Jamie's accident is that it happened early enough in the game for us to be able to bring him back with us. I was having a drink with Steve Kean after the game when I was told if we could wait another 15 minutes Jamie would be able to come back on the bus, having had a cast put on. Obviously, we waited. He'd had a major blow, his season was over, so it was nice for him to be around his team-mates rather than have a lonely journey home. I have to say the medical people at Blackburn were fantastic. The support team around the pitch, then helping with all the arrangements hospital-wise and back, were exemplary. They could not do enough for us.
Obviously, I wasn't happy with everyone on the day and a lot was said after the game. I stand by it all but I think enough has been said now. I was inundated on Thursday with requests to answer what Mr Diouf had said about me, but quite honestly, when I look at some of the things the lads showed me on YouTube involving him there's no need to reply.
Another consequence of Saturday is that I have become aware of Twitter. I still can't get my head around why players and other people want to use it. As you saw with Ryan Babel, players in particular have to be careful what they say and I have told my lads I don't want them tweeting – is that the phrase? – anything that could damage the club or football in general.
2. Fabregas was bitter but the Carling Cup was full of cheer
Football never ceases to amaze and this week's Carling Cup semi-finals were typical. Arsenal could not have imagined Ipswich would play as well as they did on Wednesday after being demolished 7-0 at Chelsea last weekend. I saw Cesc Fabregas complained that their game was like playing rugby, but if he looks at what his own side is worth and how much it cost Ipswich to put their side together, he'll realise he should be asking questions of his own team-mates. Ipswich played to their strengths and from what I saw played some good football. Arsenal are still favourites but I'm sure they'll take Ipswich very seriously in the second leg because the Gunners need a trophy this season.
Birmingham missed a great opportunity at Upton Park. They were battered in the first half, West Ham should have been out of sight, but they got a goal out of nothing to draw level then got a man advantage when West Ham's Victor Obinna stupidly got himself sent off. It was the sort of thing to have a manager tearing his hair out, especially poor Avram. But how often do you see 10 men rally the way West Ham did? Their goal makes the second leg very interesting as well.
If anyone was doubting Avram's motivational qualities, there was nothing wrong with the effort of West Ham's players. They now have to show the same commitment at St Andrew's in the second leg, not roll over like they did at Newcastle. I have to admit West Ham v Arsenal would be the preferred final for most of us Londoners, so what's the odds on Birmingham v Ipswich?
3. Freedman a good choice, whatever number it was
The managerial sack race is still going on, but every vacancy also means an opportunity and congratulations to my old player Dougie Freedman at Palace. It won't matter to Dougie that he probably wasn't first choice, he knows and loves the club. Besides, Sir Alf Ramsey wasn't first choice to manage England and that didn't work out too badly.
It's good to see Darren Ferguson back in the game at Peterborough (below). He had a difficult year at Preston. I know from talking to him during that period he was disappointed with how they were doing, but he has done the right thing going back to Peterborough. The chairman knows him, and vice versa, and I think he will be delighted to get back to an environment he is comfortable in. It does help a manager when he knows he can trust the people around him.
Then there was King Kenny back at Anfield. I'm sure he must have thought after three minutes at Bloomfield Road 'this job's easy', but Blackpool don't worry about reputations and staged a fantastic fight-back. I saw Ian Holloway said afterwards if anyone had suggested Blackpool would beat Liverpool home and away he'd have put them in a straitjacket. I know what he means, but they have deserved it.
Ian's hardest job in the next few weeks will be keeping Charlie Adam. No doubt the player's head, and that of his agent, will be spinning when he thinks about what he can earn elsewhere. It'll make the dispute he had with the club earlier this season over a £20,000 bonus pale into insignificance.
4. It's about time the Scots came back to Wembley Way
I see they are talking about resurrecting the Home Internationals. I think that's a great idea. It looks as if it will only be a one-off but I'd be happy to see it every four years, or maybe even every two. The England-Scotland games were the highlight of the calendar when I was younger, the way the Scots took over London and Wembley Way was incredible. We'll have to wait and see if it gets the go-ahead.
5. Wii all agree, I'd be better off sticking to the golf
I needed treatment this week on my arm. It wasn't a ball that struck it, but playing on the Wii with the kids. They have a game called "test your strength" modelled on one of those old fairground things with a bell at the top. You have to move your arm fast with the handset to build up steam to hit the bell.
Apparently, there is a technique that little William seems to have got. I just went for brute speed and strength and the next day I could hardly move my arm. They are amazing, these games, but it looks like I will have to concentrate on the golf one from now on.
6. Glass mug is half-empty when it comes to our council
Taking William to school in the rush hour this week we hit a horrendous jam. We finally got to the cause and it was a huge puddle. The council had put a fence around it. The following day the traffic was awful again. This time, when we got to the junction there were three white vans at the side of the road, with four men leaning up against them chatting away. One other worker – the youngest lad, obviously – was standing in the middle of the puddle scooping the water out of the pothole with a glass mug. I thought, "That's going to take you two hours to do that." But at the end of the day it was tarmacked over. Another crisis solved by the council.
7. Miriam and Ryan strike a blow for all us oldies
Good old Miriam O'Reilly. I'm so pleased she won her fight against the BBC over ageism. I did enjoy watching her on Countryfile and I hope they take her back. You don't have to be a 25-year-old blonde to attract viewers, just a good presenter. I'm sure the BBC won't hold a grudge.
Congratulations also to Ryan Giggs who should make his 600th league appearance tomorrow. In the modern game that is a fantastic achievement. What a credit he is to his profession, and what a superb example to all young players aiming to make their way in the game. And he looks good for plenty more matches yet.Reuse content