Neil Warnock: Leeds fans are magnificent – even though we let in seven!
What I Learnt This Week
You can always experience something new in football, even after a lifetime in the game, and this week I conceded seven goals for the first time. At least, I think it's the first time, I've been racking my brains to think of another occasion, but if it happened I've blocked it out. No doubt someone out there will enlighten me if I'm wrong.
Conceding that many goals at home is as big a test of a manager's relationship with fans as can be, but if I had any doubts about how Leeds supporters would react to having a Sheffield lad as manager they were answered this week. On Thursday I had to sing for my supper at a dinner and Q&A at the club with more than 300 supporters. Not the ideal event after such a defeat.
The fans were marvellous. The job is so much easier if the fans are behind you and I came away with a fresh realisation of how desperate they are for success, and how they trust me to deliver it. I said to them a few times, 'you do know we lost 7-3 the other night?' One guy stood up and said he was a QPR season-ticket holder, last year had been the best of his life as a fan, and his club's loss was Leeds' gain. By the time I left I was much happier than 48 hours earlier.
It was a strange game. It can't be often a team loses seven goals and you're left thinking, 'we could have won that'. When we got back to 3-3 I thought we would go on and win but some of our defending took me back to Sunday League. The frustration is that, because of the other results, even now the gap doesn't look insurmountable, but I don't think any top team gets beaten seven – apart from Arsenal of course. It is fantastic the way they have recovered from losing 8-2 at Old Trafford.
We're still aiming for the play-offs, but I'm also looking to next season – though as I said to Ronnie Jepson, my coach, when the seventh goal went in: "I wonder what odds you can get on us now for promotion next season?"
In a way Tuesday was useful; painful, but useful. I'm still assessing players with next year's squad in mind and you learn more about them in a match like that, you find out who is resilient. You do need to be a certain character to play at a club like Leeds, who get big crowds. You need to be strong, to want the ball in adversity. How we react today at Millwall will answer a lot more questions about my players. It'll be a good test, mentally and physically, at a difficult venue.
You might think I went into the dressing room and gave them all a bollocking, but it wasn't a night for that. It was one game too many after the weekend's West Ham game. They put a lot of work into that game while Forest had a blank weekend. They were so much fresher than us. However, while the Championship is a tough league I do believe it is possible to play with intensity all season if you look after yourselves so I did say to them: "Obviously some of you couldn't run, you have to look at yourself fitness wise, have you done enough?"
What you want to do after a match like that is sneak off to a darkened room, unfortunately I had to face the press, some of whom probably quite enjoyed the idea of me losing seven. There was some levity. At half-time, when we were losing 2-1, I went into an office with Mick Jones and Ronnie to gather my thoughts before talking to the players and we saw on TV that Notts County, now managed by my former coach Keith Curle, were 4-0 down. We looked at each other and thought: "That makes us feel better." At the final whistle I got a text from Curly, who'd lost 5-2 in the end: "Just seen your score gaffer, makes me feel a lot better."
I spoke to the chairman, Ken Bates, the next day. It may surprise you to hear he was in a jovial mood. The good thing about having a chairman with so much experience is he's been round long enough to know you don't get too carried way when things go great, likewise you don't get downhearted when things go against you.
To cap a nightmare 24 hours I then had to drive to London to see the dentist to have two implants and about 20 stitches put in. That was bad enough but on the way I was stuck in a traffic jam on the M1 and didn't move for an hour.
2 Muamba's plight puts losing a match into perspective
Last Saturday I was in my office thinking how we'd thrown two points away by conceding a last-minute goal when Gwyn Williams, the technical director, popped his head in and said: "Have you heard about the lad Muamba?" He told me what had happened and immediately my only thoughts, even though I don't know him, was about Muamba fighting for his life, and how a few minutes ago I'd been worrying about losing two points in a game of football.
It's wonderful how he pulled through on the night and how he's been improving. It's as if everyone's prayers in the football fraternity are pushing him to recovery.
There's no doubt the safety provision at grounds saved his life. Where I live in Cornwall we're about 20 miles from the nearest hospital and we have a defibrillator ourselves. Most of the village know about it. It can make the difference between saving somebody's life and not – every village should have one.
Today's game at Bolton will no doubt be very emotional and it is going to be even more difficult for Bolton to play their re-arranged game at Tottenham next week. I can't imagine what their lads will be going through when they get changed, though the fact he's recovering has got to help.
We looked at Muamba when I was at QPR. We were looking for that type of player, a strong, physical and athletic midfielder, every Premier League team has one, or needs one.
3 Lucky for everyone that I'm not at Loftus Road any more!
It's a good job I wasn't at QPR the other night when Shaun Derry scored his first goal in five years. I've been saying for years I'll show my backside on the town hall steps when he scores. I was pleased for him, he deserved that for being such a good pro. It was nice to see him and Jamie Mackie, two of the old guard, turn their game against Liverpool around. The crowd always respond to Jamie, he's such an enthusiastic player, full of zest and I wasn't surprised he had an impact.
The other big midweek result at the bottom was Blackburn beating Sunderland. I was pleased for Steve Kean. He really has come under fire this season but whatever people say about the owners, they have shown support for him and are now getting the reward. It would have been much easier to have given in to the mob. I wasn't surprised by their win. Blackburn trained at our ground a few days earlier – Steve was making a change in routine – and I had a good chat with him. They looked in really good spirits and Bradley Orr, who played under me at QPR, said they are a really good group of boys and responded well to the manager.
4 Catching up with family is a pleasure – and a workout
A London game means I can catch up with the family who I've hardly seen. They are coming up to Leeds for half-term which I'm looking forward to, but first William is off skiing. He goes with our congratulations, his end-of-term test results came yesterday and when I opened them I asked him if he had swapped papers with one of the clever kids. "No Dad, that's my name on the top, William Warnock." Well done, son.
I did get the chance to catch up with my eldest son, James, and grandson Charlie last weekend. We had a walk at Temple Newsam, a stately home near Leeds. I had Charlie on my shoulders for a while, but he's getting heavy.
5 If only Tevez's head was right he'd be a perfect player
I couldn't see Manchester City coming back into the game the other night, but a fortunate penalty came to the rescue, then it is sod's law that Carlos Tevez is going to make the winner. The one thing you can say about him is he is a cracking player; if that was all you had to worry about he'd be in anybody's team.
I wonder what David Moyes thought of City's penalty for handball by Michael Essien; his Everton team had a more obvious penalty than that turned down against Sunderland. To cap it, Everton then had a great equaliser ruled out for offside against Arsenal. He's due some luck with decisions is Davie.
6 Messi reminds us why we started playing in first place
Congratulations to Lionel Messi on breaking the Barcelona scoring record. What I love about him, as well as the brilliance of his play, is that he seems to get as much pleasure from scoring goals as he will have done when he was a kid. He reminds me of why we all started playing football in the first place.
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