Neil Warnock: Like Jose, I thought referees conspired against me, now I see they are only human
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 30 April 2011
I think anybody watching the match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in midweek must have appreciated how good the conduct of players in the Premier League is. What with all the diving, card-waving and harassing of the officials, I'm not sure any referee could have controlled that match.
To say I was disappointed when Pepe was sent off is an understatement. I think his challenge would have been, in normal circumstances and a normal game, a yellow card at most. But the Barcelona players had made it an objective to surround the ref on every occasion and you could almost smell the fear of the linesman he went to speak to. For me, that took away the fantastic finishes of Messi. The second goal in particular reminded me of those clips of George Best dribbling past everyone trying to trip him or chop him to stop him scoring.
I didn't see Mourinho's press conference but from what I read I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the book thrown at him. Managers often talk about decisions going in favour of the big teams, but to say all the sendings-off are because the referee has been got at is a nonsense, you have to accept they are human beings and they do get influenced by the atmosphere.
When I was in the Premier League at Sheffield United, I thought there was a vendetta against me and the club with certain referees, but having watched those refs over the years since I realise that was rubbish. Without a doubt the big teams seem to get decisions going their way against the smaller sides, but I accept that's partly because the bigger teams have 70 per cent of the game in those matches so inevitably they will have more penalty appeals and suchlike. Referees are only human, they'll make mistakes, and since most of the decisions are ruling on fouls against big teams there's more chances of a mistake being in those teams' favour.
One thing that caught my eye on the night was the performance of Emmanuel Adebayor. Obviously his long hair used to stop him running around, because now he's had it cut he's everywhere. I feel it was embarrassing the way he played in his last two years at Arsenal, it showed a lack of respect for what Arsène Wenger had done for him. Then having showed contempt to his old club with his goal celebration at Manchester City he didn't really perform for them. Now he's suddenly putting effort in. I don't suppose it is in any way related to the fact he is playing for a contract, or am I just being cynical?
2. Young officials still have a bit to learn about this game
While on the subject of referees I was disappointed last weekend in a couple of our younger lads, Mike Jones and Michael Oliver. Mike Jones was at the Reebok when Tamir Cohen scored Bolton's late winner and celebrated by taking his shirt off to reveal a picture of his recently deceased father Avi on it. I don't think anyone would have marked Mike down for ignoring the rule, on this one occasion, about giving players a yellow card for taking their shirt off. A little bit of understanding would have made Mike Jones into a far better ref than booking him.
I know some people, like Mike Riley, who's the head of referees, would have done it by the book, but I think most people will feel that was unnecessary.
The same with Michael Oliver sending Mark Hughes to the stand at Molineux on witnessing – or being told by the fourth official – that Mark tried to kick a water bottle three times. If he'd just gone over to Mark and said, "look, you're obviously frustrated but I don't want to have to ask you to go to the stands, so please refrain", he'd have gained far more respect. The best referees, the ones who get to the top, are the ones who realise that the laws are not black and white.
3. Promotion is in sight even without my contact lenses
I'm aware there have been a few claims made about the possible outcome of the hearing next week into charges that there were irregularities in Ale Faurlin's contract, but I've been advised not to talk about the issue until the verdict is delivered. It is all in the hands of the club's lawyers and I've full confidence in them.
Me and the players are concentrating on things we can affect, which is on the pitch. It was disappointing on Monday not to get the win we needed to make sure of promotion but we are still in a wonderful position, two games left, and a point to get.
We're not taking anything for granted because we are playing the two teams that have given us our biggest drubbings this year. How we got away with losing 3-1 at home to Watford I don't know and Leeds were well worthy of their 2-0 victory up there, so we are well aware how difficult it will be.
It was a strange situation on Monday with the fans celebrating on the pitch, then hearing that Norwich had scored a late winner so we weren't up after all. There was no such drama for the players and staff though. We knew Norwich and Cardiff were winning at half-time and just assumed they had picked up all three points. I was so busy having a few choice words with my defence at the goal we conceded I never gave the scores a moment's thought. It was only later I heard what happened.
There was a funny incident before the game. Twenty minutes from kick-off, with the lads about to come in from their warm-up, I was in the dressing room getting my thoughts ready when my phone went. I thought it must be someone important to ring me at this time. I answered and a guy said: "Mr Warnock? It's Specsavers here. Your contact lenses have arrived, will you be picking them up?"
4. Don't discount Chelsea for the league title just yet
Like Red Rum coming up on the rails, Chelsea may yet be timing their run-in nicely. I don't suppose anyone really gives them a chance but they are back to their best. Why? It is not rocket science. With Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou playing as a front three there is more space for the midfield, the whole team suddenly looks more comfortable and better balanced. I guess they probably have too much to do, but would you bet against them beating Manchester United at Old Trafford? And United could lose at Arsenal this weekend – incredibly for a team that looks as if they will win the league they have won only five times away from home. It's not all over yet.
If Chelsea did come through to win, can you imagine how frustrated Wenger will be at all the points his team have dropped – seven in the last three games alone? They had a great chance this season.
5. Good to see the Spireites in the ascendancy
It's great to see my first club, Chesterfield, gain promotion. The new stadium has given everyone a lift at the club. Congratulations also to striker Jack Lester, he's a Sheffield lad like me and I signed him for the Blades eight years ago. He's one of the nicest lads I've ever worked with and it's good to see a player at 35 still enjoying his football so much.
6. I loved the royal wedding but where was my invite?
We usually train in the mornings, but yesterday we trained in the afternoon. I told the lads it was so I could watch the royal wedding. It's actually because we are travelling afterwards but they believed me because they know I've always been a royalist. I think the wedding was great. We certainly do ceremonial events with a bit of style, there were no half measures. I'm just disappointed my invite was lost in the post. I'm sure the Queen would have invited me, we got on so well the last time we met.
I watched it at home with the family. We all enjoyed it, even Will though he fidgeted a bit. The place to have been though was our village in Cornwall. I was down there after Monday's game and they were all gearing up for a royal wedding street party. They were closing down the main road and flags were everywhere.
7. Marrakesh tragedy had extra poignancy for me
A shudder went down my spine when I watched the news on Thursday. Only a few weeks ago Sharon and I sat in the very cafe in Marrakesh that was bombed killing 15 people. It really makes you appreciate how fragile life can be, you just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My deepest sympathies go to everyone who has been affected.
It looks very much as though 2015 will be a good year for the world economy, after all – and, if it is, that will be thanks to the fall in the oil price. It won't be good for everyone and we have already seen the pressure it puts on the Russian leadership – though, before you conclude that sometimes there is natural justice in the world, remember that the people who are hurt are not leaders such as Vladimir Putin. Other oil- and gas-exporting countries are damaged, too, and I think we will see further fallout in unpredictable ways. But the net impact is strongly positive, more so than most commentators at present acknowledge. The winners far outnumber the losers.
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