First let me apologise to all my readers for not telling you last Saturday that I was about to become manager of Leeds United.
To be quite honest, at the time the column was put to bed I had no idea that would be the case. I'd merely agreed to fly to Monaco and talk to Ken Bates about the possibility. As I wrote last week, I had been talking to Wolves as well, but I wanted to make a quick decision, while they wanted time to speak to other people. So, late in the evening, almost to my surprise, I shook hands with Ken and we agreed to announce it on the Monday.
However, on my flight back from Monaco I looked again at the Championship table, and the fact we had a local derby at home to Doncaster we really had to win. I realised I could not afford to wait, as defeat could have created a nigh-on unbridgeable gap between us and the play-off places. I rang the chairman and said I thought I ought to attend the game, and if necessary get involved. He agreed, so we had to announce the appointment.
I think events proved it was the right decision. We were losing at half-time so I decided it was time to come down from the stand; 45 minutes later we had three points. Obviously, I'm a tactical genius!
In truth, I hope Leeds fans (and the chairman) don't now think I'm a magician who will produce such a successful intervention every week, much as we'd all like it. I made some changes but there were two other factors. The team were bound to play better in the second half than the first, and everyone performs that much better, in any walk of life, when a new boss appears.
Besides, the first thing that happened after half-time was another Doncaster goal. Fortunately, we soon got one back, and if anything showed me the club's potential it was the reaction from the supporters. Suddenly the stadium was alive with sound; it was magnificent. The fans willed us on to victory.
I was punching the air with the rest of them when the injury-time winner went in. It doesn't matter what age you are, a late winning goal is always a thrill.
The trick now is maintaining that momentum, starting with today's trip to Portsmouth. Pompey have had a very tough week off the field but that will make an already difficult match even harder as adversity often brings out the best in people. I'm sure the players, and their bright young manager Michael Appleton, will be doing their hardest to try and lift the club and a set of their wonderful fans, who don't deserve what they have been through in the last few years. Fratton Park is the noisiest ground I've ever managed at. I don't know whether that bloody drummer is still there, but on a number of occasions I'd have liked to have shoved his drumstick somewhere.
2. While I'm in Leeds, the wife's gone back to golf
My decision to join Leeds was also a shock for Sharon and the kids. We'd been talking about calling it a day, and I have had a lot of offers to work in the media, but the opportunity to try to get an eighth promotion, and with such a great club, was too tempting to turn down. I think Sharon understands what it is that keeps driving me on.
Obviously, it is not ideal from a family viewpoint. With the school year only halfway through, I'll be away quite a bit between now and the end of the season, but I'm not the first manager to have that problem.
I managed to get down to see William play rugby on Wednesday and was rewarded with a fabulous match in which he kicked three conversions and a drop goal to help his team to victory. Unfortunately, his mate Alfie, who's an awesome player and heart of the team, broke his thumb and had to be rushed to hospital. He's had it pinned and is out for the rest of season. Tomorrow they are playing in national qualifiers but I'm afraid their chances are slim now.
Amy's been active too, with three netball matches in one night. No wonder she slept well. That is so much healthier than playing on a computer for three hours. Sharon's also getting sporty. Since I'm going to be away a lot she's decided to take up golf again. She's always had a great natural swing and I'm sure she'll have lots of fun going round the local courses with William.
There is one family benefit to my move. My oldest son, James, lives in Leeds with his wife Sarah and my grandson Charlie, so I've moved in with them. It's been great to have more time with them, but I will be moving out as soon as I can because it is hard trying to run a family and have your father-in-law around all the time, even if some days all I've done is sleep there. There is that much to do at the ground and training ground I've not left until nine at night on a couple of occasions.
3. I gave Andros a key role – and he promptly quit
I had my first disappointment at Leeds when Andros Townsend left. He was on loan from Tottenham and when I talked to Harry Redknapp about changing my system for him, Harry said how pleased he was Andros was getting a regular game. The next minute Townsend's agent phones to say he's not enjoyed it at all. He said: "No disrespect to you, Neil, but he's wanted to leave for a while." I said to him: "He's only been here four weeks. I don't suppose it's anything to do with me hearing that Birmingham want him, is it?"
I said to his agent: "I don't want anyone playing for Leeds who's not happy, but we'll have to play him at Portsmouth as I've worked on his role all week. Next week he can go to Birmingham or wherever." I go into training the next day and ask one of the staff to fetch Andros so I can put him in the picture. They return to tell me he's cleared his locker and gone back to London. By the time you read this he'll probably be at Birmingham. It'll be interesting to see how many games he plays between now and the end of the season.
A lot of clubs are trying to get players in on loan at this stage of the season and we're no exception. I've been desperately trying to bring one or two players in and I'm hoping I get favours off one or two people. You do need a bit of luck at this stage, when all the best players are tied up and most clubs are loath to loan you players in case they need them.
4. If Ken Bates is as good as Jordan, I'll be happy
With Leeds having their own TV and radio station the chairman doesn't want me doing many interviews for other outlets but I'm sure you will all be pleased to hear I have managed to persuade him to let me continue writing this column...
For all his critics, I have always got on well with Ken, right from the days he offered me the Chelsea job more than 20 years ago. The reaction to my joining him brought back memories of when Simon Jordan hired me at Crystal Palace. All the headlines were about how we could never work together, yet he was the best chairman I've had. If my relationship with Ken proves similar I'll be more than delighted.
My assistant manager, Mick Jones, has joined me at Elland Road but another sidekick, Keith Curle, is returning to management in his own right at my old club Notts County. It's a wonderful club and a great opportunity for him. He's an excellent coach and I'm sure he will do well. That provided an opportunity for Ronnie Jepson, who's been with me for a couple of years, to step up to first-team coach. It is sometimes good to have a change of staff for a manager; Sir Alex Ferguson changes his coach every few years, so it may prove a blessing all round.
5. Cardiff might surprise a few, and Liverpool too
It is great for the Championship that Cardiff City are playing at Wembley tomorrow. They have an exciting young boss with a great future ahead of him in Malky Mackay, and good players. They could easily give Liverpool a much tougher game most people expect, but whatever the result it is a fantastic achievement to get to the final. It has affected their league form, but you can't blame players for having Wembley on their minds and I expect them to come good in the league again afterwards.
The other big game this weekend is at the Emirates, but while all the punters and pundits are tipping Spurs I have a gut feeling Arsenal will surprise people. I fancy them to come fourth, which would be another blow for Chelsea. I watched Chelsea's game against Napoli in midweek and felt really sorry for Andre Villas-Boas. The goals they conceded, having taken the lead, showed how much they missed the leadership John Terry provides. You need leaders on the pitch when you have to dig in during games. It is something Leeds have lacked this season and a reason why results have been inconsistent.
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