Neil Warnock: My world has been turned upside down
What I Learnt This Week
I was feeling pretty good last Saturday night.
To have come back from 1-0 down with 10 men at a club in such good form as MK Dons was a good effort which spoke volumes for the character in the side, especially as we haven't won an FA Cup game in 11 years! Then at 8.30 on Sunday morning I received a text from Phil Beard, QPR's chief executive, and I knew it was all over. The hardest 22 months of my career, but also the most rewarding, had come to an end.
Phil's text only said that the owners had been talking overnight, and could he come over and see me, but I knew. There had been a bit of chatter on Twitter and I had heard rumours, so the writing was on the wall, I just didn't realise it was in such big letters. I'd still been putting in bids for players on the eve of the FA Cup tie and I thought I'd get a bit more time. I'd fulfilled my remit, to get to the transfer window outside the bottom three, and was confident I'd get Alex and Nedum Onuoha in to fix our problems at central defence.
Only six weeks ago I talked with the board and we said it would be a difficult period until January because of the opposition we had, but then we had a winnable run of fixtures which, with the team strengthened, would provide the opportunity to move up the table. It is not as if we had been playing badly. We've been undone by individual errors. I still feel we have played some fabulous football and in those last eight games, other than against Manchester United, we could have had so many more points. Only those around the club realise what I've had to contend with – at least until my book comes out. But I'm not going to whinge today, it'll only give ammunition to all those columnists who like to have a dig at me.
I phoned him and said, "come over". It was difficult for him, he's only been at the club a few months. I was disappointed [owner] Tony Fernandes didn't tell me to my face, but he's all over the world and it's difficult for him. I don't feel any animosity like I did at Sheffield United. I felt the circumstances of leaving there were unjust and there was bad feeling when I left, but I don't feel like that here. I don't bear any malice towards Tony or [vice-chairman] Amit Bhatia. When you put that money into a club you are bound to want your own manager. I just don't fit in with the mould of a Premier League manager. I treat the club's money as if it were my own and I resent paying over the odds.
I just said to Phil straight away: "Don't worry, pal, it's not your fault. I think it's wrong, I feel I've done all the hard work and now someone else is going to get the benefit, but I'm bound to feel like that." He was as good as he could be in the circumstances. We had a couple of hours talking about things and he agreed to delay the announcement until after the FA Cup draw so I could tell the rest of my family. That was handy as I couldn't get hold of [my eldest son] James till the afternoon.
After Phil left I called Mick Jones, my assistant, and asked him to meet me at the training ground. I told him there, but he'd already guessed. I then phoned Keith Curle, my coach. He was surprised. He felt we had a great chance of moving up the table. We cleared out the office – I've never seen so much junk. It's a bit like moving house, though some of it pre-dated me. Given the turnover at QPR before I got there, some stuff could have been from three or four managers back.
The news broke early evening and then the phone began to ring. I just let it take messages. There were lots from managers, they know it could be them next.
Monday I just spent time with the family, letting it all sink in, and replied to some of the calls. The players were off so I couldn't say goodbye to them until Tuesday. Then I went to the training ground and gathered them all together. I told them I'd never forget last year, that winning the Championship was one of the most fantastic moments in my life. I said this season with a bit of luck we'd be in the top half of the Premier League. Finally I said, 'Thank you lads, for so much enjoyment', then I headed west, into the sunset, literally since I then drove to Cornwall.
2. Email support reduced my wife to tears
My first thought after Phil came round was always to get back to Cornwall to reflect on the last 22 months. When I said last week that I had done 10 years' work in less than two, I think everyone associated with the club will understand why I used those words.
Crystal Palace was special for me, but QPR topped the lot. If it turns out to be my last job I couldn't be prouder of managing such a fantastic club with such loyal fans. When I have left clubs in the past, you expect a handful of touching letters. This time I've had more than 2,400 emails, and to a one you are all supportive in thinking we would have stayed up this year, which was great to know.
The first night in Cornwall, Sharon was a wreck, crying her eyes out. I thought at first she was re-watching the last episode of Downton Abbey, but she was reading the emails. You know about my IT prowess, but I would like everyone to know that Sharon is going to reply to every one using my words. It will take a while, but I do seem to have a lot of time on my hands at the moment. Having read every message, I couldn't believe all the stories so many people told, they were simply quite amazing. It struck home once again how much football clubs mean to people. I would like to say to the fans, thanks for everything.
My old secretary from Crystal Palace, Chris, was among those who rang (not so "old", or she'll bollock me!) When I think back I've had some fantastic secretaries who have had to put up with a lot, and now I've left Caroline, who's also been a complete superstar. It seems I'm thanking people, so why not add Mick, my football wife, and Curley, my naughty son, who've both been fantastic and I couldn't have done it without them. I know it sounds like I'm saying goodbye to everything but I honestly don't know where my future lies at the moment because my world has been turned upside down momentarily, but I'm sure it will right itself for next week's column. I do hope I don't get the sack from this now as well!
It is disappointing to have another crack at the top flight ended prematurely, but football's not just about the Premier League, wonderful as it is. When I got to the top flight with Notts County, I turned a move to Chelsea down because I wanted to stay loyal to the group of players who had pleaded with me to stay to give them a chance. It would have been easy to take the money, and I'm sure I could have stayed in the top flight with Chelsea. My career could have been very different. But I've never taken the easy way out and, though I've always done some strange things with my career, when I look back I don't have many regrets. That said, I do envy Mark Hughes. I have never taken over a club that just needs the icing putting on the cake. I've always had to scrap for the ingredients to make the cake in the first place. Mark has taken over a fabulous club with the cake already made, he just has to put the icing on. With the fixtures coming up it is a great time to take over.
3. Cheesed off after long walk at the Cheesewring
To blow the cobwebs away down in Cornwall, we all went out for a walk with the dogs on Bodmin Moor. We bumped into some ponies and went to Minions and the Cheesewring, an ancient heritage and mining site on the south-east tip of the moor. It was a fabulous walk, but about a mile after we left, Sharon said: "Have you got the lead, Will?" There was a long pause, then he said, "I put it down at the Cheesewring". Back we went.
We went into Tavistock and, while parking the car, Sharon overheard two elderly ladies who were 10p short for the meter. I walked over and gave them 10p. I've never heard two women squeal so much, you'd think they'd won the pools. We then came back to our car 20 minutes late with no sign of a traffic warden anywhere. It was quite a change after being in London. Last week Sharon got a ticket for being three minutes over time in Richmond. They are sad, aren't they? You don't get that in Devon and Cornwall.
We finished off with a cream tea in the local post office-cum-café. I hadn't had one for ages and I'm still not sure whether the cream or jam is supposed to go on first. In the circumstances I thought I could give the Dukan diet a miss. Talking of which, I had to laugh at Sky's coverage on Sunday night. They sent a poor old reporter to hang around Loftus Road but there was obviously no one around so they dragged three blokes out of the Springbok pub nearby. They were all slightly inebriated and one said: "Warnock, he lost four stone and he was never the same." I felt like texting Sky, saying: "Surely you can get someone better than that?" Never mind me losing four stone, they looked like they could each lose four stone and more.
4. Palace coup made me and Wills jump for joy
Tuesday night I enjoyed watching Palace's Carling Cup semi-final win over Cardiff. While I think Malky Mackay is a brilliant manager, Will and I couldn't help but jump up when Palace scored. I made a lot of friends at Palace, and I was thinking in particular about my mate Justin, a top financial wizard who is an absolutely bonkers Palace fan. After the times they've had over the last few years, it seems such a special time for them, although everyone knows the tie is far from over. It was good for me and William to be able to forget about events at QPR for a night. It is difficult for kids when your Dad is a bit high-profile and he gets the sack. You don't feel like it affects them but it does in their own world. I'm sure he'll come through it and be stronger for it.
5. Here's to you, Mr Robinson
Today I'm going to watch Plymouth v Burton. Paul Peschisolido, who played for me at Sheffield United, is Burton manager and Ben Robinson is chairman, the same chairman who was there when I was manager in 1980. He's an amazing man, who always backs his managers. I can't remember how many times he supported Nigel Clough through bad times, and Pesci when he had a poor run-in at the end of last season. Now Burton are in the play-off places. I'm pleased for Ben, he's put his whole life into the club and it'll be nice to catch up with him today.
6. Losing little Ellie puts it all into perspective
At the end of the day, football is a game and I've had the chance to live my dream. For some time I've supported a charity in Looe called Ellie's Haven. Last week Ellie lost her battle against a rare genetic illness which meant she needed round-the-clock care. She was six. She never complained and her mum and dad were devoted to her, so let's get things in perspective. The charity, which is seeking to raise funds to create a holiday retreat in Cornwall for children with long-term illnesses continues. Go to: www.ellies-haven.org.uk
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