Neil Warnock: Never mind who we're playing, it's the ref who will make or break us

What I Learnt This Week


1. Snooker saved me from kicking the dogs


We had a very strange game last week, losing 4-1 at home to Ipswich in a match that to this moment I think we should have won. At 2-1 down, I can't understand how the referee did not give a penalty and a red card when Nick Carle was pulled down in the box. That would have been 2-2 against 10 men with 20 minutes to go. Instead, we end up embarrassingly losing 4-1.

It made me realise it is not just who you are playing, but who is reffing, which will make the difference at the end of the season.

After that defeat, I went home and felt like kicking the dogs. Instead, I watched the snooker and really enjoyed it, so much so I decided to watch the final between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Selby on Sunday. I sat down at half-eight to watch and was still there when it finished at quarter-past midnight. It reminded me of watching Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis all those years ago. Once I started watching I couldn't stop. It was riveting. I know they are saying it should be on earlier, so more youngsters can watch, but I enjoyed stopping up with the kids and missus gone to bed.

2. Brave Burnley did the Championship proud

It was a bad week for Burnley. As a Championship manager I felt so proud of them against Spurs on Wednesday. It was not just huff and puff, their quality was super.

The game reminded me of when I was at Huddersfield and we reached the semi-finals of the Autoglass Trophy against Carlisle. It was a Wembley final, Huddersfield hadn't been there since the 1930s, and were desperate to get there.

We won the first leg, at home, 4-1, just as Spurs had. A few days later, I went past the secretary's office and heard him organising buses to Wembley. I said to him, "You shouldn't be doing that yet, we've a tough game at Carlisle. Nothing's safe in football." He said: "We're 4-1 up, we're not going to lose that."

By half-time, we were 2-0 down and had lost our captain, Peter Jackson, who's now manager at Lincoln. I put a student called John Dyson on. One more goal and, unlike poor Burnley, Carlisle would win on away goals. We not only played 90 minutes but played 11 minutes of injury time. I've no idea where the ref found them. I've never felt as sick on the bench. Looking at Harry Redknapp when Spurs were 3-0 down brought all those memories back. We held on but I never want to be involved in a match like that again.

3. Teaming up with Tuffers to take on Taylor

Having been reminded of Dennis Taylor on Sunday, I found myself facing him on A Question of Sport on Monday. I reminded him of how he kept me, and half the country, up all those years ago. I was on Phil Tufnell's team with Lawrence Dallaglio, Dennis was on Matt Dawson's with Mark Butcher. I won't tell you who won, you'll have to watch it, but the last round was a disgrace.

4. Hartlepool can put the wind up Hammers

It is fair to say our FA Cup tie today does not whet the appetite, and I'm sure our opponents, Watford, feel the same. The whole object is to get into Sunday's draw, for both of us. I just wish the draw was still on Monday, on the radio, but I guess that doesn't satisfy the sponsors.

There are some tasty games. Arsenal won't find it easy at Cardiff where a great crowd get behind the team. My old club Hartlepool will be welcoming Gianfranco Zola's West Ham. The people there were the friendliest I've ever met, I'll never forget their hospitality, but it was cold. Wait until the Hammers feel that wind whistling off the North Sea into their ears. It's the only place where pigeons don't land because they would be frozen instantly. When I played there in 1972, and won the player of the year award incidentally (my only award as a player), the away dressing room was heated by a wood-burning stove. It was occasionally known for us to put a bit of water on the wood to dampen it. There'd be a big plume of smoke coming out of the dressing room.

I was reminded, reading yesterday's Independent, of the record we made. Someone wrote to me a year ago. They had a copy and would sell it for £50 as it was a collector's item. I didn't buy.

Fulham should have enough at Kettering but it is a tight ground so it could be interesting. Then there are the "glamour" ties. Manchester United v Tottenham and Everton v Liverpool. The first one will be full of reserves and if the other is like the two sides' game on Monday, I think I'll give it a miss.

5. High hopes dashed by an 8-0 drubbing

I took the kids to school this week and couldn't park in my usual spot, so I went further up the hill.

Having dropped them off, I walked back up but couldn't find my car. I thought, "Someone's pinched it."

I then realised I didn't even know the number plate to my own car to tell the police. I rang Sharon, then decided to go back to school to see if anyone had seen anything. A hundred yards back down the hill and there it was.

After giving William the big write-up last week, I went along to watch him this week. He'd been promoted to the school Under-9s, albeit the B team. I had high expectations, but they lost 8-0. It's true to say William doesn't like losing.

6. Kaka's show of loyalty is a rarity these days

I'm disappointed Kaka won't be playing in England as he's such a good player, but in another way I'm pleased he's staying with Milan as it is a bit of a rarity to find a player who does not just go for the money.

It shows Manchester City just can't buy everybody, though it looks as if they will try to. One reporter said to me at a press conference, "Do you think Mark Hughes will want to spend that sort of money?" I replied, "If I was Mark Hughes, I would buy every player I could, because he is going to have to get results and having good players helps."

Our league programme resumes on Tuesday at Charlton. They battered us there last year and we did well to keep it to 2-0. It is a real derby match and, like the supporters, I'm looking forward to it, especially as it is the only place we play where we have someone at the club who is even more unpopular than me for the crowd to have a go at. Who? Answers on an envelope.

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