Neil Warnock: Promotion? Don't even say it. The fans might be excited but we refuse to get carried away
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 09 April 2011
All the media were saying we're as good as up after we beat Sheffield United on Monday night, but I can tell you there's no one in our dressing room thinking that way. I've been in the game long enough to know what can happen if you start making assumptions like that.
Not that I'm worried about my lads doing it. I know it's a cliché to take things one game at a time, but it's a good principle and they've all agreed they will only talk about the next game. As for the P-word, we don't need to ban it because no one says it.
In our case "the next game" is Scunthorpe United, away, this afternoon. As with Tuesday's match at Barnsley, I'll be going back to one of my old clubs, not that I expect to recognise much. Scunny are at a new ground and Barnsley have completely re-built Oakwell. They both have great facilities now, which is a relief – the good old days weren't that wonderful when it came to things like dressing rooms and showers.
I don't suppose there'll be a tougher time to play Scunthorpe all season. It's Alan Knill's first home match and after getting beat 6-0 at Norwich last week he and his players will be hurting and sure to produce a response. They're good at home too – Forest and Swansea have both lost there recently.
Of course, you can't stop the fans getting excited and I wouldn't want to. They were queueing around the ground to get hold of tickets this week, which I'm told hasn't happened in a long time. Our last home match, which is against Leeds, sold out in 24 hours and the other remaining home games, against Hull City and Derby County have all but sold out. I'm delighted. Loftus Road is a special place when it is full. Standing in front of the dug-out the crowd are right on top of you, when I look round it's like one of those old paintings, I see row after row of faces, like round blobs.
It was a cracking atmosphere on Monday when we played Sheffield United. It still seems strange playing against my old, hometown club, but we scored some good goals and managed to come out on top. It's sad to see the Blades in the situation they are in at present, but at least their future looks bright with their youngsters reaching the final of the FA Youth Cup after beating Aston Villa 3-0 on aggregate on Wednesday. It's the first time they've ever reached the final. John Pemberton, who's in charge of the boys, will get most of the plaudits but no one should forget these players were all found by Ronnie Reid who left the club recently. He deserves a lot of credit because I know how hard he worked getting these players to the club from my time there. Ronnie must feel a lot of pride in seeing them reach the final, even though he's no longer involved.
2. 'Wizard of Oz' kept football off the agenda...for a while
Last Saturday had to be one of the best of the season. It was Sharon's birthday so we all went to see The Wizard of Oz. What a fantastic show. The kids loved it and so did we. Then we went to the Savoy for a meal in the Riverside restaurant. Natalie, my eldest daughter, met up with us there.
And all through this time I didn't look at a single result. There was no sneaking off to check the scores on my phone under the pretence I was going to the gents. When William borrowed it to play a game I said to him, 'don't tell me anything about football'. It was not until after the main course I had a look.
William's school has broken up so he came to training with me on Thursday. He loves it, fetching balls and playing with the lads. One minute he's knocking the ball past Paddy Kenny, the next he's doing keep-me-ups with Shaun Derry. It must be every boy's dream.
When we got back he said, "I don't feel well, I've a pain in my tummy". I said, "that's a shame as I know your friend Banjo is having a kick-about on Ham Common". Within seconds he had made a miraculous recovery, which was fortunate as I could leave him playing football while I popped to the shops to get a cup of coffee and read my Independent, required reading even on the days that my column isn't in it.
When we got back his team were winning 10-1. I noticed the best two lads were on the same side so I said to the others, "I'm in your team lads, let's go". We pulled it back to 10-5 before I was cream-crackered. I didn't score, but I made three. I felt like Brian Glover in Kes, running around with all the kids. I fouled Will a couple of times too, which I enjoyed. At the end I insisted on a team photo, which you see features a lot of exhausted lads and one fresh-faced oldie.
3. Good to see that Rooney's back, but why the anger?
While I think it is a dangerous precedent fining and suspending Wayne Rooney for swearing on the field of play I don't think it would have happened if he hadn't done it right into the face of the camera. That's the difference. What struck me though, was how angry he was. When he scored at Chelsea he was happy, which is natural. At West Ham you thought, "Why's he so angry? He's just scored a hat-trick." Mind you, that cop who said he would arrest Rooney had he been behaving like that in the street must lead a very sheltered life. On that basis, if he goes down to any major city on a Saturday he'll fill his van in no time.
All the furore overshadowed his performances at West Ham and Chelsea. He's showing again what a class player he is. As a manager what I liked about his performance at Stamford Bridge was what he did in the last 20 minutes. Sir Alex asked him to play wide left and soon he was tracking back to his own box to pick up his man. He is such a good team player. We've seen different sides of him over the last few days, let's hope from now on we see more of the good.
While Man U were lucky not to concede a penalty in the last minute at Chelsea when you look at the decisions they've had there in the last few years it's about time they got a break. I don't think anyone can begrudge them victory on the night, the way they played. It looks as if they are finally hitting their best form, and doing so just at the right time.
A lot of it comes from the man at the top. No other manager would have done what Sir Alex did at half-time at West Ham, putting one of the best left-sided attackers in the game, Ryan Giggs, to left-back and giving it a right go. That's why he is one of the most successful managers in our lifetime, you do have to gamble sometimes. The result certainly surprised me. When we left to go into town on Saturday West Ham were two-up. I spoke to James, my eldest son, on the phone before going into the show and he told me the final score was 4-2. I said, "great result for West Ham". He said, "No. It was 4-2 to Man U".
4. Harry deserved more than a Real drubbing in Spain
This week's second leg at Old Trafford is the only Champions League tie with anything riding on it, the others are done-and-dusted, unfortunately for Harry. What a damp squib it was for him, after so much anticipation, to have so many things go against you against Real Madrid – Aaron Lennon being ill, going a goal down and Peter Crouch committing two schoolboy tackles. Harry must have thought, "why is this happening to me?" He didn't deserve that.
In the other dug-out was Jose Mourinho, and you can see that twinkle in his eye. While Barcelona have got to be odds-on favourites for the semi-final you wouldn't put it past him to come up with some sort of tactic to stop Messi and co. It'll certainly be one of the best two-legged ties you'll ever see when you look at the players and managers both sides have got.
The result of the week must have been Schalke's win at Internazionale, especially after conceding that incredible goal by Dejan Stankovic. Schalke will definitely be underdogs against Chelsea or Man United, but they clearly should not be underrated.
5. If you are in the crowd, keep an eye on the ball
When I heard Sunderland were being sued by a fan who was injured by a wayward shot while watching the team training, it reminded me of an incident early on in my time managing Sheffield United. Blackie [then-assistant manager Kevin Blackwell] was warming up the keeper and he hit someone on the Kop. It hurt – these balls are hit with a lot of pace – and for a while they contemplated taking it further.
6. Will has a will to win, even on the Wii. Is it to do with me?
Cricket's back and we've been getting into the spirit of things in the garden. Amy's proving to be a very good wicketkeeper while Will is as competitive as ever. It doesn't matter what it is, football, cricket, monopoly or the Wii. He wants to win. I just don't know where he gets that streak from.
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