Neil Warnock: Rollercoaster week, but with Fernandes on board we can now enjoy the ride
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 20 August 2011
It's been another Alton Towers week – up and down like I'm on a rollercoaster. Obviously walking out for our first match back in the Premier League was a real high, but an hour later, with us losing 4-0, I was sitting on the bench feeling shell-shocked.
As I said last week, I'm determined to enjoy this season come what may, but I'll admit it was an effort to show a cheery face when I did the press afterwards. Come Monday morning, when training resumed, I tried to be upbeat but the lads were really down. There's no escaping the deflating impact of a result like that.
Then came the takeover by Tony Fernandes and things began looking up again. I've had a few good meetings with Tony and I've been most impressed. As you can see from his choice of reading material (pictured right) he's clearly an intelligent and discerning man.
It's fair to say Tony's arrival has been welcomed in most quarters at the club. Flavio and Bernie kept the club afloat when they came in, but both obviously had bigger priorities than QPR. It can only be good for us to be taken over by a football person, which Tony is.
It's also good to see Amit Bhatia back involved. That is the best news I could have had. Amit was the main reason I joined QPR in the first place. His association with me last season was a major reason we achieved the dream of Premier League football.
I'm sure QPR fans will be delighted and they should all keep their fingers crossed that we can find the players we need before the transfer window closes. I feel there is light at the end of the tunnel but we are trying to do in 10 days what we've had 12 weeks to do. We need as many as five to give us a fighting chance of getting the results we need and it's a chaotic, exhausting process trying to find out who is available, then attempting to get them in on our budget.
While the timing is not ideal it could have been worse. Two weeks later and we'd have been looking at a very hard winter before the window reopened in January. Instead we are in a position where, hopefully, we'll resume after the international break with a much stronger squad, and for me that is when, with 35 matches still to go, the season will really start.
I'm so pleased for the fans, and I'm grateful for the support they showed me last week. It's not unusual for a manager's name to be chanted when the team is 4-0 down at home, but usually it is accompanied by the word "out". It's great to know fans appreciate what we are trying to do at the club and now at last we can all show a united front and get on with the job in hand.
When the takeover was announced the press asked me if it meant Adel [Taarabt] would stay. I told them I'm not convinced he would have left anyway because once we give Tottenham their cut from their sell-on clause there wouldn't be much profit. Instead I'm hoping that we can bring players in that will give him a better platform to use his ability and his skills. He knows fitness-wise he's a little bit short of where he was last year so he's got to work really hard in the next couple of weeks to get back up to the top level.
I think he was disappointed on Saturday, the opportunities he got, but he couldn't do more because of his fitness. It is a much harder division. Last weekend showed what promoted teams are up against. I thought we played well for the first hour and I imagine Brendan Rodgers felt the same at Swansea, yet they also lost 4-0. It felt a bit surreal. The first half-chance Bolton got they took the lead with a great goal by a centre-half. That didn't happen very often in the Championship, but in this league you get punished.
2. Football, golf or tiddlywinks: I knew Jagielka would be top-class
We're playing at what I would call a proper old-fashioned football ground today when we face Everton at Goodison Park, one of the best grounds in the country for atmosphere. We're also up against one of the best managers in the country in David Moyes. It was made clear yesterday just how short of funds Everton are but you never hear him complain about that, he just gets on with keeping Everton as a top-eight club in arguably the world's toughest league.
Obviously we won't have any fresh faces yet, which is disappointing, but that might not matter so much because the players already here know they're now playing for their places. They've got to show that they want to stay in the team. They read the papers. They know the type of players that I'm looking at, so there will be some trepidation in the squad and I'm hoping we can harness that.
It'll be nice to catch up with Phil Jagielka. It doesn't seem two minutes ago I was watching him in the kids at Sheffield United and thinking: "Is he a right-back, centre-back, midfielder? I ain't got a clue." All I do know is whatever he set his sights on, be it golf or tiddlywinks, he's such a naturally gifted sportsperson he'd have been one of the best. It does help him coming from a good family with very supportive parents. That can make a real difference.
I remember telling Arsène Wenger that if we got relegated that season he should sign Phil. I think I mentioned Paddy Kenny as well. We did go down, but Phil went with Everton and Paddy stayed at Bramall Lane. So it's interesting to see Arsenal have since reportedly bid £10m for Jags. I suppose Arsène's main experience of Phil at the time was as a goalkeeper when we beat them 1-0 in Sheffield. Phil had to go in goal after Paddy was injured and he made one particularly spectacular save from Robin van Persie. That said, I did think he made a meal out of it, as all keepers do, especially in televised games.
3. Arsenal should have ended Fabregas saga two months ago
Watching Arsenal's game against Udinese on Tuesday I was very surprised how attacking the Italians were. The second leg is going to be tough but Arsenal need to go through, there's so much money at stake. I see last year they made £20m less from Uefa than Manchester United did, and that was after getting out of the group stages.
People will look at the departure of Cesc Fabregas and see that as a blow but I think Arsenal will be better off now the saga has finally been completed. It feels like it's been going on as long as Coronation Street. I don't understand why Arsenal didn't complete that, and Samir Nasri's exit, two months ago and then re-invest the cash on two centre-halves and a goalkeeper.
However it's not for me to tell Arsène how to manage. When you look at what he's done since he arrived in the country it's fair to say he's not made a bad fist of it. Every Tom, Dick and Harry may be jumping on the bandwagon saying how he will struggle but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if, come the last few weeks, Arsenal are just a few points behind Manchester United as usual.
Like us, I expect Arsenal to be active in the market before the window closes, but at least we won't be competing for the same players, though in fairness he might be better off chasing the sort of characters I'm after.
4. I have been around too long to dismiss De Gea for his tricky start
I had a blast from the past when reading The Independent this week. An article about David de Gea mentioned Peter Schmeichel's Manchester United debut against Notts County in 1991. I thought, "Strewth, that was my team." Twenty years ago: where has the time gone?
Schmeichel kept a clean sheet against us, and though he had a tricky period a few games later he didn't turn out too bad. People can criticise Sir Alex but irrespective of our disagreements (I can't see me getting any loan players off him) he's definitely the best manager ever in my eyes and he'll have done all his homework. In the long run I'm sure this kid will be an exceptional keeper.
5. It is not just footballers I am shopping for at the moment
The Olympics came past my front door on Sunday. Well, almost. There was a cycling test event coming through Richmond Park so I went and had a look. It appeared to boil down to a lot of waiting, then in 30 seconds they had all whizzed past. I was impressed how fast they go, but I don't think it's one of those sports I'm going to get passionate about.
The family missed it as they shot off to Cornwall after Saturday's match for a break, and who can blame them? That left me to do the shopping. It does make me smile when I'm pushing a trolley round Waitrose and I see people look at me twice. I can tell they're thinking: "It can't be him." Then they realise it is and they come back with the scruffiest pieces of paper. This week I signed a shopping list and the back of a receipt.
6. I like to be a sole man when there's fitness tests looming large
I had to do the shopping because I'm still on a diet which means I have to lay off the takeaways. Instead I've been cooking chicken and Dover sole, steaming them in foil and giving the butter a miss.
I've an extra incentive as I've booked myself in for my annual League Managers' Association fitness test on Wednesday. I thought I'd do it while I'm all slimline, and before our results turn me into an alcoholic. Meanwhile, the family have been scoffing cream teas in Cornwall.
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