Neil Warnock: Simon talked me out of quitting – and despite our so-called crisis, I'm glad he did
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 06 February 2010
Well, that was a better week. What a response from everyone at the club to going into administration this week. Two wins and two terrific occasions at Selhurst Park.
Last Saturday we played Peter-borough in our first home game since it happened. The noise was unreal and the standing ovation at the end for the players and myself was incredibly emotional.
Tuesday's FA Cup replay against Wolverhampton was something special. The game came 24 hours after the transfer deadline and to say it had been a traumatic build-up would be an understatement. Victor Moses' departure to Wigan for £2.5m was confirmed but the administrator made it clear he would like extra sales. Nathaniel Clyne was given permission to talk to Wolves after they had agreed a £700,000 fee. I told the administrator I thought the figure was a third of what Nathaniel is worth and although I can't blame Jez Moxey, Wolves' chief executive, for offering such laughable figure. At least it was more realistic than the £1.5m he had offered for Victor and Nathaniel.
Fortunately, Nathaniel is managed by a member of his family, who put the player's future ahead of his own payday. I think the majority of agents who "look after" my players would have thought only of their commission, and persuaded Nathaniel to go. Instead, Nathaniel's agent realised that he really needs to play games at this level to improve. You only have to look at Kyle Naughton, who went from Sheffield United to Spurs for £6m in the summer, and now he is being loaned to Middlesbrough for the rest of season after barely kicking a ball in anger; or look at John Bostock, who left us for the high life at Tottenham, and ended up being a sub on loan at Brentford. It's not rocket science to say Nathaniel's better off getting another 50 to 100 games under his belt before he makes the transition to the Premier League, which I am convinced he will. When I look at Ashley Cole, who's the best full-back in the country, I think this lad can be as good, and potentially he's a better defender.
So the administrator was not happy but the ironic thing is we'll make nearly as money from Clyne staying, and we've still got the player. If he had gone to Wolves I would have had to play Danny Butterfield at right-back against Wolves. As you must know, Danny played in attack and wrote his name into Crystal Palace history after scoring the club's quickest hat-trick, six minutes and 48 seconds. Just unbelievable. That win earned us £90,000 in prize- money, plus £250,000 in fees as the fifth-round tie against Aston Villa is live on ITV. Add the gate receipts from that game and programme sales, burgers and so on, and we're well past half-a-million. Now we just need to take Villa to a replay.
You might ask why I played Butterfield in attack, after he's played all his career at right-back and, I'm told, scored seven goals in 250-odd games. I decided to play him on the right wing against Newcastle 10 days ago as I feel Jose Enrique, their left-back, is their best forward. Fortunately, he pulled his hamstring after 25 minutes and it gave Danny a bit more freedom and he used it well, even if he did miss a sitter. I kept him there against Peterborough and he missed another sitter, so persevering with him did take a little bit of faith. Especially so as when I told Mick Jones and Keith Curle I was going to play Danny up front they both thought I was casting myself for a role in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. You can imagine the satisfaction and glee I had telling them "I told you so" after the game.
Of course, I knew it would happen. On Saturday I told Neil Danns before the game: "I think you'll score today." He scored two. Before Wolves I said to Danny: "You'll score today'. He got three. I'm hoping the one I pull aside today will get four, but that may be asking a lot.
William was almost as pleased at Danny's hat-trick as me. He was at home and had been sent to bed early as he had a school trip the following morning. He was fast asleep when Sharon woke him up, saying: "Quick, Butterfield's got a hat-trick, come downstairs and watch." He thought all his birthdays had come at once, being allowed to watch football on TV at that time of night.
I don't know if Martin O'Neill was as delighted. He was at the game and I'm not sure whether he'd have preferred a local derby at Wolves to making the horrible trek through south London traffic to Selhurst.
2. I had a joke sent to me from one of the lads which I just have to share.
Neil Warnock, Arsène Wenger, Rafael Benitez and Alex Ferguson are in the pub. Warnock gets a round in; Wenger gets the next round, then Benitez, then Ferguson. Then Warnock goes to the bar, buys himself a pint, and sits down. Wenger, Ferguson and Benitez ask him what the hell is going on. Warnock replies: "This is the fifth round, lads, and you're not in it!"
3. Scunthorpe nearly made me pack it all in
The Villa game is fantastic to look forward to, but first we have to make sure we keep going in the league, at Scunthorpe today and at home to Swansea on Tuesday. I'm still getting used to the fact we're in a relegation battle after having 10 points deducted. In the week I was looking for the results of Sheffield United and Blackpool, then realised I should be worrying about Reading and Plymouth.
Scunthorpe beat us 4-0 early on in the season at Selhurst. It was one of the worst days of my career – and I've had some bad ones. It is the only time since I've been here, including the administration situation, that I thought about leaving. If Simon [Jordan] hadn't been chairman I think I'd have walked out that night, I was so disappointed with the defeat and the manner of it. Simon spent an hour and a half with me that night talking me out of it in our tiny kit room.
He did such a good job the following morning I was raring to go. We were playing West Bromwich away in our next game, a frightening thought after such a defeat, especially as Albion had won 5-0 at Middlesbrough the same day, but I thought the best way to show I was still in there fighting was to go to The Hawthorns and beat them.
It was an international break so we had two weeks to plan how to play. For the first time ever I told the players 10 days before what the team was going to be and how we were going to beat West Brom. You can imagine the satisfaction I got from going there and beating them 1-0.
4. Merchants of doom are not welcome here
Simon was not at the match on Wednesday but he rang me beforehand to wish me luck. Only I know what he has had to go through in the last 18 months and I wouldn't have wished it on my worst enemy. I still can't understand why the club was put into administration when it was. It makes no sense and leaves a bitter taste. At my age, when you have an opportunity of making the play-offs, it is a major blow to lose it but I've not allowed the players to feel gloomy, I've said all along the glass is half-full, not half-empty. The lads have been superb but if you give players an excuse many will take it.
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