The transfer window shut nearly two weeks ago yet it took until Thursday for us to tie down our deals. It's been an absolute nightmare, worse than ever. In the end we have had to arrange a series of emergency loans to sign Tommy Smith, but at least we've got him, and Rob Hulse.
But let me start at the beginning, Bank Holiday Monday. It was, you may recall, a beautiful day – unusual for a Bank Holiday. We did not have a match for a while so I had given the lads a few days off and I was looking forward to a day in Richmond Park with friends. A picnic, some football and cricket with the kids. Lovely.
That was shattered early doors when I took a call. We had a chance to get Tommy, who I'd been chasing all summer. When you've not got a large squad people like Tommy, who can play left, right and in the hole, are worth their weight in gold.
First, I had to meet Portsmouth's administrator in a hotel at Heathrow. We negotiated for quite a while. Then I had to rush off to see the chairman to see if we could afford the deal I'd discussed, and what else I might be able to do.
I told him there were two or three players I was trying to get on loan from Premier League clubs, but none of the clubs could give me a definite yes. It was obvious they were trying to sell the players concerned, but I didn't want to buy. One club did not want to loan their player out for six months, just the odd month, in case they wanted him back. That's no good if you are trying to build a team.
On Tuesday morning the loan deals fell though, one by one. Then another of my targets, Hulse, became available at a bargain price. Even though he has a minor injury at the moment we were talking about a transfer, not a loan, so I could take the long-term view. I knew from working with him at Sheffield he would do us a fabulous job over the course of the season, and was the type of person who would thrive in our dressing room.
After negotiations with Derby were complete, Rob got in his car, arriving at our training ground just after two. Tommy was already there; he came in at 10 o'clock for a medical and to talk terms. That, however, was complicated by the fact that his agent, on deadline day, saw fit to be in America. Really convenient I have to say.
I was constantly on the phone, to Portsmouth, to America, to our directors. I was going slightly mad. At one stage I went across to the office of my assistant, Mick Jones, and told him: "I just feel like saying 'let's not bother, we'll work with what we've got'." The hassle had got to me. I still don't understand why we have deadline days, what with freedom of movement laws.
Mick calmed me down and I ploughed back into it. At about half-four I became concerned that there was only an hour-and-a-half left. It didn't help that we were at the training ground, near Heathrow, but our secretary, with the contracts, was at Loftus Road.
Eventually we got it all done. Or so we thought, but the Football League soon came back to tell us they would make a decision in the morning as to whether we had beaten the deadline. The morning came and went and we were told the decision would be made by the evening. It wasn't until the following morning, Thursday, we were told Hulse was OK, but they still had queries on Smith. It was Friday night when I found out his transfer was not ratified. So it was back to Portsmouth to find a way around it. Finally we have arranged a series of loans with the permanent transfer going through when the window reopens in January. After all that it was a relief to get back to training.
2. Never mind the jinx, I'm delighted by my award
I've been named Championship Manager of the Month (below), with Adel Taarabt player of month. I'm told these awards jinx a good run, but I'd rather win one for having 10 points at this stage of the season, than be at the other end of the table.
Of course, if we don't get a result today people will blame the jinx, but it might just be because we're playing a very good side. Middlesbrough have started slowly but to me they are still favourites to go up. They also won 5-1 at Loftus Rd last season so I imagine they will fancy their chances.
I'm looking forward to the game. No disrespect to Scunthorpe and other lower-profile teams, but as a manager I get more nervous playing them than the bigger clubs. It will be interesting to see how we cope with the quality they have got. It should be a good crowd and a cracking game.
3. JK Rowling's MS donation was a moving story
I thought it was a fantastic gesture by JK Rowling to donate £10m to research into Multiple Sclerosis. A sum of money like that will really make a difference in the fight against what is a horrible disease. I can understand her motivation entirely. Her mum died of MS at 45, mine at 42. I appreciate there are a lot of good causes but when MS has affected someone in your own family it will always be something of a priority. Whenever I have some funds to give to charity, if players have been fined or something, I always give it to MS.
4. Rio should stay as captain - if he can win his place back
For a change I enjoyed watching England this week. It was great to see Wayne Rooney on the mark after all he has had to put up with. Some were speculating he might not play, or even travel. I thought to myself 'the one thing he does want to do is get away and play football'.
The other issue was the captaincy with a clamour for Steven Gerrard to keep the armband. I don't think for one moment he will, if Rio Ferdinand gets back in the team. Once you decide on a captain you stick with him. However, I'm not convinced Rio will get straight back in with Phil Jagielka playing like he is. I was asked where Jags' best position is, knowing he has been full-back, centre-back and midfield. I told him the best match he played for me was in goal, when we beat Arsenal 1-0 on one of the best nights we had at Bramall Lane.
5. Back to school nerves made it a difficult week for us
We had a bit of a worry last week with Will getting into a panic about going back to school. There were six or seven days with him not eating properly and feeling sick morning and night. Every parent wants their children to be happy at school so it was a concern.
Fortunately I was away with Amy the day he finally went back but Sharon got a phone call in the middle of the morning to say he had been taken into the sick bay. We feared the worst. But to our relief he overcame his worries and went to school the following day and enjoyed it. Within a few days he'd got a distinction for geography (obviously he does not take after his dad). So you can imagine our laughter when we overheard him counselling Amy before she went back. He sounded like a 60-year-old man when we heard him say "everything will be alright on the second day, Amy, it's only nerves".
He now thinks he's won the pools because we're letting him eat everything to get his weight back. He's been polishing off energy bars and chocolate biscuits. It must be working as he got a great goal in the school's first match last week. I did enjoy his celebration. It was a cracking match, won 2-1.
6. Adkins' move the right one, but be wary of Saints
Nigel Adkins seems to have been in a similar situation as I was at Crystal Palace when QPR made an approach for me, in that he has refused to move clubs without compensation being paid. I think it is right for managers to look after the clubs that have helped them.
He has done a fantastic job at Scunthorpe. We played them a couple of weeks ago and although he had again lost his best strikers, Paul Hayes and Gary Hooper, he seemed to have pulled a couple more rabbits out of the hat. But there is only so long you can do that and he has been there nearly four years.
Assuming he goes he will find Southampton an entirely different ball game because they have expectations, and that is a significant change from being at a club which is happy to survive. It is a fantastic club, and a great opportunity, but after what in managerial terms has been a bit of a farce with Alan Pardew's abrupt sacking my advice to Nigel is, "make sure your lawyers have a good look at the contract".
Baby Bentley? I'm happy with my free bus pass
The highlight of my last two weeks came with the arrival of my bus Freedom Pass. I was desperate to use it with the kids so we walked up the road and got on a bus going into Richmond. I showed the driver my pass and he waved me on without a glance at it. I said: "Would you look at it please? I only got on the bus to show it to you."
I will use it a lot, it's often easier to get the bus as parking is difficult in Richmond. I like being on a bus, it reminds me of when I was a kid. I can still remember my dad clipping me round the ear when I wouldn't stand up for a woman who had got on. As a kid you soon learnt in those days.Reuse content