I went to the reserve team's match at Tottenham on Tuesday. When I got there I thought, "I've never seen so many paparazzi at a training ground''. They were quite disappointed when I turned up.
Of course, they were there to take pictures of David Beckham. It just shows how fascinated people are by him. I had thought about taking William out of school for the day, just to meet him and see him play. In the end I decided that was the wrong idea, though I did see a few boys with their fathers waiting for photographs.
We had hoped Becks was going to play against us, but to the disappointment of our lads he didn't, though he was training on the next pitch. As you may have read, we lost, but Jeppo [Ronnie Jepson, our reserve team manager] wants you all to know it was not 9-2 as reported, but 8-3. Having lost two senior pros early in the day we were struggling to get a team out but Spurs were desperate to get the game on as Jonathan Woodgate and Jamie O'Hara needed a run-out. We ended up borrowing two young centre-halves off Tottenham.
I spoke to Jonathan afterwards and he seemed in good spirits. He asked about how Adel Taarabt was going on and we both smiled at the subject. I still don't think anyone at Tottenham can believe how well he is playing for us.
2. How to back a winner: put a fiver on all the horses running
We went to the races on Wednesday. I thought it was time we had a day away from football. I looked at a few possibilities but we couldn't find a lake which could accommodate us all for a day's fishing, and go-karting tends to be a bit dangerous at times. So we went to Kempton Park and were really well looked after. It was under lights, which made for a good atmosphere.
We had a good time, especially one of the lads who'd never been racing before but won race after race. He really made sure the other players knew each time he sauntered off to pick up his winnings. He was that confident that by the final race I decided to ask him which horse he was backing so I could get on it as well. He smiled and said "all seven of them, gaffer". That was his secret. He was backing all the horses.
For the first half-dozen races I tried to study the form, with devastating consequences – for me, not the bookies. In one race there was a horse called Jonny Ebeneezer. The form said he'd not won since 2004, and had a bad run last week. He was the outsider of 10. He romped home. It's a mug's game, isn't it?
So eventually I went back to picking horses because I liked their names. In the last race I chose West Leake because I used to drive through a place with a name like that when I played for Scunthorpe. I told all the boys but nobody backed it, so you can imagine my delight when I shouted it home at 6-1.
3. Somebody has tightened the elastic on my trousers
Sharon and I went to the Football Writers' Association tribute night to Thierry Henry at the Savoy Hotel on Sunday. Sharon was really looking forward to it, not because of Thierry, but because she saw a TV programme about the revamp of The Savoy and was keen to see the hotel. I have to say we were not disappointed, it really is superb.
I'd not been to a black-tie do for nearly a year and I made the mistake of not trying the DJ on until 20 minutes before we were leaving. You know what's coming. Yes, I couldn't get that button to fasten on the trousers. It was a devastating blow, but I suppose we've all been there. I was convinced the elastic had been tightened, unfortunately it hadn't.
As I went into the dinner someone suddenly thrust a hand at me and said, "Hello Neil". I accepted the hand, shook it, then realised it was Graham Poll. I didn't really know what to do, but I suppose life moves on, and he is a QPR fan after all.
Gérard Houllier said a few nice words about Thierry, a few more than Steve Bruce said about Gérard this week after Darren Bent joined Aston Villa. Knowing the move was about to happen must explain why Gérard was in such a good mood at the dinner. He did well to keep the secret because no one else knew about it, not Sunderland or even Bent apparently.
When I heard Niall Quinn's comments regarding the way Bent had been in the last two or three weeks on the training ground, I thought how often I had experienced similar things with players before they were involved in a move. I honestly don't believe there is one transfer that happens these days where the player and the buying club don't know it will happen before an approach is made. As a manager it happens for you, and happens against you, so we can't really complain.
Someone pointed out that Steve must know how it is, having left three clubs to enhance his own management career; in fairness there's not a lot he can say about that.
4. A great day for the referees – until Mike Dean's blunder
I spent Sunday afternoon in front of the television watching football, the Birmingham and Liverpool derbies, then Spurs v Man United. At half-time in the third game Sharon asked me what the games were like. I said: "You'll never believe this, but the best thing about them all has been the quality of the referees." I thought Mark Clattenburg was excellent at St Andrew's, and Phil Dowd superb at Anfield, despite giving a corner wrongly for an Everton goal. Then Mike Dean was having a great game at White Hart Lane when, on 73 minutes, disaster struck. I found myself saying out loud, "Please don't send him off for that," after Rafael collided with Assou-Ekotto.
I saw Harry compared it to the Mary Decker-Zola Budd incident and thought, "that's exactly what it was". There was no intention of bringing him down, Rafael never broke stride once. Mike really should have given him the benefit of the doubt. So although I like Tottenham, I was glad Man U held on.
5. Freedman's fine signing
Astonishingly, no manager in England has got the sack in the last week, at the time of writing anyway, which is a relief given the way things were going. Hopefully, everything has quietened down now and Avram can get down to the business of keeping West Ham in the Premier League, which seemed impossible at this time last week.
One new manager, Dougie Freedman who has taken over at Palace, has made the best signing he's ever likely to make by bringing in Lennie Lawrence. Dougie will be able to learn an enormous amount from Lennie in the coming months.
6. Well done, Skye, you deserve it. Now can I have a table?
Congratulations to my fellow Independent columnist Skye Gyngell, who writes for the Sunday paper, on winning a Michelin star for her work at one of our local restaurants, Petersham Nurseries. I'm not surprised as the food is fantastic, the only problem is I can never get a table when I ring up and it will be even harder now. So if you're reading this, Skye, please swing a table for me now and then.
It was just as hard trying to get into The Savoy today. We're training this morning as our game against Coventry is on TV tomorrow lunchtime. I'm going to relax with the kids and we thought about going to The Savoy for afternoon tea. I tried to swing it by telling them who I was and what I did. You will be pleased to know it didn't work.
7. Family's sporting success makes for a good night's sleep
It's been another good sporting week for the kids. Amy won her netball 11-1 and Will scored a try in a victory at rugby. He had a swimming gala afterwards, competing in the crawl, breaststroke and relay. Did he sleep well that night! I've never seen him hit the pillow and go out so quickly. If you could bottle that every parent would use it.
8. Clarke Carlisle, proof that not all footballers are thick
At Burnley last week we came across one of the most intelligent centre-halves in the country, if not the most intelligent, Clarke Carlisle. As anyone watching Question Time on Thursday night will have seen, he's a very articulate young man and I'm so pleased at how well he has done these last few years.
I tried to sign him at Sheffield United in 2004. He was confronting the problems he had with alcohol and had attended Tony Adams' Sporting Chance clinic. I was disappointed when he chose Leeds instead of ourselves, though in fairness to him his wife did come from that area – I told him Sheffield wasn't far away but he didn't have any sway. I kept an eye on his progress and was delighted when he played in the Premier League with Burnley and that he's still holding his own at Championship level. He's the answer to all those people who say that footballers haven't got much between their ears.Reuse content