Neil Warnock: We had two refs on Tuesday – and one was Robbie Savage

What I Learnt This Week
Click to follow
The Independent Football

You may have heard that Fifa – or is it Uefa? – has considered experimenting with two referees in one game.

I've always wondered what that would be like. On Tuesday, against Derby County, I had the privilege of being present when this experiment was tried out in a game. It was not until after the match that I realised in fact the second ref throughout the evening had been the media's new luvvie, Robbie Savage. The only thing missing from his attire was a whistle, but he didn't really need one as he was dictating most of the decisions without needing to whistle. I think one of our lads asked Robbie for his shirt afterwards, but it had already been promised elsewhere. I can't imagine where.

Having witnessed the experiment I'm afraid to say I'm not convinced as both officials, and the linesman, seemed to miss the last-minute tug of Antonio Germain's shirt in the box. It was so obvious I didn't even need to see the TV pictures, which confirmed it, and I was 60 yards away. When I asked, the officials said they didn't see it. It just puzzles me when you have linesmen who see everything else throughout the game, sometimes things that aren't even there, yet a clear tug of the shirt which just happens to be inside the penalty box, is missed by everyone.

When I look at the penalties Reading have got late on in the last few weeks it makes me wonder whether part of my coaching should be telling players how to look for feet to go over in the box, or how to let the wind blow you over and not stay on your feet, because when a player does stay on his feet, and tries to play in the spirit you are supposed to, he gets nothing.

The young lad himself told me he could have gone down but wanted to try and get his shot in. I suppose I should be giving him the same advice Glenn Hoddle gave Michael Owen when he was England manager: "If you get a nudge, go down, it's not cheating, it's helping the referee make a decision." But if Antonio had gone down I suppose he would have been booked for diving, since none of the officials saw the shirt tug.

And that's enough of my rant for the week.

2. No surprise how well the Nevilles have done

Has it gone unnoticed by everyone else how well Gary Neville is playing? When I was in the Premier League I was asked: "If you had the choice of any player in the league, who would you bring in?' I think they were amazed when I used to say Gary Neville. I thought at the time he was the best leader in the country. I know he has his moments, especially when celebrating exuberantly against Liverpool, but I think he is still England's best right-back, and by far the best defensive right-back we have. Who's to say he will not be considered for the World Cup?

His brother Phil's got a great attitude too, I would have him in my team tomorrow. But I've never been surprised at how well the Neville boys have done as I was privileged to have Jill, their mum, as secretary at Bury. Their sister Tracey played netball for England and I'm sure their dad, Neville Neville, was good at something too, given the competitive spirit in the family. That's something you can't coach into people. All you parents that tell your kids off for being bad losers, think twice. We need that competitive spirit in Britain.

3. I'll spend but I won't get £10m

With having so many loan players at the club it was difficult to take anyone else on board before the loan transfer window closed on Thursday so we went with what we have, except for the addition of a Serbian international left-back Dosko Tosic, who had been at Portsmouth. I don't normally sign players I've not seen but this is really a five-week trial. He's played for decent teams in France and Germany so should have something to offer us.

It's a little bit frustrating at the moment for me as I want to do things yesterday but have to wait until the summer to get on with building my squad. I'm hoping to give everyone a chance before the end of the season, then start making decisions. Not that I'm going to be helped by stories in the red-tops that I have £10m to spend. I wish. I don't think I've spent £10m in my entire career. I've nothing near that and wonder where these stories come from.

4. William's leaving do left me red-faced

It's a bit traumatic this weekend as we are packing for our move next week. William finished school on Thursday and had the most fantastic going away party, which I recommend to any parent. It's a portable car racing simulator run by a company called Racing Challenge. The guy parked it on our driveway and, even though it was chucking it down, no one got wet. Four kids could race each other. After 25 minutes of watching them I went in and nodded off watching Sky Sports News. That's the kind of children's party all parents want.

For grub we had hot dogs (I always give my kids the healthy stuff). I said to them all, "Be careful with not to spill your Ribenas". Then I went to put some ketchup on and it shot out like a fountain. If you'd seen the kids' faces. It was one of those moments, like when the cowboy walks through the saloon doors, it all goes silent and everyone looks round. I could see in their eyes they were all thinking, "Thank goodness it wasn't me". It's just as well we're having the carpets cleaned this weekend.

At the end of the night one of my friends came over with his wife and me and Sharon took them on. We won the first race, one of us first, one third, I can't actually tell you which one of us was where because it would be unfair. OK, I came third.

I tried to improve my performance for the second race, and was a little bit unfortunate to come fourth. It reminded me of signing for Ron Ashman at Scunthorpe United on deadline day. We were second from bottom in the old Third Division. He said to me, "Neil, there is only one direction we can go." I proved him wrong. We finished bottom.

5. And Amy was a true star in The Tempest

Amy was in a play at school on Tuesday, The Tempest, done in the style of the old TV series, Lost in Space. She was an intergalactic air hostess who does a lot of dancing, and had been practising very hard. I'd love to have seen it, but that is one of the pitfalls of being a manager because we had a game. Sharon said it was fabulous.

6. Pressure point for bosses at sharp end

We're reaching the stage where managers are under pressure. I can't imagine how nervous Gianfranco Zola and his staff will be before West Ham's match today against Stoke. I still get butterflies from 11am on match days, even though the night before I take an anti-acid tablet, and I've done about 1,000 more games than Zola. I suppose when you stop feeling nervous it is time to pack in.

Although I know David Sullivan means well, and I have a lot of time for David Gold, I'm not sure the comments coming out of the boardroom are helping Zola. I don't think it is the chairman's prerogative to apologise to the fans and use words like "pathetic performance" and "no organisation". It increases pressure on the players.

Then there was Roberto Mancini's spat with David Moyes. From the pictures in the newspaper it looked like it was a good spar. The fracas almost disturbed Mancini's scarf, and there were one or two hairs out of place. It just shows you the pressure when you are fighting at the top end for what could be his survival. I think the FA should have given them a warning and let it pass, instead of charging Mancini.

I was sad to see Tony Mowbray sacked by Celtic, but I saw the 4-0 defeat against St Mirren and thought he might not make it to the weekend.

7. Cook feels the heat despite winning the lot

You have to feel for Alastair Cook. He takes over as England cricket captain for the tour of Bangladesh, wins every every match, scores two centuries, and is slaughtered by one or two experts. What would they have said if he'd lost a game?

8. Another ear-bashing...this time from JLS

Finally my moment has arrived – tomorrow I am going to see JLS at the Royal Albert Hall. The whole family are going, and it's in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust so it is a good cause, even if I thought it was a fruit drink when they first told me. Natalie, my eldest, has warned me she will be screaming. That brought back memories of seeing The Beatles at Sheffield City Hall when I was about 16. Unlike then I'll be squeezing in a pair of earplugs, but don't tell the kids.