Neil Warnock: We play better if I don’t let headbangers call the tune - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Neil Warnock: We play better if I don’t let headbangers call the tune

What I Learnt This Week

After years of having my eardrums tortured in the dressing room by head-banging music I finally decided enough was enough at Ewood Park on Tuesday.

As usual I had got off the Leeds United bus and signed autographs as the players went into the ground, which meant by the time I got into the dressing room the walls were already shaking. Now, everybody tells me this type of music is what the players need to gee them up, but I thought: "It can't be working that well as we haven't won away since December. I'm not putting up with this rubbish any more."

I said to Lee Peltier, who was in charge of the "music", "Pelts! Turn that off and put this on." I gave him my phone with Tamla Motown playing, and I made everyone listen to quality songs by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Junior Walker and The Temptations until we went out for the warm-up. Did it work? Well, we've actually been playing quite well away from home recently and should have taken six points from Wolves and Middlesbrough rather than one, but this was the best performance on the road for the past few months. The only thing missing was a goal, which has been our biggest problem of late.

But a point at Blackburn is a good point so, knowing how superstitious I am, you won't be surprised to hear it'll be Tamla Motown playing at Leicester City on Tuesday – unless I decide a little jazz might do the trick. That is the first of two tough away games and I'm thinking of telling the players if they do not get a result at Leicester they will be listening to Barbra Streisand at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The head-banging music is one of those things that have come into the game in recent years. When I was playing it was a case of the quieter, the better. I used to go into a corner and meditate for five or 10 minutes thinking about my game.

I know you have to move with the times, but I am not sure all the modern fads make players play any better than we used to. Take all this statistical analysis. It can be useful, but if you interpret the figures wrongly you can make a player look good even when he has had a bad game. That's ridiculous. I still prefer to use the evidence of my own eyes – and ears.

2. Headphones off

If I have a grouse about modern footballers, and mine are no exception, I hate to see players rushing off the bus with headphones on going straight into the building when they could sign one or two autographs.

I collected players' autographs as a kid and I still remember the disappointment of waiting outside in the rain for a player who then rushed off without signing. I believe modern professional players owe it to the supporters to sign some autographs every game. After all, how much can it hurt?

When I get off the bus I always sign every autograph I can on both sides of the pathway leading from the bus to the dressing rooms. There's usually a bit of banter with the fans, too. One of the old Lancastrians last Saturday suggested my autograph might become a collector's item as I wouldn't be signing them for much longer. I told him not to be so cheeky.

I could have pointed out that I am the 40th longest-serving manager of the top 92 clubs. I know, I have only been at Leeds United for one year and one week, but in that time 52 clubs have changed manager, several of them more than once. That works out at a change every week, which doesn't bode well for any young managers coming into the game.

My opponent today, Kenny Jackett, is the Championship's longest-serving manager. He is in his sixth season at Millwall, which is a fantastic achievement. They are a well-run club, have never wavered whenever there has been a dip and have been rewarded as Kenny has taken them from League One and made them a solid Championship club. Kenny's also a good bloke, so congratulations to him.

3. Rethink red cards

Everyone knows Swansea outclassed their opposition at Wembley last weekend but people who said Bradford City went for a day out and never tried a leg haven't got a clue. Bradford were that bad because Swansea were that good. There have been Premier League clubs fail to get the ball off Swansea so no one should be surprised Bradford struggled, especially after conceding early on.

I texted Phil Parkinson, Bradford's manager, after the final to say, while he was bound to be disappointed at the performance on the day, it did not take anything away from Bradford's achievement in getting to the final. I told him there are a lot of managers who have been in the game a long time who have never got to a cup final – me included – and he should be proud of what he and the players have done.

I also heard a lot of comment regarding the sending-off of Matt Duke. Callers and pundits kept saying Kevin Friend had to referee the game as he would any other game, that he was dead right to send Duke off, and if he hadn't he would have been dropped for a game.

But the ref didn't have to send him off. There was enough doubt about the angle of Jonathan De Guzman's run and path of the ball for the ref to give Duke a yellow card without incurring the wrath of the authorities. All it required was a bit of humanity and understanding – Bradford were already beaten – but that is something referees don't get. To grasp that you have to have played the game.

Apart from anything else, a penalty is a goalscoring opportunity. A very good one. So how has Duke denied a goalscoring opportunity? A penalty, red card and suspension is too much for one foul – a foul which does not endanger a player – and I'm disappointed the subject has again been left off the agenda for today's meeting in Scotland of the International Football Association Board, the lawmaking body.

No less an authority than Franz Beckenbauer has recommended change, but what does he know compared to the people who run Fifa?

4. We still miss Moore

Today's big match is at the bottom of the Premier League table, where I think QPR have a great chance to get a win away from home and drag Southampton back into the pack.

It is a massive game for both clubs and so is tomorrow's north London derby, which I'm looking forward to watching. Tottenham have been in Arsenal's shadow for so long but look as if they are finally emerging from it. You write Arsenal off at your peril, of course, even if Spurs are bound to be favourites with Gareth Bale in such form.

I thought West Ham did quite well against Spurs on Monday but Bale is unplayable at the moment. I think we coped with him as well as anyone when we knocked Spurs out of the FA Cup, but even then he made a goal. You are on tenterhooks every time he gets the ball and in those last few seconds at Upton Park even I was shouting "close him down" at the TV. West Ham didn't. Bang. He scores.

But it was not the defending that annoyed me most, it was Scott Parker's reception. I expected him to get a good welcome for what he had done for West Ham, putting so much into their cause he was voted Footballer of the Year despite relegation. It wasn't to be. I thought: "If Scott Parker can't get a good welcome I don't think anybody will."

The same night everybody had come together to remember Bobby Moore, with both sets of fans giving his family a fantastic ovation. It was nice, but it did make me think. I remember years ago seeing him working for Capital Radio at a game one cold night and thinking, "How embarrassing for a great player like him having to do local radio."

I think there are a lot of people who must regret now the way he was allowed to drift into the media rather than being kept in the game. It was such a waste of someone who would have had so much knowledge to pass on.

5. In the back of a cab...

I was in London for a couple of days taking in a game and I popped into my old dentist (his takings must have gone down 50 per cent since I left the area). I got a black cab to a friend's house afterwards and the driver turned to me and said: "Is it Mr Warnock?" I said it was and we had a quick chat about football. An hour after he dropped me off the doorbell rang and it was the cabbie. He said to my host: "Has Mr Warnock left a brown bag in the car?"

I had and, although it had my train tickets, diary and much else in it, I hadn't even noticed it was missing. Let's be honest, how many people would have expected to get it back? Obviously I was delighted and gave him something for his trouble. And if he's reading this I'd like to say "thanks" again to him. Before anyone says: "Black cab drivers don't read The Independent", they do. Only this week one of them said to me: "I do enjoy your column in The Independent." Further proof that black cab drivers are often unfairly maligned.

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