Welcome back, and what a pleasure it is to be starting this week, not last Saturday.
It had to be the highlight of my summer seeing the Championship kick off and not being involved, especially as that is going to be a really tough league to get out of this season.
I have been looking forward to today ever since I left Sheffield United following their relegation four years ago and I'm so glad our match against Bolton is going ahead. I would have been gutted if it had been called off after all our preparation. Our owner, Bernie Ecclestone, is right. Calling matches off would be bowing down to the rioters.
I intend to enjoy every minute of this season. I know there'll be ups and downs and we'll get turned over occasionally, but we will try and be positive. I know that is easier to say than practise, but Blackpool showed everyone last year promoted clubs can go out to win games in this league.
I'm optimistic; after all, we've already picked up silverware. On our pre-season tour to Italy we won the Trofeo Bortolotti ahead of Serie A teams Cesena and Atalanta and Europa League finalists Sporting Braga.
I've kept most of last season's Championship-winning squad together, have brought in six players and hope to get a couple more. I'm delighted with the acquisitions so far. Most of them are hungry with something to prove, which is just what I like. Given his ability Jay Bothroyd has underachieved through his career, but he now has the maturity to try and win back his England place. D J Campbell I liked immediately, and he's sure to benefit from being reunited with his family, who continued to live in the South while he was at Blackpool. He's a boyhood QPR fan, too.
Keiron Dyer knows what people think about him with his injuries and he can't do anything about that, but I've never seen anybody more dedicated in trying to prevent injuries. He's first in every day and does an hour or more stretching and having a massage and so on to get ready for training. He's not come to us for the money, he's had some decent contracts over the years and doesn't have to worry about that. He's come to show people what he is still capable of. We've also signed another ex-Hammer, Danny Gabbidon, who has something to prove. He has one or two areas he can improve on but if he listens to what I tell him he can shine.
Bruno Perone, who's a Brazilian centre-half or midfielder, has signed after a trial period in which he really came on. I knew he'd do for me when he had his nose smashed in a pre-season match and wanted to carry on. He doesn't speak much English yet but I've asked Ali Faurlin to explain what I mean when I tell my centre-halves: "Head it, kick it" – ie don't mess about with it. I think he's already realised by my actions I don't want him passing to Taarbs [Adel Taarabt] in our own half. The sixth signing is goalkeeper Brian Murphy from Ipswich, who Roy Keane recommended to me. He's been a breath of fresh air. And there's also Jamie Mackie, who will seem like a new signing, having been out since January.
Our first match is against Bolton who, like Stoke City and Fulham, show what can be done by clubs of our size with shrewd investment and good management. They are a club to emulate. My biggest worry today will be Kevin Davies, a fellow Sheffield United fan, who's been such a good player for so many years. I just hope he has a rare quiet day.
2. Bacon, steak and lobster has proved to be the perfect diet
People think summer is a long holiday for managers; sadly that's not the case. I have been as busy as I am in the season trying to get players in. Lots of clubs are after the same kind of player and it can take days, weeks, even months to get someone in. Add in the pre-season tours to Cornwall and Italy with the club and all we had time for was a couple of weeks in the West Country, doing the usual things, and some days out in and around London.
The summer's big achievement has been losing 8kg (17.6lb) after going on the Dukan diet. I realised I'd put a bit too much weight on when I saw a picture that made me look as if I had a kangaroo's pouch. I didn't like my first chin, let alone the second. I did some exercise, cut down on the alcohol, and went on this diet which is great: I can have egg and bacon for breakfast, fillet steak for lunch, and lobster for the evening meal. No writing in and telling me I'll have a heart attack next week – besides, I've adapted slightly and now eat some vegetables and fruit.
With the fitness regime we have cycled to Kew Gardens so often I feel I know the place like my own garden. We are so lucky to have somewhere like that nearby. We went there this week and stopped for lunch in a German restaurant. We sat by the river having the speciality meatloaf and there was a woman in the middle of the garden smoking. Given her location everyone got a whiff of her cigarette. That's her right, of course, but when she finished she took out an inhaler and drew on it heavily. It does make you wonder.
3. Being older and wiser makes it easier to keep mum over referees
Among the reminders that you are back in the top flight are the pre-season Premier League managers' meetings. It is compulsory to attend one and I went this week. It was amazing to see just how many countries are watching our games – more than 200. The meetings cover procedure, tell us about any changes, and are a chance for us to raise issues.
I brought up the subject of independent timekeepers. Without a doubt referees do not add as much time on in the first half as the second, and there is a lot of pressure at certain grounds to add time on when the home team are losing.
Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned the increase in players going down injured, getting treatment, then coming straight back on and said he agreed with Michel Platini's suggestion that players who go off should not come back on for two or three minutes. I think that would be an excellent deterrent.
Arsène Wenger raised the issue of clubs bringing in an emergency goalkeeper on loan and playing them ahead of a registered goalkeeper. Surely, he said, they should play their reserve keeper first?
Mike Riley, the head of referees, also spoke to us and asked for managers' help in stopping problems developing on the pitch, such as other players getting involved when someone makes a bad tackle.
The FA were there too and they told us how careful we have to be in what we say after games, especially in not questioning referees' integrity or suggesting they are biased. I do agree with that, and I must say, having some pre-season games in Italy made me appreciate how good our refs are.
I took along a letter I had received from the FA's compliance unit which picked up on some comments I made after we played Cardiff City. I said we'd defended "like fairies" in the first half. The FA had complaints and the letter said that while they did "not intend to bring formal action in relation to this matter... any further comments of this nature" might result in action.
I asked the young lady from the FA whether there were any older people in the department, because the phrase came from what my Dad used to say to me after a bad game – "you played like one of the fairies at the bottom of the garden". I guess that context has gone out of use. I told the FA, and I can assure all readers, my comments were not meant to be offensive in any way. It made me realise how careful you have to be. I'm glad William and Amy are too old for the Tooth Fairy. Who do you tell kids now?
I hope that's the only letter I get from the FA this season, and I'm sure it will be. I notice one bookmaker has made me joint favourite, with Tony Pulis, to be the first manager sent off. Don't they realise what a calm and collected manager I am now? I've no time for these hotheads like Gus Poyet last weekend.
4. Dogs and chocolate don't mix
We had a nightmare on Wednesday when Donald, our Yorkshire terrier, got into a cupboard and finished off a huge bar of Toblerone. I've never seen any human or animal so hyper and sick. We had to keep rushing him outside throughout the night. I say "we", but it was Sharon who had to sleep downstairs so she could tend to him.
5. No joke: I don't want my son to do as I do when in a bad temper
William came with me for our pre-season match at Luton last Friday. I wasn't happy at half-time, we were 1-0 up but not playing well. So I used a few expletives when telling the team what I thought. Then I saw Will there and said: "I don't want you repeating anything you've heard in here." He replied: "It's all right, Dad, there's nothing I haven't heard before." All the players started laughing.
6. Footballers have a role to play in showing kids another way
I never thought I would see scenes like those in London this week. It is obvious a lot of people have hi-jacked the original demonstration and used it as an excuse for looting. It has made me think, though. Rangers have a good scheme, but for a long time I have thought we could do more. The players should get into schools and talk to kids, to provide positive male role models and show what can be achieved by hard work, in any walk of life.Reuse content