Neil Warnock: Wenger has changed the management game – yes, even for 'dinosaurs' like me

What I’ve Learnt This Week
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The Independent Online

There were a couple of milestones this week. Arsène Wenger became Arsenal's longest serving manager when he clocked up 13 years in the job, and I completed my 100th game as manager at Crystal Palace. Looking at the list of managers at Selhurst since Steve Coppell finished his first spell, 14 in 16 years, I think mine may be the bigger achievement!

I don't think it is an exaggeration to say Arsène has changed the face of English football. His influence has extended much further than the Premier League, right down into League Two. He's made us all – even what you might call 'dinosaur' managers – realise that you have to take new things on board and move on. You can't stand still. I'm thinking about technology, fitness regimes, fitness coaches and psychologists.

He's definitely extended footballers' careers through his influence by two or three years. Thirteen years ago there's no way our players would have looked after themselves the way they do now. It's not so long ago players had steak for a pre-match meal. Now they eat carefully specified amounts of food designed for the exercise they are about to do.

I'd just like to see his team toughen up a little when they play the top sides because I really don't think there's much between them, and Chelsea and United.

2. Bringing up my century left me on a fantastic high

My 100th game was at West Bromwich on Saturday and I have to say it was probably the best away performance since I have been here. In the circumstances, with one or two players injured, to go to a team undefeated and top of the division, and come away with a 1-0 victory, was a fabulous feeling. It just shows you the ups and downs of football in the space of two weeks. I had the worst feeling in the world after losing 4-0 at home to Scunthorpe, followed by one of the high points.

It made for one of those journeys coming back you don't forget. Although it was nine o'clock when we arrived back, I wouldn't have minded if it had been midnight.

When I left the dressing room to do the press conference at about 25 to six some of the lads asked, "Gaffer, what time are we on the bus." I replied, "About quarter to 10." I didn't want to leave the Hawthorns. And when we did get on the bus, I didn't want to get off. I just wanted to savour the feeling as long as I could.

It must have been the same for the fans too. Everyone who travelled up like myself must have read the pools predictions and seen we had no chance. We sure cost people a few quid on the coupons and betting slips.

3. West Brom supporters banter with best of them

It was back to the bread and butter against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday when we again could not hit a barn door. The chances we had in the first 20 minutes you would not believe, but in the end I was pleased to get a point. As usual I got a lively reception from the Wednesdayites, but there was also quite a bit of interaction with the Albion fans. Everyone is talking about fans giving stick to players and managers but even had I lost I'd still say the stick I got from West Brom was great. There was a lot of funny stuff. Journos make out Baggies fans have it in for me because of the abandoned game we had when I was at Sheffield United. It's not that, it's just because it's me.

When I hear them calling me names throughout it really makes me more determined. After the game, I could not help clapping the Albion fans and giving them a wave. Even the stewards laughed and said, "I can't blame you for that."

4. It's a battle of nerves at Stamford Bridge tomorrow

It was an interesting week in Europe which set up tomorrow's match at Stamford Bridge nicely. I think the game in Cyprus showed how much Chelsea need Didier Drogba if they are to win the Premier League or Champions League. After scoring I thought they would dominate but it was the other way around.

At least they won. Liverpool looked shell-shocked at Fiorentina. They are fortunate that they go to Chelsea when the Londoners are also a bit short of confidence. I think both teams will be nervous.

Rafa Benitez looked stunned. I don't think he's ever seen his team play so badly. He clearly never expected it. I gather both managers had a go at their players. Well, that's what we are paid for, and there's such a lot at stake at both clubs.

The week also showed how much Manchester United miss Cristiano Ronaldo. While they're struggling to create against Wolfsburg he's scoring two and making one for Madrid. Only Arsène will be content with his week, and Arsenal left it a little late.

5. Elvis enters the building after Hubble loses his focus

I'm sorry to say there's been a death in the family. Hubble, one of our new chameleons, passed away. We're not sure of the cause but Babs did look a bit big for him. Maybe he went the way we'd all like to go.

We've replaced with one that looks like an alligator. We call him Elvis as he has a quiff down the back of his head and looks like he loves himself. We're now feeding them crickets as well as locusts and Elvis eats out of the hand. When his tongue whips it away it doesn't half send a shiver up your spine. I got him out of the cage this week to watch a bit of football. He watched Chelsea and Man United while climbing on my arms and head.

6. No inducement can get Rooney to make Russia trip

I see Wayne Rooney has said he'll stay and attend the birth of his first baby rather than go to play CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.

While I'm all in favour of that – I'll always let one of my lads do the same – these days you can have the baby induced, so I wonder if he'd just rather have a few days with the family at home instead of going to Russia.

7. Julie's old clubs have put me on fairway to heaven

I've been on the golf course this week with Mick Jones (Palace's assistant manager). He drives like Tiger while I'm only hitting a four-iron but if I time it right I'm very straight and not far behind. Mick's not impressed. He thinks I'm a boring player, but I'm just pleased to reach a stage where it's not embarrassing on the course.

My improvement all stems from when I was playing in Spain with Paul Evans, my best friend, and his wife Julie, who's since passed away. I borrowed her clubs and never played as well in my life, so I said, "I've got to have them," and swapped them for my new set. They are like an old banger, bits falling off the bag and all scruffy, but I can't change them because she is obviously looking after me on the fairway. We have a laugh as I talk to her during the round.

We're near a lovely course, William's already had a lesson, and Sharon has too. She says she's not going to be a golf widow. They have lovely swings, mine's that of a hacker.

8. William's ill but garage visit raises my temperature

William and I had a hectic morning yesterday. I had a flat tyre and noticed a screw buried in it. It took ages to get a replacement. I'm at the garage thinking I should be on the training ground, sorting out the set-pieces for our match with Blackpool.

And then there's the virus sweeping through our centre-halves. Claude Davis had it, then Paddy McCarthy developed a temperature while playing the Owls and just about struggled through. Jose Fonte went down on Wednesday, so I'm expecting Clint Hill to be next.

William's also been ill. Watching Sharon looking after him Monday and Tuesday night made me think all those blokes who go out to work and think their wife has it easy really don't know. She was marvellous.

9. Dressed-down Brown still a hero

When I saw that story about Phil Brown talking a woman out of jumping off the Humber Bridge I thought the reporter must have got it the wrong way round. Then I heard he was wearing a tracksuit. If Phil was going to jump he'd be dressed immaculately without a hair out of place. Or he'd be in one of those special Speedo swimming suits.

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