Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. It's busy, but first impressions are that I'm going to enjoy being king of the Palace
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The Independent Online

You may have noticed that my circumstances have changed since the last column a fortnight ago. I've moved from the dole queue to Selhurst Park and I've been run off my feet ever since. That's always the case when you go to a new club but it's never a problem as you such get a buzz from the fresh challenge.

In the nine days since taking over I've had to meet and assess the squad, consider my staffing, look at the opposition coming up and, off the field, sort out housing and schooling. It's been great and now I can't wait for the matches to start, beginning at Bloomfield Road at 3pm today.

My first job, the most important really, was to get to know the players. After doing the press conference on Thursday last week I took training on Friday morning. I introduced myself and told the squad what I was looking for. I told them, "Don't be afraid of what you've heard about me. Treat me as you find me. I won't ask you to do anything you can't do, but I want you to give me the same commitment I will give the job. If that is the case, we will enjoy it together"

To my surprise, they all looked me in the eye. I say "surprise" because, as I've mentioned in this column and in my book, most players have seen it all before when a new manager comes in and generally it's only the youngsters who meet your eye. Well, I don't know if they'd read that, but they were all looking at me.

I then told them to get their shin pads on and we would start with a no-holds barred session, as I've always done at new clubs. We had a great session, I was really impressed.

Then it was a matter of getting the family settled. We were desperate to move quickly. I'm in a nice hotel but it's not the same as living at home with your family around you. So in the space of 24 hours Sharon and I looked at six houses and three schools. She was brilliant. We found a house near the training ground and made an offer. We should move in by this time next week with a bit of luck. Sharon also found a school. The kids did a test and were accepted. They can start after half-term, which has come at a good time for us.

Then it was back up the motorway to Sheffield. Mick Jones and Keith Curle, who will be working with me, went up on Friday. It took them seven hours. We took three and a half leaving after breakfast on Saturday morning. I'd ordered a skip and spent 24 hours ransacking the house, clearing out what I could.

As you will gather, though I'm a Sheffield lad we're selling our house there, which means a clear-out. In seven-and-a-half years you do rack up some rubbish. I am a hoarder by nature and Sharon was amazed when I kept saying, "Get rid, get rid". But it is just soul-destroying pulling on an old pair of trousers and finding they are just that little bit too tight.

We ended up with 10 bin bags of clothes; we almost filled a recycling container just going through my wardrobe. I'm not sure how some people will look in some of my suits, especially the ones from eight years ago. Then I came back down the M1, leaving it to Sharon to finish the job and the kids to say their goodbyes to all their friends. We'd also like to thank everybody connected with our Sheffield experience for the support they gave us. Making a quick departure has meant we've not been able to see everyone, but we're grateful to you all.

2. There's no time to settle in slowly

While the family have been settling matters in Sheffield I've had the week down here, trying to learn the route to the training ground though the warren of south London streets – I'm sure even the lady on my satnav screamed "help" at one point – and establishing a training routine. The players work Monday and Tuesday, and have a day off Wednesday. They have put a good shift in, but it's been difficult for them as I've had a lot of short 11-a-side games with players in different positions so I could get a look at what everybody can do.

It is always difficult when you go to a new club. You go in blind, barely knowing anyone, but that also contributes to the buzz. There was one player I knew here, Paul Ifill who played for me at Sheffield United. I bet he had been inundated with questions from the other lads. I said to them when I got there, 'Poor old Paul, he's had me twice now".

All the players have four or five games to try and show me what they can do. I've made it clear they should try and enjoy themselves – which is easier to say than do, but players play with more freedom if they are enjoying themselves.

There's been a couple of extra things to deal with. I had not intended to make quick staff changes but I've already lost two people who felt it was time to move on: Kit Symons, the first-team coach, and Mark Hulse, the fitness man.

Then, to put everything in perspective, Dougie Freedman came and told me he'd lost his grandfather and the funeral was yesterday, in Glasgow. I told him family was more important, to go with my blessing and it was up to him if he wants to be involved today. He's meeting us in Lancashire and I hope he will play.

3. Graham Poll still has issues with me

Obviously, a lot has been made about the chairman, Simon Jordan, and me, but I'm going to treat it as a challenge for both of us. Given Simon's had eight managers in seven years it will certainly be an interesting time for me in the twilight of my career.

We both have that passion about us. We've been pals for probably five to six years now. Ironically, our relationship started because of a disagreement, but we've always had mutual respect for each other.

Since I packed it in at Sheffield United I have had five or six offers. Some have been tempting but it never felt right. This did.

There was the possibility of joining Palace once before, when Iain Dowie came in, but it did not seem right at the time. I had unfulfilled ambitions at Sheffield United and I didn't want to leave them, I always felt loyal to them. This time both Sharon and I felt it was different. Simon had talked and talked to me. He drove me daft.

I've been amazed at the reception I've had. When I went to Bramall Lane they said, "Well you've been a fan, let's see how you do as manager". Here everybody has been so supportive.

But not everyone has been pleased to see me back in work. There's been a few ill-informed pieces from some sad people. Graham Poll put his name to a very bitter piece in one newspaper – a newspaper, incidentally, which offered me a lot of money to take my column to them a couple of years ago. If they now need him as a columnist it shows I made the right decision to stay loyal to The Independent.

I regard him as a dinosaur and thought it a bit rich him suggesting I was "the most unpopular man in football". Sorry Graham, you're still top of the charts there, even with your own peers. Whenever people have asked me about him, I always summed him up by saying I thought Graham was "a legend in his own mind". Enough said.

4. Grayson has put Blackpool on track

We went by train to Blackpool yesterday. It was a new experience for most of the lads but I always found letting the train take the strain worked well at Sheffield. Today I'm up against Simon Grayson for the first time. He's a very promising young manager. Last year I voted for him as my manager of the year and every time I've seen his team play they have been very entertaining. I'm not surprised they have started so well; you may remember I said they would be a surprise team at the start of the season. I just hope they have an off-day today.

I'm told it's the first time I've taken a team to Bloomfield Road since I went there with Bury eight years ago this week. We won 5-0, which sounds a good omen, but it's a very different Blackpool now and I'd be happy with any kind of win.

5. Jonny has to deal with real pressure

I'd like to wish the rugby lads good luck tonight. William and I got the bug last week clutching each other on the settee as they beat France. We talk about pressure in football, but the pressure on Jonny Wilkinson to put those kicks over must have been something else.

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