Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week
1. Managers are only as good as the chairmen standing right behind them - waiting to push
Saturday 21 October 2006
Another week, another sacking, and this one was just down the road. The Championship is a killing field for managers and Paul Sturrock, my oppo at Wednesday, has become the latest victim.
Of the 24 managers who started last season's Championship only eight are still in the same job, and three of us won promotion. Most of those who aren't were pushed rather than jumped.
Paul is the seventh Wednesday manager I've seen out, and I've been at United seven years. It is unusual to last that long. In this job you are only as good as your chairman is. My chairman, Kevin McCabe, has supported me a number of times when it could have been easier to ask me to go. On a couple of occasions we have spoken when fans have been chanting to get me out and he has always been totally supportive.
I think of the end of the season before last. After our final game against Millwall, when we had just missed out on the play-offs, the lads did their lap of honour. There were about 200 fans behind the dug-out chanting "Warnock out". You can always hear a small group like that and I was tempted to stop in the dressing-room. Then I thought, "Why should I?" I went out and joined in the lap of honour and waved to them.
I wondered where they had gone last season. I knew they would have been waiting to start calling for me to go again, but winning 11 of the first 12 games quietened them down a bit. I bet the same people are enjoying being in the Premiership.
That night I said to Kevin: "Do you want me to leave?" He said: "No, and I'll give you some money to buy some new players." I'd told him without investment I couldn't guarantee anything better than a top 10 finish. He said he would give me a couple of million to have a go. He encouraged me to buy people like Danny Webber and Paul Ifill, and do so early on in the summer to show our intentions. That enabled me to sign four or five others and we took off to have a fantastic season. It would have been so easy for Kevin to say: "Do you think you should have a change? You've been here five years."
I am quite proud of my relationship with the chairman and what we have done at the club in that time. It's all right changing managers at the drop of a hat, but in 90 per cent of cases it's not easy to find someone better.
To judge from the phone-ins locally a lot of Wednesday fans felt that way about Paul. Nearly every caller disagreed with the decision. That's unusual when a manager is sacked. I can't see it happening when I go.
Our success probably hasn't helped Paul, but we were in a similar situation debt-wise when I arrived. It has taken seven years to get where we are, it doesn't happen overnight. Paul will be a bit low at present, but he is a good manager and he'll soon be looking forward to the next challenge.
There's a few names in the frame, mainly ex-Wednesday players like Nigel Pearson and Nigel Worthington.
2. I can understand Jose's anger over Cech
Like Jose Mourinho, I thought Steve Hunt could have avoided Petr Cech last week. I don't think he meant to put him in hospital, but if it had happened to one of my lads I would feel the same way Jose did. I'm not surprised the Football Association has not charged him. A lot of people thought it was accidental. It was one of those situations where if you had ten people in the room five will think one thing and five will think another. I can also understand Steve Coppell defending Hunt. You have to look after your own players.
When I played I didn't see many cynical fouls. There were some tough players around and as a winger I knew I would get kicked but I never thought anybody went out to break my leg. But I didn't seem to wind people up in those days, I wasn't brave enough.
Since I've been a manager I've seen a few bad challenges. The most difficult to spot for referees are lads who deliberately have their studs showing over the top of the ball when a lad is going to kick it. They know the force of the lad's kick will connect with their studs.
I had two broken legs in one season at Burton Albion. Both were horrific challenges, but there was no video then. One of the good things about technology is that players think twice about those type of tackles now. People have accused me of shouting, "Break his legs", but my players take no bloody notice of me when I shout things like that.
One thing the Chelsea game showed me once again was what tremendous spirit they have got. To lose two keepers and still come out with an important win was impressive. We'll have first-hand knowledge of that spirit when they visit Bramall Lane for our next home match.
3. Chelsea need their own ambulance
It was strange that Jose was still going on about the ambulance on Tuesday. Some have said he was trying to take the attention off the Barcelona game and, if he was, it worked. I expect Chelsea will now have their own ambulance at every game. Roman Abramovich will have one purpose-built with all mod-cons.
4. Some parents play sport through their kids
I went to a swimming gala with Amy this week. It's amazing, the intensity of parents - all of them thought it was themselves in the event. It made me recall when I reffed the Under-11s at Todwick. One of the fathers kept shouting abuse at his own son, saying: "You're not doing this and that right." I walked over to him and said something like: "If he's half the player you must have been, he'll have a good career ahead of him, but at the moment why can't you..." Then I said the same as what Barbra Streisand said in last week's column. And if you didn't read it, you don't deserve to know the ending.
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