Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. A visit from Arsenal takes me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane
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The Independent Football

This is the last column of 2006, a year which has been one of the best of my career so far; finally to take my team up to the Premiership after seven years was a fantastic feeling. Since then, both on and off the field, we've been striving to stay there because it is such a fantastic League. It's got to be the best in the world for excitement even though, like everywhere else, there is the odd game which you could sleep at. I've noticed at Bramall Lane the atmosphere is just unbelievable in the top flight, we've had 30,000-plus crowds the last two games and expect another one today against Arsenal.

Today's match will stir a few memories for me because Arsenal at Bramall Lane is the first game I can remember as a boy. I remember catching the bus with my dad. We got off just over a mile from ground and ran through the cobbled streets because we were late. It was in the Fifties and I must have been about five or six. I remember getting in the queue for the turnstiles at the Kop. Everybody in the queue seemed to be giants, and there was me standing at the side of my Dad. I could see the glow of the floodlights, but not the floodlights themselves. Then we got in and there was a massive grass bank up to the Kop. It's all concrete now of course. There were steps but everybody ran up the bank, it seemed like Mount Everest to me. And once you were at the top that smell of hot dogs, burgers and onions just hit you.

With us being late the Kop was full so my Dad picked his spot and said "see you at the front railings at the end of the game. Don't move". Then he tapped the shoulder of the bloke in front, lifted me up, and shouted "boy coming". They took you over their heads and lifted you to the front. When I got there there were five or six other lads already there, all putting their faces to the railings. The grass looked as if it had just been painted and within a few minutes there was a roar as both teams took the pitch.

It must have been strange for the visiting team because Bramall Lane was a three-sided ground because of the cricket field. Yorkshire still played there and you could see the pavilion.

I remember thinking how great it must be to be a ball-boy over at the cricket side. They all had tracksuits on and I watched them run for the ball with envy.

In those days we had these wooden rattles. They would be an illegal weapon now but you could make some noise with them. The atmosphere was electric. Even then, Arsenal were one of the elite sides who everyone wanted to see especially as there was no televised football then, apart from the FA Cup final, so you could only see them in the flesh. The roar as they kicked off was something special but I can't remember the result, only the atmosphere.

2. I hit the roof over Sky

I was disappointed to lose on Boxing Day, especially the way we played, but football is such a cruel game: sometimes you get results you don't deserve, sometimes you lose when you should have won. Manchester City was one of those occasions.

I hope we now play badly and pick up points, though with the bug we have going around the place the first problem is picking 11 fit players.

As you may have heard, I was disappointed Sky TV personnel spoke to the referee, Mark Clattenberg, at half-time about a penalty incident. I don't think that should be allowed. Anything that could influence the referee, even subconsciously, ought to wait until after the game.

When I found out I asked if they mentioned we also had one turned down in the first half. No, they had not. I also gave them a rollicking like they will never had from their gaffers. I was furious with them and told them so.

3.Chinese hope to take away some tips

Our Chinese team is over here at the moment, the Chengdu Blades. We've had a lot of contact with China over last few years starting when we were sponsored by a Chinese company. We've now moved on to buying our own club. They get crowds, 10-15,000, and have a nice stadium. They are doing their pre-season here, playing a few games including one against us on the 15th.

They were at the ground on Thursday. We have new hall of fame and they had a look around. Quite a number of Chinese fans around, to my surprise all seemed to carry a camera.

4. If Michael Carrick is worth £18m. What price for Tony Currie?

The Chinese lads will also be attending the "Class of '71" dinner we have on Wednesday in honour of the squad that took us into the old First Division with Tony Currie in midfield and Alan Woodward at right-wing.

Woodward was the best crosser I've ever seen. Every time we got a corner I used to know we had a chance of scoring, he'd drive it in like an Exocet missile. He'd be worth millions in today's market, and what price for Tony Currie now?

When I see Michael Carrick going for £18m, I think no wonder Tony is a bit sick he missed out on the gravy train. Fortunately for me I don't have those regrets. I was told I was an up-and-down quick and brainless winger and if you saw me play, you'll know why I took that as a compliment.

I see Tony regularly as he deals with our Football in the Community and he is really enjoying this season. When you've been a star like Tony, and played at the top, you've got to enjoy it more when the opposition are top class as they are today.

5. The phone is already glowing, and the transfer window is still shut

The transfer window opens on Monday and already my phone is hotting up with people asking about my players. I've been making enquiries myself, but I don't think it's the best time to buy. The summer is far better, but from the promoted clubs point of view we've not been involved at this level so we've all been a bit short in certain areas, even Reading who are flying.

6. Lionel Ritchie might calm my lads down

I did my radio programme on Wednesday. I had lots of good music by the likes of Lionel Ritchie and Luther Vandross, Amy playing the piano and telling jokes out of Tony Blackburn's back catalogue, and my local oppo, Brian Laws, who's doing such an excellent job at Sheffield Wednesday.

I've done it for seven years now and I always start by saying "I don't know whether I'll be here next year". After I told Brian he's the 10th Wednesday manager in that time, including caretakers, I thought he might be the one to outlast me he said "at the moment all I'm looking for is to get on your programme next year".

I even gave some prizes to Wednesdayites - not signed photos or United scarves, but meals at local restaurants and the like. But if Wednesdayites were listening I doubt many of my lads were, my music is nothing like the head-banging stuff they have on before a match. It's supposed to get them going but I wonder whether I should put Lionel on to calm a few of them down.

7. Here's wishing you a happy new year, and us a quiet New Year's Eve

This weekend's matches must be among the quickest turnarounds since we stopped playing on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We finish after 7pm tonight and kick off away to Middlesbrough at 3pm on New Year's Day, less than 44 hours later.

I did think about going straight up to the North-east tonight but I'll let the lads go home and relax, then we'll have a light work-out before travelling up tomorrow. By midnight we'll all be tucked up in bed, me too. Most managers know the players who are likely to be tip-toeing down the corridor at midnight on New Year's Eve, but the same players know how much it will cost them if they get caught. We all know what is at stake. We have to work harder than most teams to score goals but they are honest and genuine lads, which is all you can ask for.

Finally, I'd like to wish all my readers a happy new year, with good health to you all. Thanks also for your letters which I do appreciate. And whether you are following your team at home or away, don't drink and drive, it isn't worth it.