Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Stormy weather was bit of a blow but our indoor pitch brightened up training
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The Independent Football

It has been one of those weeks when we have really appreciated the facilities the club has now. While the gales raged outside on Thursday, we were able to use the indoor pitch at our academy. The ability to use that for the first team has been an unexpected bonus of building it four years ago. The surface is incredible, we can even wear studded boots.

Training outside would have been impossible. In such conditions all your plans get blown away, literally. At some of my old clubs, we'd be ringing local gyms to get facilities. Even here, when I arrived seven years ago, we'd be ringing up schools to get facilities. We'd borrow their gym and do some PR work with the kids at the same time.

The windiest place I have ever been was Hartlepool. Even in pre-season you were guaranteed to get a wind blowing in from the North Sea across the pitch. It was open, really blustery, and freezing in winter. I bet Danny Wilson, who's managing them now, has had his long johns and woolly hat on this week.

The only downside on Thursday was that we made a lot of schoolchildren unhappy - we had to turf them out to train for an hour and a half. We made it up to them by having a photograph with them and letting them watch us train from the viewing point. Of course, one or two parents were saying, 'Does Warnock know this is grass roots and he's turning kids away?' but you can never please everybody. I think the majority understood we had to do it, and the kids enjoyed the photograph and meeting the lads.

The weather caused us another problem on Thursday night. A tree came down and smashed a couple of cars blocking a road near where I live. All the diversions meant I arrived late for our FA Youth Cup tie with Aston Villa. I still saw plenty, though, as the match went to extra time and penalties after we equalised in the 90th minute.

The conditions were atrocious, and they've left Bramall Lane in a bit of a mess. I left during extra time, I'd left early in the previous round against Watford when we won on penalties, and you know how superstitious football folk are. Well, it worked again because the young lads won 6-5 on penalties, so maybe I'll do a runner 10 minutes from the end of the first team's match at Reading today. The weather also means we've not been able to get the boats I mentioned out yet, but it's not stopped William resuming his football training. A bit of wind and mud doesn't seem to bother kids.

2. Fathi worth the wait

As you may have noticed, I've done a fair bit of business in the transfer window, with an Egyptian and a Jamaican among the players I've brought in. The Egyptian is Ahmed Fathi, he's one of the lads I had on trial when I told the press I was looking to play the pyramid system, and they thought I was being serious. He's been learning English for four years, is a British-type who likes a tackle and has a bit of vision, and I feel he can contribute. An agent told us about him, we saw some DVDs, then Mick Jones went to watch him play. He did well at the trial so here he is, although I don't expect to get the best out of him until next season. He's brought his girlfriend, which will help him to settle, but it takes a while. Even Arsène Wenger said foreign players can take a while and look at the quality he signs.

The other lad, Lucas Shelton, is subject to a work permit. He's an international team-mate of Claude Davis. Obviously, we asked Claude about him, but we took our own soundings as well because Claude was bound to tell us he was the best thing since sliced bread as he'll want a room-mate so he can share his reggae, or whatever it is he listens too.

Shelton's been playing in Sweden with Henrik Larsson. I went over there and they looked a good partnership. He's another one for the future. He's only 21 so he's still green with a lot to learn, but the prices people ask mean you've got to have a gamble here and there. He's certainly got some of the attributes you need to change a game. He has electric pace and he's 6ft 1in. I might buy someone else, we'll have to see.

3. Expect Blue backlash

I'm looking forward to the weekend matches between the top four, they really are a pair of games to whet the appetite and very hard to predict. They might both be stalemates, and I'd imagine the top two would both be happy with that, though given all that's been going on at Chelsea it wouldn't surprise me if they go to Anfield and be fantastic.

4. Bonus for Brucie

This week's FA Cup tie at St James' Park showed you what our game is all about. Newcastle did so well to win at Spurs on Sunday, then exactly the same team gets pulverised at home by Birmingham. Steve Bruce owes me big time this year. He was just about to get the sack, according to the rumour mill, when Birmingham played us in the Carling Cup. They beat us that night and he has not looked back since. It was a shame Newcastle's Steven Taylor was sent off, though, it means he'll be suspended against West Ham today. These are the things that come to mind when you are watching games.

5. Time to take a break

As we're no longer in the FA Cup, we have 10 days off after today's match. It'll be good for us, we have a few lads who've been injured, like Matthew Kilgallon, Mikele Leigertwood and Paddy Kenny, so we'll sort out a friendly for them. The rest will have a few days off to spend with their families. We'll probably go away in March, in the international break, but with the travelling we did at Christmas I felt it was better for the lads to be at home rather than sitting in airport lounges.

6. Swap deals at home

My girl Amy is now collecting the Soccer Stars cards as well as William. I come home from negotiating transfers to find them arguing about swaps. It's not much of a break.