Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Now I know what it feels like to be a victim of character assassination from the media
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I went away for a couple of days after our defeat at Reading last weekend. It was probably just as well. After everything that went off, I needed time to reflect.

I felt that I'd been unjustly sent off. The Football Association studied the incident involving the Reading coach, Wally Downes, and came to the same conclusion. They exonerated me on Wednesday and I don't think I should say anything more about events at the Madejski Stadium because charges are outstanding against other people. I don't want to pre-empt what may happen.

Sadly, some of the national press weren't as interested as the FA in what actually happened. A couple of articles were way out of order. One, by Martin Samuel in The Times, was pure character assassination on me and contained several inaccuracies. Interestingly, I've had calls from journalists telling me he's a big buddy of Downes from his Wimbledon days.

In another, Mick Dennis, of the Daily Express, wrote that "half a dozen managers" had told him the terrible things I'm supposed to shout on a regular basis from the touchline. Well, I've had seven or eight journalists telling me not to take too much notice of him. Did he let a good story get in the way of the facts?

Many of the reports were fair, with the biggest divide between north and south. But there have always been elements of the media who interpret what I do in a negative way. One paper invariably gives me a lower mark than the other manager, even when Sheffield United have won.

You accept that they knock you down and you've got to get up and come back. That's certainly the way I approach this game. I'm a passionate manager, who's always shouting and encouraging his players, and I believe that's what is often misconstrued.

The people that know and like me never get a mention. The only interest is in the ones I don't get on with, particularly certain ex-managers.

By the way, there's one important piece of context that people won't know about. Last summer I was offered a lot more money to do a column in The Times, but I decided to stay loyal to The Independent. I'm surprised a newspaper of The Times' reputation has allowed so many inaccuracies in one article. I think it vindicates my decision.

2. Fabregas shines bright

What a fantastic Carling Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Arsenal on Wednesday. When we beat Arsenal before new year, people played it down, saying it was only their young, second-string side. Now we know Arsène Wenger has some remarkable reserves.

Arsène has such a brilliant eye for a player. Cesc Fabregas was like a shining beam of light. He was a magnet for the ball, never giving it away and always creating. I was intrigued to read Fabregas, saying the Arsenal squad had a meeting after losing to us and decided they needed to be stronger, mentally and physically.

I find that flattering. They've been a revelation ever since. The so-called understudies XI have scored nine in two wins at Liverpool and drawn at Spurs. We seem to have done them a power of good. A quick mention, too, for Graham Poll. What a fabulous game he had. He was on top of everything and was one of the reasons why the game flowed.

3. Beautiful sleeping giant

It's not the greatest FA Cup fourth-round draw, and we're already out. But I'll be fascinated to see if Bristol City, from League One, can beat Middlesbrough. Bristol is such a big, beautiful city and I regard City as a sleeping giant. When I think of Ashton Gate I remember a centre-forward I had at Notts County, Paul Barnes. He once scored three goals there Kenny Dalglish would have been proud of. If they get one that good today, we're in for a treat on Match of the Day.

The only shame about Nottingham Forest going to Chelsea is that Brian Clough isn't here to lock horns with Jose Mourinho. Think of all the money Chelsea have spent to try to win the Champions' League. Brian won it twice! Don't be surprised if the Forest fans sing, "How many European Cups have you won?"

4. Window of wonder

We've done quite a bit of business during the transfer window and it carried on yesterday when Steve Kabba left us for Watford. Talking of Watford, I absolutely love Ashley Young but I was amused to see West Ham and Aston Villa bidding £9.6m for him, because I offered Watford £3.5m plus a player in December. At the time I thought my bid was a bit over the top, but he's such an exciting player. It shows what my financial judgement is like, and also why Watford said no!

5. No spies on me!

I see that Man United reckon they've been filmed practising set pieces by a mystery spy in a Cessna Skyhawk plane. I only hope Fulham have been doing aerial reconnaissance over our training ground for next Tuesday's game. If so, they won't have a clue what tactics to expect.

6. Suits you, son

I'm taking my five-year-old, William, to his first non-Blades match today. It's a Football League game and it'll be an adventure for us boys. We're in the directors' box, so his mum has decreed, as all mothers do, "I'll have to get him a new pair of trousers then".

Comments