Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Closing the transfer window leaves us in better shape to shut relegation trapdoor
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The Independent Online

I'm so relieved the transfer window has shut. Not just because I've kept the players I wanted to keep, but because I got fed up of being inundated by every Tom, Dick and Harry agent trying to interest me in The Best Player in the World. Every one, they tell me, is made to measure for Sheffield United. Believe me, they say, you've never seen anyone like this guy. About 99 per cent are either rubbish or not good enough, but you have to put in valuable time to make sure you're not missing the one per cent. So Wednesday was a long, tiring day. My secretary stayed until eight o'clock and there was a last-minute deal that didn't come off. But I stand by my opinion that the window benefits only the biggest clubs. They're the ones that can afford to keep massive squads that can cater for having four centre-halves out, as we've had. I reckon that if anyone challenged the transfer window in the highest courts, we could get it thrown out. It's a restraint of trade. Having said that, we've done a lot of business and I feel we're definitely stronger than a month ago, with more options. It wasn't just a matter of signing players to go straight into my team. It was a case of letting people go because they weren't getting an opportunity, such as Ade Akinbiyi, Neil Shipperley, Geoff Horsfield, Paul Ifill and Steve Kabba. I consciously went for younger players - Jonathan Stead is 23, Matty Kilgallon 23, Luton Shelton 21 and Fatih 22 - but I also wanted value for money. I missed out on two or three we'd have loved to buy. They went to more established Premiership clubs that pay better wages. We're not at that level yet. I look at Bolton and Blackburn, who we play today, and that's where I want us to be.

2. Netball is therapeutic

Everybody built up our Premiership game against Fulham as the most important of the season. I didn't see it that way, but I knew what people were thinking. They would have been amazed if they had seen how I prepared for it. On Monday, me, Sharon and William, who is five, went to see our eight-year-old, Amy, play netball. I thought they were playing another school but it turned out it was just a practice. We took a flask of coffee, biscuits, cushions and blankets, and we were the only spectators. The mobile phones stayed in the car and it was perfect. My oldest daughter, Natalie, is 20 and in her final year at university. I can't believe where the time has gone. That is why things like the netball are so precious. Then on Tuesday afternoon, me and Sharon went into Derbyshire and had a walk at Chatsworth, the stately home. It was so peaceful. I said: "Can you believe that in six hours it's going to be a cauldron at Bramall Lane?" Not enough people switch off at this level. It's so intense, 24 hours a day, so it was lovely watching Amy play, going for a stretch in the country and not worrying about Premiership football. I felt much more relaxed on Tuesday night.

3. We're standing in good Stead

Two lads at opposite ends of their careers were superb against Fulham. I wanted Jon Stead when he was at Huddersfield and Blackburn so it was third time lucky to get him from Sunderland. No one else was interested. People thought the player had gone a bit but I had watched him on loan at Derby. I knew he was coming back to his best. People don't realise that he was only 19 years old when he shot to fame. It's hard for a young lad to sustain it. Even Wayne Rooney has bad patches. But Jon is a better all-round player now and has a great work ethic. When I told him I'd always hoped to sign him, I think he was pleased to be wanted. He is also a Yorkshire lad so he has settled fast. I believe this could be his best club. Then there was Chris Lucketti, who is 35 and the only centre-half we had available. Yet three weeks ago he was the only one definitely leaving.

4. You can reach San Marino via Rotherham

I was so proud of Stephen Quinn when he was picked by the Republic of Ireland for their Euro 2008 qualifier in San Marino. He's only 20 and was on loan to MK Dons and Rotherham last season. His "big" brother Alan is also in the squad, and their kid brother Keith helped us into the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals against Middlesbrough on Thursday. Imagine all three in the same Sheffield United team!

5. Diplomacy rules

The Prime Minister was at the game on Tuesday. The Prime Minister of Kashmir, that is. Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan was visiting Sheffield and wanted to watch us. He had three tickets but brought an entourage of 20 security men. The only problem was the official Kashmiri photographer, who had a bit of a diplomatic incident with the Fulham fans after shouting "Up the Blades".

6. Hoops do not equal stripes

William and me had an outing to see Doncaster Rovers against Rotherham. The new Keepmoat Stadium was excellent, and I believe that the new grounds, especially corporate hospitality, are the answer to generate the income clubs need to go higher. It was cold, but the welcome was warm and the soup magnificent. William had a great time, though he doesn't quite understand the difference between hoops and stripes, thinking that Rovers, in their red and white, were Sheffield United.

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