Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. If God had meant footballers to dive, he would have put springboards on the pitch
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The Independent Football

I know some people will find this hard to believe, but I'm starting to feel sorry for match officials. They have my sympathy when I see the diving and play-acting that has become all too widespread.

I couldn't help thinking back to the previous week when I heard Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, making sarcastic comments about Chelsea's Arjen Robben, whose reaction to Jose Reina's upraised hand last Sunday seemed to help get the goalkeeper sent off. Seven days earlier millions of us watched one of Benitez's own players, Jan Kromkamp, perform a dive against Portsmouth that deserved a mark of at least 5.9.

Diving has become rife and some players are so adept that it's just not possible for a referee to spot it with the naked eye. It's only when you see the replay that you appreciate exactly what happened.

I think the time has come for the authorities to allow video evidence to be used, even if the referee apparently had a good view first time around. Retrospective action should be taken if players are judged to have dived.

At the moment the cheats are being allowed to get away with it. You see forwards running towards the goalkeeper knowing that they're going to touch the ball and that the goalkeeper is going to touch them. The ball might be going nowhere near the goal, but the forward knows that if he goes down he might get a penalty. Sometimes he deliberately leaves his foot in to make sure the goalkeeper catches him.

As a result we see a succession of penalty appeals, with legitimate claims often turned down. This season I've seen John Terry get away with at least three fouls which should have been punished with penalties.

2. Referees need education, not glasses

That's quite enough sympathy for referees. Now for a beef about those officials who know the laws inside out but don't know the game. It's a particular problem outside the Premiership, though there are one or two at the highest level to whom this applies as well.

Over our last few games I've seen several incidents where forwards have made no attempt whatsoever to play the ball and have run into defenders who are simply standing their ground. The referees have usually fallen for it and given a free-kick to the striker. However, if a defender has his eyes on a ball in the air and a forward comes running towards him, without looking at the ball himself, it's almost invariably the forward who commits an offence.

In our match against Watford on Monday the referee, Andy Hall, kept falling for the antics of players who were trying to steal an advantage. When forwards and defenders come into contact referees should be able to distinguish between a real push by a defender and a deliberate attempt by a forward to win a free-kick.

A lot of referees at Football League level need to be educated about the game.

I would like to see referees sit down with people who know the game - former managers and players - to have this sort of thing explained to them.

I would love to have had the time to spend two hours with Mr Hall going through a video of the game.

3. Everyone can have an off day

I had no complaints about the red card shown to David Unsworth on Monday. He should have known better than to raise his hands as he did. He apologised to the rest of the team afterwards, but it was too late.

The sending-off played a big part in our 4-1 defeat, but I wasn't too unhappy with our performance. We gave away three bad goals, which you can't afford to do against good opponents. Two defenders who had been excellent all season just had bad nights. It was our first defeat in seven Championship matches. Other teams are talking about catching us, but we're 11 points clear of third place. I know which position I'd rather be in. We'll now concentrate on getting the six wins from our last 14 games which should be enough to guarantee promotion.

We've got a big week ahead. Today we travel to Plymouth, where I'm told we haven't won since 1983. When we play Reading at home next Tuesday they'll probably be on a run of 32 unbeaten games. Then there's the small matter of a Sheffield derby.

While the heaviest home defeat in my seven years at Bramall Lane wasn't the best way to prepare for those fixtures, I found consolation in watching Real Madrid's defenders concede six goals to Real Zaragoza on Wednesday night. Here were footballers regarded as some of the planet's greatest defenders, yet they made our defence against Watford look world-class. I thought to myself: life's not so bad after all.

4. Only an ass would call his manager a donkey

I enjoyed Egypt's victory over Senegal in the African Nations' Cup semi-finals. It was a good game, with chances at both ends and the most blatant penalty I've ever seen turned down. When Diomansy Kamara got tripped in the 89th minute I'm sure that all 74,000 people in the stadium and the millions watching around the world knew it was a penalty. The only person who didn't was the referee.

I couldn't believe Mido's reaction when he was substituted. He called his manager a donkey and I don't think I've ever seen such a lack of respect from a player towards his coach. I have to say I was delighted when his replacement scored the winner. Mido might think he's Egypt's No 1 player, but in that moment he was made to look very small.

I've had players storm off when they've been substituted, including one who took his shirt off, but the only person who's ever called me a donkey is my wife. I've occasionally fined players - because they've shown a lack of respect for their replacement or because I thought their behaviour was bad for team morale - but generally I'd let something like that pass. Football is a passionate game and no player likes being substituted. I'd even accept a player walking straight down the tunnel provided he's shaken hands with the player coming on.

5. Uefa can get it right

I was pleasantly surprised to see Turkey ordered to play all their home Euro 2008 qualifiers behind closed doors following the disgraceful scenes at their World Cup play-off against Switzerland. I was at the game and I've never seen such intimidation in all my life. Well done, Uefa.

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