Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Saturday night's all right for celebrating and the kebab shop is as good a place as any
Click to follow
The Independent Online

So, we're a Premiership club, and I'm a Premiership manager. It's going to take some getting used to.

To start with I just didn't know how to react when we won promotion without kicking a ball on Saturday. All my previous promotions as a League manager have been through the play-offs. The mixed emotions of the afternoon were summed up when a cameraman came round to the house with a bottle of champagne within five minutes of the final whistle. He must have been camped outside. He asked me and my wife, Sharon, to open it with a couple of glasses, but before we did he said, "Will you try and look happy?" It obviously hadn't sunk in, we were so shell shocked.

I guess that was because I was relieved as much as anything. I remember seeing Steve Coppell saying if he didn't get Reading up this time he'd have to go and I felt the same, even though my chairman, Kevin McCabe, said I had a job for life.The fans would have wanted a change if we'd blown a lead like the one we had.

At about seven we decided to go out for a meal. We went to our local, the Springer Spaniel, but it was chocker. So we decided to get a take-out. We finished up at the kebab shop. I'm standing there, eating a doner, when Sharon says: "I bet Jose Mourinho doesn't celebrate with a doner kebab on a Saturday night."

2. Good times outweigh the bad

We've had some great times this season. Winning 11 out of the first 12 was absolutely incredible. The worst was at Leicester before Christmas. They beat us 4-1 and it could have been double.

The turning point was at Coventry in March when we had had that blip. We were fortunate only to be 2-0 down at half-time and I thought, "If we lose this four or five, it'll be the end for us". I said to the lads at half-time: "We've already lost the game but this half can be the start of the rest of the season for us, go out, give 100 per cent, and show we're a good side." We didn't score but we played a lot better. I remember going into the press conference and me being very positive. I could see all the doubters thinking, "He's just saying that", but I wasn't.

The following week was the most disappointing because we outplayed Norwich, but gave away two sloppy goals and lost. That made the next week difficult for me because, although we'd turned the corner, performance-wise, we still got beaten. I knew the next match against Southampton was make or break. Sure enough it was as we won 3-0 and just took off again.

The best goal was the shortest, David Unsworth's two-yard volley in the 93rd minute against Hull. He shouldn't even have been there, he should have been taking the corner. The importance of that goal could not be overestimated.

3. Positivity pays

One thing I did in that lean spell was bring in Steve Smith, the former Olympic high jumper. He spoke for 45 minutes and even I got goose pimples listening to him talking competing at the Atlanta Games and seeing some footage.

He said you must have visions in your mind of where you want to be. He said he wanted to get a medal but when he got through the preliminary jumps there were only three competitors left so he was guaranteed one. He was unable to lift himself to win it as he had not geared up mentally to aim for that as he'd only expected to medal.

I'd already spoken to a lady who works for us as a hypnotherapist, Jo. I spoke to her about positive thinking. Before you ask, she didn't put me under with a watch, I just had a chat with her and what came home to me was when she said, "Where do you want to be in six weeks' time? Don't think negatives." I said I wanted to be on the town hall balcony, celebrating promotion. From that moment it was all I thought about, before every game, during half-time, after most games as well. The lads must have heard me saying, "I know what I'm thinking about, town hall, are you?" a thousand times. It's only a little thing but I think it helped.

4. Officials are killjoys

Getting promotion sunk in with the most fantastic evening crowd-wise on Tuesday. We had a full house and the atmosphere was unbelievable.

Before the game Ken Bates, the Leeds chairman, came into our dressing-room to present the lads with a case of champagne and to say a few words. He was very sincere. It's a side of him that's not often seen and it was appreciated. So was the champagne, it was good stuff, Krug.

But the whole night was spoilt for me with being dismissed. I'll never forgive the fourth official because I thought it wasn't warranted. I don't think it would have happened in the Premier League when Premier League refs are the fourth officials.

I've seen some reports about what allegedly went off but, as always, they are totally exaggerated.

I can't go into detail at present, as the Football Association may get involved, but I will admit I was disappointed with three tackles Gary Kelly made during the night, and I did say something to that effect to my old assistant, Kevin Blackwell.

The fourth official took offence to this, which surprised me, given some of the stuff that was said from their technical area - not by Kevin - that went unpunished. I thought this was almost a vendetta by the fourth official - I won't name him, as he'll cut this out and put it in his scrapbook. We had him at Reading when he wanted to report me about something that never happened. I found it amazing at the time. His version was nothing like what happened.

Unfortunately, the incident detracted from what a great game it was. Kevin has a good team at Leeds. I know he has learnt a lot over the 17 years we were together and the atmosphere on Tuesday will help him in the play-offs. He will be able to remind his lads of our celebrations and say, "We can have that as well".

From a manager's viewpoint, I'd love Leeds to come up because they are only 30 minutes away; but from a supporters' view, the clubs don't really get on.

5. Tradition rules

I had a fantastic night last night. Richard Caborn, the Sports Minister who is a Sheffield MP and a United fan, held a reception for us at the House of Commons. I went with my wife, Leigh Bromby and Craig Short before heading up to Luton for today's game. I'd not been before and it really opened my eyes about the traditions and everything.

6. Cats are cool

I was supposed to go to France this week to see a player, but he was injured. Fortunately, I found out before travelling. I went to see Cats at the Sheffield Lyceum instead. I might sign one or two of the big ones to put Paddy [Kenny] under pressure.

Comments