Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

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The Independent Online

1. The Football Association don't always throw the book, even when you're guilty

The Football Association fined me £750 this week for using abusive language towards the referee at our game with Reading. I'd already pleaded guilty so I knew I'd be fined, but as they could have given me a touchline ban I asked for a personal hearing to explain the circumstances.

So there I was at a Manchester hotel on Tuesday morning with Mick McGuire [deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association], my representative.

You go in and the FA have someone to prosecute you on their behalf. There's three members on the commission plus the chairman. You sit opposite with your representative. They ask the FA solicitor to put forward the FA case. That didn't take very long as I had already pleaded guilty. Then Mick put forward our case, the mitigating circumstances etc. I can't go into them here but they listened intently to the evidence, took it all into consideration, and I was absolutely delighted with the verdict. Mick did a fantastic job.

I've never had a fairer hearing - and I've been to a few. The only doubt I had was when they went through my previous history. I thought, "I wonder if they have enough time". But apparently it's like having points on your driving licence, after a while they get chalked off. I got a lot of mine in 2000-2001 so it's an incentive to keep clean for a while. We've done well on the disciplinary side this season, myself and the club, and that helped. It took about an hour and a half in all. We waited 10 to 15 minutes for the verdict, the quickest I've known. Sometimes I've waited 45 to 50 minutes.

2. There's no pressure at losing top spot

One good result was followed by another the same night when we drew at Wolves. People said, "You've lost your top spot" to Reading. I look at the fixtures and see we've played six of the top seven away and done very well. Come December we'll be in the top two and I'd have settled for that at the start of the season. I'm sure Steve Coppell (the Reading manager) feels the same. We're not supposed to be up there, the Wolves and Crystal Palaces are. The pressure is on those clubs because they have to win five or six on the trot.

3. We can't afford Roy Keane

Roy Keane's a great player, but we'll not be after him. I think he's a bit too much for us. We'd have to sell the main stand, the visiting area and the Spion Kop. And that's just for one week's wages.

When you let someone like that go, and we've all had to move on players who were big names at a club, you always hope he doesn't come back to haunt you.

I had a few clubs as a player and I always wanted to go back and beat them. I've never lost at Rotherham in about 14 matches. You want to show what could do if you've been sacked, released, sold, whatever.

Of course there's a few have scored against me, and there's the odd player I could have had cheaply who then went for a few million. One was Nigel Clough. When I was at Notts County I watched him play Sunday league. I thought he was too lazy. He ended up playing for his dad at Forest, then for England. You can't get every judgement right. The trick is to get more right than wrong.

4. A three-goal lead is not enough

Leeds' win last week reminded me of a couple of games. The good memory was of the play-offs two years ago when we went 2-0 down in the second leg [3-1 on aggregate] after an hour. It was such a massive game. I felt so bad. All sorts go through your mind. Then you get one back, and get a ray of hope. The other team start defending deeper. Then you get another and they start to panic. In the end, we won 4-3 after extra time.

But another time I was at Wrexham with Plymouth. We were 4-1 up with 20 minutes left. Then Micky Evans, our centre-forward, went through with only the goalie to beat. He hit the bar. They broke and scored to go 4-2. Then they got another. Panic set in and they equalised in the last minutes. There was still time for our goalie to make a great save and them to miss an absolute sitter. In the end I was grateful for a point, and we'd been 3-0 up.

5. I will miss George Best

He was the best ever for me. He was someone you pay to go and watch on his own. It's easy for people to criticise how he became, but everyone should feel part of the blame. He had an illness - and alcoholism is an illness - which had been caused by his fame. He didn't have anybody when he was young to point him in the right direction like lads do today, but you still see lads today getting in trouble.

I hope people remember him as a player. There was an excitement when he picked the ball up - and how many players can you say that about? To describe him as a genius is not enough, he was better than that with the ball. I've been on a couple of panels with him and he was an absolute gentleman.

6. No comment, and don't quote me

Fortunately I'd just finished my press conference on Thursday when the news came through that Alain Perrin had left Portmouth. With what's been said over the last few days and weeks about me and them I just want to concentrate on today's match with Leicester and the derby against Wednesday next week.

As a cricket official once said: "No comment, and don't quote me."

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