Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Go with your gut feeling. I liked the Pompey job, but Harry's name kept on cropping up
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The Independent Football

I've had less traumatic weeks. On Saturday we lost 4-2 at Leicester, who started so well that we could have been five down at half-time. Then I went down with flu, which has made me feel lousy in a week when we've been building up to our biggest game for three seasons, today's local derby at home to Sheffield Wednesday. I felt so rough that I hardly felt like celebrating my birthday on Thursday. Oh, and I was also offered the chance to manage in the Premiership.

I think my players were convinced I would join Portsmouth. They knew how I had once turned down the chance to manage Chelsea, stayed loyal to Notts County and was sacked a year later.

Sheffield United gave me permission to talk to Portsmouth on Wednesday. It had been agreed that my representative could meet them before that, but the club wanted to discuss compensation before allowing me to enter talks.

I took an immediate liking to Milan Mandaric, the Portsmouth chairman, and the job is one I've always found appealing. They have a very special set of supporters. I explained how I would like to go about the job, Milan said I was his No 1 choice, and I was happy with a three-and- half-year contract.

However, I always make decisions based on my gut feelings and there were some aspects that troubled me. I sensed the politics at Portsmouth weren't right. While I got on very well with Milan, I felt there were people who didn't want to go in the same direction. I was being told by other people about things behind the scenes. For whatever reason, Harry Redknapp's name cropped up too many times.

I felt that whoever took over would have to have total backing from everyone at Portsmouth. It's too big a job to have people pulling in different directions, because I would make Portsmouth second favourites behind Sunderland to go down.

I also had 24 hours of emotional blackmail from Kevin McCabe, our chairman. I've known him for 17 years and he brought me to the club six years ago. I've shared his ambitions: to put together a winning team, improve the stadium, build a new training ground. He's convinced we can become the biggest club in the north of England.

On Wednesday night I had eight different text messages from players saying they wanted me to stay. I talked things over with my family and decided to stick with the club I supported as a boy, even if it costs me a few bob.

I was going to wait until Monday before announcing my decision, but we had a huge game to prepare for and I didn't want anything to get in the way of it. The players were gobsmacked. They thought I was going. I think some of them lost money on it. One of them said: "You can't fine me for anything now, gaffer. I've already paid my fine to the bookies."

I told them it was now even more imperative to win promotion - as champions. I'm happy the players are pleased that I'm staying, but nobody should get too sentimental about this. I know that if they had the same opportunity as me they would be off.

The cynics have been saying that I was using the Portsmouth talks to get myself a new contract at Sheffield United. Well, I haven't. I'm in exactly the same position as I was. Under my contract the club could sack me at the end of the season. The one thing I do know, however, is that the chairman says there will always be a job for me at Sheffield United, whether it's as manager or in some other capacity.

2. This is the biggest local derby in the world

As far as the people of Sheffield are concerned, there is no question about the world's biggest meeting of local rivals. Everyone here is either red and white or blue and white. There's no sitting on the fence. In the week before the game it's the only topic of conversation. In the past I've had letters from supporters saying they don't care if we get relegated so long as we beat Wednesday twice in the season.

Wednesday visit us today in a similar situation to what we faced six years ago, though I think their debts are even bigger than ours were. I have a lot of time for Wednesday fans. I think they respect my record - and I hope they'll have even more respect for it come 5pm tonight.

3. There's no substitute for experience

We went to Leicester last week without Chris Morgan, our captain, and David Unsworth, another very experienced defender. We fielded a young team and were well beaten, though I was pleased that we came out and gave it a go in the second half. We've tried to entertain all season.

If I'd been a player I would probably have made the excuse that the performance was a result of the speculation about the gaffer's position. The players certainly couldn't point the finger of blame anywhere else, because we were beaten fair and square.

4. You can't beat the FA Cup

You can keep your draws for the World Cup finals, European Championship and Champions' League. To my mind the third round of the FA Cup is the greatest football draw in the world. Nothing else beats the excitement when you get non-League clubs going into the hat alongside the big names from the Premiership. I'm just hoping for a good home draw this weekend and praying that we don't get Doncaster Rovers away after their fantastic win over Aston Villa in the Carling Cup in midweek.

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