Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. If Christmas parties can't be banned mobile phones with built-in cameras should be
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The Independent Football

There's no such thing as a good Christmas party from a manager's point of view. I loved them when I was a player but things are different now.

One of my lads was caught having an altercation in a local pub earlier this season. It was alleged he used his fists. Obviously, it was front page headlines in the local paper. But when there were no charges brought it was a quarter of an inch in the inside pages, but I expect that everywhere except The Independent!

Anyway, it gave me a great excuse to ban them from a Christmas party. However, they have since pleaded with me. I relented and said: "OK, as long as there are certain rules adhered to." One of them is some of the lads have to drive there, and drive home. In every club there's always some that can drink, and some that have one drink, and are already plastered. Over the years I've got to know my players - so, without naming names Paddy Kenny, Stuart McCall and Alan Quinn will be driving.

I can trust the drivers to drive back sober, Craig Short will be there to check up. You need someone like that around. And I think they'll be all right. Last year they went to Ireland for a weekend and I was pleased to hear everything went OK.

It's not a nightclub they are going to, just a lock-in somewhere private. You need that. Two years ago they organised a Christmas party and I had a tip-off that two young ladies from a national newspaper were making enquiries. So I cancelled that for obvious reasons. That's why I let them go to Ireland last year.

It's amazing how many allegations crop up after a players' night out. And with mobile phones now anyone can take a picture, nowhere is private. A few years ago they went to Scarborough in fancy dress. Someone took some pictures so we put them in the programme. All I can say is some of the players obviously knew how to use make-up.

When I started there wasn't the same attention. You had a good night out, got sloshed and went home. And no one was bothered about taking snaps of Neil Warnock, or the clubs I played for, like Scunthorpe and Aldershot.

2. Lionel Ritchie is my Mr Motivator

We're having a party on Monday for all the staff on the playing side with partners. It's in a local restaurant and the good thing is I get to choose the music, so it will be Motown all night.

That'll be a big improvement on the music in the dressing-room. It's terrible. In one bad run I once threatened them with Lionel Ritchie if they didn't stop losing. It worked.

So I don't expect many of my players will be tuning into my Christmas show on Radio Sheffield. It'll be two hours of music the lads cringe at, some chats with my fellow managers in the area, and one or two competitions. We used to do one which had two tickets for Hillsborough as first prize, four tickets for second prize, and 10 for third prize. But no one entered. I guess all the Wednesdayites turn the radio off when they hear me come on.

3. We're so lucky

During the 10 days off we'll be going to various functions. We share them out except for the visit to Sheffield's children's hospital. Everybody wants to go there. It brings you back to earth, makes you appreciate your fortune. Some of the kids are really poorly and it levels you.

4. The fixture computer has been at the sherry

It's a strange time of year this. We played last night, against Preston, and we don't play again for 10 days. Then we get four games in eight days. The first two are Norwich at home, on Boxing Day, then Southampton away. Why on earth do we have fixtures like that at Christmas? Why, in these days of computers, can't we play nearer home for the fans, why can't we play Wednesday? It's not too bad for us in Sheffield as we're in the middle of the country. Once, when I was managing Plymouth we went to Carlisle.

5. Trust your instincts

Four games in eight days is a lot. Everybody says players get tired but it's also shattering for managers. Mental tiredness can be worse than physical. The biggest problem is whether to change the team. You always think in advance you will change it, then you win, and want to keep the same team. You know you should have changed it and often you lose. Last year I didn't change it and we followed a win at Coventry by beating Leicester. So I didn't change it again, and we got absolutely battered at Wigan. I shook things up for the fourth game and we got a good win at West Ham.

6. Best wishes, Paul

One Christmas wish goes to my oppo at Hillsborough, Paul Sturrock, who fell ill last week with a virus but carried on working and ended up almost collapsing. Get well Paul - though his wish would probably be for a striker.

You have to look after yourself. I've got my check-up next moth with the LMA (League Managers' Association]. It's bad timing. I'll have to cut back on the cheese and Christmas pudding to get my cholesterol down. And I love my Christmas pudding.

7. I've got to watch my back

I've been watching my back recently. I know that's a habitual concern of managers but this time its different, its personal. My four-year-old son, William, has taken up martial arts. I have to careful around the house as he keeps trying to kung fu me.