Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Dennis Wise's Leeds have mastered the art of turning adversity to their advantage
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Leyton Orient were one of those clubs you never relished visiting but knew would roll over when they came to you. Credit to Martin Ling, their manager, for changing that perception. This season they won their first four away games in League One, before their midweek defeat at Gillingham.

As a result they are three points clear at the top, but I know they will be looking over their shoulders, not so much at Tranmere Rovers and Southend, though they are doing well in second and third, but the team in 14th.

Leeds United are one of the stories of the season. They have won eight and drawn one. Sheffield United had a start like that when we got promoted to the Premier League a couple of years ago. You feel you will never lose. The danger is complacency. I admit I even felt it myself when we went to QPR, and lost.

If it was not for their 15-point deduction Leeds would be six points clear. You never know though, if they had not been punished like that maybe they would not have done so well. That sort of adversity – and I thought the punishment was over the top – brings a club together. The people who suffer most from the deduction are the fans who have been out of this world the last few years. To get 26,000 in League One puts a lot of clubs to shame. Thank goodness Ken Bates realised if you charge correct prices you'll get the crowds.

Leeds will fancy themselves to go straight up; they are only six points off the automatic places. It is such a tight division that four points separate fourth from 19th but not many have the financial power of Leeds. You could see that when they went out and got two good players on loan as soon as they had a problem with two strikers being suspended.

The biggest problem Dennis Wise will have is that he looks like spending the season in the stands. I'll have to ring him and tell him how to calm down. Knowing him he will find a loophole, he will name himself as the sub which means he can be on the bench, just as Andy Hessenthaler did when he was player-manager at Gilllingham.

While on League One, congratulations to the Carlisle chairman for hiring John Ward. He must read my column – it was only last week I said what a great job he was doing at Cheltenham.

2. Barnsley have that Brazil feeling again

Most teams in the Football League will be playing their 10th game this season today, which is regarded as the point when the tables have a true look. The Championship, however, has a topsy-turvy look. The top three, Watford, Charlton and West Brom, will not surprise anyone – they will be fighting it out for promotion all season. But if you took them away and turned the table upside down it would not shock anyone. There are some big teams currently in the bottom half, and some unexpected ones at the top end.

Bristol City and Scunthorpe are doing really well and, as a Yorkshireman, I find it fantastic that one of my old clubs, Barnsley, are fourth. If they carry on like this they could avoid relegation by Christmas. That will be all Simon Davey and his staff will be thinking about for now, though the fans will soon be going on about it being "just like watching Brazil" again. They have a good management structure, and have Rob Kozluk in the dressing room. I thought he would be a big loss to Sheffield United. Only people who have been in a dressing room with him realise the contribution he makes off the field. My old club do seem to be struggling at the moment but with the squad they have they are quite capable of winning five or six on the trot.

3. Being out of work puts you into service

I feel like I've had a 10,000-mile service this week. In the last seven days I've had an X-ray on my hips because I've been struggling with a touch of sciatica; a new bridge put in my mouth – and I've already had the River Kwai joke from a neighbour; and been to see a specialist about wax in my ears.

When I was working I never had any time to do all this. I guess that's one benefit of being out of work. Having said that I think Sharon's getting a bit worried about my being unemployed. I caught her cutting a "10 per cent off" voucher out of a cereal packet the other day. I said to her, "I know I'm out of work, but that's a bit over the top isn't it?"

4. Reds lost interest

I think Rafael Benitez will be fed up with people talking about his rotation policy but I don't think he was convincing when he said it didn't matter with the players he has got. I've never seen a less interested Liverpool team in the past 10 years than the one that played at Anfield on Wednesday. People are coming up with all sorts of reasons but it is just down to mentality of the players. For whatever reason they could not get themselves up for it. Maybe they thought they could stroll through the game – the problem is when the opposition then get on top you can't just pull a switch.

I think Rafa will have to start playing the big guns together for a couple of games ahead of their next match, against Besiktas in Turkey. I know they played on Wednesday but were they firing, having been rested? They need to get a bit of cohesion. Rafa's fortunate being able to say: "We'll see the benefit after Christmas." Most managers can't plan on fielding an under-strength team for three months in case results go wrong and they have to go looking for another job. But if he continues experimenting for another eight weeks he can write off the Premier League title.

And what about Dida? I could not believe it. There he goes, off on the chase, then he clicks he can get out of jail after having a nightmare game and goes down. It was like a Brian Rix farce. I haven't laughed as much since Paul Alcock went down in delayed action after getting that nudge from Paolo Di Canio.

5. Smelling the coffee

I've been enjoying a great investment – a shooting stick. I took it to Amy's netball tournament, which her team won. It lasted three hours and all the other parents were moaning about their backs and I'm sitting there feeling nice and comfortable with a flask of coffee.

As we were watching I heard one of the mums organising a coffee morning. I said: "Am I invited? Seeing as I do the school run most days." She said, "Oh yes." I might just surprise them all and turn up.

Comments