I was asked this week how I could improve my strikers' finishing but while you can practice every day of the week you can't replicate 30,000 fans or more packed into a stadium.
That is doubly so when it comes to penalties as I found out last weekend when we missed not just one penalty, but two. And we weren't on our own as Blackburn Rovers started it all off with a miss of their own. It really is a matter of confidence I would imagine, the confidence to back yourself irrespective of what the goalkeeper is doing to psyche you out. I don't really know because I never had the bottle to take one myself. That's why I never criticise anyone who misses them.
I was impressed with the one Michael Ballack took on Tuesday, but I did think, as he zipped it right to the roof of the net, "I wonder if being a multimillionaire and on six figures a week helps you not worry about whether you miss it or not?" I gather in the World Cup, in the penalty shoot-out against Argentina, Jürgen Klinsmann said he wasn't worried about Ballack taking his penalty, just curious as to which foot he would use as he can take them with left or right. I suppose he must be a multi-millionaire twice over if he is that confident.
2. The past isn't always all it's cracked up to be
There's a trip down memory lane for me this week when we have a home tie against Bury in the League Cup. It's fair to say my time there was probably the unhappiest period of my career, both on and off the field, but that's not to say it wasn't good experience, not least because it makes me appreciate what I have now.
I have so much time for directors and managers of clubs like Bury, because when you look at where Chris Casper has to train with his players, then look around at our academy and training facilities, it brings it home how lucky modern-day players are. That's why games like Tuesday's will never be easy. I'm sure Bury's players will want to show everyone they are more than capable of playing at a higher level.
I remember the training ground was a parks pitch. We had to clear the dog excrement off it before training and if it rained for half an hour the place was flooded. I'll never forget before a game against Sheffield United, Sky TV came along to film and a flock of mallards landed in the centre circle.
Last year we played the squad in this competition and no doubt myself and a few other managers will be doing the same this season. It may be a chance for our new signing, Colin Kazim-Richards. He's seen both sides of the coin and knows what an opportunity he has with us. He also wants to make a name for himself. He was the first player bought by the Football League's sponsors as part of some promotion and he doesn't want to be known as the Coca-Cola kid forever.
One thing about Bury was everyone knuckled down and knew they had to give everything to get any sort of result. There were some good people at the club, not least Chris Lucketti who's with me at Bramall Lane and hoping he'll be fit for Tuesday.
Neville Neville was the commercial manager and his wife, Jill, was my secretary. As you probably know, they are Gary and Phil's parents. Jill's still there. I've never met a woman like her: she dealt with everything and knew everything going on.
She was very conscientious, you wouldn't necessarily expect that of someone whose family were in the public eye, and very pleasant. Luckily Donna, my secretary now, is in a similar mould and gets me out of no end of trouble.
As you get older you do tend to forget things, and I'm not up to date with e-mails and so on. Not like my Amy. This week she was doing a project on Egyptian Pharaohs and looking up this and that website. She's eight years old. There's me thinking "I'm not sure I can turn it on", and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.
3. Kidd's experience is contagious
It's been great having Brian Kidd at the ground. Having someone with his experience joining the coaching staff is important to us and it suits him, too. Anyone that knows him knows he's never happier than when on the training ground with players and that's been obvious this week.
Top-flight football is difficult enough but with all the added media intrusion, etc, it's been vital to bring another member of staff on board and both Stuart McCall and I feel Brian's been worth waiting for.
4. Some ball-boys are right on the ball
Have you seen that film of the ball-boy who scores a goal in Brazil? He kicks the ball in the net after it's gone out and the ref gives it. Imagine what would happen if that was done to me! I'd have gone ballistic and so would a few other managers. It's one of the most unusual goals I've ever seen.
I can't imagine it would happen here but some clubs are cute with their ball-boys, especially in the Championship where they operate a multi-ball system. It's supposed to reduce time-wasting but some clubs abuse it. We found at certain places the ball- boys would throw the ball into hands for home throw-ins, but roll it on the wet floor for visitors. They would run to put it on the spot for home corners, but not for away teams.
5. Visiting supporters are a good thing
I've not enjoyed watching a game for a while as much as I did Manchester United v Celtic. It takes two teams to play that kind of game and credit to Celtic for having a go. And like Sir Alex said, having 6-7,000 away fans is far better because it gets everybody else going. Clubs have to look at it, they can give more tickets to visitors. We had 6,000 Liverpool supporters come here and it made for a great atmosphere.
6. Good games, shame about the results
I've not been disappointed with the way we've played this season, just the results. At this level you soon realise that when you get opportunities to win games like we had last Saturday you have to take them.
I hope we do today when I expect another cracking game against Reading. Over the last two years we've had excellent games with them but never had the rub of the green.
Then we go to Arsenal. If people had said, before the season started, we'd be a point behind Arsenal after four games I'd have taken it. It turns out to be not much consolation. But I don't want to upset them. Every time I turn the radio or telly on I hear somebody say "Arsenal have not won a Premiership game in their new ground yet". Then they say "they're playing such good football someone's going to get a hiding". I'm beginning to think twice before turning the telly on.Reuse content