Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. There is still nothing that excites a Sheffield lad quite like a derby day visit to Hillsborough
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We've got the derby today. They are always nerve-racking, highly emotive occasions, especially for a Sheffield lad like me. There's always a great atmosphere and I'm sure the Wednesdayites will give me a great welcome as usual. I remember playing them a few years ago and we were losing when I realised I was tapping my feet to the tune their band were playing. Fortunately, the band is banned now.

I first went to a derby in the Fifties and kept going until I signed as a pro with Chesterfield in 1968. Once I went on the Kop at Hillsborough. I went with my sister and her friends, who were all Wednesdayites. We were all together "oohing" and "ahhing" at different times. I had a wooden rattle in those days; now I've just got my mouth.

I also had a United rosette on. Everyone was in together then and it's a shame we can't mingle like that any more. I remember walking through those big gates and up the steps at the Kop. It's the sort of atmosphere you don't forget.

As I was working elsewhere I wasn't there for the Boxing Day massacre [when Wednesday won 4-1 in 1980], though we get it brought up most weeks on the local radio.

As usual there's been a lot of interest and Les Payne, a journalist on the Sheffield Star who is neutral as he's from Rotherham, has stirred things up by comparing both sets of fans. He said Wednesdayites would be happy to turn up and watch the grass grow at Hillsborough, but United fans, if they did that at Bramall Lane, would complain it was too long, or too brown, or not growing fast enough. It's true, they seem to tolerate anything at Wednesday and turn up while we have to please people.

We're going into the derby in good shape after a great game against Reading in midweek. We played ever so well against the team of the season and after we lost the first one in controversial circumstances I was delighted when Paddy Kenny made a great save from their late penalty.

2. I will watch Arsenal, but back Chelsea

Without a doubt next week's Champions' League ties are mouth-watering. I love to watch Real Madrid. I know they can't defend at times but they have such quality going forward. Like Barcelona they are far better technically than the English but sometimes they need that English mentality. That's why I think Chelsea do well, they have that English backbone, but I'm not so sure about Arsenal.

I don't think Arsène realised how hard it would be to replace Patrick Vieira. You always think you can replace a player but it is hard to replace players of that quality. With Chelsea having all the money, I think he attempted to replace him with good young players but the problem with young players is they blow hot and cold and when they are down it is a hell of a job to get them back up, because confidence is a fickle thing. They've also had injuries at the back. Solidity at the back is everything, Reading have shown that this season.

But even when Arsenal are not playing well they are one of the few teams I'd pay to watch. While I admire Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, if I had a choice I'd watch Arsenal for the entertainment value.

But the game is about winning and while people talk about Roman Abramovich and his money you've got to spend it right. Sometimes I wish Jose did not speak out so much. It detracts from his achievements and he deserves better. Perhaps he shouldn't have listened to me when I offered him some tips on how to keep the media and opposition fans onside!

3. I need six strikers

I've a message for all those managers who keep ringing up asking to take a striker on loan: sorry, I need all six, I like to have three on the bench.

But when we sign one I do check he can play in goal as well, since we don't have a 'keeper on the bench. We gave "Horse" [Geoff Horsfield] some handling before bringing him on loan from West Bromwich Albion this week. He caught most things, so we signed him.

4. I could have been a Winter Olympian

I've been enjoying the Winter Olympics. I watched the opening ceremony in Plymouth ahead of our match against them and thought it was spectacular.

And congratulations to our medal-winner. Watching Shelley Rudman on her tea tray reminded me of my childhood, when we used to go sledding in the park on a plastic mat. Maybe I should have stuck at it.

Actually, watching her, and the men on the toboggan, I don't know who in their right mind would do it, flying down the ice at 100mph on their stomach or backs.

I also heard an interview with Chemmy Alcott, the skier. Her excitement really came over. Everyone thinks "only 11th", but it's a tremendous achievement for someone from our country. I hear she comes from Twickenham. She must have learnt by skiing down all those 4x4s in the Twickers car park.

5. Game is no matter of life or death

One piece of news put things in perspective this week. Two Sheffield Wednesday fans were killed in a car accident travelling back from their match at Coventry City.

There will be a minute's silence before today's game and I hope whatever rivalry we have with Wednesday, our fans show the same respect we would hope for if it had been two Unitedites that had died.

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