Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Watching world-class footballers giving away unnecessary free-kicks is frustrating
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Weren't the European games enthralling this week? I was watching them with my lad on TV and we were oohing and aahing all the way through. And who says football doesn't throw surprises up? Arsenal surprised everybody, not just because they won but in the way they played with such a young side. It's got to be Arsène Wenger's most satisfying result for many years.

It also underlined the value of stability. I gather Real Madrid have had four managers in six years; if they don't turn it round in the second leg, no doubt they'll be into the fifth. That seems to be the modern Spanish way of doing things.

But the match which really gripped me was the Chelsea game for all the disappointment of the result. What I can't get over, and for me it is the biggest fault of the modern-day player, is how world-renowned players, at the top of their profession, can give such stupid free-kicks away without a thought of the consequence.

I will never know why they do it. Having gained a goal from one such free-kick, Ricardo Carvalho himself gave one away. You could see what was going to happen, I'm sitting there shouting at the telly "don't go in, don't go in", and it does. The rest was history. I can't believe, having got in such a great position, they weren't more responsible. Every week we see needless free-kicks. The worst thing is when you see forwards chasing back and then nudging someone for no reason. Suddenly, from a position of no threat, you're facing a dangerous free-kick.

As for the sending-off, it was one of those where your view depends on who you support. I don't think Asier Del Horno intended to hurt Lionel Messi but why he's missed the ball by so much only he will know.

I didn't see much of the Liverpool game. I don't take anything away from them professionally, they are as difficult a side to play against as there is, and I expect them to get through in the second leg, but I don't get excited watching them.

2. Lingerie needn't be effeminate

This week I've been telling my lads not to wear gloves and pom-pom hats in training, then I find myself being reminded about the one time in my career when I wore ladies' tights.

It was for Crewe against Halifax in February 1979. I'd had a tight hamstring and the physio told me to try them. It was just after Keith Weller had worn a pair on Match of the Day for Leicester so I didn't get the stick I might have done. It half-worked. I scored the winning goal, the last of my professional career. But I pulled my hamstring doing it.

My League career came to an end a few months later when Tony Waddington took over. He had a reputation for encouraging flair players - he had signed Alan Hudson for Stoke City. But he didn't even see me play. He just got rid of me. He rang me up and said: "I don't want anyone driving across from Sheffield".

I wasn't too upset because he paid me up in full, especially as I was planning on going to see him anyway, telling him the travelling was becoming too much, and could he let me go.

3. Diving is not just a strategy for wingers

I've spent a lot of time at the swimming pool recently, not in it but watching my daughter do a diving course. Four mornings at the crack of dawn we were there. I can't dive myself. I told Amy I got the bronze medal in the 1976 bellyflop. Mind you, being a winger if I was playing now I'd know how to dive...

4. Hot tubs are cool

There was one pool I did get in. On Thursday we went with the kids to visit some friends with a hot tub. It was snowing on the way over and there was a biting wind. I thought "I must be mad" but it was fabulous.

I didn't go as far as the kids, who got out after 10 minutes and ran around in the snow in their swimsuits, but I've never slept so well and I'm thinking of recommending it to the team. There might be enough room for the back four and midfield, but the strikers might have to miss out.

5. I've never been so proud to be a Blade

I can't tell you how proud I was to be Sheffield United manager last week, when we had the minute's silence at Hillsborough in memory of the two Wednesdayites who had died returning from a game the previous week.

It was very poignant having 7,000 Sheffield United fans in the arch enemy's home and you could hear a pin drop for the full 60 seconds. The hairs stood up on the back of your neck. The response of both sets of fans was unbelievable. It shows you can respect each other and have your rivalry. During the silence I thought about the days I spoke about last week, when I was a kid and we stood together on the Kop, blue-and-white and red-and-white.

The only disappointment was that there was a police helicopter above, they obviously weren't aware.

6. Wigan deserve everyone's respect

I'll be watching tomorrow's Carling Cup final with interest. I can remember taking a team to the none-too-spectacular Springfield Park early in my management career and you've got to give Dave Whelan and Paul Jewell enormous credit for their achievements.

When they walk out for the final having amassed 40 points already in the Premiership it will be the story of the season. If they never do another thing in football, they'll always have that.

Comments