It was slightly unsettling to pick up my Independent yesterday and read about a player chucking a match in order to cancel his gambling debts. The day before I'd been to Lingfield races with my Crystal Palace squad, on a sponsors' day.
Some will say we are asking for trouble doing that, but there's nothing wrong with having a flutter as long as it is in moderation. I've been fortunate in that this is the first club I've come to where there aren't any gamblers among the players – just a couple on the staff. There was a card school which had some decent pots in it, but I put a stop to that. It's not conducive to a good team performance if players are taking large sums of money off each other on the way to a match. Now they play for points, not prizes.
You do have to keep your eyes open because, as this newspaper's report underlined, gambling can become addictive. I have had players in the past who have had problems. You have to try to help them the best you can – though I would admit they are handy for passing on tips when it comes to a day out at the races.
One of the strangest incidents I remember dates back to my playing days at Hartlepool. On an away trip to Gillingham one player in a card school ran out of cash, so he threw in his car keys. He lost and though Len Ashurst, our manager, put a stop to the card school when he heard, the car was gone.
There was nothing like that at Lingfield. My lads were only betting fivers and tenners. Some of them couldn't even come along. It was a fund-raiser for the academy, which was a bit ironic as only over-18s were allowed so five members of our first-team squad had to stay behind. I did think about passing them off as jockeys. Instead they provided some company for Clint Hill, who's recuperating from injury.
We had a good day, only slightly marred for some of the lads by my friendship with Helen Chamberlain from Sky's Soccer AM. She had a horse in the last race, Napoletano. We joined her in the paddock, had a look at the horse, gave it a pat and so on. I could tell one or two of the lads then had a few quid on it. They were left disappointed.
2. Prices escalate
If anyone saw me in Harrods on Thursday, I was simply shopping and sightseeing, so don't go starting any rumours linking me with Fulham. The family have been wanting to visit since we've come down here.
We had a meal, William had a haircut and we went up the famous Egyptian escalator. Our mouths were wide open, looking at all the deco. The staff were fantastic. Very friendly. I suppose that is a key for any business. The waiter in the restaurant was so good Sharon asked if we could take him home.
William's haircut was £20, which was not a bad price. That led me into false sense of security because he looked that good when he came out I thought I would buy him a top. The girls had gone off shopping. He picked one and I went to pay for it. I thought the guy said "£27", so I gave him a £50 note. He said, "Sorry, sir, that's not enough, it's £77." I was too embarrassed to say I normally get seven for that in Sheffield.
I didn't tell Sharon till we got home. Then William and me went for a kickaround in the back garden. I soon heard Sharon saying, "Don't you dare play football in that. Take it off." I can't see it going in the ordinary wash.
3. Kazim has talent
It was fantastic, unless you were a Chelsea fan, to see Colin Kazim-Richards equalise for Fenerbahce on Wednesday. I signed him for Sheffield United in 2006 and I was really proud and pleased for him. He's an immense talent but he could quite easily have disappeared into oblivion if he hadn't listened to people, like myself, when he needed advice. He's a bit like Graham Poll – not short of confidence. If you asked him who his favourite player was he would say "Colin Kazim-Richards".
When I saw his goal in slow motion I thought he had mishit it so I texted him to say, "Are you sure you meant to do that." He quickly came back: "Of course I meant to put it there, gaffer, you know my left foot."
I still think it is a tie Chelsea can win, but not as easily as some people think.
I thought Manchester United were very professional in Rome and what a great goal it was by Jeff Astle ... sorry, Cristiano Ronaldo. It was just the sort of goal Astle used to score. It shows what a complete player Ronaldo is at the moment.
Arsenal v Liverpool was a good match, one team playing out-and-out football, the other not worried about having a shot. It was a typical Liverpool in Europe performance, the result more important than anything else. Dirk Kuyt's nextdoor neighbour, the referee, did them proud.
4. Cardiff can make it to my dream final
It's a magical FA Cup weekend. I told Dave Jones before Cardiff played at Middlesbrough in the last round that I'd dreamt Cardiff had won the FA Cup, so they must have a chance. But the family will be rooting for Barnsley because of my old player, Rob Kozluk. They absolutely love him. It's great he'll be playing at Wembley and I'm sure there will be a double-decker bus going down from Derby, full of family and friends.
In the other semi no one could begrudge Harry Redknapp leading Portsmouth to the final, but West Bromwich Albion are the one Championship team he would not want to play right now. It's anybody's guess who will win.
5. I don't like Mondays
We do not play this weekend as we have our third Monday away game in a few months. Not only does it disrupt our training, it is a nightmare for our fans. Those who make it to Stoke will be very much appreciated.Reuse content