Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Clattenburg benefits from going back to his roots and staying out of the spotlight
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The Independent Online

Like everyone else I will be looking at the likes of Ronaldo, Torres, Fabregas and Drogba in tomorrow's big games, but I will also be watching Mark Clattenburg, who's refereeing at Stamford Bridge. I've noticed a difference in him over the last few games. When he came into the game I raved about him and thought he would become the best for many years, but when he went full-time he lost his way a bit. I'm convinced the influence of people like Graham Poll was detrimental to him and he lost his humility. I don't think that was for the better.

Since this season's Everton v Liverpool game, when he caught a lot of criticism, I can see a difference. In his last few games he's refereed the best I've seen him do so for years and I'm delighted. It looks as if he has grasped why he was going to be the best and gone back to the "not being noticed" style of refereeing.

He always had a chat with the players when he started and a quiet word. I thought his interpretation of the laws excellent. I've said to Keith Hackett, the referees' supremo, on numerous occasions, I do think sometimes there is a reaction when a ref goes full-time. He deserves tomorrow's opportunity and I hope he refs as he has been recently.

I have this thing about mechanical referees, like Mike Riley. He can always book one or two people for dissent, like he did Joe Cole and Robbie Keane on Wednesday, but someone who has not played the game finds it difficult to understand the severity of a tackle like Ashley Cole's. Steve Bennett, who's at Old Trafford tomorrow, is another one in that bracket. In 90 per cent of games they do they get everything right because they know the laws inside out. But when it comes to the major decisions I feel you have to have played.

2. Ripley's bravery moved me

I had a lovely time on Tuesday attending the National Sporting Club's British Sports Book Awards lunch at the Café Royale. My book was shortlisted in the autobiography category. I felt really honoured. That Sir Bobby Charlton's book came first, and Sir Jackie Stewart's second, showed the quality of the finalists. I can't see myself ever being knighted.

I had a good chat with Sir Bobby, and I went back to my youth by asking him to autograph the programme. Bobby came over to Derek Dooley's funeral, which shows the type of man he is. He remembered Derek from when he was a lad and he had often spoken to him at Wednesday and Sheffield United.

I had to smile when Bobby said to me that our ground, Selhurst Park, was the worst in the country to get to. I said to him, "That's music to my ears. I hope everyone feels the same. There's nothing like making the opposition depressed even before they get to the ground."

One memory of the afternoon which will stay with me was a very moving speech by Andy Ripley. The former England rugby international won an award for his diary detailing his fight against cancer. He's shown a lot of courage over the last few years and all power to him. The room was full of admiration.

I got his autograph and that of Duncan Hamilton, who won an award for his book about Brian Clough. I've read it and loved it. We had a good chat about Brian, and one or two memories from when I was managing Notts County.

I was also pleased that Matthew Ashton's lovely photographic book about Shrewsbury Town's old Gay Meadow ground won. That brought back memories. I recall they had a guy who would fish the ball out of the River Severn in a coracle. I'm sure my shooting gave him some work.

The whole afternoon inspired me to get to work on a fresh chapter for the paperback of my book.

3. Wednesday 'welcome' still chilly

I'm really looking forward to today's game. We're at Hillsborough, my old stamping ground. The first game I ever went to as a kid was at Hillsborough. It was a floodlit match and I actually stood on The Kop surrounded by Unitedites and Wednesdayites. There was no segregation then, and no trouble, which suggests progress is not always for the best.

We took about six hours to get up here through the traffic, then we trained in the wind, rain and hail at the Sheffield Transport Sports Ground. The lads are really enjoying it so far. I've told them, 'If you think this is bad, wait until tomorrow. I hear it's going to turn cold'.

Going to Hillsborough reminds me of one of the stories I told in the eulogy at Derek Dooley's funeral last week. When he was our chairman I once asked him if he would lead the team out at Hillsborough. Derek, who was a hero to Wednesday fans because of his playing days with them, looked at me puzzled and said, "Why?" I said, "if I follow really closely behind you it will be the only time I'll ever be applauded walking on to the pitch at Hillsborough" I'll be thinking about him as I walk out to a chorus of, well, I don't think I can say in a family newspaper.

4. William is the music man

I went to William's music concert the other day. It was a lovely hour listening to three school classes playing the recorder! We really do love our kids, don't we? There was also a bit of piano, while William switched to the triangle for a couple of songs.

5. One game at a time enough for Beckham

I was delighted to see David Beckham back in the England squad. I think his contribution over the last few years has been fabulous and what an achievement it will be to reach 100 caps. You cannot look long term with him, Fabio Capello will just have to see how he is performing.

There was one new face in the squad, Middlesbrough's David Wheater. That Boro allowed Jonathan Woodgate to leave shows how highly he was rated. It's a real boost for the chairman, Steve Gibson, manager Gareth Southgate, and the faith they have shown in their academy.

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