Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Why I let one team have 12 players and awarded a free-kick for no reason
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The Independent Football

There has been an ugly rumour this week suggesting I cannot count. Actually, I knew one of the teams in the testimonial I refereed in Plymouth this week played 12 men in the second half. Being an experienced ref I had counted before restarting. I said to Tommy Tynan and John Clayton, who were in the 12-man team: "Do you think that's going to help?" They said: "We didn't think you'd notice, boss." I said: "I notice everything. The only thing I can't understand is why not put 13 on, the way you are playing."

I dusted off my referee's kit for Mickey Evans, a local lad who spent 11 years at Argyle in two spells. Not many players get testimonials these days but Mickey earned his. He played in the top flight with Southampton but never forgot his roots. He was a big factor when I took them up through the play-offs in 1996. He also donated three-quarters of the proceeds to charity, which is very generous, given he would not have made a fortune from his career. So I couldn't say no when he asked me to ref.

This is not something I advise to professional referees, but as I couldn't see any goals coming I decided to award a couple of dubious penalties. After all, there were nearly 6,000 there, which was a great turnout, considering Man United v Barcelona was on the television, and they deserved to see a few goals.

The one I gave to Mickey's side was for a disputed handball. There was a bit of dissent so I had to flash the yellow card – in all I booked three. Mickey's brother took it, so I said to one of the defending team, "Make sure you encroach, as I think I'm going to have to ask him to take it again." Sure enough, he hit the post. I insisted Mickey take the next one and he scored.

Matt Le Tissier played. His first touch is still superb and he spotted things no one else did, even in a game like that. I remember Le Tissier playing in a League Cup tie against us when I was managing Scarborough in 1987. It was my first season managing in the league and, though I'd watched Sheffield United from the terraces, it was my first time seeing a great player from really close up on the touchline. He scored an out-of-this-world goal in both matches against us.

Remembering all this, I gave a free-kick in the second half when he was near the edge of the box and had no defender near him. "What's that's for?" said the defence. I replied: "I want to see Matt try and curl a free-kick over the wall and into goal. Is that OK?" Unfortunately, he missed.

2. Another fine mess I've got myself into

It was appropriate that I should referee in the week I was up in front of the Football Association. I had been charged over some comments I made about the official after we had been held to a draw by a very late equaliser by Bristol City in February.

I was fined £2,000 and given a two-game ban suspended for 12 months. I can't quite understand how I get a touchline ban for comments I made to television after a match. If a manager who watches the game from the stands said something on TV the FA didn't like, would he be banned from watching matches from the stands? I can't quite work it out, but I would still say I always get a fair hearing at the FA.

I'm hoping Sky will contribute to my fine. They did shove their microphone under my nose immediately after the game.

3. It's all to play for

I remember saying at Bristol City that those two points could be vital. I was right. With those we would have been in the play-offs now. Instead, we may need to win against Burnley tomorrow to get there.

We're expecting a 20,000-plus crowd for the first time this season and I'm sure it will be a great atmosphere. That will be the case throughout the Championship, there's something riding on almost every match. It's a nail-biting finale for everyone.

People ask me whether I will be listening in to the other matches. You can hardly avoid it these days, as I'm sure fans will be telling players as they take throw-ins and corners what is happening elsewhere. So to avoid any confusion I will have someone watching Sky's Soccer Saturday to make sure we have the right information.

4. I spell trouble

I'm not sure if this is a good omen for tomorrow or not, but I've already had one decent result this week. William tested me on his spellings, I got eight out of 10. My six-year-old did point out they were "his difficult ones".

5. Too late for Boris

My voting card finally arrived for the London mayoral elections. Unfortunately for Boris, having been away I did not get round to opening it until 8pm on Thursday. By then I was in my pyjamas and I wasn't going to go down and vote wearing those.

6. Fergie won't make same mistake twice

It was a couple of great results for Manchester United and Chelsea in midweek. I obviously did not see United's game but I'm told they produced a terrific defensive performance.

At Stamford Bridge, Liverpool played their part in a tremendous match this week, but you have to give Chelsea credit for digging in, and what an emotional night it was for Frank Lampard and Avram Grant. I don't think many players would have been prepared, or able, to take a penalty in Frank's circumstances.

Some managers are jealous of Avram getting a job like that with his background in the game, but you have to give him credit for his results. His biggest problem is he looks dour. I think the fans are warming to him – so if events at Man City are any guide, he'll probably get the sack.

It's now back to the League. Manchester United's match against West Ham today brings back some memories, of Carlos Tevez scoring their winner at Old Trafford on the last day of last season. That day Alex Ferguson left out Ronaldo, Ferdinand, Giggs and Scholes. Somehow I just can't see them being left out this weekend.

7. Once Sharon starts to shop...

I flew down to Plymouth on Air Southwest, who have just started on a few routes from the West Country. I went from Gatwick and as that is quite close the family came with me to see me off. We had something to eat, then I said "Cheerio" and got on the plane.

I flew to Plymouth, got picked up by a mate, got to our house and rang Sharon. She said something about Monsoon. I said we've got bad weather here too. It turned out she meant the clothes shop. It was about two and a half hours after I'd left Gatwick and she was still there, shopping.

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