Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. The spat between Wenger and Jol was even sweeter than belated poetic justice
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The most intriguing thing I saw last weekend was Arsène Wenger's spat with Martin Jol. I had a laugh when I saw it for personal reasons.

In our FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal three years ago Sol Campbell went though the back of Wayne Allison who went down injured. No foul was given, our fans started to whistle and the ball was played inside to Patrick Vieira. By that time he was definitely aware of Allison because one of the players motioned to him. Vieira played it square.

Then came the infamous sliding tackle-cum-bodycheck by Graham Poll on Michael Tonge, who would have cut the ball out. That left one of their players clear to run wide. With all the Sheffield United contingent along the touchline whistling, Arsenal had to be aware of the situation, but they carried on and Freddie Ljungberg scored what proved to be the winning goal.

There had been no end of times when, even after the "tackle" on the halfway line, they could have been sporting, both for the injury to Wayne and the interception by the ref. So in a way there was a little bit of poetic justice about Spurs' goal. I do think the Spurs players were unaware of what had happened, because of the way they were playing. And it was nice to see two unassuming quiet managers go head-to-head for a few seconds. Not just facing each other, but showing how much they cared.

2. Watching Arsenal is not boring

Three days later I was on my feet watching Arsenal in the second leg of their semi-final. Although they hardly got out of their half I was kicking every ball and hoping they could survive.

I screamed "Oh no" when Gaël Clichy went up for the challenge which led to the penalty. You could see Juan Roman Riquelme was so nervous. Then I was jumping for joy when Jens Lehmann made the save.

It is a fantastic achievement for Arsenal in a season which started so poorly, especially for Arsène who I thought was unjustly criticised for letting Vieira go and other things. I'm sure in the final they will be back to their swashbuckling selves. The final against Barcelona could be one the best finals we've seen, though it can't beat the excitement of last season.

3. Rest is important, so is a good squad

I let my lads go abroad for four days after our draw at Luton. Reading were staying in the same town. The lads must have all brought Stephen Hunt a drink for scoring that goal at Leeds which put us up. It means they can get off a week earlier with their families at the end of the season. One of two have looked a bit jaded of late, like Phil Jagielka - and no wonder when he's played 50-odd games a season for three years. So it's a good opportunity for Phil and the rest to recharge their batteries for what I'm sure will be a very demanding campaign next season.

People talk about West Ham and Wigan, and how well they've done coming up from the Championship, but despite Reading's fantastic season, and the possibility of their breaking goals and points records today I still think Wigan is the best side, and West Ham had one of the best squads, I've seen in the past five years in our league. So it will still be a tremendous achievement for Reading and ourselves to stay clear of trouble, even with the sort of investment that both clubs know is needed.

4. I love agents

Every agent in the world has contacted us since we've gone up. One said he had a player, a guy playing in Europe, who he could definitely try to get to Sheffield United. What the agent didn't tell me is the guy is on £40,000 a week, which is slightly above the average at Bramall Lane!

5. Teenagers are wet

While the players were away I managed to take the family to Alton Towers. It's amazing how many supporters of different teams I happened to bump into in those two days. Fortunately all were on the good side.

I still can't believe how I went with William on the Runaway Mine Train. As we walked back to the hotel alongside one of the rides I saw these people being hurled about 100mph upside down. I thought "it's strange what people do in their spare time".

Having said that we were drenched because we'd been on one of those water rides. We invested heavily in red-and-white macs to match the Blades but still got absolutely drenched from top-to-bottom while wearing these so-called waterproof macs. And why is it the teenagers who go on these rapids never bothered? What kind of thrill do they get to get soaked and walk around the rest of the day? The sun never came out till mid-afternoon on the second day so they wouldn't have dried off.

6. There's no smoke without fire

When we were in the queue waiting for the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride it made me think about the no-smoking law in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. I was in a queue with two young children and there was smoke coming from in front and behind. It seemed to be everywhere. It made me realise the sooner the law comes in to our country the better. It was absolutely horrible in that queue. Then behind us this big guy started to swear and my wife, Sharon, said: "I'm going to say something to him." I said: "Isn't that like the pot calling the kettle black when you are married to me, you'd better not." So we kept mum.

7. We don't need any last-minute injuries

It's the last game of the season tomorrow. We're entertaining Crystal Palace. It's strange because we have so many things to do now we're up, we just want to get through without any serious injuries.

Comments