Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. I enjoy having a laugh with fans, but there's always someone who doesn't get the joke
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The Independent Online

I'm concerned that the humour is going out of the game, after an incident last Saturday at Ipswich. To start with, it was a full seven and a half minutes before I heard the first chants associating my name with a branch of the banking industry. I turned to Andy Leaning, my goalkeeping coach, and said how disappointed I was that it had taken so long. I must be losing my appeal.

As always at Ipswich the fans were fantastic. They ribbed me throughout. In the second half they got a fantastic goal from a free-kick and went 1-0 up. Immediately they started chanting: "Warnock, Warnock what's the score?" I put one finger up on one hand, and a zero on the other, then I pointed to my watch to indicate there was plenty of time left. I got a cheer for doing it. We equalised and at the end of the game, when I was congratulating the lads, I turned to the Kop with a finger on each hand to say 1-1. They clearly enjoyed the joke.

Then one of the Ipswich players, Richard Naylor, who wasn't aware of the facts, came running at me like a madman. Before I knew what was happening two stewards were ushering me off. It was all quite unnecessary.

In the press conference afterwards this incident was brought up straight away. I said: "Can I leave it until I've spoken about the game which I thought was a cracking match." We haven't won there since 1975 so it was an excellent draw for us. Then I explained what happened and said it was great to have a bit of banter with the fans.

On Monday I pick up the Mirror and in letters two inches high it says "Sworenock". Underneath, in large capitals, "Neil accused of sticking up two fingers to the Ipswich crowd". When I read the article, in small print, it says: "The Bramall Lane chief wandered over the North Stand crowd at the final whistle gesturing a 1-1 scoreline with a finger on each hand apart."

Why do they have to make it worse than it is by insinuating I put two fingers up. That's what we have to put up with nearly every week. There's no wonder some managers don't talk to some papers.

Consequently I have to say I've received 15 e-mails and five letters. That may not seem much but in the space of a few days it is a large postbag for me. They are all from Ipswich season-ticket holders and supporters saying they saw the incident, completely support the intended humour, and if I need support they would be more than willing to back me. I did receive one letter from a supporter who thought I was a disgrace "inciting the crowd", but as I read down the letter he did say he was a qualified grassroots referee so I understood a bit more about his feelings.

Surely humour has got to still be a part of the modern game. I didn't hear anybody complain to the stewards when thousands of people were calling me names, I just laughed it off. I just think it is great so many Ipswich fans spent time sending me supportive messages. So if you are one of them reading this, thank you very much.

2. Burton still pack them in  

I would like to pay credit to Burton Albion and their fans for their FA Cup performances. They took 11,000 to Old Trafford, a marvellous achievement but I wasn't surprised. I have some great memories of my time there and this month brought them all back.

3. Walcott is a gamble  

Theo Walcott is obviously a good player but he had a quiet game against us and I think it is unbelievable the amount of money Arsenal have paid for him. It shows how valuable good English players are.

It's still a gamble. Just look at how few of the kids who went to the FA's School of Excellence ended up making a career at the top level. It will be interesting to see how he develops though I do agree Arsenal is the best club for him to do so.

4. Exclusive: Sven irons his socks (maybe)  

I had a wry smile when I heard about Sven and the fake sheikh. And another smile when I saw, on the front page, "Inside pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8".

I put the paper straight in the bin. I thought: "Well, what's the difference between his last escapade and this one. It's getting like Coronation Street."

It couldn't have been nice for David O'Leary to read it: we've all got people we know are after our job, that's a fact of life, but to read it in the paper is a bit much. But none of his comments about players should have surprised anyone.

I gather there's going to be more revelations next week. For once I'm lost for words, what will he be accused of next? Maybe his cleaning lady reveals he irons his socks, or he doesn't use softener on his whites. "On pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10."

5. Scooby-Doo is a carrot

I've got this reputation as a hard taskmaster, as someone who drives his players on. Well, it's completely unfair: I've always believed in carrot as well as stick, and it works. I'll give you an example. This week I was helping William with his homework (I know, four years old and he gets homework). He had to do the letter K and draw a king. But he wanted to watch Scooby-Doo.

I told him: "Do your Ks and you can watch Scooby-Doo." He did those Ks like you've never seen. We had a bit of a problem getting the crown right when it came to doing the king but we got there in the end and another catastrophe was avoided as we sat down to watch Scooby.

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