I'd like to welcome Brian Laws to the city and wish him the best of luck as Sheffield Wednesday's new manager. He's done well at Scunthorpe United so he'll know what he's getting into but if he didn't a look at this week's headlines tells you everything about my profession. One of my peers has apparently gambled £12m, Arsène Wenger and Alan Pardew have been charged by the Football Association after their dust-up at Upton Park, and the Godfather, Sir Alex Ferguson, celebrated 20 years at Old Trafford then got beat at Southend.
I went to Alex's do on Monday. It was an honour to be invited. I had a fantastic afternoon. With due respect to the media it was great to be able to relax in the company of other managers without any press around. The stories were flowing and we had plenty of laughs. Not that I heard all the tales. I was seated between Martin O'Neill and Kenny Dalglish, I could hardly understand a word. When I came home I said to my wife I'd better go for a hearing test.
Alex's wife, Cathy, was there. What a lovely woman just like Alex, she remembers everybody. She was talking to me about Danny Webber, who's with us now but was at Manchester United as a lad.
Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson, his former captains, and current players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs were also there. I bet all of them were glad they were not in the dressing room the following night after the Southend result. Having seen the team Alex put out I know he'll have been disappointed. He took it calmly but I'm sure he let his players know in private. But they always pick themselves up and go again, that's the sign of a good side.
It's never easy to get a result on those tight grounds. It reminded me of the old Baseball Ground where Derby County played. The Taylor Report has been great for facilities and all that, but I do miss those old grounds: there's nothing like them for atmosphere. The crowd would be right on top of you. Some old guy in a flat cap would snarl at you and you would be able to smell the beer and Woodbines on his breath.
I remember going down to The Den when I was a young lad with Chesterfield. For weeks beforehand the lads had been saying how physical it would be. I thought "it can't be that bad". Early on they got a corner. I was the front man ahead on the edge of the six-yard box. The kick came in and I'm about to head away ... the next thing I'm being woken up in the dressing room. A big centre-forward called Alfie Wood had come in from behind and pole-axed me. The old physio said "you'll get used to that coming down here son".
2. Your ecstasy can be someone else's agony
I'm disappointed the FA have charged Arsène and Alan. I think they could have just written to them. I know we have a responsibility but you want to see passion from managers. When I saw it I thought "good, people can see how much it means to managers". It hurts like you can't explain when you lose in the last minute. Conversely, there is such an elation to score then, like we did against Middlesbrough, to know the other team has no time to pull anything back. I think I did a jig myself that afternoon. I can't remember, you just get wrapped up in the moment.
That might be why the chairman decided to move the technical areas this season they are now further apart. I think he's trying to keep me out of trouble.
3. We've got to be quicker out of the traps
Obviously I'd love a last-minute winner at home to Bolton today, but I'd quite like an early goal too. We haven't scored in the opening half-hour all season. We start well enough but keep missing chances. It's frustrating because it's so important to get an early goal. It means the other team has to come out, it gets the fans going, lifts the team and deflates the opposition. It makes it much more difficult if you don't get that goal.
Bolton are a shining light for clubs like ourselves. Sam Allardyce will tell you the hardest part was staying in the Premier League in those early years. Since then they have improved year by year and are now aiming for Europe every season.
They've come a long way when you consider in 1987, when I was at Scarborough, we beat Bolton 4-0 in the old Fourth Division. That was a fantastic result for us. Scarborough are now bottom of the Conference North while Bolton are in the Premiership.
I take my hat off to Sam and his chairman. They get criticised at times, usually by a manager who's just lost to them, but they play more football than they are given credit for.
4. Youth is great
I went greyhound racing on Tuesday at Owlerton. They've opened a Legends bar and had invited famous Sheffield people along. Derek Dooley and Dicky Bird, who I always thought was from Barnsley, were in attendance. Dooley's a tremendous example to everybody. He played for Wednesday and was chairman at United. He's one of the few people liked on both sides of the city, in fact, there's only myself and him I know who are appreciated like that!
Sheffield's a big boxing city and the ageless Brendan Ingle and Johnny Nelson were there. I sat with some of Brendan's young charges and it brought it home how you lose your appetite as you get older. In my 20s I could eat for England but my weight never changed, I was always 10st 8lb. These lads proved that is still the case, I've never seen plates filled so high. They were obviously all in training.
I had a flutter on the dogs and won. I used a secret method. I asked William, my five-year-old, to pick a number before he went to bed. He chose five. Sure enough dog No 5 came in. By the way, I'm not the £12m punter, I wish I'd that dough to spare. Seriously, it's not funny when someone's got an illness like that. It shows what pressures there are.
5. Fame is fickle
On Thursday night I put my feet up and watched England under-16s play Ireland on the telly. We had a young lad involved, Jacob Mellis, a right-sided midfielder. England won 3-0 and while Jacob didn't score he hit the post.
He's got a chance. We've some good lads coming through, but it is tough and you need the breaks to make it.
I remember when I was at Burton Albion. Richard Jobson, who was a university student, asked if he could come along to training. Within one session I thought he had something. By the end of pre-season he was in my team. Being a Unitedite I rang Sheffield United and told them about him. They never even bothered looking. Six weeks later I saw him playing for Watford against Liverpool on Match of the Day.
I had rung Graham Taylor. He came to watch Richard in a Staffordshire Senior Cup tie. A scout for Nottingham Forest told me he wanted to see Richard on the right wing so we put him there but he was useless. At half-time I put him back in midfield. Within five minutes he'd gone past someone and smacked it in from 30 yards. He won all the headers, all the tackles.
When I saw Graham he said he'd taken his wife along with him but they had got lost and missed the first half. He said it didn't matter as he saw enough in the first 10 minutes of the second half to want to sign Richard. It shows how fine a line it is.Reuse content