Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. It's the nightmare before Christmas but I'm celebrating it wasn't my club's party!
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Like many a manager I looked at the headlines after Manchester United's Christmas party and breathed a sigh of relief it was not about us.

I revealed in my last column that our lads had a quiet night in Brighton for their Christmas party. One or two of the smuggled-out photographs of their evening tend to slightly contradict what I was told, but there appear to have been no major consequences. But the whole issue is an absolute nightmare.

Certainly there is no way Sir Alex Ferguson will let that happen again at United. As for shipping in 100 girls! Not only is that a recipe for disaster I can't believe the wives allowed it.

My worst Christmas party experience dates back to when I played for Rotherham. I had left Chesterfield the summer before, but they persuaded me to come to their party on Christmas Eve as a favour to the man who had sponsored me, who I remember was in carpets. I thought it was a nice gesture so I went along.

I was 21, and nave. Little did I know that they were spiking my drinks. When I got home I can't tell you how bad I felt. Guess who we were playing on Boxing Day? Yes, Chesterfield. They won, and I was terrible. Then the lads who did it told me. We have a good laugh about it now but when it comes to telling off players I've been there, done it, and got the hangover.

We had our official party this week in The Grosvenor, for players and staff. I'll say one thing about the chairman, his parties are second to none. We didn't have 100 girls shipped in, but we had Jimmy Carr, Curiosity Killed The Cat, Imagination, and a great band, Immaculate. They were under a lot of pressure when the chairman announced, "This group is from Sheffield to satisfy the manager", but Vernon, their leader, lived up to the group's name.

Thank goodness for Tamla Motown it'll never go out of fashion.

One of the lads, Shaun Derry, did not train Tuesday because he had a groin problem, so I was told by physio. So imagine my concern when I saw him on the dance floor break-dancing and doing the splits. As I was dancing with Sharon at the time I whispered to him, "I suppose this means you are fit for Saturday?"

We had one other party, for the Junior Eagles. They saw the other side of footballers when 20 of the squad dropped in to sign autographs and pose for photos. The young fans were surprised and delighted. It was fantastic to see their faces. Things like that grab a fan for life.

2. Words in praise of Neil Warnock (by me)

I can understand where Sol Campbell is coming from when he asked the FA, and even the Government, to take action about fans abusing players the way he gets abused when he plays Spurs. He wants to try being me, I get abused at every away game, and even at most home games though only by the visiting fans, at the moment anyway.

It took the Wednesday fans about 30 seconds to point out I was an HSBC banker last week. I just waved to them. You can't beat them, there's no way the police or stewards are going to intervene with such large numbers. You just have to smile and get on with it. The abuse may hurt, but smiling at it upsets the type of people who deliver it.

Last week I got stick all through the game. When Sheffield Wednesday were winning 1-0 it was vociferous. It was not so loud after we equalised in the second half. Then we scored the winner in the 90th minute. After shaking hands with the opposition bench I went to give the Wednesday fans a wave but most had gone.

They were not the only ones. When I went to the press conference the Sheffield radio stations had gone. I thought, I'm not having that, I've been slaughtered for an hour-and-a-half and not even had the chance to thank them. So I phoned up Praise or Grumble on BBC Radio Sheffield.

"Is it praise, or a grumble?" they said. "Praise, for the Crystal Palace manager," I replied. They stitched up Paul the presenter, who I've spoken to loads of times, by just telling him it was 'Neil' on the line. He said to me: "Who do you support?" I said: "Crystal Palace now." So he said: "Who did you support then?" at which point I had to tell him who I was. Then I grumbled about them not waiting for the interview. It were quite funny.

When I meet Wednesday fans it is usually quite healthy, we have a laugh and a joke. That's how rivalry should be. My main gripe, like Harry Redknapp's, is the abuse you get from loudmouth yobbos sitting round the dug-out. That should be stopped. There ought to be ways to regulate that. At least I should get a decent reception today as we are hosting Plymouth, one of my old clubs. Their Green Army are usually supportive. I'll be up against Paul Sturrock, who's having his second spell there. I saw Paul a few months ago. We were talking about how much we love Plymouth so I knew he would be desperate to get it when the job came up. It's a good appointment on both sides.

3. Good reds, bad reds and Reds win nowt

We've seen some ugly tackles recently, and a few red cards. I feel that Steve Bennett, having missed Craig Gardner's tackle on Dwight Yorke last week, made up his mind ahead of the Man City-Spurs game that if anything happened, players would go, and was then a bit hasty in sending off Didier Zokora.

The following night Peter Crouch did deserve to go, though I don't think it made any difference to the result. I can't see Liverpool winning anything now they've no chance in the League. It is still going to be a good race though, with Arsenal showing what a fantastic bunch of players they have. One reason Arsenal are top is that they have toughened up, but they have done so in the right way which is why I was so surprised by Emmanuel Ebou's tackle on John Terry.

That was horrific, one of the worst tackles in the game. If you leave your studs showing like that you know whoever is kicking the ball will get hurt. It's obviously not gone unnoticed that Terry committed quite a naughty tackle shortly before that, but there is a difference. His tackles are rash and silly, but not in the same league.

One aspect of the weekend games I thought was overlooked was the refereeing. I thought Mark Halsey, at Anfield, was very good, and Alan Wiley, at the Emirates, excellent.

4. Collins looks like he's a man in a hurry

My quote of the week comes from John Collins who said, when he left Hibs: "I've taken the club as far as I can." He must have moved fast, he's only been there 14 months.

5. Christmas is a time to monitor hearts

William has been at football camp this week, on the coldest three days of the year. The coaches were both teachers from William's school. To spend a week off doing football training shows how many dedicated people there are in children's football and soccer camps.

Amy has been in bed for two days with a temperature which makes her look as if she's been on the booze. She's all red. William and I have suggested we put her in quarantine and board the door up. I think William means it.

I'll be rushing about Monday, trying to get presents as usual. Will I be the only one leaving it to the last? I hope so. I'm certainly looking forward to when it's all done and we can go to the Christingle service at our local church. Earlier in the day I'll have the players in for training but they can spend Christmas Day with their families I've given them all an exercise programme, and a heart monitor to check they do it. Then on Christmas Day night we will go up to a hotel near Coventry before our game on Boxing Day.

Finally I'd like to say Merry Christmas to all my readers, especially the Palace fan who's chipped in an impressive 3,700 in The Independent's Christmas auction to join me and the squad for training and lunch in our canteen. All the best for 2008, and don't drink and drive.

Comments