Today is going to be strange, exciting, probably a bit emotional. My new club, Crystal Palace, are at my old team, Sheffield United. It is the fixture that was the first I looked for when I took over at Palace in October. I am really looking forward to it as I never had a chance to say goodbye to anybody at the end of last season. After seven and a half years at the club I have supported all my life I just left without the chance to say thank you to the fans. That's the way football is.
All the family are going to be there, my elder kids Natalie and James, my younger ones Amy and William, and my wife Sharon. I think I will get a pretty good reception. I think fans will remember where we were when I took over, with 8,000 crowds, and water falling through the roof of the old wreck of a training ground with physios putting cans under the leaks. Now they have a £5m academy and the club posted the highest Championship crowd last week: 26,000 v Blackpool. I think I helped give Unitedites their pride in the red-and-white back, and got the youngsters involved again.
Obviously, I still feel an attachment to the club. A few weeks ago Sharon and I were trying to organise a social event and I was looking at the fixtures. Then I realised I was looking at Sheffield United's game, not Palace's!
It will certainly be strange trying to pit my wits against them and get a positive result. I know every inch of Bramall Lane, but I don't know the away dressing room too well. I've only been in it twice with a team, with Notts County and Bury, we won one, and lost one.
I do think it will be our most difficult game so far this season as there will be at least eight or nine players in the opposition who were my players. They will be determined to turn me over. I'm sure it will be Bryan Robson's easiest team talk. It promises to be a cracking game when you look at the League table Sheffield United are only two wins from the play-offs and with half a season to go they have got a great chance of going back up.
We're on a decent run ourselves but we are all keeping our feet on the floor. It's been great integrating these four or five young lads. They have given everybody a lift. When you are looking at making signings like I am, you sometimes overlook the talent right in front of you. Once I was thinking of seven or eight players, it might be one or two.
2. Rogues not Pogues on my radio show
We came up to Sheffield early so I could do my Christmas show on Radio Sheffield on Thursday. I did it for seven years while manager there and promised them I'd do it this year wherever I was. It tied in really well with today's game.
Instead of talking to all the local managers, which I used to do, I talked to some of my ex-players who are now in different places. I started with Jack Lester, who is helping Chesterfield go for promotion, then another one going well, John Breckin, who played with me at Rotherham and is now their assistant manager. I had a word with Rob Kozluk at Barnsley, and anyone who tuned in will have realised what a good lad he is to have in the dressing room. He told me my book was a great Christmas present- it had fixed the wobbly table in his kitchen.
I also spoke to my "son", Phil Jagielka, who's doing well at Everton, and my ex-skipper Chris Morgan. Morgs was gutted about being injured, which means he will probably miss today's game though, as I told him, for selfish reasons I was quite pleased.
To that mix of rogues I sprinkled in some fantastic music. To give you an idea of the soundtrack I began with "I Can't Help Myself" by The Four Tops. It made a change from my usual sloppy slow stuff like Barbra Streisand and Michael Bubl, for which the lads always gave me plenty of stick. I'm sure they all liked this year's selection.
I was also delighted by the supportive calls I had from Unitedites, which I hope were an indication of how things will go today.
3. Palace on song after some time off
After this Christmas I had to ask the question, "Am I over the hill?" My wife bought me long-john thermals and matching vest; then William played me at a memory game and beat me 12-3. I don't think I can go on that programme Are You Smarter Than a 10 year old? As another stocking filler I had a Michael Bubl CD. Coincidentally, he happens to be Sharon's favourite artist. I've not seen it since.
We had the quietest Christmas for many years but it was absolutely superb. We spent the day with just the four of us. For one reason or another I never got out of my pyjamas until five o'clock. Then I went off to Coventry for our match there. William had an electric guitar from Santa but we forgot to tell him till half an hour before I left that he also had an amplifier.
As I had done at Sheffield in recent years I trusted the players and gave them Christmas Day off to spend with their families. I always worry about the reaction on Boxing Day but the result, a 2-0 win, more than justified the time off. Which was a relief, because my chairman did mention it before the game. Not that he was looking to put any pressure on me, he just said he would be interested to see how they performed.
4. A young mix may top the greatest hits
I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year. For us managers it now means the opening of the transfer window. For weeks we've been receiving videos from agents, all of them like "greatest hits" compilations. My chief scout, Alan Gemmill, and assistant manager, Mick Jones, have been ploughing through them but you can't beat watching a player in the flesh so I expect that I'll be on the road again soon.
Anyway, the nearer we get to it the more these youngsters, and others, are asking me to give them a chance with their performances.Reuse content