Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

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The Independent Online

1. Blackwell's deserved Bramall Lane return puts him in a no-lose situation

I'm delighted for Kevin Blackwell, who has taken over as manager at Sheffield United. Kevin worked for me for 17 years as player, coach and assistant manager and he's a great bloke. He was my assistant for six years and I always saw him as my natural successor at Bramall Lane. I was disappointed when he left to manage Leeds United, though I could understand him wanting to run his own ship.

Things certainly improved from the first day that I offered Kevin a contract as a player, when I was manager of Scarborough. He came up to my house in Sheffield, turned into my driveway and then drove over my lawn. He could see that I was furious. Before he got out of the car he had £50 in his hand and offered to pay for the damage.

In his own mind Kevin was one of the greatest goalkeepers in the game, but we'll gloss over that, even if I did call him "The Cat". As a coach and manager he's top-class and he knows Sheffield United inside out. After going outside and recruiting Bryan Robson as manager last summer, I can see why the club have now looked to appoint someone they know well.

Don't rule them out for promotion. The squad Kevin's inheriting is one of the best in the Championship. He will know that he has never had a better bunch of players at his disposal. He's in a no-lose situation. If they make the play-offs it will be down to him, if they don't it will be down to his predecessor.

I've heard people say that Bryan's mistake was to try to change Sheffield United into a passing team. That's rubbish. We played some good football when I was in charge, but we also played with passion, which is what I believe the fans at Bramall Lane want.



2. Trapattoni shows up our coaching flaws

In one respect the news that Giovanni Trapattoni will be the Republic of Ireland's new manager left me with a smile on my face. Seeing a 68-year-old appointed to a big job like that made me feel like a teenager.

Nobody can argue with Trapattoni's credentials – he has won 10 league championships in four different countries and every European trophy – but I cannot help feeling disappointed that yet another major post has gone to an overseas coach. Why is it that people at the top of our game all seem to think that foreign is best?

Trapattoni and Fabio Capello, England's new manager, are obviously hugely talented people, but I can't imagine any of the other major European countries, such as Germany, Italy or France, bringing in a foreign coach. Could you see France going for Jürgen Klinsmann? No way.

The appointment of Trapattoni and Capello, not to mention the growing number of foreign managers in our club football, is a massive kick in the teeth for our coaching system. We clearly have to look at ourselves and ask what we are doing wrong.



3. Luck turns quickly

Three months ago, just after I'd joined Crystal Palace, we were 23rd in the Championship table, with one win in 15 matches. Two months later we beat Bristol City, one of the best teams in the division, and went fifth after going 15 matches unbeaten. Since then we've played four matches, scored one goal and got just one point.

So much is down to luck. Three of those past four games could have been wins for us, but we let some crucial opportunities slip. In our latest match, a 1-0 defeat at home to Ipswich on Tuesday, Clinton Morrison missed a couple of good chances to score late on, though I'm not going to blame him for our defeat. He's scored a lot of winning goals lately and maybe we've come to rely on him too much.

Sometimes the luck's just not with you. Take Ipswich's winning goal. Richard Naylor's shot was so off target it was going out for a throw-in, but it hit Danny Haynes's head and ballooned into our net. It's soul-destroying to lose to a goal like that.



4. I'll tell you why I don't like Mondays

Our visit to Bristol City next week will be our second Monday night away trip in three weeks. I don't think that's fair. You should only have to play one Monday night match away from home in a season. I'm not a fan of Monday games – they disrupt your routine.

City are flying at the moment. Even though we beat them at Selhurst Park last month I thought they looked a very decent side. What a great job Gary Johnson has done to be going for a second successive promotion. What strikes me most is the way City always bounce back when they get a bad result. That's a sure sign of a good team. Gary's squad isn't as strong as the other clubs at the top, but you can see his lads are giving him everything.

The top of the table is developing into a very interesting battle between two different camps. On the one hand you have Bristol City, West Bromwich Albion and Charlton, who are all footballing sides, and on the other you have Watford and Stoke, who play a more physical game. I really couldn't predict who's going to come out on top – and I'm certainly not discounting our chances of making a late run.



5. Ditch the plastic

Sepp Blatter said this week that some matches at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa might be played on plastic surfaces. He's concerned about the state of grass pitches in Africa – as shown during the African Nations Cup – and says plastic may be the way ahead.

What nonsense. You can't tell me that with all the technology that's around today that they can't make grass grow. I thought all you needed for a decent pitch was hard work and water.

Football's been played on grass from day one and that's where it should stay. I remember the plastic pitches we had a few years ago at places like Preston, Oldham, Luton and Queen's Park Rangers. It was like playing in a pub car park. Players suffered horrible burns and groin injuries and it was impossible to play proper football on them.

Playing on plastic would ruin the World Cup. The game's biggest tournament should be played on the best grass pitches – surfaces that bring out the best of the planet's best players. If Fifa really is having to consider this because the grass pitches aren't good enough in South Africa they should look at holding the competition elsewhere.



6. The best things in life are still free

One of the worst things about working in football is not being able to enjoy half-term with your family. Sharon, William and Amy went down to Cornwall and it was very odd being in the house without them. When you have young kids there are times during the year when you wish for some peace and quiet, but when they're not there the house seems empty. I also have to remember to put on my alarm clock, which is never necessary when William's there to jump on your bed at seven in the morning.

On the day they went down to Cornwall I stepped into the bath and was just about to reach for the shampoo when Sharon screamed out. She pointed to the corner of the bath and yelled: "Look! Cockroach!"

I jumped out of my skin. I didn't have my contact lenses in but I could see this horrible looking thing sitting there. It was then that I heard the kids at the door laughing their heads off. They'd put a plastic thing in the bath, knowing I wouldn't be able to see it too clearly. "Every dog has its day," I told them after I'd stopped laughing. "Just don't forget that."

Later in the week the family sent me a photograph on the phone. It was a picture of William with a massive crab he had caught on the harbourside at Looe. It was a reminder that some of the best pleasures in life are free. Everyone seems to want to take money off you these days, but there's nothing I love more than being down by the seaside with my family, which doesn't cost a penny.

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