Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. After referee's late, late show at Bristol City independent timekeepers are long overdue
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Some people think I'm always having a go at referees, but Monday night at Ashton Gate was the first time I've given one of my own players a rollicking for shaking the official's hand. Julian Speroni, Crystal Palace's goalkeeper, is Argentinian, so thankfully he didn't understand some of the names I was calling him after he offered his hand to referee Richard Beeby after our 1-1 draw with Bristol City.

First, there was the penalty awarded against us three minutes from time, when we were leading 1-0. The referee indicated it was for shirt-pulling, but my players couldn't believe it. Nor could the pundits on Sky, whose TV cameras looked at the incident from every angle but could see nothing wrong.

Speroni made a brilliant double save from the penalty, so we were still leading when four minutes of stoppage time were announced. After that there were no substitutions, no injuries and no time-wasting incidents – City had the ball almost the whole time and were pressing for the equaliser – yet we were still playing after four minutes and 55 seconds of added time, which was when they scored.

When the ball had gone out for a corner after four minutes and 30 seconds I was convinced the referee was going to blow, but the home fans had just been appealing for a penalty. Maybe that was why he let City take the corner, from which they scored. Imagine what the situation would have been like if we had equalised after playing so long beyond the indicated time. There would probably have been a riot.

The final whistle was blown after five minutes and 35 seconds. Compare that with the first half, when the referee gave one minute of added time and blew right on 60 seconds, just as we had a two-on-two outside their penalty area. The whole episode confirmed my view that it's high time we had independent timekeepers. Speroni, who had made some great saves, couldn't understand what he'd done wrong at the end. At least he could see the funny side of it on the coach when he watched the TV pictures of me marching on the pitch and giving him an earful.

2. McCarthy deserves utmost respect

Today we're at home to Wolves. By my reckoning there are still 15 clubs (including ourselves) in genuine contention for promotion from the Championship. Ipswich are in the last play-off place, but I reckon the next nine clubs all have a decent chance of claiming that spot. I've got huge respect for the Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, who used to clean my boots at Barnsley. He's had a great managerial career. He talks a lot of sense and he's a really hard worker.

Mick's fitness coach is Tony Daley, who was with me at Sheffield United. He's a great lad. Just for a laugh I got Mick Jones, my assistant at Palace, to text Tony yesterday, asking him to tell us what the Wolves team would be today. Tony replied within half an hour. His text read: "Tell the gaffer the team will be Stan Cullis, Billy Wright, Derek Dougan..."

3. Dionne and 'Dusty' both on song

Not having a game until Monday meant a change of routine. On Friday night I went to Dionne Warwick's concert at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. She was sensational. What a voice. You could close your eyes and imagine she was still in her heyday. She's 67 and not in the best of health, but clearly didn't want to let her fans down. Once on stage all she wanted to do was to entertain.

On Saturday night I could hardly believe it when I found myself on the phone voting for a ginger-haired bloke singing as Lionel Richie on the BBC's The One and Only. Both Amy and William wanted to vote for him, but I voted for the Dusty Springfield lookalike. And she won.

4. Let's see how good Bull is now

Steve Bull, the former Wolves and England striker, has taken charge of Stafford Rangers. Over the years he's given me a lot of stick. I'll be interested to see how he handles things now that he's on the other side of the fence.

5. Gunners still Fab for William

I took William down to our reserve game, though he chose to stay in the warm and watch Arsenal in the Champions League on television. At half-time he said: "Can we buy Fabregas?" I said: "Yes – if we sell the whole stadium." I still think Arsenal can beat Milan, though they've got it all to do after drawing the first leg at home.

Seeing Thierry Henry score for Barcelona at Celtic was a reminder of what a wonderful player he is. Might an Henry or a Bergkamp have made a difference against Milan? But there's a great spirit and togetherness about Arsenal this season.

6. Barnsley win that made my day

I was delighted to see Barnsley, one of my former clubs, win at Liverpool in the FA Cup. I was particularly pleased for Rob Kozluk, such a key figure in the dressing room in my time at Sheffield United. Last season I remember going with United to Anfield. Steve Bennett, the referee, had already warned Rob about fouling Steven Gerrard at corners when he penalised him after only 10 minutes – for exactly that offence. They scored from the penalty and Liverpool went on to win 4-0.

All that was forgotten last weekend. Brian Howard got the winner, but a moment I equally enjoyed was a fantastic goal-line clearance by Rob. Can Barnsley do it again in the next round against Chelsea? Stranger things have happened.

With so many big clubs going out, the Cup has really opened up. I'm sure Harry Redknapp must have started fancying his chances after Portsmouth won at Preston, but then he was drawn away to Manchester United the following day. Harry's no doubt hoping that he's reserving all his good luck for his run at a top six finish in the Premier League.

As for Liverpool, I was hugely impressed with the way they bounced back in the Champions League. I couldn't see them scoring against Internazionale, but now they are in the driving seat.

7. Gazza deserves help from the game

Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland in Euro '96 is one of my all-time favourites. He had so much ability and played with such freedom and panache. He was everyone's hero.

I've been deeply saddened to hear of his problems. I can't help feeling that he should have been given more help to deal with life. He has given so much to football, but I'm not sure football has given enough to him. Of course people have to help themselves, but the game should be there to support the more vulnerable.

Nowadays there is more help for players to cope with the pressures of life at the top. It's simple enough to say life should be easy when you're earning £50,000 or £100,000 a week, but that brings its own problems. Look at all the hangers-on that surround players. Look at what happened to George Best.

Let's just hope that Paul is better soon and can pick up his life again.

Comments