Neil Warnock: What I've Learnt This Week

1. They broke the mould when Dooley was forged from stainless Sheffield steel
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The Independent Football

My week been tainted with sadness of losing someone close. My old chairman Derek Dooley passed away on Wednesday. Having known Derek for many years – he was my chairman during my seven-and-a-half years in charge of Sheffield United – the old saying, 'They broke the mould when they made him', really fits. Amid fierce rivalry, like there is in Sheffield, between the blue and red halves he was the only man who bridged the gap.

Younger readers may be unaware of the tragedy he suffered. In 1953, at the age of 23, in his prime, he suffered a broken leg, which turned gangrenous, and had it amputated. The previous season he had scored 46 goals, which is going some considering he did not break into Wednesday's team until October.

It was an awful fate to befall any young man, let alone a talented footballer with a glittering career ahead of him, yet he never once appeared bitter at his fate. He always thought simply being involved in football was wonderful.

Maybe that is partly because, after his injury, he worked outside the game for eight years before joining Wednesday in a commercial role. He worked his socks off for the Blues but it ended in sadness when, having become their manager, he was dismissed on Christmas Eve. That stayed with him for a number of years, but he never lost his affection for their fans. He came over to our side, starting as commercial manager, and did virtually every job at the club before becoming chairman. He had two stints, the second one coinciding with when I came in as manager.

The club were going nowhere fast – which is possibly the only reason I got the job, they could not afford anyone else – but from day one he was the finest chairman you could wish for. Whenever we were having a bad time, he knew when the phone call was needed, when the knock on the door was needed, because he was a football person.

I remember saying to him in the first week it would be great to become the most successful club in the city, then in Yorkshire, and how I'd love to get us back to the Premiership in his tenure. So it was tremendous how the club moved forward in that period and I'm delighted he was able to have one more year visiting the top-flight grounds.

How much would he have been worth today as a player with his record? Yet he was so humble, he still lived in his three-bed semi-detached. Money never motivated him, but he had something money could never buy. That was respect.

Behind every great man there is a great woman and his wife, Sylvia, has always been in the background. She is a wonderful woman. It is to her, and the rest of the family, my condolences go.

2. English teams can progress in Europe

What a wonderful week for our clubs in the Champions League. While Chelsea and Man United went through rather comfortably, what a wonderful achievement the win in Milan was for Arsène Wenger and his magical young side. With Man United breathing down their neck in the League I wonder how many of the tabloids had their headlines ready saying Arsenal's season was crumbling.

It was also nice to see one of my ex-players progress to the quarter-finals with Fenerbahce. Colin Kazim Richards, who I paid £150,000 for and Sheffield United sold this summer for £1.25m, was part of the squad that caused an upset in Seville.

I'm sure he will be hoping to get Arsenal in next week's draw because he's a big fan. I gave him his first start there. I remember saying to him at the Emirates, 'How do you like this?'He said, 'It's fantastic, gaffer'. I said, 'Well, you are going to play here today.'

It was interesting to see Real Madrid playing the multi-ball system, in which several match balls are available with ballboys throwing them on. The theory is it speeds the game up but in practice there is too much abuse, with the ball being given back quickly if the home side need to score, and slowly if not. While a lot of clubs in the Championship use it I believe it should be banned, as it is in the Premier League. I see Jim Magilton, the Ipswich manager, was sent off for complaining about it at Stoke. Mind you, during our first half against Cardiff the other night we would have struggled even with a ball for each of our players.

3. Cardiff have what it takes for FA Cup win

Talking of Cardiff, I have a sneaky feeling for them in the FA Cup this weekend. I said to David Jones, their manager, I fancied them at Middlesbrough. They've come a long way from going behind to Chasetown in the third round, but that is how cup runs often start out.

Another of my old players, Paul Trollope, who I had at Torquay in 1993, will be hoping his Bristol Rovers side can beat West Brom. It is lovely to see him doing so well. He has Lennie Lawrence alongside him, which makes a great partnership, a youngster and an experienced man. Albion will not find it too easy on the Memorial Ground but, although the pitch is not in good condition, I can't really see it helping Bristol as they play a lot of football as well. It will come down to Albion's mental attitude on the day because they are a team who, currently, could beat anybody in any division on their day with the players they have.

We have to play them next week at the Hawthorns. We also have to go to Watford and Stoke soon. It will be nice for once to be going to these grounds with the home team under pressure to get points. I'm also glad we have a good away win under our belts, having got back on track at Preston last week. We had four 17-year-olds in our squad and one of them, Lee Hills, came third in the trainee of the year category at the Football League awards.

4. New dog may soon teach old one tricks

Congratulations to Tom Soares and Danny Butterfield who've got new additions to their families. I've been talking to them about babies, and sleeping arrangements, and had to mention we've also got a new arrival, Percy. He's not a baby, he's a griffon. It's not the biggest dog. I let it out the other night and it looked up to our guinea pig. I can't see me walking it with a diamond pink lead just yet, but I'll get round to it, I'm sure.

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