What a great story the FA Cup has been this season. Who would have predicted Barnsley, Cardiff, Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion as semi-finalists? While I am delighted for the three Championship sides, the Premier League's big guns will regard this as a great missed opportunity. You could see from the reactions of Sir Alex Ferguson and Avram Grant last weekend how much it meant to Manchester United and Chelsea.
Their team selections confirmed the point. Avram said Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard did not play at Barnsley because they were injured. Lampard showed how important he is to Chelsea with four goals against Derby in midweek. We have seen how Liverpool have paid the price for not playing their strongest team and they now know they have to select Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for just about every match. Chelsea must have expected to beat Barnsley, but they learnt an important lesson: never take Yorkshiremen for granted.
Sir Alex was unhappy when a penalty was not awarded after an early challenge by Portsmouth's Sylvain Distin on Cristiano Ronaldo. He also criticised Keith Hackett, who is in charge of our referees, for favouring the appointment of certain officials.
I disagree with Sir Alex on both counts. I did not think it was a penalty and I feel he is aiming at the wrong target in Hackett. Keith has a difficult job and is doing all he can. His problem is the quality of the current crop of referees. They are getting too many of the major decisions wrong. A referee might get nearly everything right for 89 minutes, but that all goes out of the window when he makes mistakes with those vital split-second decisions.
As for favouritism, what is wrong in trying to ensure that the best referees take charge of the biggest matches? That should always be the case. I am convinced that I would not be in trouble with the Football Association for my comments about the referee after our match at Bristol City last month if that policy had been applied. When there are no other matches, Premier League referees should take charge of Championship games.
Sir Alex has been asked by the FA to explain his comments. Some people just do not appreciate the pressures that managers are under or the circumstances in which we are asked for our reactions. The FA seems to have this invisible army of men and women monitoring every interview. I can just picture them sitting watching TVs in a room with blacked-out windows, doing high fives as Sir Alex talks and shouting: "Yes! We've got another one!"
It was a shame that Sir Alex's comments detracted from a fantastic achievement by Portsmouth. Every team that goes to Old Trafford is under enormous pressure and they defended superbly, stemming wave after wave of attacks. That is what the FA Cup is all about.
I actually think Harry Redknapp and his team will find it harder against West Bromwich Albion in the semi-finals. The players know they will be the favourites and that can be a dangerous situation.
2. Always keep your feet on the ground
We played Albion on Wednesday night and I was delighted to leave the Hawthorns with a 1-1 draw. It was a great occasion. A big crowd came to see the FA Cup semi-finalists and Championship promotion favourites get another three points, but my young side handled the situation superbly. Kevin Phillips put Albion in front with his 200th league goal. His execution was fantastic. From the moment the ball was on the way to him I knew his first touch and finish would be perfect. If I had not been the opposing manager I would have applauded.
Victor Moses, one of six teenagers I have blooded recently, scored our equaliser. He is a great prospect, but like almost every player of that age he blows hot and cold. Fortunately the penny has dropped with him – as it has with our other kids – that you have to work hard to succeed. They will be important members of our squad next season because we do not have the money that our rivals have.
After scoring Victor did a double somersault, though I was looking away at the time. Three minutes later he felt a thigh injury – which may well keep him out of our match against Barnsley today – and I had to substitute him. Victor insists it had nothing to do with the somersault, but I am not so sure. You can be certain, however, that he will not be doing any similar celebrations in the future.
3. Percy might just be taking the...
Percy, the latest addition to the Warnock household, is settling in well. He is a lovely dog and is almost house-trained already. Almost. Whenever I leave my kit on the bedroom floor he takes that as an invitation to do his business on it. I suspect that Percy and Sharon may be working together on this. It could be her way of trying to make me more tidy.
4 . Derek Dooley was the pride of Sheffield
I attended Derek Dooley's funeral at Sheffield Cathedral yesterday. It was a great occasion – Derek had even had a word with someone upstairs to organise the weather – and a fitting tribute to a wonderful man. Derek spent most of his professional life working for Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United. The whole city loved him and thousands turned out to say their farewells. When his coffin was brought into the cathedral and when it left we could hear the applause from outside.
Dave Bassett and I agreed that one of the many things that made Derek so special was his humility. He was just an ordinary man, yet he brought Sheffield football people together like nobody else.
I was asked whether anyone in the future might unite the city like that. I said it would be hard to imagine. I was also asked whether Wednesday fans would turn out for my funeral. "I doubt it," I replied. "Not unless they were just turning up to check that I really had gone."Reuse content