Neil Warnock: Whoever gets the England job must keep the hard-working Captain Scott
What I Learnt This Week
I was delighted to see Scott Parker as England captain, and it was not before time. My readers of long standing will remember I said he should be skipper this time last year, at a time when he was not even in the squad, so I was so pleased to see him fulfil the role. I think it is appropriate he should gain such recognition as he is having a great season with Spurs. He has made them more difficult to beat, leading by example with hard work and a shrewd football brain – a good combination. Whoever takes over, I can't see them not retaining him as captain for the European Championship. To me he was one of the few plusses of Wednesday night.
Unfortunately, I don't think we got much else out of the game. It was just another waste-of-time friendly and I agree with moves to reduce them. People say matches like Wednesday's provide players with experience, but where's the experience in being outplayed by a top team?
Let me give you an example of why I, and all other club managers, dislike them. Our best player at Leeds United is Rob Snodgrass. He went away last weekend to Slovenia with Scotland. He played for half an hour in a 1-1 draw, watched by a fantastic crowd of 4,200, and got back to Glasgow at 4am Thursday morning to get some sleep before travelling back down south to join us yesterday. You would think, if you are getting home at that time in the morning, the national team would arrange to stay overnight in Slovenia after the game to preserve the players' sleep patterns, then fly back home on the Thursday. Whether it is a financial issue with Scotland, I don't know, but getting home at 4am, grabbing a couple of hours' sleep, then travelling down to Leeds... I can't see that being good preparation for our clash with Championship leaders Southampton. In my experience, when you do something like that you feel absolutely shattered for the next 48 hours.
Our centre-half, Darren O'Dea, was also in action, for the Republic of Ireland in their 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic. He had the whole 90 minutes, which is just what he needed three days before coming up against the Championship's top scorer, Ricky Lambert, who will have spent the week with his feet up.
And I wonder how Kenny Dalglish and Andre Villas-Boas felt when, respectively, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge limped off. As for Arsène Wenger, he must have spent the first half covering his eyes every time Robin van Persie was near the action.
2 It's a bachelor's life once again for me
It has been a busy week for me, not least because I moved into a little house on the outskirts of Leeds. I usually stay in a hotel in situations like this, but I don't really like them and I've been enjoying staying with my son James and his family. While they've been brilliant, it's not ideal long-term. Sarah already has a one-year-old, Charlie, to look after and he's got chicken pox. I'm not saying James wanted me out, but it was he that found me this cottage.
I'm not too bad at bachelor living; the cottage isn't full of empty pizza boxes and beer cans or anything like that, but I did spend Thursday night tidying up because Sharon came up last night to put the female touches to the place. I'm sure all you blokes reading will understand what I mean when I say, I don't know why, but whenever I think I have tidied up and believe a house looks immaculate, they come in and it's like you've not done owt.
I've also been hard at work trying to strengthen the Leeds squad. I've brought in Danny Webber, who was with me at Sheffield United, but have so far been unable to recruit any defenders. We kept a clean sheet at Portsmouth last week, which was really encouraging but we will be tested to the limit today by the division's highest scorers. Lambert is Southampton's answer to Grant Holt at Norwich; they are both proving what fantastic buys they have been. I'm sure he could play at the top level, just like Holt is. Watching Holt scoring regularly this season, I think the fear factor about the Premier League has gone for these experienced players. Heidar Helguson is another; he's still top scorer at QPR with eight league goals, even though he's been injured for a month.
Tonight's game, which is televised, is the first of a run of tough matches, with Hull and Middlesbrough away followed by West Ham at home. That is the game I'm hoping we can get 30,000 at Elland Road to show what a big club this is. They are difficult games but I'd rather be playing the top clubs; they will give me a better idea about the squad I have.
3 'Four Year Plan' will show the great job I did
On Tuesday, Sharon and I went to the premiere of The Four Year Plan. This is the film about QPR over the last four years and whether you are a football fan or not it makes for compelling viewing. It will be on BBC 2 tomorrow night at 11.15pm and is a must-watch film which shows how some clubs are run at this level. When I watched the film in the cinema it confirmed to me that winning the Championship with QPR last season was the greatest achievement of my career. You'll understand why when you watch it. My current chairman gets criticised, but this film makes him look an angel by comparison.
It was a strange night for me as all the players and the club's new management were also present. In the circumstances we didn't hang around but went into central London, where we found a lovely Italian restaurant, where we ate outside. In February. In London. Good job we had our overcoats.
It's been a difficult week at home with me being away, as both kids have been unwell. As a manager you don't always appreciate how difficult it is for the children when you change jobs. They don't show it but it must be unsettling for them too. Amy has heard I'm packing in so many times over the last few years she must now take it with a pinch of salt, while William has gone from supporting Sheffield United to following Crystal Palace, then cheering for QPR. Now I'm at Leeds. I've told him he should think about supporting Barcelona, then he won't have to keep changing. Besides, they look a decent team. When I finally do pack it in I'll take him over to watch the Clasico against Real Madrid. I've always wanted to see one of those games.
4 Welcome back to the management game, Dave
I'd like to welcome Dave Jones back into management with his appointment at Sheffield Wednesday. He deserves another crack and I'm sure, having been out of the game for a while, he is looking forward to getting back amongst it. Even though I was only out for a few weeks, it was lovely to get back on the training ground and enjoying that rapport you have with players. Obviously, with my allegiances, I can't wish Dave too much luck, but I do wish him well.
5 Bluebirds boss Malky will hit the heights
What a tremendous afternoon's football last Sunday was; not that I was surprised. You may recall in the column I tipped Arsenal, and said Cardiff would make it tough for Liverpool. I felt sorry for Cardiff manager Malky Mackay after his team had lost the penalty shoot-out but he shouldn't be too downhearted. As I wrote to him in a text: "I'm 63, I've been a manager 32 years, and I've never got to a cup final, so don't get too down". Going so close was a tremendous achievement and I'm sure Malky has a very successful career ahead of him.
Arsenal's comeback was like going back in time for me, having been at the Emirates when Villa were winning 2-0 a few weeks ago and all the fans were slaughtering Arsène. Then at full-time he was a hero again. It does you make you smile when things change so dramatically; there's no other sport where opinion can shift so quickly. It was great to see Theo Walcott score twice after all the criticism he had got, in the papers that morning and from Arsenal fans at the game.
It is going to be an interesting run-in for the Champions League places with so much pressure on AVB and Jose looking for houses in London, according to the papers. I wonder if Jose has to do a lot of clearing up before his wife arrives when he's moved into a new place.
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