I was back at Palace this week – no, not that one. Coming back from QPR's training ground on Thursday I took a wrong turn on to the M4 and found myself driving into central London. I got hopelessly lost and found myself driving past Buckingham Palace. By that time I think I was in the congestion zone, so I will have to sort that out.
I came to a junction and tossed a coin: heads left, tails right. I got home eventually, and it's funny. From the training ground, which is out towards Heathrow, to my house is 50 miles on the motorway, 27 miles through town. Both journeys take one hour 15 minutes. I hate being in traffic, it's a real bugbear of mine, so I always try and move near the training ground when I join a club. Thursday's experience has made me even keener to get on with the move.
On the football side, I couldn't have wished or hoped for more than I got from the first two games. The players' response has been super and I think the home crowd have enjoyed it. I have tried to tell people it will not be like this every week, it isn't for anyone unless you support Man United or Chelsea. We now have two tough away games, Sheffield United today followed by in-form Reading on Tuesday.
I'm really looking forward to both games. Today it will be great to go back to my boyhood club where I had more than seven happy years in charge. It is amazing to see their average crowd is now 28,000, in the Championship. At my first board meeting one director pointed out the last home game had a crowd below 9,000, and said if I could get the average up to 16,000 then I'd have won the pools and swum the Channel. Over the years it's been fantastic to see the crowds rise and it is now one of the best stadiums in the division with one of the highest crowds.
It's strange, we had Plymouth at Loftus Road on Tuesday, another old club, now Sheffield, but I guess I should be surprised when I come up against a club I've not played for or managed.
2. I need to read rules more closely in future
I nearly had an embarrassing moment on Saturday when I told the lads the team and subs. One of the subs, Marcus Bent, beckoned to me and said, "Gaffer are you aware you already have five loanees in the team?" He's on loan too and having him on the bench made six. The laws state you can only have five in the 18. He did himself out of some appearance money and probably saved us some points as well. All ended well, though, with that all-important first victory under our belts. West Brom, I think will still be favourites to be in the Premier League next season.
I had a few problems in the first few days trying to pronounce the names of a couple of the foreign players. I ended up calling Adel Taarabt "Taarbs", and Alejandro Faurlin "Ali". I always think of Bobby Robson, he was terrible with names, especially when there's someone in the opposing team difficult to pronounce. In those cases I normally just say, "Pick up the No 10", or whatever the player's number is.
The team have really tried to take on board the changes I have demanded from them. I like my teams working from the front, competing, playing as a team, and with centre-halves who concentrate on defending. The other night against Plymouth was, I'm told, the first clean sheet in 25 games, which tells you why we have been in a relegation battle.
3. I want to make name for myself at QPR
Sharon came with me to the training ground and spoke to one of the staff and she happens to ask "who was the last manager?" The woman hesitated for a minute then put her hands to her mouth and said in amazement, "I can't remember his name". Sharon couldn't wait to tell me. She said, "They change managers so much here they can't remember the names."
It reminded me of a story the old Southampton centre-half John McGrath told about his management days. He said when he went to Port Vale there was a guy, probably the kitman, who'd been there donkeys' years and showed him around. He took him down all these damp and squalid corridors round one bend and another, then they came across this door. On it was a blackboard, and in chalk he put "Manager. John McGrath". Everybody laughed. John said, "That's not the punchline. The funny part was seeing the wet sponge in a holder attached to the door."
4. Attack should be first point of defence
Watching the first 10 minutes of Man United v Milan I thought I've never seen a team create so many chances against Man U. I was just beginning to start worrying when up pops Rooney and, as you say, the rest is history. They were just too good for Milan. I did ask my players on Thursday whether they watched Milan's front three. When they asked me why, I said, "because if your front three don't work at all when you lose the ball, it doesn't matter what level you're playing in, the team will struggle". Those three never tried a leg when they lost a ball, and that includes Ronaldinho.
It was nice to see David Beckham get that reception. I have always thought he has been a tremendous player and ambassador for our country. He has always handled himself impeccably. From a selfish point of view I wish his volley had gone in. It would not have affected the result and it was such a great strike.
Real Madrid's defeat showed again that while money is very important it can't buy you success. Six years without a Champions League quarter-final, what a desperate run they are having, and the final being in Madrid this year makes it a double disaster. Their manager will obviously be under pressure and he's top of the league!
5. I'll let Big Sam do the talking for now
I bet Wigan are pleased last week that they changed the pitch so they could play their passing football against Liverpool and gain a crucial three points. At Sunderland Steve Bruce will also have been relieved to get his first win in several months. Off the pitch I was interested to read Sam Allardyce talking about Rafa Benitez. Of course, I will not be making any comment.
6. William gets dancing feet from his dad
Thursday night saw me rushing off to get back for William's school play. They are doing Cinderella, a modern version. He plays a bodyguard. He's got his hair gelled right the way back and a leather jacket on. It's amazing being a parent in an audience looking at your child on stage. And when they spot you and smile at you, you feel great. There's some dance numbers in it and I must admit he can really move, swinging his hips. Obviously, he's got all his dancing off his dad, though Sharon might disagree.
7. I hope still to be going strong at 90
Mother's Day tomorrow and to all the mums out there I hope you get a home-made card. It is the time and effort that counts. Unfortunately, Sharon's day has been spoilt by the sad news that her grandma has passed away. She was 95, and was still ballroom dancing at 91. I wouldn't mind getting to that age, and being that active.
8. Alan Green is my new No 1 fan
Was listening to Six-O-Six on the radio last Saturday and I heard Alan Green say he read this column. See, we get all types, don't be embarrassed to admit you're reading this too.Reuse content