Neil Warnock: Cancel the match? We used to ask the fans to clear the pitch and then get on with it

What I Learnt This Week

Saturday 09 January 2010 01:00

Our match against Bristol City at Selhurst Park is one of the many to be called off today. I know you have to be careful, and the last thing I want is for one of my few remaining players to be injured, but things have changed. In my playing days we just used to get an orange ball out of the store cupboard, sweep the snow off the lines, and get on with it.

As you can imagine, playing for clubs including Hartlepool, Scunthorpe and Chesterfield, I played in some pretty wintry conditions. We never used to think about the safety of players, it was simply a case of if you could get to the ground, and see the markings, you played.

One match I remember well was an FA Cup tie when I was managing Notts County against Manchester City in 1991. City had a good side, they came fifth in the old First Division that year, but we were doing well in Division Two and fancied it. The day before the game, Meadow Lane had five inches of snow on it and when Peter Reid, who was City's boss then, and his assistant Sam Ellis had a look they said "no chance". But we had all the fans clearing the snow off the pitch and at the death the referee, who we'd kept plied with hot drinks, decided he was happy. City obviously weren't keen and it showed – Gary Lund grabbed our winner with a few minutes to go.

Not that making an effort always pays off. When I was still playing, I also managed a Sunday morning team in Sheffield called Todwick. One morning me, the treasurer and secretary got up at 8am to check the pitch. Under four inches of snow it was soft, so we cleared the lines and the penalty boxes. My back ached for weeks afterwards. And we lost.

We trained on the snow yesterday – well, except for a couple of lads who couldn't get in – but on Thursday we worked in the Dome, the indoor arena our academy use at the National Sports Centre. The artificial turf technology is amazing these days, it even takes moulded studs. On the early all-weather pitches at grounds like Oldham, the ball would bounce right over your head it was so hard. I wonder what it is like at Boundary Park now. It's always cold there, it's the only place in the country where the pigeons don't land, they keep flying for fear they'll freeze if they stop.

The only good thing about the snow (unless you're a kid of course) is that it brings people together. Sharon's been stranded in Cornwall with William and Amy and the whole village has mucked in. Sharon's been helping out in the post office. It's been really busy as it's virtually the only shop open for miles.

2. My plan to be world's best chef gathers pace

Following on from my success with the scones last week, I decided to step up my campaign to be the new Gordon Ramsay. You can see from the picture (left) I'm really into it and I'm going to try to cook a full dinner at least once a week for Sharon. I'm aiming to be the best chef in the world, and why not? I really enjoy it.

With Sharon being away, I invited Mick Jones, my assistant manager, around to be my guinea pig on Thursday. On the menu was sea bass in butter sauce followed by fillet steak. It was unbelievable, even Mick, who's not that easily impressed, had to admit it was really quite good.

The sea bass fillet came from a local fishmonger in Beckenham, I believe in these difficult times it is important to support local suppliers and it was excellent. Then I cooked the steak with a garlic, whisky and double cream sauce. I'm almost drunk thinking about it. There was a slight hiccup when I took the steak off to find it was still going "moo", I prefer my steak well done, but that was easily solved by slapping it back on.

Good as the evening was, when I counted the empty bottles yesterday morning, I realised my cooking style seems to owe more to Keith Floyd than Gordon Ramsay. I don't know whose idea it was to open that bottle of port, which is two-thirds empty, but I'm not having that Mick Jones round again.

3. I'm dreaming of a Cup run, starting at Wolves

Last week we had a great FA Cup win at Sheffield Wednesday which, as everyone would know, is my favourite place to go for a good result.

We were a bit fortunate but with only 8,000 fans turning up, there was the most eerie atmosphere you could imagine and it was hard to lift yourself. Most had only come to boo me, but with the boos echoing around the empty ground they lost all impact.

I was in the ITV studios for the fourth round draw and when it came down to just us, Spurs and Leeds in the hat I was getting quite excited (but nowhere near as excited as the chairman must have been). Home to Spurs, perfect: big gate, live TV coverage, chance of an upset. But as you know, we came out next, and it was away to Tranmere or Wolves. A couple of hours later we knew we were going to Molineux. It's a tough draw but who's to say Wolves won't play their reserves against us as they have Liverpool at home a few days later?

4. Wednesday is a good job... but not for me

There was a bit of mischief made this week after I was complimentary about Wednesday following the Cup game. It ended up with headlines suggesting I was in line for the then-vacant Hillsborough dug-out. Well that was never going to happen, not least because I've already got a job I'm happy in. And while I was flattered to see a surprising number of Wednesday fans would have welcomed me, there's plenty who would have been choking on their cornflakes at the thought of such a confirmed Unitedite managing them, and you need everyone behind you when you start a job.

However, I do stand by my comment that Wednesday have the potential to be a serious player in the top flight and would be a great job for any out-of-work manager. With new investment, it has real possibilities because of the support base. I'm sure Alan Irvine didn't need long to think it over when they offered him the job. I know Wednesday have a lot of debt, and are well down the table, but in the long-term being sacked by Preston might turn out to be one of the best things to happen to Alan.

5. Zamora for England, is it really unbelievable?

What with Arsenal's league game and the Carling Cup semi-finals being called off, there wasn't much football to watch this week, which at least meant I caught up on the cricket highlights of an evening. Fortunately, I was at home on Thursday afternoon for the climax of England's Test with South Africa and I was a nervous wreck watching Graham Onions see out that final over. I thought, "if this is how I feel, what must be the state of Andrew Strauss and the other England players in the dressing room?" It was brilliant to watch, I just hope they can finish the job in the fourth Test.

The one football game I did see was Stoke City v Fulham. I tell you, if Rory Delap ever breaks an arm Stoke are in deep trouble. It was a fabulous game which saw Fulham come so close to a point. In the end, they lost the game and Bobby Zamora which could be a real hammer blow. People laugh about Zamora being talked of as an England player, but when you look at Carlton Cole or Emile Heskey, you think, why not? If you are a centre-half he is as difficult to play against as anybody in the division.

6. Vieira is a gamble worth taking for City

The main talking point this week has been Owen Coyle joining Bolton. I know Burnley aren't happy but you can't really blame him. He realises his best chance of establishing himself as a Premier League manager is at Bolton because of their bigger budget.

I'm not so sure Patrick Vieira's return to England is such a good move but why should Man City worry? They have so much money they can afford to gamble on him. If he comes off it's a great bit of business.

7. The future is looking brighter at Palace

It's been another difficult week at Palace with the wages delay, but the chairman's doing everything he can and there's light at the end of our tunnel. I've been told by the middle of next week we'll be paid and so should the various bills which have prompted our transfer embargo. There is also the real prospect of the club's future being secured by the arrival of a new owner, so watch this space. Just so long as the takeover is more successful than those at Portsmouth.

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