Neil Warnock: Our long, laborious season ends with me hooked up to an epidural

What I Learnt This Week

Sunday 23 February 2014 05:03
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As you know, I had my hip operation this week. I'll admit I've been a bit worried about it but it did not strike home until I was leaving our house with Sharon. We left the kids behind with Sharon's mum and Amy shouted: "I love you Dad." Then as we set off I could hear William shouting: "I love you Daddy. Please come back. Please come back." That set Sharon off. It was just the thing to quell my last-minute nerves.

The hospital is near Wimbledon so we stayed the previous night locally to have a romantic evening. Which we did, even if it felt like the Last Supper. We stopped at a hotel called Cannizaro House. I can honestly say it's one of the best I've ever stayed in. It had everything, including a fabulous location on Wimbledon Common backing on to these fantastic gardens. I've never seen gardens like them with so much colour this time of year. In the hotel what struck me most is how attentive and happy the staff are, and that does not cost anything. I have to mention the homemade biscuits in the room as well. And for all those people who accuse me of getting free meals at the places I mention, well we've not had any yet, but maybe we'll get lucky this time.

The operation itself went well, if twice as long as planned at three hours. The big shock was being told I was having an epidural. I remembered how much I took the mickey out of Sharon when she had the kids. This was payback time. I'm sure her eyes lit up. I said: "I don't want to see any of this, put me out." So he gave me something to help me sleep. I can't think of anything worse than being awake while someone sets about me with a full toolkit – they use a saw and everything.

Now I'm recuperating in hospital. I'll be out this week but I'll be on crutches for a while.

2. Referees are capable of being influenced

Referees and journalists will all slaughter Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and John Terry for their dissent on Wednesday night but they have no idea how the players felt. All this "I know what they were going through" stuff that has been said.

Well, with the exception of Graham Poll who missed out on his own lifetime dream with his three-card cock-up at the 2006 World Cup, you don't. This was the biggest game of some of their careers and they will have felt cheated. The odd decision can go against you, but not so many.

What worries me is Michel Platini's obvious dislike of what is happening in England and his influence around Europe. Was the referee one of the elite group at a recent referees' get-together when the agenda included "confrontations and dissenting players" and featured a number of clips of Chelsea players? If so, was it implanted in his mind?

You do get games when you feel referees are influenced, even if subconsciously. There has been some this season when I've had to apologise to my lads before a game because my past history with the ref means we're unlikely to get the 50-50s. You know it, and you know he knows you know it. We just have to play a bit better in those games.

Tom Henning Ovrebo was not good enough and you have to ask why he was appointed given how few pressure games he would have experienced in Norway. I'm sure Drogba will get a big ban, but if it had been me I'd have been banned sine die and fined £1m.

I felt Drogba and Ballack were also frustrated at their own shortcomings. Drogba for his missed opportunities which would have put the tie to bed. Ballack because of the pathetic way he attempted to close down Andrés Iniesta's shot. He turned his back on it. I bet he wishes he had flung himself in the way.

3. A big thank you to Palace's faithful 200

I can honestly say I have never really felt as strange as I did last Sunday. I was trying to get a result out of Sheffield United, a team I have supported all my life, and who at the start of the match had to beat us to have a chance of automatic promotion.

As it happens the result, a draw, was not important as Birmingham City won to go up but at least our lads put up a competitive game and showed no recriminations could be thrown at them had things worked out differently. Sheffield United are still in the play-offs, most people make them favourites and - I write before last night's match at Preston - I hope they make it.

After Sunday's game the police asked us not to go out to do the end-of-season thank you to the fans until they had got the Unitedites out of the ground. That took about 15 minutes and when I said: "We'll go out now," someone stuck their head outside and said, "They've all gone home gaffer." There were about 200 fans left, I thought we should have shaken hands with them all but that wasn't quite practical.

4. A good goal against us? I cannot remember

While I've been lying in my hospital bed I've been pondering a few end-of-season awards. Championship team of the year, and manager of the year, is shared between Alan Irvine's Preston, Owen Coyle's Burnley, and Mick McCarthy's Wolves. Mick deserves all the credit for his young and vibrant side. He has had rough times and come through them to win the title. On finishing position and financial clout I think Alan and Owen have done just as well. Owen's team start their play-off campaign against Reading today and given their cup runs they will fancy their chances.

Player of the year has to be Sylvan Ebanks-Blake for his goals and general contribution to Wolves' promotion. Chris Iwelumo deserves a mention for giving them that great start to the season.

The best goal we scored was Paddy McCarthy's rocket against Derby County from 35-40 yards. The best goal against us? There must have been some good ones but I've blotted them all out of my mind.

The best banter was at Cardiff. When we get off the bus there's always a crowd with that unmistakable Welsh accent. They have loads of questions and autograph requests. I always sign them down there, even though one or two of the blokes have had the same hats on for 15 years and look like Welsh Compos from Last of the Summer Wine.

Our best journey was the one back from Swansea in the middle of our trek around the country to play three games in six days. It was a great win. Our worst was the trip back from Barnsley a few days later. I bet Norwich are pleased we played them when we were so knackered – we couldn't move in the second half.

5. Getting sacked is not the end of a career

The hardest part of the week, as bad as my op, was having to tell young players we are releasing them. I always do it myself – as a teenager at Chesterfield I found out when someone else read it in the local paper – and it never gets any easier. But I can tell them I got the sack four times and still went on to make more than 350 appearances. I add that if they are dedicated enough and good enough they will come back even if means going out of the league first.

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