Neil Warnock: My team for the season
The Crystal Palace manager knows success is not just about the 11 men on the pitch. As he prepares for today's big kick-off, he makes the introductions, convinced the club is poised for a memorable campaign
Published 09/08/2008 | 12:41
A football team is not just about the players on the field, it is about the whole club from boardroom to laundry room. All the successful clubs I have been at have been happy ones, where everyone is united behind a common goal. That is what we've got here at Palace, so let me introduce you to my team to win promotion:
Like any club, we have lost a few, and signed a few. Clinton Morrison, Mark Hudson, John Bostock and Mark Kennedy have left us, but that's football. I am still looking around but I'm pleased to have brought in Nick Carle (Bristol City), Paddy McCarthy (Charlton), Darryl Flahavan (Southend), Calvin Andrew (Luton) and Johannes Ertl (Austria Vienna). As always with new players, I hope they fit in well. We have also signed Jose Fonte, who was on loan to us from Benfica last season.
I am pleased with the condition of the lads, new and old. I did not have to lift them after we went out in the play-off semi-finals last season as no one expected us to be there.
Of the players who have gone, Bostock leaving for Tottenham was the real blow, mainly because the tribunal decision prompted the chairman, Simon Jordan, to say he is going to put the club up for sale. He was gutted and I'm not surprised. When you have had someone from seven years of age to 16, when he is the best there is in the country at that age, the captain of England Under-17s, when he has played in the first team, you expect to get more than £750,000.
The tribunal said they could not class it as a transfer and had to go on precedent. That is archaic. It is all right saying there may be some add-ons, but if he achieves the things that trigger them he will be worth even more. It costs us more money to run the academy for one year than we got for Bostock. That does not give you any incentive to develop young players at all. The big clubs will think: "If a player of that pedigree is only £750,000, we can get average ones for next to nothing." They won't need to do any development, just cherry-pick everyone else's players.
I have to say I smiled this summer, when I saw Alex Ferguson complaining about Real Madrid tapping up Cristiano Ronaldo.
Losing Bostock made us even more determined to get Sean Scannell and Victor Moses tied up on three-and four-year deals and I am delighted we have.
FIRST TEAM STAFF
Keith Curle (first-team coach, right), Mick Jones (assistant manager), Jim Stannard (goalkeeping coach), Brett Starkey (performance analyst). Keith Curle is the reason I came back into football. I promised him when he left Chester that I would get him another job, so I felt guilty. I was going to take him to Portsmouth and that fell through. Every time I was linked with a job his hopes lifted. Finally I came here, and he's been excellent for me. Keith, who won three England caps, coached under me at Bramall Lane. He does all the coaching on the training ground, maybe because he is the only one of us who walks without a limp. As a player he smoked like a trooper, he used to nip into the showers to have a fag at half-time, but he has matured now and is working towards his A licence.
Mick Jones does everything I and Curly don't, a lot of the mundane administrative stuff. He also oversees the scouting strategy and is our eyes in the stands on a match day. We first worked together around 1990, at Notts County, and he has been with me, aside from a break when he did things like manage Brunei, ever since.
Jim Stannard, who you may remember as a Fulham goalkeeper, was recommended to me by Ronnie Jepson, an old player of mine who is back working with one of my best mates, Stan Ternent at Huddersfield. Since he came Julian Speroni has not looked back. He has instilled such confidence in him I would not swap Julian for anyone.
Brett is the IT man, who does all the Pro-Zone analysis. He was at Sheffield with me and is also a Unitedite. The computers can tell you everything about a player these days except who they are married to and what they call the kids. In pre-season I have had him look at the new players, the back four as a group and the wide men as a pair.
THE MEDICAL STAFF
Nigel Cox (physio), Paul Timson (assistant physio), Louis Langdown (fitness coach and sports scientist). Nigel was the No 2 at Sheffield and I knew he would relish running his own department. He has transformed it from a derelict, antiquated set-up into as modern a physiotherapy department as I have seen for a long time. Nigel is spot on. One of his strengths is rehabilitation of injured players. Some of the machines are remarkable in the data they come up with. We have a new one this year which measures the strengths of hamstrings, calves, etc. Then when a player is injured we can measure his performance against when he is fully fit. Paul is Nigel's assistant.
Louis is our fitness guy. I like to give youngsters a chance and he was working here with the academy, and in IT, when the post came up. He has got the qualifications and is heavily involved at this stage of season. Fitness, nutrition, all that, play such a massive part now.
THE KIT MAN
Brian Rogers. Brian has been at Palace for about 120 years, and looks slightly older. He is the proverbial Scrooge. Trying to get a set of kit for a trialist is like extracting teeth. We are convinced the kit rooms are booby-trapped. Brian and his assistant Jack Page also do some of the laundry and sort out who wears long sleeves, who wears short ones for matches. Players here get two sets of training kit so if we do two sessions they can change. If a player chucks his match-day shirt into the crowd he is expected to buy a replacement, though normally it is the crowd chucking things at the players.
Mark Perrin (Selhurst) and Phil Down (Beckenham). Mark is the head groundsman, but while he oversees it all he spends most of his time at Selhurst. I have to say I have never seen Selhurst look better than it is now, it used to be terrible.
Phil does the training ground. It is a 60-hour week, especially in a dry spell. The first-team pitch has pop-up sprinklers but the rest of it has to be watered manually. It makes you appreciate how lucky the big clubs are who have all the works for all their pitches.
THE ODD-JOB MEN
Dougie Terry and Kevin Corner. Dougie and Kevin probably have proper titles, but to me they are the odd-job men. If there is anything needs doing – new light bulb, broken toilet, laying flooring – they will be the ones doing it. Kevin is based at Selhurst and Dougie at Beckenham, so I see more of him. He was not in the best of health this summer but every time I was there he was up a ladder, painting. He would be 30 metres up and not looking very stable. He's done the new gym, the dressing rooms, anything that was needed. These are the sort of guys every club needs.
Christine Dowdeswell (assistant club secretary and manager's PA), Lisa Kavanagh (chairman's PA). Chris is my secretary/Girl Friday/Mother Theresa who somehow seems to handle everything that is thrown at her. I must be one of the luckiest managers ever regarding secretaries. Donna at Sheffield United was also tremendous as was Jill – Gary and Phil Neville's mum – at Bury. Chris is very much in Jill's mould; an experienced person to talk to the academy kids with all their problems, and at the same time really thorough, which is ideal for someone like me who forgets things.
People say, "Get one of those electronic organisers". They must be joking. There was a time when Phil Alexander, the chief executive, was away and I asked Simon "if he had a blueberry to get in touch". "No, but he's got a raspberry for a manager – you mean BlackBerry," was the reply. Anyone emailing me should not expect a quick reply. If Chris is not around I ask Lisa. She also keeps tabs on the chairman's whereabouts and is brilliant for anything to do with London.
Terry Byfield (communications manager), Thomas Coupland (communications officer), Chris Poynton (communications officer). Terry been here years, here is part of the furniture, complete gentleman. I don't know how he ended up with us. I've done well with PR men, Andy Pack at Sheffield United was super as was Neville Neville – yep, father of – at Bury.
It is so helpful to a manager when the PR guy is spot on, it takes so much off your mind. I speak to Terry most days. He does my programme notes and arranges the press day. This year we have modernised the training ground press room – the press lads will find it a big improvement.
Beverly Powell (catering manager, training ground). Bev always has a smile on her face. She obviously takes a bit of ribbing from the players, anyone who knows a footballer will know there is always something not quite right, always something to moan about. She has that Caribbean air about her. She goes to Antigua every summer, and I am sure she has stories to tell, but she has not shown us any photos of this year's holiday.
She'll discuss diets with Louis. The players are pretty good but we've had the odd one or two sneak out for a burger in the past. There is also a catering department at Selhurst, but they are mainly dealing with corporate and I do not have much to do with them.
Peter Morley. Always there on a match day to welcome visiting guests and looks after Sharon and the kids. He loves his football. Peter is in the mould of Derek Dooley at Sheffield.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Simon Jordan (chairman), Dominic Jordan (vice-chairman), Phil Alexander (chief executive), Kevin Watts (human resources and commercial). I think everybody expected it to be guns at 10 paces when Simon and I got together, but if you work with the same goals people get on. I don't think I could have had any better support from anyone. I would have liked a few more quid but which manager would not.
I think he will fulfil his threat to walk away. It has led to a strange feeling, a bit unreal, as I came down here for him really, but he has said it will not affect his enthusiasm for Palace and his support. I would love to take the club up this year for him.
Simon's brother, Dominic, oversees the whole club and spends an enormous amount of time on it. He has been instrumental this summer in building the new gym and press room at the training ground and improving a few other facilities like changing rooms. He is the better-looking one of the family.
Phil looks after contract negotiations and does all the commercial work like race days and dinners. He deals with other clubs when it comes to transfers – if I don't get a player I usually blame Phil. He used to play, mainly non-League, but his claim to fame is being a former kicker for the American football side the London Monarchs.
Kevin is also involved on the financial side. He is thorough and ties up a lot of the financial and legal aspects of contracts.
There are also a lot of people in the administration department, doing personnel, the lottery, accounts, the box office and running the Football in the Community programme. They are all important to the running of the club but I don't really have much to do with them myself.
David Moss (manager), Gary Issott (Under-18 coach and assistant academy manager), Dave Muir (education & welfare), Sangi Patel (physio). I am probably more interested in the academy than most managers, partly because they are already producing players for the first team, partly because William attends their Under-eights.
I have been amazed at the number of quality players at every level, right up to Under-16. It is quite rewarding to walk round and look at the different age groups and coaches, you can see why they have done so well. I am not being disrespectful to lads around here, but it seems football is seen as an opportunity to make something of yourself more than it was in Sheffield. There is so much more hunger because there is little else to do if you fail.
It Is going to be tough. When I look at the teams that have come down, Birmingham, Derby, Reading, and the parachute money they have; when I look at Charlton and Sheffield United – United's reserves would be mid-table; when I look at Wolves, Cardiff, Ipswich, QPR – who are throwing money around – and Watford; and the promoted teams Forest, Swansea and Doncaster, I think technically we should finish mid-table. But that is the challenge for me and the team, once again we have to perform above ourselves.
I am delighted for Doncaster. William and I went to watch them several times when I was out of work last season. They might be the team that surprises people. There's always one.