Pom­pey fans gave me dog’s abuse but I love club

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - Neil Warnock

I’VE man­aged in the Football League long enough to know that crazy re­sults are the name of the game. By the time you read this, plenty of bet­ting slips will be in pieces. But, this be­ing my first col­umn for The

Football League Pa­per, I thought I’d stick my neck out and tell you who I think will be the teams to watch this sea­son.

I may be wrong, I may be right... but at least I’m speak­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence – this July was the first time I’ve had a hol­i­day since 1968!

CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

UP at the top, I can’t look much fur­ther than my old club, QPR. The squad was al­ready mas­sive and they’ve made good ac­qui­si­tions in Karl Henry and Richard Dunne – just the type of player that a clever old hand like Harry Red­knapp knows you need in this di­vi­sion. With Char­lie Austin’s goals, they’ll be very hard to stop.

Wi­gan, too, have made a very shrewd sign­ing in Grant Holt. I’ve given Grant loads of stick be­cause he’s al­ways been a thorn in my side – ei­ther win­ning free­kicks, get­ting my men sent off or scor­ing goals. But the truth is I’d have loved him in my side.

Owen Coyle was absolutely bust­ing to get back in and now he’s work­ing with the best chair­man in the busi­ness in Dave Whe­lan – a guy who doesn’t panic when things go wrong and al­ways sup­ports his man­ager.You can’t ask for any more.

Le­ices­ter have cut back on wages but should go well, and the sign­ing of Jamie Mackie means Billy Davies’ Not­ting­ham For­est will chal­lenge.

But I think Brighton and Wat­ford – with­out Matej Vy­dra – will strug­gle to light the league up the way they did last year.

And though it pains me to say it, I just can’t see my old club Leeds get­ting any­where near.

The prob­lem is that they are a mas­sive club with de­mand­ing fans.While Brian McDer­mott did a fan­tas­tic job at Read­ing, his his­tory with the club and affin­ity with the sup­port­ers was a great safety net. At Leeds, he will get absolutely no lee­way if things don’t go right.

Yes, they’ve bought Luke Mur­phy from Crewe but, for me, it wasn’t the right call. If you’ve got £1.2m to spend, buy a striker. That side was crying out for goals.

That’s why it was such a strange de­ci­sion to let Steve Mori­son go out on loan to Mill­wall.

When we took Steve from Nor­wich he wasn’t quite match fit. But I al­ways felt that with a full pre-sea­son un­der his belt he’d have been a big as­set.

Any­way, Leeds’ loss is Mill­wall’s gain. I spoke to Steve Lo­mas in the sum­mer and I told him that if he could get Mori­son it would be the key to their sur­vival.

Of the new clubs, I think Bournemouth have the best chance. Ed­die Howe knows what he’s do­ing and gets great sup­port from his chair­man. If you asked me to put money on it, I’d say they’d be more likely to be top half than bot­tom.

Yeovil are ob­vi­ously in for a slog, al­though I do think Alan Tate will help them at the back. He im­proved us a lot at Leeds.

As for the other strug­glers, it could be a bleak year in York­shire with Barns­ley, Don­caster and even Hud­der­s­field find­ing it hard.

Mind you, with Jon Stead back at Hud- der­s­field, his home­town club, I think you’ll see a to­tally dif­fer­ent player, more re­laxed and con­fi­dent. I think he’ll come up trumps and if he does they’ll be OK.

LEAGUE ONE

THEY won’t thank me for say­ing it but my old club Sh­effield United can’t com­pete on wages with the Wolves of this world.

The lads from Mo­lineux have to start as favourites, es­pe­cially with Mr Re­li­able Kenny Jack­ett go­ing there. They are made to mea­sure, those two.

With the squad they have and Kenny’s knowl­edge of the game, I think he’ll revel in that job. He’ll al­most feel like he’s won the pools!

It’s a hos­tile crowd when things aren’t go­ing well, but it’s a fan­tas­tic one when they are and I think they’ll get be­hind him.

United will chal­lenge, though, and I also think Peter­bor­ough, Rother­ham and Craw­ley will go well. Kevin Davies is a fan­tas­tic sign­ing for Pre­ston.

And Brent­ford? That all de­pends if last sea­son’s un­luck­i­est team start with a nasty hang­over! It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how MK Dons do. In the past, Karl Robin­son has been praised to the rafters. But last year was the first time he failed to meet ex­pec­ta­tions as a man­ager. It will be in­trigu­ing to see if Karl is able to re­group.

Talk­ing of young man­agers, what about 31-year-old Lee John­son at Old­ham? I read a few ar­ti­cles about how he was go­ing to get them play­ing the right way.

Well, it’s fine say­ing what you’re go­ing to do, but it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent thing to make it hap­pen. He’s prob­a­bly in for a few harsh lessons but I hope he suc­ceeds. It would be nice to see Old­ham back at the top.

At the bot­tom, my old mate Gra­ham Turner has done a fan­tas­tic job at Shrews­bury. I don’t know where he plucks them from but he’ll need to find a striker some­where be­cause they haven’t got enough goals to stay up.

Then there’s Colch­ester, Port Vale and Carlisle, who will be des­per­ate to get enough points on board early doors to see them through.

LEAGUE TWO

Ev­ery­one will fancy Portsmouth for League Two.Why? It’s sim­ple – they’ve sold 10,000 sea­son tick­ets.

For me, Portsmouth have the best crowd in the coun­try. The vol­ume, the at­mos­phere, the sheer din – it used to do my head in when they started bang­ing that bloody drum. Ev­ery time I stood up to shout in­struc­tions I’d be drowned out. They used to give me dog’s abuse but I have to say, it’s a club I would have loved to man­age.

Ch­ester­field have im­proved un­der Paul Cook, Fleet­wood have got good back­ing. Along with Aidy Boothroyd’s Northamp­ton, I think they will be push­ing for au­to­matic.

Strangely, I also fancy Bury to have a good sea­son. My old mate Ron­nie Jep­son has gone in there as as­sis­tant and I think he could end up be­ing Kevin Black­well’s best sign­ing. The dress­ing room will be spot on and that’s what you need at that level.

The club close to my home and close to my heart is Ply­mouth. I’ve had a few chats with John Sheri­dan over the sum­mer and it’s clear the gloom has lifted af­ter the disas­ter of the past few years.

James Brent, the owner, has given them a solid base and, with John’s ex­per­tis, and his des­per­a­tion for suc­cess, I don’t think they’ll be far from the play-offs.

I’ll also be keep­ing a beady eye on my old player Paul Cox, who won the Con­fer­ence with Mans­field last year. I’ll be hon­est – I never saw Coxy as a man­ager. He was a smash­ing lad but al­ways a bit too laid back for me! He’s done fan­tas­tic there so far.

The teams I worry about are Wim­ble­don and Da­gen­ham, where an­other one of my old play­ers,Wayne Bur­nett, is in charge. Nei­ther have enough goals.

And the other two are Hartle­pool – who just don’t have a big enough squad – and Ac­cring­ton.With the crowds they get and the bud­get there, it will be a mas­sive test for James Beat­tie in his first man­age­ment role.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

PAS­SION­ATE: Portsmouth fans are now in charge of the club

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