Crystal Palace — mired in 14th place in the Championship —could’ve well done with this afternoon off, given the sort of fixture congestion that awaits the South London club. “I have to be careful what I say as it is obviously tea and coffee money for the FA,” mutters manager Neil Warnock (above, left, photographed with another fella who isn’t in a great mood tonight), who thankfully for readers of the Independent, isn’t nearly so careful about what he writes.
On Wednesday I found we now have to play Burnley on a Wednesday night, 11 March, instead of the Tuesday, because they are involved in the FA Cup the previous Sunday. Having got £300,000 for the TV coverage of that match, plus the gate money, we have to change to accommodate them. Apparently it is a rule which was brought in because of my then club Sheffield United’s involvement in the semi-final against Arsenal in 2003 when we had to play Nottingham Forest two days later. So I’ve been personally done twice.
Why am I so upset? Because in six days we now play Burnley, Swansea and Barnsley away. We will get back to Palace from Burnley at 4am on the Thursday “ so there will be no training that day. We set off for Swansea on Friday morning returning at 11pm. After Sunday off we travel to Barnsley on Monday. So the team are playing in three long-distance matches on the road in the space of six days “ they will be travelling 1,256 miles. So will our fans. Yet we have eight days’ spare at the end of the season between the last two games. The fixture guys are saying we cannot play then. Obviously there could be tornadoes developing.
I ask you, first the FA, now the Football League, it has got me thinking it has to be pay-back time. Do you think Alex Ferguson or any of the others would be asked to do this? Is there any wonder we complain, and ask the question, “why are amateurs running the game?” It is obvious to me the people making the decision on the fixtures and on the commission cannot have played the game.
I tried to ring Dave Cookson and Paul Snell, who I’m told are the officials responsible at the Football League, but they have had to deal with more important business with the Carling Cup. I wouldn’t think Crystal Palace are high up on their agenda.
I want to invite Dave to travel with me for those six days as my guest. I will personally pay his travel, accommodation and expenses to be with me. That is the only way to show people sat in an office making decisions like this just how ridiculous it is. I’m still waiting for an answer.