Look back on anger: how Holloway put stress on the leash and gained extra bite

The QPR manager lived close to the edge until a brush with reality TV. Jason Burt meets a changed man

Not so long ago Ian Holloway acquired a dog. But it is the Queen's Park Rangers manager himself who has been barking. After all, this was the man who, on achieving promotion last season, declared: "Every dog has its day. And today's woof day."

Not so long ago Ian Holloway acquired a dog. But it is the Queen's Park Rangers manager himself who has been barking. After all, this was the man who, on achieving promotion last season, declared: "Every dog has its day. And today's woof day."

Nine months later it is lunchtime and Holloway is on the training ground. He is 300 yards away, but everything is audible. The expletives are ripe. The blue paint on the walls is peeling. That is through decay, but it could easily be Holloway's hot breath. He is not so much hairdryer as blowtorch. He is extraordinarily intense, motivated, relentless. It used to be rage, now, in his "new way of life" it is channelled.

The dog was recommended by an expert in anger management. Taking it for walks, with his wife, Kim, allows Holloway to "step out" of his relentless job. He consulted the counsellor after taking part in a BBC programme, The Stress Test, which laid bare what an "angry little fella" he was. "They followed me at home and work," Holloway explains "and went, 'Oh my God, this boy needs help'."

The counselling was intense. "He normally does sessions that last six weeks. With me it was one. It was totally engrossing. He kept going on and on and on. He was in my car when I hit traffic and I was late. It was as if I wanted to kill him. He was winding me up to the point where I would have beat him up. But he made me see some absolutely horrendous things."

Such as Holloway's behaviour. "I'm 41 and how I've been behaving all my life - I was very confused between determination and anger," Holloway says. "I felt I needed my anger to get me where I've got. But I needed my determination. The anger was just a negative side that I didn't need if I'd have thought differently." If he had not got help: "I would not be sat here. Without a shadow of a doubt."

Instead, Holloway has just signed a new three-year contract. With QPR, following boardroom changes, administration and relegation, sitting secure in the Championship, it is well earned. Security means much. Indeed, it is at the heart of the matter, which is all the more ironic given that Holloway is in football. "You imagine the average person," he says. "In their life there is despair and disappointment and happiness. We have that all in one week. It happens all at once. Whoosh! You can score a goal, give a goal away, break a leg. In one game. Your life is on a knife-edge."

Holloway's career was also in the balance. He dismisses talk that he was to be sacked, after QPR started badly, as "paper reports" but there was substance, however outrageously unjustified. "It helped us refocus," he says. QPR responded with an astonishing run of seven successive victories. But for the old Ian Holloway that would not have been enough. "Lack of belief," he says. "I had the feeling that all I had done meant nothing if I lost."

The counsellor showed him otherwise. "The whole world's like the emperor's new clothes, isn't it?" Holloway says. "What a fantastic story that is. He ended up walking about naked because no one wanted to be the one to say 'hang on'. I was living a pretence. The fella said to me: 'Why are you two people? Why do you talk to yourself differently than you talk to your players? I would encourage them. But when it was Ian Holloway I would absolutely slaughter everything I did. I thought I was going to be a success because I wanted it bad enough. And he said, 'Yes, but you want it in a negative way'. I thought I was a problem-solver and he proved to me I was a problem-causer. Because of my anger."

Split personalities. It is an instructive comment. After all, Holloway is the father of identical twins. "One cell splits in two, so you should have the same child, right?' he says. "You look at them and you say 'yeah', but their personalities are worlds apart. How can that be? It's all the things you get around you, what you see, how you perceive people." And what neither girl needed, Holloway finally realised, was a father who "took problems home, worried, had a row with my wife, shouted at my daughter". He adds: "The last thing I want to be is a screaming parent who's only showing them how not to deal with things. What I'm trying to do is to be on a level and not give them my anxieties". He was, he admits, "offloading".

Both Eve and Chloe, now in their teens, were born profoundly deaf. Holloway and his wife both carried a gene that meant they were susceptible. They had another daughter, Harriet, and she was deaf, too.

The Holloways had been told the chances of that happening were the same as winning the Lottery five times. It was a huge, angry struggle. Kim suffered "chronic depression", Ian got more furious. Shouting when confronted with deafness surely has an easy psychological link. "I've learned so much from my daughters' situation," says Holloway, who also has a son, William, with normal hearing. "To have a sense that's missing is unbelievable."

He has a natural empathy, a natural desire to be a team player. "Life, for me, has always been about people," Holloway says. "They intrigue me and I want to be with them. I can't tell you why I want to be a manager. But I get high on life, on people, on relationships." It seems he has provided the answer.

Right now he is full of admiration for Jose Mourinho. "I watched Mourinho with his players [against Blackburn]. Good gracious me, look at what he's got going there." It is how he played his football - 561 games of unrelenting midfield intensity for Bristol Rovers and QPR. As a player he could use anger in a "positive way". "You take the ball off me and... you know what I mean," he says, grimacing. His mentor, Gerry Francis, rescued him from Wimbledon. "I was their highest-ever buy at that time. Forty grand. My dad was ill. Gerry said: 'I saw you play and you're rubbish.' So I said: 'Why do you want me?' and he said, 'I can make you play better'."

Several times Holloway mentions his parents. From both he received his garrulous nature. From his mother he took his emotion - "I'm proud of that. If she dropped a hankie she'd probably cry" - and from his father, who died from a heart attack aged 59, his humour and loyalty. "I spent a long time with my dad when I was young," he says. "He was only 5ft 7in but he had the personality of a 25ft tall fella". He was also, like his son, a deeply caring father.

"My dad was adopted and he didn't find out until he was 13," Holloway says. "Who he thought was his dad got blown up in the war and it wasn't until the insurance man handed over a cheque and said, 'Is your step-mum in, Bill?' that he knew. It broke his heart. But, for him, family was everything and for me my team is my family also."

Holloway's stories have sometimes got him into trouble. His famous "bird in a taxi" analogy led to a reaction from women's groups. "I like to be, not shocking, but different," he says. "I find life amusing. I like to laugh." He also does it with a new sense of balance." I just get up and look in the mirror and say to myself, 'I'm all right, warts and all'.

It has led to him being a better husband, father, manager. "I want to be part of something that starts broken and I want to fix it and see it sail off into the sunset," he says. "As long as I want to say 'good morning' before everyone else. The minute I don't, I'm no good. Without commitment, Ian Holloway is nothing."

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