Andy Cole: Chopra could make the difference today but DJ can mix it with the best

Forward Thinking

Cardiff have reached today's £90m play-off final for one particular reason: they've scored more goals this season than in recent years, and a lot of those goals have come at important times and been crucial in sealing wins by a one-goal margin, or nicking a point in a draw.

Two of Cardiff's players, Peter Whittingham and Michael Chopra, have scored half the club's goals between them, so it's easy to see why both those players made it into the Championship team of the season, as voted by their peers. And while I don't know a lot of Cardiff's players personally, I do know Chopra, or Chops as he's known in the game, and on an occasion like today he could be the man to make all the difference.

Cardiff have slowly climbed the Championship in the past few years, finishing 13th, 12th, seventh and now fourth in the last four seasons. They've been there or thereabouts without making the final push. Will they make it the last step to the Premier League? Certainly if they do, I expect Chops to be part of making it happen. He is one of those prodigies who hasn't lived up to the billing he was given as a teenager but he's a finisher who has thrived at Championship level. I saw that close up when we were at Sunderland together, under Roy Keane, albeit briefly at the start of the 2007-08 season before I went on loan to Burnley.

Famously, Chops joined the Newcastle academy aged 10, then signed as a pro as soon as was possible at 17, and then? Well, then he generally didn't cut it in the Premier League, although he did score the fastest League goal by a sub, for Newcastle against Sunderland, in 2006.

I don't think there's much doubt that Chops has played his best football below Premier League level, where his instinctive play makes him that bit sharper than your average player in and around the box. He didn't really pull up trees with Sunderland but in various loans spells in the Championship, and in several different stints at Cardiff, he's delivered.

Lining up against him today for Blackpool will be another forward who I've played with, DJ Campbell, who was at Birmingham at the same time I was there at the end of the 2006-07 season. Again, he's a player who thrives at his level, and he's also got more creativity about him than Chopra. Whereas Chops is clinical in converting chances created by others, Campbell conjures goals from nothing.

On that same theme, Ian Holloway has made something from virtually nothing (in resource terms) at Blackpool. He's had about £500,000 to spend, possibly less, and in one campaign he's taken a team who've struggled to make an impression for years to the brink of the Premier League.

He's a breath of fresh air as a manager, and while I think the game will be fairly close, I wouldn't be surprised if the maverick Holloway finds something a little bit extra from his team today, and I'd be happy to see Blackpool win.

I don't know Holloway well but our paths did cross once when we appeared on the same radio show and he seemed a decent guy and a good motivator. I take my hat off to him for reaching the play-off final, not least because it involved beating Nottingham Forest in the semi. Two wins in that tie, 2-1 at home and 4-3 away, mean Blackpool have beaten Forest four times this season: they also did a home-and-away double in the league.

If Holloway is the up and coming maverick of English football management, then the established No 1 maverick of the global game is Jose Mourinho, who will have the latest of many moments in the spotlight tonight. I said throughout the Champions League that Barcelona were the team to beat, and if they didn't win the tournament then the side who beat them would. I stand by that, which means I think Mourinho's Internazionale will get the better of Bayern Munich to win this evening.

I'm a huge fan of Mourinho; his record is astonishing, and it's going to get better. Winning titles in Portugal, England and Italy, as well as thriving in the Champions League with different clubs means he's already got his name up in lights.

I expect Inter to win the Champions League. I then expect Mourinho to move to Real Madrid and win the title, and improve their Champions League record. And then I expect him back in England.

The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar.

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Travel
Streets ahead: Venice
travelWhat's trending on your wishlist?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect