Ian Holloway: Big Sam broke my toe... and my heart
Every winter I'm reminded of the time Allardyce crunched my foot – and his team added insult to injury with last-gasp winner
Sunday 26 September 2010
We might have lost in the cruellest of fashion to Blackburn – a stoppage-time goal is never nice – but am I down? Not at all.
Someone asked if I was fearful because we've lost. I don't fear anything to be honest. I tweak the nose of fear and put an ice cube down the vest of terror.
I was delighted with the performance. I thought we were absolutely great, against a team that defends really well and are strong. We gave them a goal as well – and to be fair to my midfielder Charlie Adam it was a great finish. I wish it had been up the other end but such is life, you can't have everything.
Charlie was trying to knock it back to our goalkeeper Matt Gilks and it went wrong. Sam Allardyce's team do that to you because the delivery of their balls into the box is so good that you get a little scared. After that own-goal I felt we had a little spell when we felt sorry for ourselves and made a few wrong choices. But second half was probably the best we've played since I've been here. It was exhilarating to watch and I felt we deserved something, but unfortunately the quality of the last finish from Brett Emerton hurt us.
Well done to young Matty Phillips though. We signed him on deadline day from Wycombe. He is 19 and I threw him on as a late sub at right-back, a position he's not really played before. He did great, scored a super goal and I'm excited about seeing what he can do over the season because the lad has bags of talent.
It was good to see Big Sam yesterday, a bloke I'm reminded of every single winter morning. That's because I still have a bit of trouble with my toe from when he broke it!
I was at Wimbledon at the time but having a beast of a time in my career so they sent me out on loan to Torquay. There was this game where I was playing right wing and Sam was centre-half for the opposition. I remember getting the ball, taking it past the full-back and Sam came across to get a tackle in. I tried to lift it past him and he put his great God-knows-what-sized boot through the ball and I kicked his stud.
Talk about pain. I've never felt anything like it, I was in agony. To be fair to him he did show a bit of sympathy because I remember him standing over me saying "you all right lad?" It was towards the end of the season and the pitches were rock hard so I was wearing boots with little moulded studs on. I remember looking at his boots and they had these huge giant studs on. I said: "I think I've bust me toe," and shouted something unprintable about why was he wearing them. He looked at me and said "I always wear these," and showed me these great big long studs. I managed to play on but at the end of the game when I took my boot off it was like a cartoon – the foot swelled up right in front of my eyes. I had an x-ray and oh dearie me it wasn't nice – a broken toe. Every cold day in winter it still gives me jip, throbs a bit and makes me think of Sam.
Zebras against Chelsea's lions
Life teaches us lessons and we learned a harsh one at Chelsea. Our lads reminded me of a zebra being grabbed round the neck by a lion. The lion wouldn't let us get up and we were the poor old zebra with fear in our eye not knowing what to do. Credit to the opposition though – Chelsea were absolutely class. Their skilllevels and standard of fitness were unbelievable.
My wife has seen a lot of football – she's had to, following me about for the last 25 years – and she said they all looked like robots. She said everyone moved the same. They all controlled the ball the same and passed it the same. Even the defenders looked as comfortable on the ball as the strikers. Like me, she just sat there thinking "good gracious me, welcome to the Premier League". It was like Will Smith in I, Robot – bang, goal, lovely, everyone's smiling; bang, another goal, they're smiling even more.
If it had been any other team playing against them in that match, I'd have loved every minute because some of the stuff was so good technically. Drogba did a scissor-kick-style backheel at one point, from a ball that bounced and was in mid-air. I've seen Maradona do a similar thing but not quite as good as that.
But the truth is, how can you reallyenjoy it when it's your team on the end of it? I got my tactics wrong. We got our defensive and midfield lines wrong, lost our shape and they killed us. However, the disappointing thing for me is that for the first time I saw my lads go "oh no" and their heads went down. They can't have that attitude. Last season when we conceded, we picked ourselves up and tried to get a goal of our own back. That is why we did so well.
We need to have the same attitude because in this league we are going to be in a war every week, and at Chelsea our troops were wiped away. We were murdered and dead within 12 minutes, 2-0 down and shell-shocked. I hated it to be honest. I detested the fact that we didn't leave Stamford Bridge with people saying "aren't Blackpool a good team?"
But let's be fair, maybe that was down to our opponent. You have to say that sometimes. It's like the old joke about a boxer. The bloke sits back on his stool, absolutely cut to pieces, eyes everywhere, and his corner says: "Come on mate, don't worry, he hasn't laid a glove on you yet." The boxer goes: "Well watch the referee because someone's hitting me."
We got battered and when we came back out for the second half you might have seen me on TV laughing with the fourth official. That's because I said to him "Can you count their players please? Can you make sure they've only got 11 on there because that first half they must have had more!"
Chelsea might have spent a fortune but what a team they have, and the fact they continue to improve is testament to the training they do and the coaching they have. They were superb – if I had a hat, I'd be taking it off to them.
I was the piano carrier and Wilkins would play the concerto
I haven't got many friends in football. I don't think anybody likes me to be honest but I don't really care.
I mean it. I've had a row with nearly every manager on the planet because when I don't get what I want I am nasty. I've always been that way. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of people in football I like and enjoy talking to but I wouldn't really call them mates because you haven't got time to keep in touch with them. Being a manager is so time consuming. You have so many things to do it is difficult to have proper friendships in the game.
It was great meeting Ray "Razor" Wilkins at Chelsea, though. He is a top bloke who I got to know when we played together in the 90s. What's great about Razor and myself is I was 29 when I went to QPR and he was mid-30s. There was a massive respect from me instantly and in the end I earned that back from him because he said the way I played gave him an extra two years on his career.
I did play in an unselfish way, probably an ugly way. I did the dirty side of the game – the horrible, workmanlike stuff: get a foot in and play a simple pass, nothing spectacular at all.
I don't think I could have played at the top level now. I'm not big or strong enough and I haven't got the skill.
I was taught to be in position if not possession, and to pass the ball early to someone who can spray it around. So when I met Ray it was a joy, because he could spray it. I'd just try to get a foot in and win it and give the ball to him.
I've always said I was a piano carrier. I would carry the piano on to the stage and let someone like Ray sit down and play a concerto.
If I didn't do my bit, he couldn't do his job because he'd look stupid sat down playing thin air! So I had to put the piano down, that was me. There was a lot of my type of player years ago. There isn't now because you've got to be able to do all of it, not just the dirty side. In fact I can't think of one-modern day player I could compare myself to... mainly because I wouldn't want to insult anyone!
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