Ian Holloway: English spirit is essential but Spain are a pain

Blackpool manager's unique take on the world
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The Independent Online

World Cups are very evenly balanced competitions and England have got every chance. But the last few months haven't been ideal. Is Gareth Barry fully fit? Is Ashley Cole? It's just a shame that we aren't going into it with every player in top shape. But if the lads play with the right spirit, I believe they can be good enough.

I want them to show me and the nation that they really care about the badge on their chest. That is all that matters to me. But we can't be expectant, which is what this nation tends to do.

I always feel sorry for poor old Andy Murray. Every time Wimbledon is on, everybody is like: "Go on Andy son!" Then he gets knocked out and it's "oh he's rubbish".

We shouldn't pin our hopes and dreams on a team or an individual. We have to offer total support and that's what I'll do. They've all got my blessing and if they get it wrong I'll still be proud of them providing they play with an English spirit.

But I must admit I'm a bit nervous about the first game against the US because they have some fantastic athletes and football is improving all the time over there. They are certainly no pushovers, which is a concern because in this competition you need a good start.

I'd have rather kicked off against Algeria, with the greatest respect to them, because I think the other two games are a complete and utter nightmare. Slovenia have some fantastic players, including Robert Koren, who smashed one in from 30 yards when he played for West Bromwich Albion against my Blackpool team last season. Fingers crossed he does not repeat the trick.

Everybody is talking about our last couple of friendlies but forget those. The manager has made his mind up about the squad. Theo Walcott's out, Shaun-Wright Phillips is in. That was his big call but I trust Mr Capello and put my faith in him.

He's Italian and they are a nation that has risen to the World Cup challenge many times, so if anybody has the knowledge about how to do well, it is him.

Mind you, thank God we're not in Group G: Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal and North Korea. All the best in that! We might have been packing our bags pretty quickly if we'd been drawn in that one.

Who's most likely to win then? It's a tough call but I do like Spain. The way they move the ball around is absolutely phenomenal. They don't care about how tall or how tough you are. If you are a good footballer with a great brain and great movement then the manager will play you. And that's how it should be.

Time for detailed notes – unless England are on

As a manager, I watch World Cup games in a different way to most fans. Unless it’s England. Anyone else and Imake detailed notes about the game, writing down the tactics, what a certain team are doing and how they are doing it. But that goes out of the window when England are in action.

I like to go and get a bit of atmosphere so I’ll be going to my local with my family. I remember I was in St Albans watching the game where Beckham bent in that last-gasp freekick against Greece to get us to the 2002 World Cup. The wife had gone out to do a bit of shopping so I was with my brother-in-law. When Becks scored that one I almost hit the roof. What a free-kick to get us there! I’ll never forget it and it is nice to experience moments like that as a fan.

So when England play I take off my manager’s hat and have faith in the manager we’ve got. I even wear something different, like a T-shirt I’ve bought specially for the occasion. In other words I am basically one of those mad England supporters like everyone else, who ends up cussing and cheering and crying all at the same time, because that’s what we normally go through.

For all the other games I’ll sit in front of the TV and analyse it. I remember watching England play Trinidad & Tobago at the last World Cup and I had never seen tactics like that. How hard was it for us to break them down when their two forwards marked our full-backs? They let our centre-halves have it, they passed it into Frank Lampard but he got closed down. We kept passing it backwards because we didn’t know what to do. And it wasn’t until Peter Crouch got us a goal that it happened for us.

It is just amazing. You think it is hard to shut up shop in a tournament like that. But what is harder is having the creativity to break people down. That’s what you have to take your hat off to: managers who can put someone in a different position, completely throw someone.

Look at when Manchester United lost to Barcelona in the Champions’ League final last year. Throwing Messi up the middle absolutely killed Man U.They hadn’t seen that coming. United’s left back couldn’t mark him and their preparation was in vain. It’s so clever how you can do things.

So I’ll be looking at all of that tactically – the different shapes, who is positive, does a team play a counterattacking style or do they sit on it and build slowly from the centre halves, which I don’t like but it is international football. I can’t wait to make some notes on it and try and learn.

Archie Gemmill and my Kempes hairdo

I love the World Cup. My earliest memory is of my dad singing and shouting in the street outside our house. I had no idea what he was doing but I’ve never seen anybody so happy in my life. When I looked out of the window there were people in the street singing, crying and dancing. That was 1966 and I was only three years old but it has stayed with me all that time, which shows the power of football.

I actually cried when Pele got kicked to pieces but refused to come off. I wanted to see how great he was because he was at his peak then. He hobbled around but wouldn’t come off – the man must have been hard as nails. Talk about wanting to win.

I remember Peter Bonetti and the West Germans coming back from 2-0 to beat us in Mexico. Then there was Argentina in 1978. I didn’t really like their team but I liked the hairdos. I started to think I was from South America and had a great barnet going on, which went down well in Bristol as you can imagine.

Johann Cruyff, what a player he was. Imagine having a turn named after you.That is pretty special. I remember sitting there watching him, thinking: “wow, how did he do that?”

Archie Gemmill’s goal. What a goal. God’s player, it was amazing. I could go on for hours about my memories and that it is what it is all about.

It’s why it is such a fantastic competition and I can’t wait for it to start.

Big Brother? Actually, don't bother

The behaviour of certain England players over the last few months has tarnished things. Some of the things we read in the papers don't really get you on the lads' side, do they? At the end of the day it should be all about football and I'd like to stick to that.

Unfortunately the whole of society has gone that way in general. Everybody is celebrity-crazy. We like to sit and watch what celebrities do. We even watch people we don't know sit in some house doing silly things and making themselves look a bit stupid. But that's the way the world's gone over the last few years and whether I like it or not, it is something that people seem to enjoy. For me, though, football should be about what happens on the pitch, not off it.

Hopefully when the football starts, all of what's gone on over recent times will be forgotten and away we'll go.

Burger me...I must be famous!

Being a Premier League manager might take some getting used to. I picked up a national newspaper the other day and there was a story about me queueing for a burger at a service station on the M5. It's true. I'd taken my wife, Kim, away to Cornwall for the weekend to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary so we were travelling that way. But I can't believe that me stopping at a service station is in the paper.

What on earth is going on? Someone needs to get a life. Do they think Premier League managers don't eat? What next? Do they think we don't go to the toilet like everyone else? Of course we do. Even the Queen uses the toilet! On the upside, maybe I'll get a sponsorship deal with a fast-food restaurant and get free burgers all season!

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