Ian Holloway: Every underdog has its day. Let's lick Liverpool!
Storming Old Trafford with QPR as a player gives me hope – though I was in the toilet at the time
Sunday 03 October 2010
If Roy Hodgson is reading this, I think Steven Gerrard looks absolutely exhausted and you need to rest him again. Come on Roy, I'm serious, you've got to think of England. Stevie is vital for them. We have to make sure he's in perfect shape for the Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro.
Of course this has nothing at all to do with the fact that I have to take my Blackpool team to Anfield today whatsoever... Gerrard in their team or not, I can't wait for the game because Liverpool is one of THE great games in world football.
We will be massive underdogs but the underdog doesn't always roll over and die. I know this because I was in the QPR team which went to Old Trafford on New Year's Day, 1992, and shocked everyone by winning 4-1.
No one gave us a chance and, at the end, I remember our assistant manager, Frank Sibley, telling us how people would be talking about this game for a long time. I thought: "what's he on about? We've won a football match, that's all." I didn't realise the significance of the scoreline. But he was right because even now, on the very rare occasions Man United get beat by that score, I get journalists ringing asking for memories of our win.
My main recollection of the day was Gerry Francis' team-talk before kick-off. I was so nervous about playing at Old Trafford I was on the toilet. I remember shouting through into the dressing-room: "It's OK gaffer, I can hear you." But I didn't need to be in the team-talk because we were 2-0 up after eight minutes and I hadn't touched the ball.
That must have been the secret to it – keep the ball away from Holloway lads, we're doing better without him! Our striker Dennis Bailey had a blinder. Everything he did came off and he scored a great hat-trick. I don't think I've ever seen Steve Bruce get the run-around like he did that day. The odd thing was that turned out to be the high point of Dennis' career. He started in the same vein the following week at Everton but then got injured, and never actually played at that same level again. There were a couple of things in our favour that day. United left out Andrei Kanchelskis and Ryan Giggs and their team looked a bit shocked about that. That definitely helped us. But we still had to go there and upset the applecart – and that's what we haven't done at Blackpool yet. Maybe in the opener at Wigan, when we played well and won 4-0, it was a shock to people because everybody had us down to get beat. It would be nice to have a similar outcome against Liverpool but we would have to play out of our skin. Every player would have to be on top of their game, and even then we'd need some luck.
What I want us to do is get shots in and test them, something I didn't think we managed against Chelsea and Arsenal. In those two trips to London we got stuffed by 10 goals and scored none. I've not liked that.
Liverpool is a different kettle of fish. I've watched their last few games and they did let two goals in last weekend at home to Sunderland so we need to have a look at that and see if we can cause them some trouble, force Pepe Reina to make a few saves.
But I just can't wait for my Blackpool to face Liverpool. In a League match. Who would have thought it?
The players and the fans will love Anfield. Liverpool have such historyand tradition and those are qualities that you can't buy. Our lads will feel the occasion when they walk down the tunnel and see the "This is Anfield" sign. It is a true theatre of football and we can only be very envious of what they have achieved down the years. But the reality is three points are at stake which could go towards helping us survive.
Shame red and blue can't mix
I have played and won at Anfield once before and my overriding memory of the day was the Liverpool fans. They were magnificent, probably the best set of supporters I've ever seen.
Despite the fact we'd just beaten their team, to a man the home fans stood and applauded us off the pitch.
It is a shame Everton and Liverpool have such rivalry now because it was not like that until a few years ago. They are two great clubs but the fans could wear the shirt of the team they supported and stand next to each other on the same bit of terracing. Unfortunately that just isn't the case any more.
I'll take my referee rap on the chin but I still want some answers
I thought I knew everything I needed to about referees but now I am not so sure. I've been charged by the FA with improper conduct, for what I said to the referee Mike Dean after our game with Blackburn last week.
I swore at him in the tunnel afterwards and said some awful things for which I apologise. I was wrong and all I can say is sorry. Mind you he did tell me I was only upset because we'd lost, which was like a red rag to a bull because it wasn't true.
I was frustrated because I just can't get my head around how different it is in the Premier League compared to the Championship. To put it simply, something that is not a foul in the division below might be given in the top flight and that is taking some getting used to.
I watch a lot of European football and a breath of wind seems to knock someone down. That has crept into our game. When David Beckham left Manchester and went on his travels, he came back to play for England and was suddenly exquisite at getting free-kicks. I don't think he learned that on the training ground in Manchester. The other night I saw Michael Carrick – a great lad, a great player and an honest boy – play for United. Someone pulled his right arm and he fell over and got a free-kick. I am sat thinking: 'Why, when someone pulls your arm, do your legs collapse?"
He knew if he went down and stopped play, the foul would be magnified and the referee would have to do something. The ref should say "get up, I haven't given that free-kick, play on".
I am seeing it over and over again. I saw it against Fulham. One minute Bobby Zamora was battering my centre-halves, the next minute he's gone down like he has been shot. I saw it with Damien Duff on the halfway line. Someone went near him, down he goes, free-kick.
I've got to be honest – it is quite skilful. But what I'm saying is that I need to get an explanation of why that kind of thing is a free-kick and show my defenders. I'll have to tell my players to stand and be tight, but not to push or pull because your opponent is going to go down.
However, I accept what I said last week was wrong and whatever punishment I get from the authorities, I'll take on the chin. In the meantime I'll be asking for a meeting with the head of referees because I want some explanations about what is a foul these days. I know he'll be right and I'll be wrong but at least if I talk to someone who knows what he is on about face-to-face then we might make some progress.
Turning into Jed Clampett...
I have finally got my house move sorted, and have settled in a little village near Pendle Hill. It has been a nightmare few weeks though and what bugs me most is how can one family accumulate such absolute rubbish in a loft? Where on earth does it all come from? How much stuff do human beings accumulate?
I was looking at some things thinking 'when on earth have I last used this, and why is it in a box?' And the daft thing is that instead of throwing it out we're taking it with us to the new place! It's madness. On top of that we've had to move all our animals as well. One of my farmer friends helped me bring up our chickens, dogs and ducks. Honestly I felt like Jed Clampett. But we're all up North now and all I can say is God help the neighbourhood!
The one saving grace is that I haven't seen my next-door neighbour since we got beat by Blackburn last week because he is a massive Rovers fan. I made sure I made the V-sign over the wall last Sunday morning so I think he probably got the message. Put it this way, I haven't seen a Blackburn scarf tied to my railings yet so I think I've got away with that one.
A proper Charlie
I'm thinking of a new tactic today – getting one of my lads to man-mark our skipper Charlie Adam. He scored a cracking own goal last week.
I thought I had covered every scenario Blackburn might hit us with from dead-ball situations and crosses. I'd told my lads exactly who their best headers were... unfortunately I didn't think Charlie would be among their best headers.
Mind you, I've always said Charlie was a good finisher and that just summed it up. Which other player would have thought of knocking it in the corner like that? Fantastic. I'm having a joke about it because you can't be too serious about these things. He'll learn from it and never do it again I'm sure. Own goals and mistakes happen because Blackburn are so good at what they do. And please don't call it long ball because it's not.
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