Ian Holloway: First panic... then a spot of gardening

I know exactly how Steve Bruce is feeling after losing his job – because it happened to me too

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The Independent Football

Trust me, Steve Bruce will never have felt worse than he does now. Being sacked is horrendous for any football manager. We're not stupid. We all know it will happen at some point, but you still can't prepare yourself for the moment it does.

One minute you are in charge of everything – picking the team, organising training, signing players, talking to the media. Your entirelife revolves around one club. And then the next moment you have nothing. You are sat at home feeling empty, lost and depressed, and no one wants to talk to you any more.

The initial emotion is panic. You instinctively look who else is out of work, what the market place is like, and think: "Shit, I might not get another job."

After I got sacked by Leicester three years ago, I was out of the game for 12 months. I was panicking and thinking I'd never get back in. Then the Blackpool job came up, I went for an interview, got it... and my agent told me not to take it. He said if I messed it up, my career would be over. That and the fact he wasn't going to get any money because the chairman at Blackpool is tight as hell and never pays agents! Thank Christ I ignored him and accepted the job.

That got me back in but being out of the loop is weird. For a start, when a club gets rid of you, your agent has to negotiate a settlement. That isn't always straightforward because not everyone gets paid up. In France no one can be appointed manager until the club has completely settled with the previous incumbent. Unfortunately that's not the rule over here.

Then there's the old gardening leave, which I was placed on at QPR. They keep paying you but tell you not to come near the club. Then, if you get another job, they pay you a pittance of what they owe you. It is completely unfair.

Another strange oddity Steve will discover is that you aren't able to go and watch another game. If you do, you are viewed as putting pressure on a manager. It happened to me. A few months after leaving Leicester I decided I really wanted to see some live football, so my wife Kim and I drove to Swindon, purely on the basis that it was the nearest ground to where we lived.

It was Swindon-Huddersfield and the fans spent the entire match questioning why I was there. The Monday papers were full of stories about how I wanted to become Swindon or Huddersfield manager. Ludicrous.

Thankfully for me, the BBC got in touch and asked if I fancied covering a few games for them. I remember my first one – Birmingham v Wolves – and I loved it. I was in the press box, so I learned what journalists do on matchdays, and I turned up with a reason to be there and with no pressure on me. I told it how it was and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm sure Steve will be approached via his agent to do media work and I wouldn't be surprised if he agreed.

There is no doubt Steve will get another job soon too. He is a very good manager and I genuinely feel he was unlucky to get the sack. Goalscoring centre-forwards are vital and a team isn't the same when they lose theirs. The club might have got £24 million for Darren Bent but where was the £24m signing to take his place? There wasn't one. Steve wasn't allowed to spend that on a replacement, so how is it his fault if results then dip?

It happened to me at Bristol Rovers. In one summer I was made to sell my strikers Bobby Zamora, Jason Roberts and Jamie Cureton. I lost 78 goals. It earned us £2.35m and the board gave me £250,000 to spend on a replacement. I brought in a lad called MickeyEvans. But shortly after, with results not great, they said Mickey was rubbish and sacked me. Mickey went to Plymouth and helped them get back-to-back promotions. I rest my case.

PFA must do more to end this taboo

How ridiculous that in an industry as rich and as huge as football there is only one real place to go for a player with a problem.

Any lad in the game who is suffering from difficulties with alcohol, stress, or any kind of off-the-pitch issue, goes to the Sporting Chance Clinic. Let me get this straight. It is a wonderful organisation. But surely the PFA should use its money to open more clinics which are available to all players.

Since Gary Speed's tragic passing, I noted that 10 players have been in touch with Sporting Chance for advice about various issues and I'm not surprised in the slightest.

We are in a very dangerous game and we might train players physically but do we train them mentally?

Footballers are in a very macho, lads-only environment, where it isn't very manly to speak up and say: "Er, actually I need some help here."

Mention a psychiatrist and your team-mates think you've lost your marbles, so no one asks for help.

I've first-hand experience of this because I was in charge at QPR when Clarke Carlisle came to my office and asked me to help him.

But Clarke is different to most.He knew he had a problem with alcohol. I referred him to Sporting Chance and it got him back on track.

Too many people in the game think it is a sign of weakness to get help. It isn't and I hope the one good thing that comes out of Gary's death, is that the taboo about players asking for help will disappear.

Bring on the third-round draw – thankfully Vauxhall are already out

I am looking forward to seeing who we get when the FA Cup third-round draw is made. I love everything about the competition and have done ever since I saw Ronnie Radford's 30-yard screamer all those years ago.

It can be a tough competition for managers though. I remember when my QPR side got knocked out at home by non-league Vauxhall Motors. The fans went mad because they'd expected us to turn up and win 10-0.

I had one fella, a taxi driver, sit in my office the day after for two hours telling me everything I'd got wrong. I asked him to write down the team he would have played, then explained to him that nine of the lads he'd listed were injured. Whether we get a giant like Manchester United or one of the minnows, I will do what I always do and select a starting XI I think is good enough to win on the day.

We probably won't win the thing but it would be nice to have a good cup run. My last one was at Plymouth when we reached the quarter-final.

We lost to Watford 1-0 and their Ben Foster, on loan from United at the time, made about 15 world-class saves. Then Watford were drawn against United next round and Foster wasn't allowed to play. How unfair was that on us?

It's why I've always hated these clauses in loan deals stopping players facing their parent clubs – they should get rid of it.

Lucas injury has hit us too

I hope the Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva makes a swift recovery.

I don't like it when any player gets a serious injury, but this one particularly hurt me because the knock-on effect is that I've lost Jonjo Shelvey.

He was banging in the goals for us at Blackpool – six in nine starts – but Liverpool have recalled him from his loan spell. Kenny Dalglish quite rightly needs cover in the midfield area.

That's life and it's the risk you take when you make a loan signing.

I'm just glad I've given Jonjo a few games and hopefully helped improve him a little. I have no doubt he will be a top, top player and the best news of all is that he's English.

Get well soon, Keith. I love you

I can't end this column without sending my best wishes to Keith Southern, one of my midfielders at Blackpool.

Keith underwent surgery to remove a tumour from his testicles this week. He is making a good recovery and we hope he will beback in training with us in the newyear.

It is a condition which has affected several players in the past – Neil Harris and John Hartson spring to mind – and affects young blokes everywhere.

Keith is a great lad. He's in his 10th season with the club and he's still one of the first names on my teamsheet.I know he will make a speedy recovery and I just want him to know I lovehim to bits.

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