Ian Holloway: How to beat one of the planet's best teams without my two best players

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The Independent Online

They reckon a week is a long time in politics: try seven days at a football club. I'm still struggling to work out how we could be so superb against Tottenham – a game we won 3-1 – and then get tubbed by Wolves a few days later.

God knows what to expect against Chelsea tomorrow, but hopefully it will be a damn sight better than what we produced at Molineux.

What happened at Wolves was a major disappointment, not least because we could have gone 10 points clear of them. Now they are only four behind us. But the result was not the main source of frustration, it was that every member of my team, to a man, had an off-day.

We were poor, and I have to take some of the blame. I didn't get my team right. I played our new signing from Belarus, Sergei Kornilenko. He had done well against Spurs but I should have known he couldn't play two games in a week. He isn't fit enough yet. I put James Beattie in a wide role but I haven't worked on that with him enough. I ended up changing my game plan after 20 minutes and that isn't a good sign.

We've had a decent week of training since, and I've held a team meeting and we've gone through a few things. I also had a chat with DJ Campbell, who got sent off at Wolves when he lost the plot for a minute. He has explained what happened and apologised, and that is good enough for me. The matter is closed.

The downside is that we have to face Chelsea, one of the best teams on the planet, without DJ and our inspirational skipper, Charlie Adam. Both are suspended. Everyone seems obsessed by the fact that we'll be missing them and, fair enough, it doesn't help us. But I am not worried about it. It is a fantastic opportunity for whoever steps in and I am focusing on coming up with the right blend without them to try to unlock the Chelsea defence.

Player for player, Chelsea are much better than us. So for a manager it becomes a case of "how can we beat them?" and call me stupid but I love a challenge like that.

I anticipate them having the ball more than us, so we need to be patient and, when we do get it, hurt them on the break. That is unusual coming from a manager whose team is at home but it is the only way.

What I won't do – refuse to do – is sit back and try for a draw. That is the main thing we have added to the Premier League this year: we try to get three points. It's made it the most exciting season in years and we deserve a bit of credit for that.

The promoted teams (us, West Brom, Newcastle) have played the same as we did in the Championship. Whether it will be enough to keep us all up, who knows? But we've won some games other clubs wouldn't have last season, because they'd have tried to defend their way to a 0-0.

The pressure to stay in the division is so great that I understand why managers might get negative and try to grind results out, but it's not for me.

I'm not saying we are totally gung-ho. You have to try to get the balance between attack and defence right. Even a well-organised unit that has been working together for months might not be good enough to stop Didier Drogba, so let'stry to hurt them theother way.

I heard Neil Warnock talk about it at Christmas. Instead of trying to shut up shop and nick games, he said he was going out to win every match. That is great. It is our duty to do that. We're in the entertainment industry, and Blackpool – whatever happens in the next few weeks – have been entertaining all season.

Ref was right, and that's official

Forget the Wayne Rooney elbow, the biggest controversy was Manchester United having a penalty awarded against them. Sir Alex was fuming about Chelsea's spot-kick. It looked a penalty to me, but I admit I was surprised it was given. What I mean by that is in a match of that magnitude it would have been easy for the referee not to blow his whistle. But Martin Atkinson made a decision and you don't see that happen very often.

Fergie felt it was harsh and I'm sure those comments he made at the end of the match were borne out of frustration at some of the challenges during the game. But some days things go for you, some days they don't.

As for United losing to Chelsea, it has done the League a favour. If Liverpool get one over on United today, then even Chelsea will feel they've a chance. Mind you, given that they come to our place tomorrow, maybe that won't be such a good thing...

Old Firm emotion is fine by me

Remind me to get a ticket to the next Old Firm game – there's no chance of nodding off at one of those. Yes, it was unseemly and not what you want, but it is nigh-on impossible for managers to keep their emotions in check and I don't think people realise that.

However much supporters care about their club – and I know they do greatly – managers and coaches care even more because their jobs depend on it. Supporters might be annoyed about losing bragging rights, but for managers it's a case of being able to feed your family.

It was lively at Parkhead. El-Hadji Diouf, whether you like him or not, wears his heart on his sleeve. Ally McCoist always has something to say, and as for Neil Lennon, blimey, you just wouldn't want to mess with him.

A similar thing happened in the Championship when Preston ran in front of the Nottingham Forest bench to celebrate a late equaliser. It caused a scene, but Forest boss Billy Davies said he didn't mind a bit of emotion, it's what football is about. He's right. Let's get on with it.

We're very superstitious, but the writing's on the wall for Ancelotti

I suddenly fancy our chances of beating Chelsea at Bloomfield Road because we've got a secret weapon Carlo Ancelotti doesn't know about – an eight-year-old girl.

Let me explain. Most people in football are superstitious, mainly because we are under so much pressure all the time. So you start to do little things and if they work, you get worried if you don't do them so you carry on. It's a vicious circle.

The superstition I've got at the moment is to get the youngest daughter of my assistant, Steve Thompson, to write a little message on a notepad in my office before games. She's called Maisie and she did it during the run-in last season. We didn't lose and got promoted.

We've had a bad patch lately so I asked her to start doing it again, beginning with the Aston Villa game. We got a 1-1 draw in that match, and then she did it again for Tottenham – which means she's single-handedly got us four points so far! Rest assured she'll be writing another message before kick-off tomorrow.



Two wins will be worth weight

My wife Kim and I are keeping up our gym regime, but it's not all going smoothly. I've had sciatica for years and because I've suddenly started exercising, it has flared up again.

I was supposed to be doing a press conference at 12.30pm on Thursday and all I had to do was leave the training ground at quarter past and head to Bloomfield Road.

Unfortunately I was in so much agony with my back that I had to make an emergency detour to a chiropractor. I walked into the press conference an hour late and had to mutter an apology. I was embarrassed because I hate being late.

Apart from the back, the health kick is going well. I've been at the gym four times a week and if you see me on TV, you might notice I'm looking slimmer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start whipping my shirt off on the sidelines – I'm not looking that good. But my weight has come down and I won't get the nickname Porky any time soon. And it means I should look in good nick for my birthday.

I am 48 next Saturday. Hopefully the wife will arrange a little party but the only thing I really want is two wins out of two this month. Given we've got Chelsea and Blackburn away, I might be being a little optimistic, but I can dream, can't I?



Criticism is just not cricket

Cricket isn't my bag but I noticed England took a battering in the media for losing to Ireland at the World Cup.

What is it with this country? We don't half like to thwack the people at the top. This nation has always been guilty of putting too much pressure on its best-performing stars.

Look at Tim Henman. They even named a hill after him. But instead of celebrating the fact he was in the world's top-five players, we moaned about him not winning a major.

When David Beckham got sent off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, there was an effigy of him hanging. Thank God he had the character to come back.

We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and, instead of criticising, celebrate all the wonderful sporting talent we're lucky enough to have.

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