Ian Holloway: I want us to succeed where Milan failed
Talented Tottenham come to town on Tuesday but we offer a different challenge, we have no fear and we can beat them
Sunday 20 February 2011
Tottenham Hotspur come to Bloomfield Road on Tuesday. Which is why, while watching Spurs beat Milan, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
I was so proud of them and Harry Redknapp for that result, but at the same time I was sat in my living room thinking: "Bloody hell, how are we going to beat this lot?"
We're not scared, though. Far from it. For a start, I know we will offer a very different challenge to the one they faced in Milan and their players will need to adapt to that.
The game should be a belter. How can it not be? Both teams attack – it's the only way Spurs know how to play. That is good for us because our problem at Bloomfield Road has been against teams that shut up shop and catch us on the break. We're not so good dealing with that. It won't be an issue against Spurs.
But that's not to say I'm not thinking about the defence. One thing I'll be ramming home to my lads is that we've got to do one or two things better when we are attacking to make sure we are more solid.
Take the goal we conceded against Aston Villa last week. My right-back and one of my centre-halves ran forward as we started attacking. That left just two at the back, which you should never do, and suddenly one little flick and Gabby Agbonlahor was clean through. When Agbonlahor is in full flight, it's like he's on a Honda Goldwing 1500. You are never going to catch him.
We can't be so loose against Spurs because they have players just as rapid. There is no point me listing all the individuals because every player they have got is quality, especially Rafael van der Vaart. And don't get me started on Gareth Bale – what a player and I'm just hoping he is still injured. But whoever lines up for Spurs, it's about what we do. I know managers the country over say this but it really is a case of trying to impose yourself on other people.
Spurs will be brimming with confidence and, unlike many managers, Harry Redknapp won't under-estimate us. I read that while his players were celebrating on the flight back from Milan, he was already thinking about how tough Blackpool would be. That's the sign of a fine manager.
By the time the game comes around we'll have had a 10-day break. My lads will be refreshed and ready, and that is important because they had been looking tired. So let's see what we can do against Tottenham. It is a fantastic opportunity for every one of my players to try and show they can be as good as them. I want us to succeed where mighty Milan failed – it will be some evening if we can.
Losing no sleep over relegation
The gap between ourselves and the Premier League's third-bottom club might only be two points but is it giving me sleepless nights? Not a chance. The only thing I'm sick of being asked is how many points we need and if 40 will be enough. Who knows?
The bottom line is we have 12 games left to get as many points as we can, which, given that every other team is thinking the same, won't be easy.
Five games ago we had 28 points, which everyone was calling remarkable. It's gone a bit wrong since then and we've only moved on one point. But it doesn't really matter when you get your points, as long as you get enough to stay up – and that is what we are hell-bent on doing.
It is about how we handle the last few games and, let's be honest, that was always going to be the case.
The great thing for me is that I have it easier than others. By that I mean that the two people who got promoted in front of me last year have already lost their jobs. Roberto di Matteo beat me by 21 points in the Championship, Chris Hughton by 32, yet they are out of a job. How crazy is that?
It looks to me as though it doesn't matter what job you do in the division below. As soon as you get to the Premier League, priorities change and past work is forgotten. Getting promoted can be a poisoned chalice.
No way Jose has an equal
Jose Mourinho is a legend. He has now gone nine years without losing a league game at home. Unbelievable.
Porto's 3-2 defeat by Beira Mar in February 2002 was the last occasion. Since then he has taken charge of 147 home league matches and won 122 and drawn 25. As a fellow manager, that is the kind of thing you just have to take your hat off to, and your coat, gloves and everything else as well.
No wonder the bloke is called the Special One. Granted he has been in charge of some top clubs, and been able to pick some of the best players, but to maintain a record like that takes terrific man-management and a tactical nous not many are blessed with.
His Champions' League win over Barcelona last year, when he was at Inter, was the perfect example of that. He said prior to the game that it would be possible to win even if his team did not have much of the ball. People thought he was mad, but he went and did it. That is what I love about him. He walks the walk and talks the talk.
And he is spot on, too, because you don't get goals for possession. If there was a new rule saying teams were awarded a goal for every 10 consecutive passes then Barcelona would undoubtedly be the best side in the world ever. But the game is about putting the ball in the back of the net.
'Mad Dog' once bust my bugle but he knows his stuff
I did a charity night at the club last week with Martin "Mad Dog" Allen. It brought back a few memories because the last time I saw him I wanted to punch his lights out.
We had our disagreement when I was in charge at Bristol Rovers and he was first-team coach at Reading. We played them in the League at their place about 10 years ago, and before the game Martin had been in our dressing room and stuck some posters on the wall, making a few comments about some of my players. I was fuming that he'd had the nerve to do something so disrespectful and I had a go at him.
It carried on in the dug-out area and we had a few verbals at each other during the match. In the end we both got sent off – but he changed his top with the kitman and it was the kitman, not Martin, who was banished to the stand! By this time I was raging and it almost ended in a fight. Mind you, I'm glad it didn't because he looks a bit tougher than me. The worse thing about it was that we got beat 1-0 and I lost my job the next day. But you've got to like Martin because he is a fantastic motivator and a real character too.
I remember when I took QPR to play his Brentford side. Before the game I organised a five-a-side session for my lads. As we walked to the pitch, we looked across the road and saw Martin and his players in a park, messing about on the swings and the slide. I remember my striker Kevin Gallen saying: "Why can't we do that?" Another time he made his team dive in a canal and swim to the other side. It is all good stuff and every manager has his own way.
I'm just glad I don't have to play against him any more because the first time I did was painful. I had been warned about this Mad Dog bloke and in the first couple of minutes at West Ham I went to collect a loose ball and he went through me like a train. His elbow caught me right in the bugle and bust it. My nose has never been the same since. But it was an accident and, anyway, he is a great lad and it was good to meet up with him and talk about the old days.
There were 200 in the audience. They enjoyed it, so did we, and we raised some cash for charity. My lads should be glad he isn't on our staff. If we were on the same coach going to a game we'd drive everyone mad.
Chairman's wedding gift a gun?
My chairman Karl Oyston got married this weekend and he held the wedding at the club. My wife Kim and I were among the guests, which was nice, but it meant a nightmare shopping trip. She had to buy a new outfit and so I said I'd drive her to the Trafford Centre to get it sorted. I thought we'd be in and out in half an hour. How wrong I was. To be fair she chose her dress pretty much straight away but unfortunately the shoes and bag took a lot longer. In the end we were there five hours, not my idea of a good day.
I kept it simple – plain white shirt and a tie to match my wife's dress. We were beautifully colour co-ordinated... Posh and Becks eat your heart out!
I still haven't decided on a gift. My wife was going to buy two teddy bears but I thought Karl would laugh at that, so now she's told me I have to sort it out. I'll probably get him something shooting-related – he's into that stuff. I'm pleased with the card, though. It is two meerkats getting married with a load of little meerkats round them – perfect because they've both already got a load of kids.
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