Ian Holloway: Promoted clubs must keep giving Goliath one in the eye

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The Independent Football

It is great to see the promoted Championship clubs doing so well. Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion and ourselves have come into the top flight and attacked.

That is the best way to try and stay in the Premier League. One paper compared my Blackpool team to Newcastle under Kevin Keegan. In other words we don't worry about defence, we go out to score more goals than the opposition and the score could be anything. That is fine by me but I wouldn't like to be expected to do what Kevin did and challenge Man United for the title!

Any credit anyone wants to give us I'll take because we have already learned fast in the top league. People have to bear in mind that we finished 26 points behind West Brom last season and 32 behind Newcastle, and yet we've already beaten Newcastle at their place. That's what we've got to carry on doing: claim some scalps and take the knocks.

But there is no point patting ourselves on the back or doing any bragging yet. You don't jump the Chair beautifully in the Grand National and then get all carried away with yourself, because you can easily fall flat on your face at the next fence.

Look at Hull a couple of seasons ago. They started like a house on fire and people were talking about Europe. Then it went a bit pear-shaped and Phil Brown has not got a job any more. That is the harsh reality of football. But at the moment it is going well for the promoted clubs and I couldn't be happier because it's nice for David to give Goliath one in the eye now and then, like West Brom did at Arsenal.

The key is that myself, Roberto di Matteo and Chris Hughton are not afraid of losing. Chris was probably worried about that last year but did well, turned the club round and rightly got the job full-time.

Robbie just doesn't seem worried about his life or his job. He is enjoying every minute of it and he is the kind of bloke I would want to play for because he is a real nice fella.

My team had the furthest to improve and, let's be honest, a lot will happen between now and the end. There are some big clubs near the bottom but you can bet your life they won't be there come May.

Cool cat Rob has got the cream

Di Matteo is one cool cat but he is such a nice bloke as well. He has a disabled sister and he spoke to me about my daughters, who are deaf. He has done a first-class job at West Brom and I can't wait to see him tomorrow at Bloomfield Road when my Blackpool team take on his side.

It is people like Roberto who have really improved the English game. I might have been very public in saying I want an Englishman as the England manager but I have absolutely no problem with foreign managers in the Premier League. They have enriched our game and no one more than Arsène Wenger. He has been an education for us all, and is one bloke I look up to. I'm sure Sir Alex Ferguson has something to say about that but look at the way Arsène came to our shores and transformed Arsenal.

If you look at the way they used to play compared to now it is phenomenal. He is a professor and has changed every part of the club. There used to be a drinking culture and he got rid of it. Take Tony Adams. He cured him and I expect Tony owes Arsène a lifetime of gratitude.

The way Arsène does things has changed our game. We now train differently and we realise that what our footballers are eating and drinking has an impact on how they play.

The top clubs all have diet plans and nutritional experts. We aren't quite that up to date at Blackpool but what we do is give them more information about how they should live their lives and hopefully they listen.

The big clubs do it as a rule. At a club like ours we can't force it – we have to hope the lads come with us. It's like a horse. There are two ways to train a horse: you coax him to come with you or you beat him with a stick, and I'd rather coax my lads.

West Brom will have a lot of this stuff in place because they've got Robbie in charge and anyone who is Italian has a good grounding in football. They use the same 4-2-3-1 formation as Manchester City, so I know how tough tomorrow night will be.

It is a really difficult system to crack because it is solid defensively but brilliant in attacking terms, especially when you've got fantastic flair players like City and West Brom have.

I spoke to Jimmy Armfield after the City game. Jim, who is a legend and who comes to our games whenever he can, said City play the old Italian way. Whenever you get the ball against Italians, there are three people in your face. It is like a wall in front of you, no matter where you pass it on the pitch. That is what happened against City and we've got to try and knock down that wall, or at least jump over it, against the Baggies.

If I lose my stars in January sales, then so be it. No hard feelings

You can tell we are getting close to January because the speculation is already starting about who might be leaving and who we might be signing. Half the people I'm linked with I've never heard of!

The most difficult thing for us is keeping people. We've got three players – David Vaughan, Stephen Crainey and my keeper Matt Gilks – out of contract at the end of the season and they can start talking to other clubs in the new year if they wish and arrange deals.

Don't get me started on the rules that allow them to do that. As I've said many a time, it is completely unfair on the club that a player can walk out for nothing but that's the way it is and we have to deal with it.

I try not to worry about it. We will offer the three lads new deals and they will accept or refuse, simple as that. If we lose all three on a free, my problem is trying to replace them with players of the same standard who cost nothing. That won't be easy.

It's not just those three. I expect quite a few clubs to be looking at our players when the window re-opens. We've done pretty well so far and other teams are probably thinking: "Good gracious me, why can't we snap up one of those lot on a free transfer?"

There would be no hard feelings from me towards my lads if they decided to go. I have helped them develop as footballers but they have helped me as a manager because they have all played a part in getting us to the big time.

To be able to say I'm a Premier League boss is still a brilliant feeling because I was out of work for a year not so long ago and couldn't get a job. So if I start whinging, I have to say to myself, "shut up, you're one lucky fella – now get on with it". If we lose our players in January or next summer, that's the attitude I'll have.

I've no problem with Charlie

Several people have been asking about the dispute between my skipper Charlie Adam and the club. There is an arbitration court hearing on Thursday about bonuses, and a Premier League panel will decide who is right and who is wrong. I don't want to talk about the matter for the simple reason that it is none of my business.

If Charlie feels aggrieved then fair enough, and he is dealing with it in the right manner. The chairman (Karl Oyston) obviously feels that he himself is right, so there is a dispute. When there is a dispute someone has to sort it out, and I am just glad it is not me.

All that's on my mind is our game with West Brom tomorrow and the irony is that Charlie might not even be fit because he has had stitches to a gash on his ankle, an injury he picked up against Birmingham City last week.

So that is all I care about – will Charlie, my skipper, be fit? The rest of the stuff that has hit the papers in the last few days I couldn't give two hoots about. Charlie has no problem with me and I've no problem with him. Now let's get on with what matters: trying to win football matches to help us stay in the Premier League, which is what myself, Charlie and the chairman all want most.

Keep it tight at backgammon

I am learning how to play backgammon. I'm not entirely sure why I decided to take it up but a mate of mine plays and he took it upon himself to try and teach me.

I am enjoying it more than I thought because I like things where there is skill involved. It is a great game. It can fluctuate and, even if you're behind, if you do things right and block up defensively you can win. Thinking about it, I might learn a few things to help me out in the Premier League!

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