Ian Holloway: Romantic birthday with Kim, until I pop on Blackburn DVD! - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Ian Holloway: Romantic birthday with Kim, until I pop on Blackburn DVD!

It was my 48th birthday yesterday and my wife Kim and I booked a little log cabin by the side of Loch Lomond. The trials and tribulations of the Premier League seemed a million miles away. It was beautiful. We went for plenty of walks in the most glorious countryside you can imagine.

Mind you, just when my wife thought we were going to spend all day being romantic and soppy, I put the mockers on it by whipping out a few DVDs which I'd sneaked in the suitcase. They were Blackburn Rovers' last few matches and I spent all night watching them.

I don't think Kim was too impressed, but to be honest there are only a couple of things I want as a birthday present: a win over Rovers next weekend and top-flight survival.

This really is crunch time, and I couldn't be more excited about it. Nine games to go. Can we keep Blackpool in the Premier League? I absolutely and utterly believe we can and that's what I'll spend all week talking to the lads about.

The game with Blackburn next Saturday should be a cracker, number one because of where the teams are in the table and, secondly, the fact it is a Lancashire derby. I think it will be more of a humdinger than usual and not one for the faint-hearted.

But what I don't want is people saying that it is a "massive" match or a "must-win" or any of that rubbish. I know the fans like talking in those terms but it really is nonsense. If I went into my dressing room before the Blackburn match and said to my lads, "we've got to win this, it is the most important game of the season, we have to do it", how would they be able to play? The team would be a bag of nerves.

The bottom line is that we could lose our next seven matches and win the last two and still stay up. I hope it doesn't happen like that, not least because we have got Manchester United on the final day and I would not want to go to Old Trafford needing anything. But what I'm saying is that if we lose at Blackburn we are not going to get relegated – and on the flipside, if we win, we aren't guaranteed staying up.

I'm not the type of manager who studies the fixtures and thinks "right, we'll get three points there, maybe a point in this one, and we'll lose that game". Why do that? You tend to get results when you least expect it so I'd be wasting my time.

At the moment we are still one point off the drop zone and that point might be absolutely vital come the end. It is a point we don't need in the run-in because we've already got it. But forget about that. We just have to concentrate on winning a couple more, and maybe drawing a couple as well.

We might need less, maybe more. Who cares. If we go down, so be it. We couldn't have tried any harder. If we stay up, I'll do a jig the length of the promenade in Blackpool.

I might regret saying that, mind. It's about seven miles long – I'll be knackered!

Yes Barça are brilliant but red card left me reffing mad

Robin van Persie's red card in Barcelona. What on earth was that about? It was a very poor decision to say the least, with absolutely no common sense from the referee.

The game had gone to 1-1 and was beautifully poised. The ref wrecked it. Rubbish. Uefa may charge Arsène Wenger for his comments but they can't charge me, so here goes.

What was the referee playing at? It was ridiculous and it had a huge bearing on the match. Yes, Barcelona were absolutely brilliant and I'm still shocked now by how they managed to stop the best footballing side in Britain from passing the ball.

But when it was 1-1, with 11 men each, Arsenal had a great chance of catching Barça on the break, and who's to say that they wouldn't have gone through? That said, Barcelona are majestic. It wasn't just how they played with the ball, but how they pressed when they didn't have it.

How does Pep Guardiola do it? If myself or any other manager knew, we'd all be doing it. Is it because his players are brilliant? I don't think so.

Normally brilliant players are lazy. Have a look at someone like David Ginola. He hardly tackled anyone. He just stood there and said "give me the ball and I'll go and hurt them".

But the likes of Messi and Iniesta and Xavi are chasing and harrying and getting a foot in and winning it back and I think that is marvellous.

You have to be a genius to work out how to get your team playing like that – and Guardiola definitely is. He and Jose Mourinho are probably the best two coaches in the world: Guardiola as best attacking coach, Mourinho best defensive. Managers everywhere can learn from both of them.

Don't expect Hammers to fall

West Ham's resurgence has not surprised me. When you sign someone like Demba Ba in the January window, you are bound to start playing better.

With the quality West Ham have, they should never have been down there in the first place. Somewhere along the line they were going to start winning, particularly at home.

I think what has also helped them is that their fans have accepted their position and are now fully behind them, just desperate for them not to go down. That will help the team.

Football is a funny thing. You can win a Cup when you aren't the best team in it, because you'll have a bit of fortune, but that doesn't work in the League – you always end up where you should be. West Ham look as though they'll be fine, which makes it all the more tight for the rest of us.

I craved a wine and a whine with Ancelotti

I was desperate to have a chat with Carlo Ancelotti after our game with Chelsea but the usual thing happened: I got stuck talking to the press and didn't get a chance to have a proper natter.

That's been the most annoying thing this season. I'd love to have a glass of wine with every Premier League manager and exchange ideas but there are so many media commitments that you never get the chance.

I thought we did well against Chelsea. I was missing my best two players so I changed my formation. I honestly don't think, with the team we had out, we could have played much better.

I still think the penalty which changed the game was a dubious decision. It was soft to say the least but I can see why it was given. Again it made me realise certain teams know how to get a free-kick better than we do.

My skipper Charlie Adam is back for next week's game with Blackburn but I still might stick with the same system because I thought we looked more solid.

We were tighter to the opposition in midfield and we won the ball a lot more easily than we have in other games. Maybe we have been a bit too open previously.

It's something for me to think about but whatever system I go with, rest assured my priority is still attacking and entertaining.

Where was the cry of 'mankini on?'

The Robin van Persie dismissal was bad, but not quite as bad as the Borat mankini incident.

You must have seen this. Some guy runs on to the pitch at a Dorchester Town match dressed in one of those horrendous green mankinis, the type blokes wear on stag nights to Blackpool.

The stewards can't catch him so Dorchester's player-manager wrestles him to the ground. Then the referee sends him off. I have never seen anything like it in my life!

If someone ran on our pitch dressed in a mankini and Charlie Adam rugby-tackled him and got sent off, I'd be fuming. I'd be on there myself lumping the referee.

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