Ian Holloway: Winning promotion at Wembley is a wonderful feeling, and I should know
I thought it was a once in a lifetime thing, so to have another crack is fantastic
Sunday 13 May 2012
Unless you enjoy watching the same football game 25 times, don't come round to my house this week. I dug out a DVD of our play-off final win from two years ago and I have had it on non-stop. My wife is so sick of it she is on the verge of killing me.
But I want to remember exactly what winning promotion to the Premier League was like. It was the best day of my footballing life and I hope to God I am fortunate enough to experience it again on Saturday, when Blackpool take on West Ham in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.
It is hard to put into words how desperate I am to get back to the top flight. Ask any wine drinker why they want a really nice, expensive bottle compared to a cheap one. Football is football but the way they play in the Premier League – the pitches, the stadiums, the excitement, the energy, the challenge, what it means to the fans... it cannot be bettered.
Some of the goals we conceded to Arsenal and Manchester United last year were so good I had to stop myself applauding. Good job I did, really. The Blackpool fans would have been thinking, "We've just conceded, why the bloody hell is the manager clapping?"
It would mean the world to me to get back in that division, but to be honest I feel so lucky to be in this position. Certain things in life are irreplaceable. I lost my dad, Bill, to a heart attack when he was 59. I still speak to him now. I talk out loud, say, "I hope you're watching, dad, I hope I'm making you proud." I probably sound like I'm crazy, but anyone who has lost someone who means so much to them will know what I am on about. I can't have him back but what I do have another chance at is becoming a Premier League manager, so how fortunate am I?
I thought it was a once in a lifetime thing, so to have another crack is fantastic. It isn't down to luck. We deserve to be in this position, because we lost our best players last summer – Charlie Adam, David Vaughan, DJ Campbell – and we were as depressed as hell about being relegated. But we have picked ourselves up and, despite not paying anything like the wages most Championship clubs do, we are 90 minutes from going back up.
The bookies have written us off and the pundits think we've as much chance of winning as the Lib Dems at a local election. Part of me can understand why. West Ham finished 11 points above us in the League and they beat us twice, and heavily – they put four past us in both games.
So no wonder we are rank outsiders. Fair enough – in a way I really don't mind. At Blackpool we love being the underdog, and so we should be against West Ham. They have a budget four times higher than ours and the very name "West Ham" screams class. They were my favourite club, growing up in the 60s and 70s. I used to love watching Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking and I couldn't take my eyes off the television when the Hammers were on.
But that was then and this is now. It is a one-off game and, let's face it, nobody expected us to get this far. Everyone was going on about a Birmingham v West Ham final until we went to St Andrew's in midweek and, like we always seem to do, got the result we needed.
Before that game I spent hours watching tapes of Birmingham in action, and I'm doing the same now with West Ham. What I do know is that they are not a long-ball team. People level that accusation at them but some of the football they have played recently has been frighteningly good.
Sam Allardyce, a top-class manager,has his team organised so well that his players know the structure and shape like the back of their hands. They are big and strong and absolutely phenomenal at set pieces.
What we didn't do in the two League games – 4-0 and 4-1 to West Ham, remember – was impose our game on them. They bullied us and whupped us and this time we can't let that happen. It won't be easy but all I would say is don't write us off. The great thing is that there is no pressure on me or the team. No one expects us to win and if we get beat, I know I won't get sacked the next day.
So let's see what happens. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch a DVD of our last Wembley win again.
Hodgson's choice will only lead to another dispiriting Euro failure
I am sick to death of people urging Roy Hodgson to get John Terry and Rio Ferdinand to settle their differences before the Euros. Rubbish. Roy shouldn't have to deal with such a nonsensical issue.
Anybody who ever wins anything has to have a team spirit and how can you have a team with people that don't get on? So choose one. I don't care who it is but Roy has to make a decision because if he doesn't, it could hurt our country's chances of success.
The last time I saw England play as a team was against Holland at Euro 96. How depressing is that? For one of the goals, we kept passing it square before Alan Shearer finished it off. We are too selfish to pass like that now. Too many want to make sure they get the headlines and stay in the team.
We don't play for each other and none of the last few managers have addressed it. Roy has to, or else we are destined for another failure.
Give Rob the job
I would be completely cheesed off if I was Roberto Di Matteo. How Chelsea can announce they won't be making any decision on who gets the manager's job until after the Champions' League final is unfair, to put it mildly.
But it sums up Roman Abramovich. He does whatever he wants. Surely part of being a good owner is recognising skill in your workers and rewarding them. Abramovich should recognise what Di Matteo has done and reward him.
But when does Roman Abramovich ever listen to anybody? He is rich enough to go out and get the best there is and luckily for him one of them – Jose Mourinho – delivered. He left a group of players so used to winning that it has carried on, but those lads are approaching the end and they will need replacing.
What more can Di Matteo do to suggest he is the man to do that? He has united a disjointed squad and made a success of a season that was a total shambles. If Robbie doesn't get the job, it will be proof the world's gone mad.
Title fight is a knockout
I remember the drama of the last day of 1988-89, when Arsenal needed to win 2-0 at Liverpool to win the title. The manner in which they did it was astonishing and it was one of those fairytales only football can deliver.
So what I'm saying is that Manchester City fans shouldn'tcount any chickens yet.
However, even having said that, I just cannot see QPR going to the Etihad today and getting a result. So I think both Manchester clubs will win and unless United score a shed-load then it will be the blue half celebrating.
But from a neutral's point of view, how good are the next few years going to be? Sir Alex Ferguson will be absolutely determined to see off the threat of City. I can almost hear him rolling his sleeves up and saying, "Come on, then – we'll take you on."
The battle of Manchester is going to be a joy to watch.
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