Ian Holloway: Winter is the season of my discontent
Players – and managers – need a break. Let's get a fire going, watch some films on TV and then go to games in T-shirts rather than bobble hats
Sunday 02 January 2011
It is about time we introduced a winter break during the English football season. They seem to do it everywhere else and, as the powers-that-be in this country always tell us they are looking to improve the game, then why not have a look at it and test it out?
It would be better for everyone, players and punters alike. I used to hate playing at Christmas and the same applies now I'm a manager. And it is not just me. After our Boxing Day game was called off, I went to watch Manchester United versus Sunderland and I bumped into Alex McLeish. I asked him how his Christmas Day was and he told me it was terrible. He said he was waiting for a phone call telling him his match at Everton was off and it never came. So they drove to Merseyside on Christmas Day and stayed over, and the following morning it was called off. He said it was a complete waste of time and he's right.
I had the same experience when we went to Nottingham Forest on Christmas Day a few years ago. The fog was so thick it was like pea soup and then to cap it all off it started snowing. They called the match off really late the following day and by the time I'd driven back to my then family home in Bath, I had missed all Boxing Day as well. I have never been so upset in my whole life.
Even when they do get the games on, the conditions are often so bad that you don't get to see a proper match. The players are skating about on rock-hard surfaces, in danger of suffering all sorts of injuries, and the punters have to put their own safety at risk to drive to the game.
Couldn't we all just get a fire going and watch some films on the TV in the warm, then see some games in a T-shirt instead of in a bobble hat?
The question is, how would you do it? There seems to be more freak weather each year so I think a month's break, perhaps from mid-December to mid-January, would make sense, though obviously you'd have to be careful about other international tournaments at the end of the season.
It is time to do it. After all, at Blackpool we haven't played a home game since November – that can't be right.
City slicker on and off pitch
Manchester City are a great club and they are doing everything right as they try to make themselves one of the best in English football. I hadn't been to Eastlands before yesterday and I was blown away. They had blue-and-white Man City rock upstairs in the lounges and even the barriers outside the stadium are emblazoned with the club badge.
They are the real deal, and that's before you start looking at the quality they have in their team. And that is why I was once again very proud of how my Blackpool did. I don't think we were too far away from them and that result, despite the fact we lost 1-0, will give us great belief going in to what is a very busy few weeks.
I just wish we had been beaten by two or three goals rather than one because I wasn't happy at all with the way we conceded what turned out to be the winner. Normally when we head away a corner, we have someone in a tangerine shirt on the edge of the box to clear it or get a block in. But no one was there to stop Adam Johnson's shot. It went through a crowd of players, got a deflection and our keeper Richard Kingson didn't have a chance. We should have stopped the shot being hit in the first place. But that aside we played well, did our brilliant fans proud once again and now we have to try and get back to winning ways when we take on Birmingham on Tuesday.
With the Premier League as tight as it is, we won't be safe until we get a minimum of 42 points. The first half of the season could not have gone better. If you had told me Blackpool would be 10th in the table at the start of the new year, I'd have backed away and assumed you were some kind of utter nutter.
I am delighted, but I know from now till May it will be much tougher. Nearly everyone has played us once so they will show us more respect in the return fixture and make it harder for us to play our football. Can we keep it going? God knows. But what we do have is great confidence.
It is all about believing we can get a positive result, whether we are playing top or bottom of the League. Our positive approach won't work every time but it has served us pretty well so far and I will never change.
Time to chop and change again
With so many games this month, I intend to alter my starting line-up. When I did that at Aston Villa it caused a massive hullabaloo and I was told I might get fined. Well so far I haven't been charged and I want to say that all the fuss it caused hasn't put me off doing exactly the same again.
I will make 11 changes if I want to because when you have nine games in five weeks, I don't think the same 11 can play every game. If the Premier League want to get in touch, then fine.
Arsenal made eight changes at Wigan the other night and nothing was said about that, and rightly so. I think the Premier League have realised that if managers are allowed to name 25-man squads, then they have to be allowed to pick any one of those 25. If they want to try and tell me I'm wrong, then bring it on – I won't be shy in sharing my views with them.
My fancy dress made New Year's Eve a knight to remember
You should have seen me on New Year's Eve. I looked like a lunatic. My wife and I spent the night with some friends at my local pub near my new house in Pendle, Burnley.
It is a brilliant boozer and they held a medieval evening – fancy dress only. I am not normally one for dressing up but I thought I'd better show these northerners that I could party with the best of them, so I bought a full knight's outfit especially for the occasion.
I got a sword and shield and had chainmail over my face. Thank the Lord for the internet – and not bad for 20 quid! I looked so good that I was tempted to ride one of my daughter's horses from the house to the pub, just to really look the part.
It was a cracking night and I made sure I made the most of it, because for a football manager January is no fun at all. I am totally against transfer windows and I hate all the questions about who we might sign or sell, and the calls from agents about amazing players they have for me to buy.
We won't be doing loads of business but I have had a chat with my chairman Karl Oyston about what we might need. My priority is strikers because I had 12 of them stacked up last year and that extra firepower was the reason we got promoted.
The way we play – going for goals – means I will do the same again. I'll just make sure I don't show any potential new recruits a picture of me dressed as a knight. It might put them off.
Sack race is sad
It has been a bad week for Lancashire. Brian Laws and Darren Ferguson losing their jobs at Burnley and Preston has made me feel sad.
I'm not sure all our fans would share that sentiment – there is a lot of rivalry between the clubs – but as a manager I want every person in charge of a club to do well and I hate it when someone gets sacked. It is particularly harsh on Brian because Burnley were ninth. Just because they were in the Premier League last year, it seems that ninth in a very tough Championship is not acceptable now. That's very sad.
It seems a random decision. When it comes to a lack of logic on the part of owners and chairmen, this is one of the worst seasons I've seen. Sam Allardyce, Chris Hughton, now Brian Laws – it doesn't make sense.
Preston were bottom when Darren went but I still think it is far too easy to just throw the manager out and think it solves all the problems. Any chance of the players having a good look at themselves now and again and taking responsibility? Blaming the manager is too often the easy way out.
It's not cricket as Aussie gets stick
Our left-back David Carney has had a torrid time. He is Australian. The stick he has been getting over the cricket is unbelievable, especially when Ricky Ponting threw that hissy fit. Let's be honest, that was hilarious. We've been singing 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport' to David and waving a toy koala bear at him. The lad is probably desperate to get away for a while, and that is what he did after yesterday's match.
He is competing in the Asian Cup for Australia and has flown out to link up with them. He will be away for at least three weeks and we will miss him because he has been a great pro since I signed him in the summer. He has been unlucky that my regular left-back Stephen Crainey has been playing so well, but I am sure David will break into the team at some point.
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