Holloway shuffling shows up Grant's hand

West Ham 0 Blackpool 0

The eleven with which Ian Holloway started this match had earned one Premier League win bonus between them prior to this season: DJ Campbell for a 45-minute substitute appearance for Birmingham in 2006. Indeed, the entire starting line-up had made just 10 previous Premier League starts: five by Stephen Crainey for Southampton, one by Ian Evatt for Derby County and four by Campbell for Birmingham City. All were in relegation-bound teams and none came in the last four years. Nor did the one foreign player, Elliot Grandin, add much top-flight experience; he had made a smattering of such appearances in France and Bulgaria.

All of which underlines what a remarkable job Holloway is doing at Blackpool, especially as the naivety shows at times. As the clock ran down, were the visitors playing for time with men behind the ball? No, they were pushing six players forward, including the full-backs, in search of a winner. "I've just had a little go at them about that," admitted Holloway. "I didn't feel comfortable about it. You can have three or four, but six or seven is a bit much. But they wanted the win."

After a third of the campaign the pre-season relegation favourites are in the great mid-table morass, two points off the drop zone but only four off a Uefa Cup place.

In contrast West Ham, after one win in 13, look in trouble. In theory, they have far better players. All but one deployed in this entertaining goalless draw were internationals, and the exception was the promising young Englishman Mark Noble. But Blackpool looked more organised, better balanced and generally sharper. Had Marlon Harewood not had a legitimate goal chalked off after 68 minutes they would have won.

Holloway holds strange views at times, notably his assertion that the midweek 11 that lost at Aston Villa was not a weaker side than this one – if so, why did no-one keep their place from Wednesday's match?

"I work with all my team together, there's not a 'them' and an 'us'," he said, just seconds after revealing "we play each other in training – reserve versus first team – and they've won a couple". His outbursts should not, though, be allowed to obscure the fact that he is clearly an excellent coach and man-manager.

Whether that can be said of Avram Grant is debatable. Since taking over at Portsmouth last November he has not escaped the Premier League's relegation zone and it is beginning to look as if that is not just coincidental. "Our decisions need to be better but it's only a matter of putting the ball in the net," he said. "When you have one win from 13 games you think everything is not good. You need that first win."

West Ham have taken two points from three matches against the promoted trio but Grant insisted, unconvincingly: "In all three games we were better and in two of them we were leading." But none were won.

Match facts

Man of the match Parker Match rating 7/10

Possession West Ham 47% Blackpool 53%

Shots on target West Ham 4 Blackpool 5

Referee K Friend (Leicestershire) Att 31,194

Comments