Written by Ricky Murray
The destined departure of Fabio Capello as coach of the English national team after Euro’ 2012 has ultimately led to many debates from the media to the pubs about who should replace the Italian when he eventually does leave. And whilst many people reel off the names of Harry Redknapp, Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce, there is another Englishman who has not so quietly been getting on with his job in Lancashire with hardly a mention, if any…
His name is of course Ian Holloway; a man who has performed wonders and achieved more than expected for Blackpool F.C. He may not be ready or be the best man for the job at the present time, but if we THINK he is then we cannot worry about his non-conformed personality, which was what the Football Association did when encountering a certain Brian Clough in the 1970’s and 80’s. He vastly improved his first side Hartlepool United before going on to Derby County, turning them from old Second Division strugglers to the pinnacle of the Football League by winning the First Division title under his command and sowing the seed for a second one that the Rams won under Dave Mackay three years later. He was the obvious choice to take the England job after Alf Ramsay was relieved of his duties in 1974 and also when Don Revie upped sticks in ’77 to take a post in the Middle East, but instead of caring about results on the pitch, the FA deliberated and panicked about what he might say to the press and what it might do to their supposed ‘saintly’ organisation, which has been far from it, judging by the many scandals that have engulfed them in the past.
They thought that he would embarrass them, much like Holloway could do with his many opinions on the game. His and Clough’s rants and how some people respond to them remind me of Jack Nicholson’s character Randle Patrick McMurphy in the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He is seemingly the sanest person in the mental institution, but the authorities treat him as not being ‘normal’ because his harmless eccentricities shine through and so they deprive him of his rights. It was this kind of thinking that dealt with Old Big ‘Ead and it is how they would most probably handle a managerial proposition relating to Blackpool’s main man as well, particularly with his regular swipes at Fifa.
It endears me to both Clough and Holloway more when they have been shooting their mouth’s off at some injustice because some aspects of football do need looking at instead of the usual keep-everything-under-wraps scenarios. And when it is spoken aloud by respected figures such as these two men, it makes people sit up and take notice. It is results that matter and as long as the candidate has the right credentials and is not wearing a Swastika saying ‘Heil Hitler’ at every press conference, then sign them up because boy did we need Clough during the national side’s dreadful period of the 1970’s, a time when they failed to qualify for two World Cup’s and a European Championship. Whilst England were failing miserably on the international stage, Clough was at the height of his powers with his small, provincial club Nottingham Forest flying high in Europe – another team he transformed from old Second Division strugglers into kings of England and also Europe, winning the European Cup twice; an amazing feat that has not been seen before or since.
Holloway has shown that you do not need all the silky skills to do well and although his Blackpool side have some of that, it is their work-rate and the lengths that they go to for their manager and themselves that is most impressive. You can see in the Bristolian’s interviews to get an idea of how he feels about his players, often praising his starlets to the sky. Imagine the enthusiasm that he conjures up on the training pitch and the dressing-room – his rousing speeches filled with witticisms must give his players such a huge psychological lift that one could pinpoint it in their play. They play with a panache and guile that is not suited to their names, but that is all they are, ‘names’, because even if people say that is their ‘work-rate’ and ‘not their football’ that has enabled them to play the way that they do – it does not matter because work-rate is a skill in itself and all of the greatest players, past and present had or have it, and it speaks volumes for the respect that the players have for their boss. He has given his midfield maestro Charlie Adam – thrown out by Rangers – a new lease of life, bringing out all the qualities he knew the Scotsman already had, which has made him one of the most sought-after players in Britain.
Holloway turned the Tangerines from Championship relegation favourites in August 2009 to play-off winners in May 2010 and with a beleaguered England squad full of talent but no confidence, he could fire them up and make them believe in themselves, which is something that many others could not do apart from maybe Harry Redknapp. It would be great to have someone ‘stick it’ to the powers-that-be at the top of the game with all their tricks and shady goings-on’s. 2012 may be a little too early for the Blackpool man, what with the more experienced Redknapp in the frame, but out of all the English-born managers that are around, I do not see why he should not be considered. Apart from the other three names and maybe Sean O’Driscoll, who else is there? Andy Gray is Scottish…Richard Keys? Right, now don’t be silly.