20100524

Premier League will test Holloway philosophy


As much as Blackpool’s players will need to make big adjustments after their fairytale promotion to the Premier League, so Ian Holloway, their engagingly characterful manager, may find his values tested by the challenge ahead.

Holloway’s personal history has given him a grounded outlook on life, shaped both by his football career and the difficulties encountered in his family life.  Three of his four children were born profoundly deaf and his wife is a cancer survivor.

Three years ago, speaking after the publication of his biography, the loquacious Bristolian told his interviewer, the Independent’s Brian Viner, that he did not want to go down the path of Sir Alex Ferguson, with whom he will now have the chance to occupy neighbouring dug-outs, at least twice, and be a football obsessive.

"I'm 44 now, and I'm targeting 50 as the age to retire,” Holloway said. “I don't want it to say on my headstone, 'I wish I'd spent more time at home'.

“I admire and respect Fergie, and I've read his book. He says his sons got to the age of 16 and he hadn't really been there for them, but then he thinks, 'Ah well, I'm the manager of Manchester United'. Well, I think, 'You've missed out, my old friend'."

Holloway was managing Plymouth Argyle then, a job which, at the time, he had no intention of leaving in a hurry.  Most managers find the League’s most westerly outpost an agreeable place to live and appeared to be no different.

But times change. Less than two months later, Holloway had quit Argyle to become manager at Leicester, where he stayed for only seven months before agreeing to leave after the Midlands club were relegated to League One.   He resurfaced at Bloomfield Road in May last year and while he has always been ambitious, in his own eccentric way, it is hard to imagine he saw Blackpool bursting from their football backwater quite so quickly.

He has already changed in some ways.  In his determination not to take football too seriously, he made jokes and bizarre analogies his stock-in-trade and his press conferences became legend.  But he has cut back on the humour lately, confessing after Blackpool had beaten Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off semi-final that he wanted now to be seen as a serious football manager, rather than a figure of fun.

In that 2007 interview he insisted he worked to live, rather than the other way around, and that if he ever got the balance wrong his daughters were there as a reproach. That balance has never faced a challenge as big as the one confronting him now.

Holloway's biography,Ollie: The Autobiography of Ian Holloway, originally published in 2007, was revised and updated in 2009, with three additional chapters.

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