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Fri 19th Nov - Ollie Ollie Ollie - Oi! Oi! Oi!

Mr Holloway, a word if I, Wolves?

“You’re talking out of your hat…you’re talking out of your hat and you’ve got one on. I would say ass but I can’t say ass and I don’t want to say donkey because that’s disrespectful to donkeys…”

So spake Ian Holloway when I asked him – or tried to ask him, more accurately – about whether there was any comparison to be made between the 10 changes Wolves made at Old Trafford last season (and got a suspended £25,000 fine for) and the similar number he made for Blackpool at Aston Villa last Wednesday. I didn’t get even halfway through my question before he flew into the rant quoted above – he might have liked the question had he been polite enough to let me finish asking the bloody thing!

Holloway is a manager for whom everyone should have the utmost respect. To take over a Blackpool side languishing in the Championship, essentially just change the system to 4-3-3 from 4-4-2 with the same players, and see them promoted the next season is one of the most extraordinary achievements in the post-Premier League megabucks world of football.

With that came a man full of self-depreciation and good humour. Prepared to poke fun at himself and the system, and in so doing taking all the pressure off his players and allow them the freedom to play football that lit up both the 2nd tier AND the current top flight.

However, there is a darker side to the man, as I and other journos are finding out all too readily if his Villa Park histrionics are anything to go by. But I have to point out - how different can one man be on 2 separate visits to Birmingham within a month or so? At St Andrews, I interviewed him after Blues’ 2-0 win and found him disarmingly honest about how he’d been, as he put it, “outcoached’ by Alex McLeish. He even made a point of stopping Blues midfielder Barry Ferguson in the tunnel as he left the ground saying “You were brilliant today son.”

Ferguson looked utterly sheepish and didn’t know quite how to respond to such candour – he can’t have had many opposing managers be as upfront as that with him during his time in the game. It was refreshing and, dare I say it, heart-warming.

Fast forward to the Villa Park tunnel and his rant at me, my colleague from national BBC Radio and subsequently, the written press upstairs. All because we dared collectively to ask why he’d changed almost an entire side. If Ian Holloway expected the press, commentators and especially travelling Blackpool fans to hear the news that only Keith Southern remained from Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Everton and respond with a mere shrug and an ‘Oh, ok then…” then he is living in a Karl-Pilkington-inspired cartoon world where monkeys control rockets with the aid of banana dispensers, horses live on housing estates and Premier League bigwigs see a side with 10 un-enforced changes as the most natural thing in the world.

I will defend Ian Holloway’s right to pick the players he wants until the ends of the earth. But he knows damn well what happened to Wolves last year and when Jez Moxey, the Molineux chief exec said he took their punishment on the chin hoping it would serve as a warning to other clubs who did the same in future, everyone in the game listened. Including Ian.

What his rant has correctly highlighted is the paradox of having to name a 25-man Premier League squad pre-season and then seemingly (based on the Wolves principle) not be allowed to pick from within that framework as a manager like Ian Holloway sees fit. On the one hand, Premier League rules state that a manager has to select a ‘full strength team’ and yet shouldn’t we assume that all 25 squad members are part of a full strength squad? The waters are muddier than ever, but expect Richard Scudamore and co. to do nothing to square this circle. They’re too busy trying to find some way to crowbar that blessed 39th game into the calendar.

On a lighter note, Ian Holloway’s rant at me was a tad misguided in more ways than one – he called me ‘Patrick from talkSPORT’ in the presser he held the day after he had a pop at me. He was no doubt confusing me with Patrick from BBC national radio who had similarly irked him seconds before I did, but what’s the point in trying to correct him on such a trivial point when flames are coming out of his ears and nostrils 10 minutes after his side had thrown away a point they were so close to earning?

Paddy Danter? It does have a certain ring to it. But then again…no…

I imagine that the talkSPORT management are already looking at Blackpool’s fixtures and deciding where they can send me to cover them hoping for ‘Round 2’. I don’t mind going up against Ollie again one bit – not only do I quite like him and think he is he great for the game, but I’m also certain I’d last longer than Audley Harrison…and I’ve already laid a decent glove on him!

I shall spare you a multi-paragraph rant about the England performance against the French in midweek– it’s Thursday afternoon as I type this on the train heading for talkSPORT Towers to host Kick Off at 7pm – and if I did, it would only end up as a carbon copy of my blog post-England/Germany at the World Cup.

Nothing has really changed and very little is likely to. I feel for players like Gareth Barry, desperate to play international football having being overlooked for far too long beforehand (thanks Sven & Macca) but his lack of pace and guile were all too apparent at Wembley. It’s much easier to make a judgement call on him than on Jordan Henderson of Sunderland, thrust alongside Barry as a holding midfielder for his senior debut. The thing about his selection was this – undoubtedly he’d been the Black Cats star performer LAST season, but my understanding was that he had been nowhere near as influential THIS term…and he’s picked. Meanwhile in East London, Scott Parker is almost single-handedly picking up West Ham by the bootstraps with Man Of The Match performances week after week – not selected.

Ashley Young - a player whom Aston Villa fans I know are not as enamoured with as neutrals might imagine – gets a sub appearance to do the square root of nothing. Whilst Matt Jarvis of Wolves and Matty Etherington of Stoke sit at home watching the game and wondering why they were overlooked. And don’t even get me started on Kevin Davies – rightly picked in the last squad, sees his subsequent form actually improve for Bolton, plays brilliantly in front of his national manager as he dismantled Spurs defence at the Reebok…and nowhere near this squad. Utter twaddle. It makes neither rhyme nor reason.

Hang on! I said I wouldn’t rant and we’re 2 paragraphs in already!! Sorry…

Gig news now as I close in on my last handful of shows with my great friends in DRESSED TO KILL.

We often stumble backstage after a DTK show and have a laugh about something that went wrong – whether it’s Danny’s smoking guitar making its own mind up about when it will work and when it won’t, or whether it’s chuckling about someone playing the wrong note in a song with just 4 chords in it.

But the last 2 nights at Newcastle Legends and Glasgow Garage, it’s been a different topic of conversation – namely how incredible both gigs were, especially Glasgow. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s always a long drive from the Midlands up to the North East, especially in a van that steadfastly refuses to get above 56mph (which at least meant we were at maximum fuel economy!!) but we still pulled up outside Legends Bar in Newcastle city centre band on time at 4pm to load in. Barry, the local PA guru, was already there setting up the speaker system and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief – Barry is one of the best sound engineers in the business having worked with him at other venues on Tyneside, so we knew we were in safe hands.

It was an early stage time for us (9pm approx) but Legends was packed with KISS devotees when the time came for the intro rumble. The punters were clearly up for a good night out and the singing from them was deafening at times. Danny & I have been playing a joint guitar/drum solo lately, just as Thayer & Singer did on the KISS tour, and it’s going down a storm. It went even better at Legends when Danny’s guitar was finally coaxed into belching out smoke at the right time without the need for mindless violence. A pleasant change and no mistake – it’s also noticeable how well ‘Say Yeah’ from Sonic Boom is going down in the set alongside the established ‘Klassics’.

A swift drive across to Carlisle saw us get our heads down for the night in a travel tavern, before another early load in at Glasgow Garage on Saturday afternoon ahead of us headlining a Monsters Of Mock show for Rock Radio.

Such 4-band bills can be the stuff of nightmares when it comes to sharing equipment, but we needn’t have worried. Judas Beast loaned their drumkit to all the acts and the sound crew provided guitar & bass cabs aplenty, so changeover times between acts was dramatically reduced. Which was nice.

We’ve become great friends over the years with Peter and his Gallus Cooper bandmates – they’ve supported us at the Ferry before now, but as the opening act at the Garage, they had loads more space to really put on a show – and my word they did. A brilliant half hour set (Go To Hell was a particular highlight for me) and it was great for the 4 of us to actually get to see Gallus Cooper play, as usually were getting into makeup and costume when they’re on. They were quite superb.

As were Non Jovi & Judas Beast who followed them, if soundcheck was anything to go by anyway, as we had to go and get ready once Gallus had finished playing School’s Out. The strains of both acts that we could just about make out from the basement dressing rooms certainly sounded fantastic – the punters were getting fantastic value for money, and we had to ensure that remained the case with our hour-long set.

There were 800+ punters in to roar us onto the stage, and they just kept on roaring. All flaming night. I have never heard audience participation like it. Gary said they sang with such force he almost felt himself fall backwards from the front of the stage. Amazing night for all concerned and Glasgow excelled itself once again, just when we thought they couldn’t be louder than at the Ferry. It’s gone straight into our Top 3 gigs of all time I think. And it was great to meet Non Jovi & Judas Beast, as well as have a great time with the Gallus boys too. Friendships all round.

Better still was the post show grub. The one-way system around Sauchiehall Street meant we got a tad lost looking for a kebab merchants, and elected somewhat disappointedly to head back south and stop on a motorway somewhere for Ginsters, the musicians’ only available option for hot food past a certain time.

Or so it seemed. But, pulling into a RoadChef on the M74 some minutes later, we encountered a friendly chef on duty who cooked us all a full on fry-up to order with free toast thrown in if you please!! Heaven on a plate – could’ve eaten a scabby horse to be fair, so we were right royally treated.

Great end to a great weekend. If you were there either night (or indeed both as our trusty stand-in Pyro Girl Amambel was – bless you x) then thanks very much for being part of it. You were stunning. 4 more venues to play before this year – and Witney, Swindon, Cardiff & Norwich audiences have a lot to live up to based on the last 2 nights… :o)

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