Holloway stands up for principles in football
Holloway stands up for principles in football
Aug. 26, 2013
LONDON (AP) — At times it feels like Ian Holloway is fighting a one-man war for sanity in football.
In a sport where principles are sometimes abandoned quicker than clubs change shirts, one of the Premier League's newest, returning managers is resolute in sticking to his values.
"I have got (principles) and I will always have them," the Crystal Palace manager says. "Everyone's got principles — but in principle they want money."
The quick wit and jocular tone can be deceptive.
After two years away from the Premier League, the former Blackpool manager is back in the big time with south London club Palace.
"There are a few more noughts on the end of the deals," the 50-year-old Holloway responds in a flash in his distinctive southwest England accent.
Don't be fooled by the flippant replies.
Holloway is passionate about the image of the game.
What irritates him so much is not necessarily the bumper pay packets that land in players' pockets, but how the cash changes them as people and just how pampered they are.
Quite simply, players today just don't realize how good they've got it.
Remind them. Send players down to the lower reaches of the non-league as a wake-up call.
"When they go out and come back in they appreciate it more," Holloway said. "So maybe some of these overpaid starlets we've got flying about the place should be released and see how they like it."
Holloway is more grounded than most, something no doubt rooted in overcoming the challenges of raising four children, three of whom were born deaf. He coped and along the way also learned sign language.
It puts the football challenges into perspective.
Away from his home life he is immersed in a game that has never been awash with so much money.
The latest global television deals are generating 5.5 billion pounds ($8.6 billion) for the league over three years.
Even if Palace, Holloway's south London team, returns instantly to the second tier by finishing bottom they will receive at least 60 million pounds ($93 million) at the end of the season.
"Everyone is desperate to get to the money in the Premier League," Holloway said. "They think it's a free meal ticket but it isn't."
Not when newly promoted teams like Palace have to try to compete against — not only the behemoths at Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea — but even more modest, though established, sides.
"We're sharks in the water," Holloway conceded. "But there are others who are bigger than us ... they're just bigger sharks than us."
The Premier League thrives as the people filling the stadiums often struggle to meet the cost of attending games.
"Countries are going bust for god's sake, but football's thriving," Holloway says. "I'm glad it is because it's a wonderful game."
The conversation moves inevitably onto agents.
So key in helping to guide players' careers. So irritating to some clubs trying to find talent and strengthen squads as they circle around potential deals.
"If you ring up a club in France before you know it that club will have then had four or five or six agents saying, 'I can get a deal with Crystal Palace, give me the mandate, give me the mandate,'" Holloway says. "Then all those people will then ring you up and every time I've had that, I've then said: 'No I don't want that player.'
"Because I don't know if I can trust that player if he's got all these people so-called around him. And then the prices go up and down and they all want their little cuts. That's what we've found this summer."
Holloway grows increasingly exasperated.
"Everyone is getting richer and people are saying, 'You've got to pay me,'" he continues. "In life there are loopholes and clever people who try to exploit them."
The cash swilling around English football isn't all bad.
In the shadow of the headquarters of Barclays, the league sponsor, Holloway is speaking at the gym of a college in east London that has benefited from the trickle-down effect of the league's riches. A grant of more than $1.2 million has funded several football pitches.
"That's what we should be doing, it's not all about how much the top players get — however many grillion a week," Hollloway says, inventing a word on the spot.
"It's not about that, what that turns them into — not very nice people, going out spending god knows what in bars. It's not about that. It's about being people — proper people."
The example for Holloway is striker Kevin Phillips, who is still in his squad aged 40.
"He's what a real footballer should be," Holloway says. "And I don't mean a nice car and shiny earrings."
While outgoing and often entertaining, Holloway wants people to take him seriously despite the occasional quip.
"Every dog has its day, and today is woof day! Today I just want to bark!" was how he responded to Queens Park Rangers gaining promotion to the second tier in 2004.
Now he's cutting back on the one-liners that have defined him in the past.
"I'm trying to talk in a way so people don't think I'm funny anymore," the former Bristol Rovers and Queens Park Rangers midfielder said ahead of the new season. "I'm fed up with that. I'm not a comedian, I'm a football manager."
But Palace's league record after two matches is played two, lost two.
And however much his philosophizing is admired, he'll ultimately be judged by his team's results.