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Matt Holland's Blog 1

22 August 2012

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time seems to fly. The end of last season's npower Championship still feels very fresh in the memory but here we are, at the start of another campaign with nine months of drama and delight ahead of us. The time for pre-season predictions is over and now we'll see what the 24 teams are really made of.

I'm not, at this early stage of the season, going to put too much significance on the npower Championship table after just two games. It's very, very early days and with my sensible hat on, I think you have to wait until at least six games have been played before you can draw any real conclusions from league positions.

It's different in the dressing room, though. Publicly, players will tell the media that they're not taking any notice of the table until the end of September but believe me, if you're top after three games, there's a buzz on the training ground and a sense of optimism. Conversely, if a side is bottom without a win, the players will be saying in interviews that it's just teething problems but privately the pressure will already be mounting and the nerves jangling.

Right now it's way too early. Don't forget Reading lost four of their opening six npower Championship games last season and were still crowned champions, proving pretty conclusively that it is always a long and unpredictable campaign.

With two league games and a Capital One Cup fixture under their belts however, the players should now have got the new season adrenalin out of their system and be settling into their rhythm. I always experienced a real surge of energy in that first game of the season, the heart pumping that little faster than usual, but it soon settles down and you regain control of your emotions and your focus.

It's a strange time of the season for managers and certain players because the transfer window is not yet shut and, although they're back in the heat of battle, there are still deals to be done and no-one can confidently predict exactly who'll be playing for who come September.

The likes of Stephen Fletcher and Matt Jarvis at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Huddersfield Town's Jordan Rhodes and Matt Phillips at Blackpool all seem to have their futures up in the air at the moment and transfer speculation and rumour can affect different players in different ways.

Rhodes and Phillips reacted by producing vital goals for their sides against Nottingham Forest and Leeds United respectively on Tuesday night, but while for some a potential transfer can give their performance a lift, it can be unsettling for others.

I was in a similar situation back in August 2002 when I was at Ipswich Town. We'd been relegated from the Premier League and I knew Aston Villa wanted to sign me. They sent someone to watch me in the league game against Walsall at the Bescot Stadium and I didn't enjoy the whole experience. Of course, Villa's interest was flattering but I felt I owed Ipswich another season and really could have done without all the talk at the time about a transfer.

The other interesting thing about late transfers is the potential impact on the rest of the team. I've no doubt the likes of Rhodes and Jarvis are getting plenty of good natured banter in the dressing room about the stories currently doing the rounds but beyond the humour, players do worry about losing talented team-mates.

It's the nature of the game that players come and go. Members of a squad accept that but just like fans, they're actually aware of the quality of the players who are brought in to replace the players who are sold.

For me, Wolves could be a prime example of this. Most people would accept that Fletcher and Jarvis were their two best players last season even though they were relegated and if they don't manage to hold onto them, all eyes will be on their possible replacements. If Wolves were to sign what were perceived as inferior players to bolster the squad, people (and some of the players) would question the club's ambition and ability to bounce straight back up.

It's at times like this that the managers are under huge pressure. At Molineux, Stale Solbakken is desperate to get Wolves back to winning ways after a tough year in the Premier League but he's also not completely sure how his squad is going to look in September.

It's certainly a difficult balancing act as he looks to make his mark at the club.

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