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Championship

Matt Holland's Blog 2

29 August 2012

It's going to be a nervous few days for npower Championship managers as the end of the transfer window looms and they anxiously wait to see if they are to be stripped of some of their biggest and brightest talent.

Of course some managers will be looking to strengthen and bring in new faces but I always feel this phase of the season is one in which many of them are simply hoping to get into September with their squads in one piece and fend off interest from their Premier League counterparts.

It must be incredibly nerve wracking and one manager who must be particularly on edge over the new few days is Ian Holloway at Blackpool as he waits to see what the future holds for Tom Ince. The youngster was sensational against Ipswich on Saturday, scoring two and setting up three more, and it was a performance that can only have increased interest from the likes of Swansea and one or two other Premier League sides.

Holloway has said he's under no pressure to sell Ince but a lucrative offer from a big club always presents a Championship side with a dilemma. We will have wait and see how brave the Tangerines are prepared to be and whether they can resist the temptation to cash in.

Another club going well so far this season is Blackburn but judging by the comments made by the club's global advisor Shebby Singh earlier in the month, you have to wonder whether Steve Kean and his players have made a strong start despite rather than because of Rovers' current owners.

Singh said in an interview that Kean could be sacked if the team lost three-in-a-row and labelled Morten Gamst Pedersen a pensioner and although he tried to back track a few days later, I thought what he said revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of how a club operates.

But saying that, the way Pedersen celebrated his goal with his team-mates in their 2-1 win against Leicester on Saturday - grabbing a walking stick - suggested to me there's plenty of camaraderie and a sense of humour in the Rovers dressing room and perhaps they've used those comments to help build a bit of unity and performance. Adversity can have that effect on a group of players.

However much flak Kean and his team have got from the press, the owners and the fans, I've always felt the team were still playing for the manager and on the evidence of this season, I'd say that was still the case.

A couple of feel-good stories emerged this week and in a world in which it can be all too easy to be negative and critical, I thought both deserve a mention.

The first concerned a Forest fan who was en route to the Huddersfield game last week but realised she's lost the tickets for her and her son. She Tweeted some of the Forest players asking for help and Dexter Blackstock saved the day leaving a couple of tickets for her at the ground.

Twitter seems to get an absolute battering on a daily basis but this was a great example of how, used properly, it really can bring the players and the fans closer together. Modern footballers are frequently criticised for being aloof, too distant from the supporters, but this was a brilliant example of the complete opposite.

Sadly, I'm sure the evils of Twitter in the hands of a footballer will be highlighted in the not too distant future but it's worth remembering it's not all negative.

The second story that caught my eye was the return to form of Ipswich's Michael Chopra. Michael had all sorts of personal issues off the pitch last season and struggled with a gambling problem but, after a summer spent working on his fitness in America, it looks like he's getting back to his best.

It's never pleasant to see a player going through the wringer on and off the pitch but it's uplifting to see that person working through their problems and it's a great example of hard work and courage.

I saw Michael play in the Capital One Cup against Bristol Rovers earlier in the month and he certainly looked sharp and came alive every time the ball found its way into the 18-yard box. I wish him the best of look for the rest of the season and beyond.

It's great to talk about feel-good stories. I was talking to Andy Gray recently and asked him how he approached his co-commentary work and he said 'accentuate the positive'. He said that if he saw a goal, he'd rather talk about the attacking play that lead to it or the movement of the striker rather than focus on poor defending or what the goalkeeper could have done better.

It made a lot of sense to me. Criticism is part and parcel of the game but it shouldn't mean we can't all weigh in with a bit of praise, does it?


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