Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Matt Holland's Blog 18

19 December 2012

Brighton manager Gus Poyet kicked off an interesting debate earlier this week when he described the npower Championship as average and while I think he was speaking out of frustration after his team's goalless draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday, I can partly understand where he's coming from.

Gus pointed out that the Seagulls were in eighth despite only winning three of their last 15 games. Albion are still only three points adrift of the Play-Off places and Gus jumped to the conclusion that the division must be poor for his side to be in contention after such a mediocre run of results.

I agree there hasn't been really been a stand-out side so far this season - a team that has run away with things. In my view there have also been more defensive lapses than usual and the fact that a team like Ipswich Town, currently in 20th place, could still conceivably mount a charge for a Play-Off place does suggest there isn't much to choose between the majority of the teams.

The counter argument is that the npower Championship is the most competitive, most closely fought and most unpredictable division possible. The fact that bottom-of-the-table Peterborough United beat the leaders Cardiff City away from home on Saturday just underlines the point.

I also believe there has been real individual quality on display this season. The likes of Wilfried Zaha, Tom Ince and Jordan Rhodes are as good as anyone I've seen playing at this level for a good few years and it's a credit to the division that it's producing real talent like that.

With the January transfer window looming, there are a few nervous managers out there and as Charlie Austin continues to bang in the goals, Burnley boss Sean Dyche will be wondering whether he will be able to hang onto his young striker.

Every player has his price but Sean's big problem could be Burnley's current league position. The Clarets are sitting relatively comfortably in 16th and if a big offer comes in for Austin next month, it could be difficult for him to make a compelling case to the chairman not to sell him.

A manager chasing promotion or even one with a relegation battle on his hands can argue it would be a false economy to sell a prize asset. A manager seemingly safe in mid-table is going to struggle to make such a convincing argument, which is Sean's situation right now.

In other news, Bolton Wanderers picked up only their second victory in eight league games after beating my old club Charlton Athletic 2-0 at the Reebok Stadium at the weekend. The win came courtesy of two very good goals from David Ngog and reminded me what a destructive player the Frenchman can be.

Things didn't really work out for him at Liverpool but he's still only 23 and has bags of potential. He's not exactly been prolific for Wanderers yet either but his goals against Charlton were superb showed he's got all the raw ingredient to make a top class player.

The challenge he now faces is producing the goods more regularly. If he can do that, Bolton are still capable of making an impression on the top six.

With the busy Christmas period nearly upon us, different players will be preparing for the flurry of games with a range of different emotions. Some hate playing over Christmas while others love the extra fixtures.

Personally, I was in the latter category. I loved the number of games that always came over Christmas and the New Year and I didn't even mind when we had to train on Christmas morning. Some players moan about being away from the family but I felt it was possible to get the best of both worlds.

The way I saw it was the kids would always be up at the crack of dawn, which meant I was always around for opening the presents and all the initial madness. I could have breakfast with them but to be honest, I was then quite happy to get out of the house for a couple of hours to train. Training was actually a bit of peace and quiet and also helped me work up a good appetite for my Christmas dinner.

The big setback was having to stay in a hotel on Christmas evening if we had an away game on but that didn't happen every year and over the years I came to terms with it. It was part and parcel of the job and I was always able to get back home to be with the family for Boxing Day.

I'll be back next week with my last blog of 2012 but before then I'd like to wish you a very happy Christmas.

Advertisement block