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Matt Holland's Blog 19

28 December 2012

It didn't take long for two of the npower Championship's big boys to put their Christmas spirit aside did it? The shock sackings of Sean O'Driscoll and Henning Berg show just how ruthless football at this level has now become.

Let's start with Nottingham Forest; where I have to confess I was stunned that the Kuwaiti owners decided to remove the manager from his position. I watched them beat Leeds United 4-2 on Boxing Day and thought they were excellent. Forest seemed to be playing some of the best football I've seen them produce in a long time and their results - although inconsistent - hadn't exactly been poor either.

I worked with Sean O'Driscoll at Bournemouth so I know what a top coach he is, and how astute he can be tactically. He also had the Forest players fully on his side too, so my initial reaction was that his dismissal seemed like madness.

When you want your team to play attractive passing football and for every player to be comfortable on the ball in any situation, like Sean O'Driscoll demands, it takes a little time to forge the right fluency.

We've witnessed it at Liverpool this season under Brendan Rodgers, where his players have taken time to 'get it' on a consistent basis. You just can't transform your team into world beaters overnight when you change the style so dramatically. Despite this, I still felt Forest were heading in a very positive direction under his leadership and that the players were responding well. That's why it was such a huge surprise.

In Sean's place comes Alex McLeish, who is one of football's good guys, and a decent manager, too.

My only query is that his style of football isn't at all like his predecessor. Just as Forest's players - new and old - have begun to master the technical side of one system, they are now going to have to get used to an entirely different set of instructions from their new gaffer. There's no obvious pattern or continuity at all.

I'm less surprised that Henning Berg has been axed, even though he only had 10 matches and 57 days at the helm.

If truth be told, I was baffled by his initial appointment given the quality and track records of the other candidates who were considered, and it has just never clicked for the Norwegian.

I was a Charlton Athletic player when Les Reed was sacked after just six weeks in the job in 2006, so I've been there when something like this happens.

Back then, and in Berg's case it really isn't long enough to make a mark, or to stamp your ideas and philosophies on the players - but sometimes you just know if something isn't working, or isn't likely to work.

In 2006 at the Valley, our dressing room found it difficult to see Les as a manager after he'd been promoted from number two. He didn't seem cut out for it, and we all had our doubts. Sacking him was harsh but it was probably the right decision, even though he'd had little time to make an impact.

With Henning Berg, you wonder if Rovers' eagerness to employ somebody with a previous background as a player at the club held too much sway over their decision to give him the job. His previous record as a manager hadn't been especially outstanding.

Steve Kean was doing more than okay earlier this season by comparison. Blackburn Rovers fans might be wishing they'd been more careful about what they had wished for.

All three of last season's relegated sides have found the going tough in the npower Championship this year. People used to say that parachute payments gave relegated teams an unfair advantage but that isn't how it's working out anymore.

Bolton Wanderers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn are all taking time to re-adjust to the division, while some of the league's longer-serving clubs are battling it out at the top. This reminds me how important it is for teams to understand the npower Championship, in order to succeed in it.

Wolves' 3-0 home defeat to Peterborough United was Boxing Day's stand-out result, and what a boost it must have given former Molineux player Darren Ferguson and his men.

That's three wins in a row for Posh now, which has equalled their best run at this level since 1993. With Bristol City and then Barnsley up next, they might fancy their chances of extending the winning streak. Those two fixtures are very, very important that's for sure.

Leading their attack at the moment is on-loan Dwight Gayle who is about to join on a permanent basis from Dagenham and Redbridge.

Peterborough United have an unbelievable record at picking out some of the lower league's top talents and transforming them into good performers at the higher level don' t they?

Posh will have to fight very hard this season to survive, but with their uncanny knack for spotting unheralded players like Gayle, they have at least given themselves a fighting chance.

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