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Matt Holland's Blog 11

31 October 2012

Backroom staff might not get all the glory but when the composition of a coaching team is right, when it's working well, when everyone is pulling in the same direction, it can be a very powerful thing.

Right now Dougie Freedman is attempting to persuade Crystal Palace to allow his trusty assistants Lennie Lawrence and Curtis Fleming to join him at Bolton Wanderers, while the Eagles are understandably reluctant to let this happen.

Why is Freedman so keen to work with those same guys? It's simple really, it's all about trust.

The new Trotters boss isn't saying that the Bolton Wanderers staff he's inherited aren't good enough, or that he can't work with them. He's not implying that he can't trust them either. What he is saying is that he knows that the combination of himself, Lawrence and Fleming is a formula that works for him as a manager, and that together they have an honest, straightforward relationship that just clicks. And why wouldn't he want to bring that to his new club?

These small management teams have to get on with one another. They meet early in the morning, and work closely for 12 hours a day, every day. It's the way it has to be, so you really do have to be on the same wavelength.

I believe Dougie Freedman loves the enthusiasm that Curtis Fleming brings to the training ground environment, while he also leans on the experience of Lennie Lawrence whenever he needs a wise word or two in his ear. There's nothing Lennie hasn't seen in football, so if he has a quandary he'll go to him and ask for advice - and that's such a useful guide for Freedman to have.

I fully understand Crystal Palace's frustration and desire to hold on to their remaining staff but if an agreement can be reached I'm convinced the pair will soon be heading up to the Reebok.

Another club that seems to be functioning nicely right now are Nottingham Forest, who are banging in the goals and entertaining the City Ground fans in a way that they haven't enjoyed for several years.

Why are Forest performing better this term?

Firstly, they have a good manager with a philosophy that's popular with the players he works with; secondly, they recruited sensibly in the summer by bringing in the right characters that possess steel and dedication, as well technically gifted players who are very comfortable with the style of passing football. And thirdly, perhaps most significantly, Nottingham Forest are playing with freedom and a smile on their face. When all that comes together, as we're seeing now, it makes for exciting times.

Burnley began a new era this week when appointing Sean Dyche as their new first-team manager, and I couldn't be more pleased for Sean.

He did excellently at Watford and wasn't treated as well as he deserved for steering them to 11th place last season, but he's back in the game now and I'm sure he'll be well suited to Burnley.

Dyche is used to working on a tight budget, and he's a leader of men. He's also a young coach that's on a steep learning curve on the job - just as Eddie Howe was - so he won't be too different to the club's former boss you suspect.

With Charlie Austin on fire in front of goal Burnley have one of the npower Championship's most sought-after players, and seeing as they are within touching distance of the Play-Offs, they can't be written off in terms of their promotion prospects. Burnley's new gaffer is a no-nonsense boss that's driven to succeed and I hope they fare well.

Last but certainly not least, congratulations to Leeds United and Middlesbrough for reaching this season's Capital One Cup Quarter-Finals. I thought both sides were outstanding in the way that they put out Premier League opposition on Tuesday night.

Okay, Southampton rested a lot of regulars at Elland Road but Leeds still put them to sword impressively, while Boro - led by my old mate Tony Mowbray - beat a full strength Sunderland side on their home patch in a derby win that shouldn't be sniffed at.

Cardiff City and Crystal Palace showed how well npower Championship clubs can do in this competition last year, and by the looks of it, another side from this division has a real shot at getting to the Wembley showpiece again.

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