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Matt Holland's Blog 7

3 October 2012

Would you drop a diver? Watford boss Gianfranco Zola says he would if it was proven one of his players tried to con the match officials, and I must say that's a pretty refreshing attitude to have.

I won't name names but I've played for managers who have told me and my team-mates to 'go down' if you feel the slightest touch inside the penalty area, and that's a typical, rather than unusual stance.

There's a definite we'll-take-anything-we-can-get attitude in football.

Personally I can't see any reason why a panel of ex-players can't sit down on a Monday and review all the weekend's contentious 'dives' and cast judgement. If the group decides someone has committed simulation, the offender receives a three-match ban, just as Stoke City's Tony Pulis suggested last week. We could even have an appeals system during matches themselves if we wanted to take it even further.

Diving is so hard to police that the only way to rid our game of it, would be to have severe retrospective punishments. If a player knows he risks sitting out three matches he'll think twice about diving let me tell you! As it stands, we're seeing cheats get away with too much and there's little we can do. As a player I wanted to throttle opponents who blatantly conned the ref but you can't do that can you?

This debate was sparked by Fernando Forestieri's yellow card and subsequent dismissal for diving at Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night. I've heard a lot of people claim he slipped, and that's what his manager Zola thought too, so perhaps he will get the red card rescinded. If he's innocent I'd hope so.

While that incident caught my eye, one player I can't ignore this week is Burnley's Charlie Austin, who is quite simply on fire with 11 goals to his name, including three against Sheffield Wednesday at Turf Moor on Tuesday night.

People are now asking me if he's ready for the Premier League and my honest answer is that I simply don't know. You never do until they are put in that position and asked to sink or swim. He's very sharp, he's an expert finisher, and he's brimming with confidence but is he a superstar in the making? We can't be sure.

I had serious reservations about Grant Holt when he became a top flight player but he's made the transition look easy, while this summer I was convinced Jay Rodriguez would be an instant hit for Southampton - which hasn't quite happened yet. Whether he plays in the Premier League or not, Charlie Austin has to go down as one of Burnley's best ever buys. He's been fantastic.

Wilfried Zaha is another top talent plying his trade in the npower Championship and it's vital that Crystal Palace try and keep hold of him in the January transfer window. He's not the only reason behind their fabulous form but there's no doubt he's the one with true star quality.

I tipped the Eagles to struggle this season, so with 16 points from a possible 18, they are beginning to make me look stupid! What's their secret? From where I am sat they look very together. The spirit is obviously strong and there has been some intelligent management from Dougie Freedman, too.

There's a long way to go yet but right now the future isn't looking too bad for Crystal Palace, despite my pre-season predictions.

Blackburn Rovers will hope they have an upturn too of course, now that they are beginning life without Steve Kean.

I felt sorry for Kean in the end because it didn't matter what he did, he'd always be hated by the fans. They made their minds up about him. Even when they were winning matches and sitting in second place, the Ewood Park faithful were crying for 'Kean Out' so he didn't really stand a chance.

In hindsight, it may have been better for all concerned to part during the summer but at least now they have the chance to appoint someone who will lift spirits, when the side itself isn't doing too badly.
Roy Keane, Tim Sherwood and Alan Shearer all appear to be in the frame, so it will be interesting to see who the owners eventually plump for.

Last word has to go to Leicester City's Anthony Knockaert, who scored quite possibly the best brace I've ever seen, at Huddersfield Town this week. The first flew into the top corner from 30 yards and the second was a fancy back heel flick from behind his head. You have to see it to believe it.

I don't think I could even get my leg up that high, so I doth my cap to the French Under-21 star. What a goal.

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