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Championship

Matt Holland's Blog 4

12 September 2012

The enforced hiatus that comes with the break for international football can sometimes have a disruptive effect on a side at any stage of the season but, at this particularly early stage of the new campaign, it can have a real impact as the npower Championship teams try and get into their stride.

Take Derby County for example. After a stuttering start, they were finally up and running after a comprehensive 5-1 battering of Watford at Pride Park earlier in the month but it was suddenly back to the training ground as the World Cup qualifiers took precedence. Rams keeper Frank Fielding admitted he wasn't an admirer of the break and after a great result like that, I can understand why.

Obviously, the break affects different teams in different ways but for me, it's the number of players you actually lose to their countries that's the most significant factor.

If four or five of your senior players disappear for up to 10 days, it's very difficult to do any meaningful work in training because you're essentially operating with half of your first-choice XI. That means any emphasis on the team's shape and set-up is a job half done because of the missing players.

Critics of the break also claim that it robs in-form teams of their momentum but I think that's a bit of a myth. Of course, you want to be playing regularly when you're getting the results but if you start the first game after the break with the same or similar XI to your previous match, there's not really an excuse for not performing again.

If key players pick up injuries on international duty, it's obviously a different story.

The switch to playing the qualifiers to Tuesdays and Fridays should definitely help the clubs, though. There will always be the risk of fatigue for players who've had to travel thousands of miles to Eastern Europe but the new calendar still theoretically gets the players back to their clubs a day early and that can only help a team's preparations for the next league fixture.

It may have been a quiet week or so on the pitch but the Blackburn soap opera shows no signs of going away and I was staggered when Steve Kean last week revealed he'd never seen three of his deadline day signings - Grzegorz Sandomierski, Nuno Henrique and Diogo Rosado - play in the flesh.

He's certainly not the first manager to sign a player on the strength of a DVD or the recommendation of a scout but considering everything that's going on at Ewood Park, I was surprised he actually admitted it.

The three players were recommended by the club's global adviser Shebby Singh and I can't help feeling that Kean has unnecessarily weakened himself by making the information public. He is already in a precarious position at Rovers despite a good start to the season and it seems to me he's risking the further anger of the fans by revealing he's not in total control of recruitment.

The buck ultimately stops with the manager and his authority on playing matters should not be undermined.

Staying in the north west, Bolton Wanderers are back in action on Saturday against Watford at the Reebok and after a disappointing start to life in the npower Championship for Wanderers, you'd have to say Owen Coyle needs a result.

I'm surprised Bolton have struggled so far. Some teams take time to adapt after relegation but I really thought that with the squad they have, Wanderers would not be one of them. Quality players like Keith Andrews, Chris Eagles and Marvin Sordell have all got npower Championship experience and I believed they'd hit the ground running.

The good news for Coyle is players like Stuart Holden are on their way back from injury and a couple of decent results should ease the pressure that has been building on the manager. I still expect Bolton to be serious promotion contenders and maybe Wanderers have simply contrived to endure their inevitable sticky patch early rather than later in the season.

Last up this week, I'd like to sing the praises of Kevin Doyle for the loyalty he's shown staying at Wolverhampton Wanderers. It emerged this week that the club had plenty of interest from Premier League clubs in Doyle's services over the summer but the player made it clear he would stay at Molineux and fight for promotion.

As an international it must have been a hard decision because he will have been well aware that he's more chance of selection for the Republic if he's playing at the highest level but he stuck to his guns and stayed loyal.

It's obvious he felt he owed Wolves something and after losing Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher over the summer, I'm sure the club were delighted to hold onto at least one of their top players.


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