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Matt Holland's Blog 27

20 February 2013

You should never judge a professional footballer from training sessions alone. I've known great players who haven't been that bothered on a daily basis, and I've also seen a lot of outstanding trainers, who haven't been able to reproduce anywhere near the same level in pressurised match situations.

Judging from Lee Clark's comments this week, his striker Nikola Zigic hasn't exactly been busting a gut on the training pitch, and as a result he was dropped from the squad for last weekend's 4-0 hammering by Watford. I completely understand where the Birmingham City gaffer was coming from, especially as Zigic is paid a lot of money by the club.

Back in my day, when I was a youngster, Julian Dicks was a particularly bad trainer. He just couldn't be bothered to do the running or the gym work and was always flat last, yet when the balls came out, he came alive. On a Saturday, he was some player, too. For those reasons the managers never clamped down on his slack attitude towards the physical work.

I guess with the need for results so important for Birmingham City right now, Lee Clark will have been tearing his hair out at his strikers' alleged lack of commitment, and if he feels he's not in good enough shape then it's potentially jeopardising the club's chances of survival in the npower Championship.

These days football is such a sharp, fitness-specific sport that you can't get away with having players who aren't in the right condition mentally or physically. If you're not right, you will be quickly get found out - especially in the hustle and bustle of the npower Championship.

Personally, I loved every aspect of going into the training ground each day to do my work. I really couldn't get enough of it. That said, I worked alongside plenty of other pros who would infuriate their managers like Zigic just has. Training ground issues arise all of the time.

I was at Portman Road on Saturday to see Ipswich Town beat Blackpool 1-0 in what I can best describe as a scrappy affair. That's being kind really. I bumped into Paul Ince while I was there and said hello, and he has since been named the new Tangerines manager.

After enjoying a great start to his managerial career with Macclesfield Town and Milton Keynes Dons, he's had a couple of disappointments to deal with, but after spending two years out of the game you sense he's really hungry to make this job work for him.

Blackpool have a good squad which is always a nice place to start, but Paul Ince finds himself closer to the relegation zone than he is to the Play-Offs, so there's work to do.

Did the fact that his son Thomas is the star player have any bearing on Paul Ince's appointment at Blackpool? Who knows, but the boy himself is going to be a hugely important player for him over the closing weeks.

When it came to Paul Ince's job interview, the fact that he's been watching Blackpool most weeks must have helped his case. It's not as if he doesn't know anything about the squad he's inherited.

I don't see there being a problem working with his son either. He managed him at Notts County before, and Thomas will be well prepared for the banter that's about to fly his way! He'll take some merciless ribbing, but you'd think he'll feel even more comfortable with his football having his dad that little bit closer.

Well done to Blackburn Rovers on knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup. It was like the Alamo at times, but Michael Appleton's side deserved to ride their luck, as they were exceptionally well disciplined and organised. That's what you have to do when you face superior opposition.

David Bentley's rejoined the club on loan, and I hope that he can rekindle his career. What seems like three or four years have gone by without him featuring at all, or making any kind of impact on the game and that's really strange for a player of his natural ability.

All he needs is a run of games at first-team level, and then hopefully he'll rediscover that spark which helped him to become an England international during his first spell at Ewood Park.

If David Bentley hits form, he'll be some asset for Michael Appleton's side.

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