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Ian Holloway on his angriest manager moments, Pep’s passion, and Neil Warnock’s powers of persuasion


Ian Holloway spoke to The Sack Race about the passion of Pep Guardiola, falling out with referees, and how he’s previously let his own competitiveness get the better of him.

While he also revealed the ground he hated visiting as both a player and a manager.

Falling out with referees...

Pep Guardiola must hate VAR at the moment, given what’s happened over the last six months.

When he sarcastically shook the hands of the officials after the Liverpool game, I liked him for that. It’s passion. That’s how I would have been.

It is very difficult in those circumstances. I remember Neil Warnock glaring at the officials last season when Cardiff controversially lost to Chelsea.

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At times in my own managerial career I’ve felt there was an agenda against me. Once when my Plymouth side played Mick McCarthy’s Wolves, somebody brought me a referee’s report before the game which said:

“Mick’s a nice man and his lads are great, while Ian Holloway is a fiery little bugger you’d better watch out.”

The officials had pre-judged me before they came to the game so I rang up Paul Durkin who was in charge of the referees then, and he said that he’d take a look at it, as it wasn’t right. I know that the referee got into trouble, his excuse was that he was doing some pre-match preparation - ridiculous! Four or so of my lads ended getting booked in the match.

Once at West Brom my wife was sat upstairs and she heard the referees having a conversation and they said to the fourth official:

“Have you got your earmuffs ready because you’ll have your work cut out with Holloway this afternoon.”

I came up and I nearly stopped the game.

But in the end I took a look at myself, and I felt that it was me that was wrong. I was getting on at the officials too much. My dad, who only got booked once in his career, always said to me: “don’t you ever argue with referees.” But I hadn’t listened to his advice.

I then started having a laugh with the officials instead. Neil Warnock was the best at it. He’s told me that he puts dressing gowns out for them, and puts food in their room!. They are only human after all and they are just trying to do their job.

Pressures of being a manager...

I’ve lost my temper on so many occasions, and said some things I perhaps shouldn’t have in the heat of the moment. Everyone of us managers runs the gauntlet for what we’ve said as everything is so meticulously analysed.

I got fined a couple of thousand pounds once for saying the referee ‘should have gone to Specsavers’ in an interview after the game.

It can’t be helped at times because football is such an emotional game. If you didn’t have to speak to the press straight after the game life would be a lot easier for a manager.

Big decisions can lose a manager his job, which is his livelihood. It’s very serious so you have a right to be angry.

This might be controversial but it’s the gospel truth, whatever club you support for the manager whose in charge it’s a lot worse for them because their families and livelihood depends on it. It’s so hard not to say how you feel right after a game.

Arsene Wenger was world class at it. He used to say “I didn’t see it”. He must have seen some of them - get some better glasses Arsene for Christ Sake! That was his way of dealing with it.

I am so glad I’m not a referee, especially at this moment in time.

Being a competitive manager...

I’m a competitive person. If I was playing tiddlywinks against you I’d want to beat you.

The minute a game started I would be desperate to win. I always thought I was focused, but I think I’m obsessed. If you ask anybody who knew me when I was growing up, I was absolutely vile to play against.

If I was playing pitch and putt down the local golf course I would get angry at myself if i wasn’t winning. Sometimes it’s not nice to be around. I’m a very bad loser.

You would have thought that I would have got used to it being a football manager, but I’m sorry I haven’t.

My wife and I go camping and we play Backgammon, and when I lose I get pissy with that. She comes up with exactly the right numbers she needs to beat me every time! Although I must admit I think she’s probably just good at it.

I have to win at everything, it’s just the way I am. It is life or death to us managers.

If you’re in a battle and you see your general throwing his arms around, it looks like he doesn’t believe.

If you looked at the start of my career when I was Bristol Rovers manager, we dropped out the top-two and finished in the play-offs where we were 3-1 up against Northampton but then lost the away leg 3-0. I felt my management wasn’t right then, I got too emotional.

You need to be ice cold like Bjorn Borg. Over the years I’ve learnt that you’ve got to look calm and exude belief, and that’s what I managed to do later on in my career. I learnt later on, and I benefited from all my experience.

Pep Guardiola has never won at Anfield - was there a stadium that you hated visiting?

Norwich City. Every time I went there I got hammered. I can remember two in particular: 6-1 and 4-0. I just never ever got any joy there.

It was every single time I went there. As a player and as a manager.

Even as a young player when I hadn’t got in the first team yet, I got sent off in a reserve game. It really is a graveyard for me.

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