The International Break: Ian Holloway on broken legs, a mysterious phone call from Nigeria, and the Hong Kong job

Ian Holloway by Ian Holloway / 06 September 2019, 09:24

The international break can be a total relief for a manager, particularly if you’ve just won a game.

Sam Allardyce told me years ago ‘that’s the time you fly off son’ as he would go over to his villa, but I just used to go camping or do something else for a couple of days.

It’s a good time to recharge your own batteries, a chance to put everything down, let go of the reins and talk to the wife nicely, without being angry. Well, that’s unless we’d just lost the last game which would ruin it a little bit!

In that first week of the international break it’s a bit like shadow boxing, then the next week you step up and get a sparring partner in, that’s how I’d describe it. It can be a little bit disjointed though.

I was lucky enough to have quite a few players away, but you don’t want to work the other ones too hard, you want to have a little bit of banter with them and give them a bit of time off, maybe a golf day in the first week to keep it ticking over.

But if you’ve got the bulk of one element of your team - say the back four and goalkeeper - you can do a little bit of non-pressured work where you’re going through the motions.

The only worry you have is players picking up horrible injuries. I had a whole season ruined at Bristol Rovers when Ronnie Mauge broke his leg while playing for Trinidad and Tobago which meant I lost him for the rest of our season. It was horrific. I’d begged him not to go. I said ‘we’re going to get promoted here and I could use you’ but he said ‘I want to play for my country’. We ended up missing out on the play-offs…

Would I want to manage at international level?

I would never rule it out. I’m sure it would be a wonderful scenario to lead the elite players of a country, travel around, watch them play, then to try and win a tournament. Particularly if it was a lower ranked country where you had the chance to create history and try and take them to places they’ve never been before. That would be marvelous. Never say never!

There was a phone call I had a few months ago about being the manager for Hong Kong and I said I would have loved to have been interviewed for it, but unfortunately nothing happened.

When I was at QPR I once had someone phone me up pretending to be an official from Nigeria, saying ‘we want you to be our manager’, but then I felt it could have been one of the QPR directors trying to get me to look like I was two-faced. It was an elaborate coup to try and get me out at QPR, so I just laughed at them and said: ‘you’re not from Nigeria, I’m not interested, I’ve got a very nice job now thank you very much.’

Being an international manager would be very different as you haven’t got your players all the time. You’ve got to travel around and watch your players play, and try and build a team and do it very quickly with only a couple of weeks training, which is going to be difficult.

I would have loved the opportunity to do it but I’m sure people would think that I wouldn’t be good enough because I never played international football myself. I would think that could be a disadvantage for a manager - maybe I shouldn’t say that but I’m only being honest!

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