Fulham Vs Blackpool, Sun 3 Apr 2011

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Fulham manager Mark Hughes insists that beneath Ian Holloway's comical persona lies a sharp footballing brain.

Hughes' friendship with the Blackpool boss started before the Tangerines' expectation-defying debut season in the Barclays Premier League.

Holloway, who takes his team to Craven Cottage on Sunday, is a colourful figure but Hughes refuses to be deceived by his antics.

"I known Ian reasonably well. We have some mutual friends so after games I'd spend a little more time with him," he said.

"I really enjoy his company, as you'd expect. He's a great personality and a great guy to spend time with.

"He's not at all removed from his public persona in private, he's exactly the same!

"What people have to understand is that although they laugh at his comments - and I think bravado has much to do with his comments - he knows his stuff.

"He's a very knowledgeable football man and sometimes when the statements come out that make people chuckle, that can be lost. But make no mistake, he understands what he's about and trying to do. That's reflected in his teams."

Holloway is hoping to revive Blackpool's fortunes following a recent slump that has seen them win just one of their last 11 league matches.


"Ian's done a great job and has had a fantastic first season," said Hughes. "Obviously Blackpool can stay up but they are on a run of form that's difficult and that would concern me.

"I'm sure it concerns Holly that they haven't won that many games of late. But in every game they're competitive and look like they can score goals.

"It's difficult when you haven't won games for a while - that anxiety can creep into your game."

Striker Bobby Zamora is a doubt for Fulham because of illness but midfielder Steve Sidwell is in contention to play after recovering from his knee injury.

Defender Aaron Hughes is expected to feature despite dislocating his shoulder on international duty for Northern Ireland.

Holloway hopes to steer Blackpool clear of relegation - Spanish style.

The club's enthusiastic manager is promising supporters a subtle twist to an already entertaining brand of football.

Holloway spent part of the international break in Spain learning different techniques at various training grounds. He is now planning to implement those skills, starting on Sunday.

Holloway said: "I went on a fact-finding mission to Spain and saw things that convinced me I know what I am talking about.

"I am going to tweak what I do and try to get even more of the ball the way Spanish teams do. I have come back with some different things that I need to add to the team."

Holloway has already won praise from his peers in Blackpool's debut season in the Premier League. In a poll of top-flight managers, 80% of them named the Tangerines the team of the season.

Holloway said: "It is fantastic that people are saying nice things about my side but it doesn't get you points.

"Part of the reason I came back into the game was that I actually wanted to make a difference and produce a product I would pay to watch. It is just the start for me."

Blackpool are only one point above the relegation zone as they head to London but Holloway is not worried about the run-in and perhaps losing their status.

He said: "Obviously there is a lot at stake but I am very positive. We have been as effective away from home as many other Premier League teams.

"It is all to play for. It is absolutely exciting. The funny thing is you try and work out who should win what games, we have blown that off the chart.

"The teams who come up don't normally win away games but look at us. We will be calm, we will be trying to play football. You won't see us freeze, you won't see us worry.

"Who knows which way it is going to go. It is really exciting. A lot of people thought we would be lucky to get 10 points."

Blackpool will be without defender David Carney as the Australian has a shoulder injury.

DJ Campbell is also missing through suspension but skipper Charlie Adam has recovered from a knock and is expected to start.

Goalkeeper Paul Rachubka returns to the bench following a knee problem and will provide back-up for Richard Kingson.

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