Nicknamed “Ollie,” Ian Holloway is a character who will take no prisoners and has enjoyed successful times as a player and manager. In November 2016, he left his position as chief Football League pundit with Sky Sports to have another go at managing Queens Park Rangers, the club he represented with great dignity in the Premier League.
Holloway began his playing career with Bristol Rovers, his hometown club in 1981 and finished his playing career in 1999 with the same team. During his playing days, he won promotion with both Rovers and also Wimbledon.
In August 1991, Gerry Francis paid Bristol Rovers £230,000 to take Holloway to Queens Park Rangers. He played more than 150 games for the club over five seasons and was one of the leaders in the dressing room. He left after the club’s relegation to the First Division in 1996.
Moving straight into management, his first spells were with the two clubs he spent the longest time with and he achieved five years with both Bristol Rovers and Queens Park Rangers in the dugout. Ian was producing good work with both teams. Having arrived too late to stop QPR slide into the third tier in 2001, Holloway rebuilt the side, got them promoted in 2004 and kept them as a stable mid-table club until his departure in 2006, just before Flavio Briatore came in and turned sacking managers at Loftus Road into a hobby.
Spells with Plymouth Argyle and Leicester City followed but it would be his role with Blackpool that attracted the most headlines and turned him into a national treasure.
When Holloway was appointed by Blackpool in 2009, he had been out of the game for almost a year. Relegation with Leicester City had damaged his reputation and this was a chance to restore his credentials.
He sensationally took the club into the top-six in the Championship, earning a playoff position. The Tangerines’ then saw off Nottingham Forest in the semi-finals and beat Cardiff City 3-2 in a topsy-turvy final to achieve promotion to the Premier League and all this in his first nine months in the job. Holloway would later say that this achievement was his greatest in football.
Blackpool arrived in the Premier League for 2010-2011 and were expected to be the whipping boys of the top-flight. Holloway galvanised an amazing team spirit though and the best out of players like Luke Varney, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and of course, skipper Charlie Adam. They sent ripples through the league with a stunning 4-0 opening day victory away at Wigan Athletic. Blackpool followed this up with a series of impressive victories away from home. They beat Newcastle United, Sunderland, Stoke City and recorded a memorable 2-1 success away at Liverpool FC.
There were heavy defeats to Arsenal (6-0) and Chelsea (4-0) but Blackpool were committed to playing football the right way. They scored lots of goals but also conceded far too many. Holloway loved Premier League life, despite threatening to resign after the club was fined £25,000 for fielding a weakened team in a November fixture away to Aston Villa.
Blackpool sat eighth in the table at the turn of the year and they would go onto defeat Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur in the early weeks of 2011. However, a transfer saga developed over Adam and although the club held onto his services, his performances dipped and with that, so did the team’s. They slipped into trouble and eventually into the bottom three by mid-April. Despite a gallant display on the final day of the season at Old Trafford, a 4-2 defeat to the new champions would see immediate relegation, exactly a year to the day of promotion to the elite. Nevertheless, they had won plenty of fans for their gung-ho approach to the season.
Palace come calling
Despite interest from other Premier League clubs, including Aston Villa, Holloway stayed at Blackpool for 2011-2012 and guided them back to the Championship playoff final. This time though, it would end in defeat to West Ham United.
In November 2012, he resigned from his post at Bloomfield Road to take over at Crystal Palace. His first match in charge with the Eagles’ was a 5-0 thumping of Ipswich Town and the playoffs were becoming a specialist subject for Ian. He was back at Wembley again and this time, it was promotion glory over Watford. Veteran Kevin Phillips scoring the only goal, courtesy of the penalty spot.
He led Crystal Palace into the Premier League but his enthusiasm wasn’t quite the same as it had been at Blackpool. The club lost seven of their first eight matches back in the top-flight and after a 4-1 home defeat to London rivals Fulham, he left by mutual consent after a rollercoaster year in south London.
He stayed in the capital with Millwall before returning to the management game with Queens Park Rangers for the second time in 2016-2017. Safety in the Championship was just about secured and he will be aiming to bring the good times back to Loftus Road next season.
The Premier League has not seen the last of Ian Holloway. He is a character and the game is a poorer place when he isn’t in the dugout.