Date: 30th September 2010 at 6:52pm
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Holden signs extension, Ricketts must stay in the centre of defence and don’t worry about West Brom’s previous performance…

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been hard. People buying you drinks, people slapping you on the back and telling you that you’ve done a good job in the three years you’ve been there. People buying you cards telling you how much you’re going to be missed and then taking your staff pass and chucking you out of the door at 3:30am when it’s persisting down, you’ve got no coat and the tubes won’t be running for another two hours.

Life. Always throwing you a boner.

So before the weekend visit to The Baggies, where we find out just what their fans think about Paul Robinson, where are we?

Well, the major news is the pinning down of Our Yank to another contract that will last until 2013. Holden was an interesting signing by St Owen back in January. He didn`t cost anything and then almost immediately broke a bone. The games that he did play in early on didn`t suggest anyone that would set the midfield on fire but he did enough to get into the USA`s World Cup squad. He then played about fifteen minutes in the States` easiest group match against England and didn`t get on again. So he came into this season as somewhat of an unknown quantity but has slotted in so well that he is making last season`s most improved player, Samantha, look ponderous and slow.

Most players who come from the States tend to be goalkeepers like Friedel, Howard and Hahnemann. This, apparently, is due to them putting the best player in net when they are young. So for Holden to come into midfield and perform so well will have raised some eyebrows. His performance against Stretford on Sunday was a case in point, always looking for the ball, passing well but tracking back when needed. Indeed, there were times when he was further back that Samantha.

On signing the new contract, he told the rubbish website:

“I`m really excited because I love being at the club. I couldn`t ask to be around better fans, management staff and players.”

The manager concurred, saying:

“He`s just got back from the World Cup, is a USA international and I believe he`s going to get better and better. The fans love him and it sends out a message to everyone that this is a club looking to keep its best players.”

There is certainly a lot more scope at the moment for this to be true. Barring the odd Gary Cahill, who may not even get to play on Saturday, most Bolton players are keepable, if keepable is a word. Someone is going to pay silly money for Gaz sometime before the start of next season but when it comes to other major performers, like Lee Chung-Yong, the club should be looking to tie them down to long term contracts.

As for the central defensive situation for the coming game, it is a real head scratcher. The issue over the goalkeepers was going to be won by Jussi all day long but as has been pointed out before, Ricketts and Knight play better together than Cahill and Knight. That Stretford had few chances on Sunday was down primarily to the positioning and partnership between the two of them and if we look back to last season, the clubs first clean sheet came once Cahill was out with the blood clot.

Goalkeeper is a specialist position and unless they are out of form, like Kirkland at The Pie Eaters, shouldn`t be dropped as the defence needs to have someone that they have had a long relationship with, hence Jussi coming back on Sunday. And I know what I`m talking about. My position is goalkeeper and during my playing days in the Manchester Amateur Sunday League, when I was otherwise engaged, my deputy, who was just as good, let in more goals because he didn`t have the same sort of relationship with the defence as I had.

Central defence is another thing altogether and happenstance has now shown us twice that the better defensive partnership is Knight and Ricketts. This doesn`t mean that Cahill has suddenly become rubbish, far from it. It`s just what works for the team. Somewhere along the line one of Knight and Ricketts will get injured and he can then step back in.

The manager spoke of this yesterday:

It`s always great to have your best players available and playing at the top of their game,” he said. “That`s what we have got with those three.

A potential problem is the less Cahill plays the less money that we would get for him if someone bids. I don`t think Gaz would cause problems within the club if he isn`t playing but a lot of people like him, from Spurs and The Arse downwards, and it would be easier to put pressure on the player and the club if he isn`t playing.

Personally, I feel that it shouldn`t boil down to that. The manager has to show what is good for the team, not the balance sheet. To do anything else would be foolish. But, hey, I`m not a football manager.

Of course, he could always slot Ricketts into the right back slot and drop Steinsson, but the issue here is how well Ricketts is playing in the centre. If he`s playing well there he should stay there.

The manager has been speaking if the West Brom game. We will be having a closer look tomorrow but he did talkabout the result that The Baggies got at The Emirates on Saturday:

“There is a freshness and energy about them having earned promotion last year and you only need to look at the performance – and I`m not even talking about the result – that they put in at The Emirates”

Having had a look at some extended highlights of the Arsenal game, I can agree that, yes, West Brom played well. But Arsenal were soporific, looking like they expected to coast through the game. Stretford were poor on Sunday but Arsenal`s performance made them look quality. Yes, you can only beat what`s in front of you, but there are grades of that and the Arsenal performance was Grade A dung with added phlegm and a whole load of past their sell buy date chicken breasts. Basically it stunk. So I wouldn`t be getting myself in a pickle just because they beat Arsenal. But congrats to them anyway.

Wow, I`ve only been back north for a day and already I hate Arsenal again.

Tomorrow I will probably hate them twice as much. Tune in to find out.


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