A stink over Sturrock and a kicking from Claridge

A humbled Mike Holden reflects on a bad day at the office... 

Ever had one of those days when you wished you'd never got out of bed?

I'm talking about the sort of day when two or three perturbing incidents happen in quick succession and suddenly you're scared to leave the house for fear of a bus careering towards you the moment you step out of the front door.

Well I had one of those days on Saturday.

It started when I switched on the computer and decided to take a little peak at my opening gambit on FourFourTwo.com to see whether my tongue-in-cheek character assassination of Paul Sturrock had generated any interest amongst other like-minded Football League followers.

Now you might think the phrases ‘tongue-in-cheek' and ‘character assassination' don't really go together - but I obviously thought it was a goer!

"Holden, you don't know what you're talking about"

You see, in my capacity as an obsessive and somewhat geeky gambler, I spend a disproportionate amount of time psychoanalysing the comments and remarks of Football League managers in order to gauge the mood within a dressing room ahead of forthcoming fixtures. And Luggy is one gaffer I find particularly fascinating.

Watch him on the television or listen to him on the radio and he'll come across as quite a likeable bloke. The Championship's answer to Victor Meldrew, if you like. But stick his comments into print and you'd think he was the devil's answer to Willi Railo. The sort of man who's ruined many a career with unfair vitriol.

Come to think of it, reading my inaugural blog again, it seems we do have quite a bit in common!

So the outrage that greeted my piece wasn't the best of starts to the weekend because, believe it or not, it wasn't actually the kind of response I was looking for. Indeed, it reminded me of my days growing up in Moss Side, Manchester.

NWA were all the rage at school back then and my homies would endearingly refer to each other by the N-part of that particular abbreviation. One day I threw it ever-so-casually into conversation myself and let's just say the response was a moment of similar horror... although at least now I can provide living proof to the old adage about sticks and stones!

"Holden, you don't know what you're talking about"

Anyway, that was only incident number one. Next up to stick the boot in was none other than Steve Claridge.

He was sat in the studio of SportsXchange TV, ready to provide his own expert analysis on the day's football, when I was called up by the station to offer my own tupp'orth on the Peterborough vs Bristol Rovers game that was about to kick off over on Sky Sports 1.

I made my case for backing Bristol Rovers at 11/4 by outlining many points, one of which being that I thought the Gasheads' recent familiarity with playing in front of the TV cameras might give them a slight edge over a Posh side relatively unaccustomed to such nationwide attention.

Instantly, I was shot down in flames by some bloke who's only ever played for Bournemouth, Weymouth, Crystal Palace, Aldershot, Cambridge, Luton, Birmingham, Leicester, Portsmouth, Wolves, Millwall, Brighton, Brentford, Wycombe, Gillingham, Bradford and Walsall.

He'd clearly never heard such nonsense in all his life and so he proceeded to enlighten the audience about what actually goes through a player's head in these situations, clearly not quite grasping the notion of a conscious and subconscious mind.

I've only been doing the gig on SportsXchange since the start of the season but already it seems I'm going to be constantly at loggerheads with ex-pros who scoff at the mere mention of psychology having any place in sport.

"Holden, you don't know what you're talking about"

Anyway, thanks to that particular disagreement, my 15-minute segment soon evaporated without me really getting the chance to make my other points in any great length, such as the fact there would be goals - and plenty of them - mainly because of a suicidal Posh defence, which also made Rickie Lambert an outstanding bet to score anytime at 11/4.

Suddenly, the result of the game had taken on a silly macho importance in my mind because I didn't want to lose face. I now needed Bristol Rovers to win, preferably with the commentary including several references about Peterborough looking nervy in front of the cameras.

Needless to say, the Pirates were 2-0 down inside 20 minutes and continued to ship another goal each time comical home defending allowed them back into the game.

Salvation arrived in the 85th minute when Lambert bagged the ninth and least important goal of the afternoon. Well, least important for some.

For me, the 26-year-old Scouser's stunning free-kick was divine intervention. The good Lord had clearly noticed I'd put up with enough for one morning and decided to scrap the joke where I lose nearly £500, instead returning my stake with a bit more besides in that very instant.

Well seeing as though you're doing requests, oh Lord, how about this weekend I have one of those Saturdays when I don't upset anyone and pick up a few grand for good behaviour?