IAN Holloway has reiterated his hands-off warning to the Premier League’s big guns – he doesn’t want anyone nicking his players.
More than 20 scouts were at Bloomfield Road on Monday to witness the sumptuous Seasiders make light work of high-flyng Middlesbrough.
Holloway’s men won 3-0, with sought-after winger Matty Phillips again instrumental in victory, scoring Pool’s opener and forcing Seb Hines to put through his own net for the final goal.
With another much-admired Seasider, Alex Baptiste, impressing at right-back, Holloway knows he and chairman Karl Oyston may have to be strong during this month’s transfer window.
Manager Holloway said: “Hopefully, no-one is going to come in and steal Matt like they did with Charlie Adam, because next summer God knows how much he will be worth.
“If it is a big enough club, he might have to go anyway because we are hardly the biggest club in the world.
“But forget about that – I am just very proud of what we are trying to do and that boy sums it up.
“He was unplayable at times and that was fantastic, I am delighted for him. But it isn’t just Matt – the number of really talented players we have is frightening and it is an honour to manage them.
“Lomana LuaLua was superb and how good was Tom Ince?
“It was almost like duelling banjos out there. Who was going to run with it more? Was it going to be LuaLua, Tom Ince or Matt Phillips?
“I felt sorry for their back players, because the minute we get it and turn and run at you, it looks very difficult to deal with.”
Pool brushed aside a Boro side which arrived at Bloomfield Road sitting in an automatic promotion spot.
Phillips and Lomana LuaLua struck in the second half before Hines own goal rounded off a thoroughly satisfactory day for Holloway.
Not that the manager can tell you much about the own goal...
“I heard it but I didn’t see it,” explained the boss.
“We were 2-0 up and I had made a decision to bring on Neal Eardley.
“Unfortunately, I had been really nervous when the game was 0-0 and I’d drunk far too much water, so I was bursting for a number one.
“I ran off and I heard a cheer that was big enough to know that we’d scored.
“I shouted through the toilet door to Stuart, who works in the dressing rooms at our place, and asked him who’d scored. He said ‘Neal Eardley’. I said ‘that’s impossible, he’s not even on yet’ … so I don’t know what sort of Christmas and New year Stu has had but Eards wasn’t even on the pitch!
“But I don’t care. I knew we’d scored and that was the main thing.”
Holloway might not have witnessed the final goal but he can take plenty of credit for the victory, exploiting Middlesbrough’s decision to play a five-man defence with wing-backs pushing forward.
“Tony Mowbray’s teamsheet really did throw us. He hasn’t played like that for three weeks,” said the boss.
“But once I told my two widemen where I wanted them to play and once they got my message and understood where the space was, we took advantage and the goals came from that.
“I told Tom Ince and Matt Phillips exactly where to go. I spoke about it at length at half time.
“After that we hit a few longer balls and got behind their full backs. We stretched them and hurt them and that is where the goal came from ... so hopefully every now and again I might know what I am on about.”