IAN Holloway says no-one should pay any attention to what happened in this season’s league matches between Pool and play-off opponents Birmingham
The Blues stand between the Seasiders and a third trip to Wembley in five years, and they may consider themselves to have the upper hand going into the semi-final clashes after taking four points off Pool in the Championship.
Holloway has huge respect for their boss Chris Hughton and acknowledges it will be tough, saying: “We are taking on a very good team, who drew 2-2 at our place and then beat us 3-0 at St Andrews when our captain was sent off. But it is going to be tough in the play-offs whoever you face because all four teams are there on merit.
“Let’s just see if we can handle the situation a lot better than we did on the other occasions we have played Birmingham.
“Barring the extra media coverage, this week will be the same as always. We’ll do what we normally do on the training ground and try to keep the emotion out of it.
“But I honestly think it is brilliant that we are in the play-offs and I really don’t care who we play. I think we’ve a hell of a chance as long as we show no fear.
“I like the way my team plays. I like their character, their togetherness. We showed those qualities again at Millwall, even with a starting 11 that hadn’t played together before.
“We just have to continue playing the way we have for the majority of the season and give it our best shot.”
While Holloway plans a low-key week, Birmingham have issues to deal with.
Frontman Nicola Zigic is a doubt for Friday’s Bloomfield Road showdown because of a leg injury which forced him off early in the final-day win over champions Reading.
Zigic has 11 goals in 20 starts, including the late equaliser at Bloomfield Road, and had just nailed down a place in the Blues starting line-up.
Of even more concern to Birmingham fans is the speculation linking Chris Hughton to West Brom.
With Roy Hodgson England-bound, Hughton has been installed as favourite to take over at The Hawthorns.
He was interviewed for the post after Roberto Di Matteo’s axing and is much-admired by Baggies chairman Jeremy Peace
Hughton said: “At this moment I have only one thing on my mind: a game on Friday and one the Wednesday after.
“We have done remarkably well to get where we are and it’s the only thing on my mind.”
Hughton also has a transfer embargo to contend with at Birmingham.
Because the club’s parent company Birmingham International Holdings Limited delayed releasing accounts, the Football League won’t allow them to sign players until the end of July.
Should the Blues win the play-offs, the Premier League will impose its own transfer embargo if the accounts aren’t filed by June 30.
Hughton added: “I will continue to go on record to say I have a very good relationship with the board.
“There are a lot of people at this club who work very hard and I think this club is run very well. Any issues we have at the moment will be cleared very soon.”
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