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Wes Thomas gets revenge on Ian Holloway

On the road: Ollie gets payback for an old rejection as Blackpool scrape point

By
Riath Al-samarrai

PUBLISHED:

22:35 GMT, 9 December 2012

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UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 9 December 2012

It's a hell of a thing to carry a grudge for seven years against a man who doesn’t recall ever having met you.

Wes Thomas wasn’t shy last week in talking about the deeper meaning to his appearance on Saturday for Blackpool against Crystal Palace.

He had a score to settle with Ian Holloway, he said — and to judge from his bulging eyeballs as he mocked Palace’s fans 89 minutes into the game, he felt the mission was successful.

Revenge mission: Wes Thomas was released by Ian Holloway at QPR

Revenge mission: Wes Thomas was released by Ian Holloway at QPR

Blackpool’s striker, borrowed from Bournemouth three weeks ago, had just created the late equaliser for Nouha Dicko with a delightful run and cross from the right. For Blackpool it meant a point from a 2-2 draw; for Palace it meant two dropped in pursuit of Cardiff.

For Thomas it meant a smidgen of revenge against the man in charge when he was cut from QPR’s youth ranks as an 18-year-old.

‘Ian Holloway is the one who released me when I was at QPR, so Saturday is a game I’m really looking forward to,’ Thomas had said ahead of the match. ‘I took it quite hard. It’s my chance to show Holloway I’m back.’

Thomas, 25, went on to speak about the pain of rejection, the uncertainty he felt as he fought his way back to the professional game via Waltham Forest, Fisher Athletic and various other non-League sides. It was a touching tale.

Alas, Holloway said: ‘Don’t know him at all. But he looks a good player.’

Thomas would have stood out to Holloway even if he was lousy. Of the 14 players Blackpool used on Saturday, Thomas was the only one who did not work under Holloway in his three-and-a-half years at Bloomfield Road, a relationship that ended on November 3 amid some mystery.

Holloway’s line has been that he
fancied a fresh challenge and a move back to his family in the south;
others suggest he was unhappy with elements of his rolling contract.

Familiar faces: Ian Holloway welcomed his old side to Selhurst Park

Familiar faces: Ian Holloway welcomed his old side to Selhurst Park

What was initially presented as an amicable split — or as amicable as these things ever are — has recently evolved via insider testimonies into something a little more strained.

Ian Evatt did not play for Blackpool on Saturday because of a knee problem but he was there through Holloway’s best years in management, when he took them up to the Premier League in 2010, came within a whisker of keeping them there, and then reached the play-off final last season.

Evatt’s still there now, playing under Michael Appleton and a fortnight ago offered an intriguing and alarming insight into the final months of the Holloway regime. ‘I think we both needed a change,’ Evatt said. ‘In the last couple of months, we hadn’t really done much training. We had numerous days off — anything from two to five or six at a time.

‘It was as surprising to the lads as
anyone else. We’re an honest bunch of players and we want to work hard,
but at times we weren’t doing that.’

For their part, the Blackpool fans were largely respectful.

They clapped Holloway on and they
clapped him off. But in between, when Blackpool took the lead through
Nathan Delfouneso, they sang: ‘Ollie, Ollie, what’s the score’

‘They weren’t singing that when we went 2-1 up,’ Holloway said later.

Party time: Michael Appleton celebrates after Blackpool equalise

Party time: Michael Appleton celebrates after Blackpool equalise

There was an element of anger in his tone but not as much as he reserved for a member of Appleton’s staff.

‘I didn’t like the reaction of one of the men on their bench,’ he said. ‘One of the new fellas looked straight at me when they equalised. It’s a war out there, and I carried my shield very proudly.

‘He didn’t stare me out. No one can stare me out. I know Michael wouldn’t have done something like that. He’s got more about him than that. But I didn’t look round at them when we scored, did I

‘I was at Blackpool a long time and had great times, but you have to move on.’

Easier said than done. Just ask Wes.

Whither Wilfried now

Where will Wilfried go next It’s a question Stephen Crainey, Blackpool’s left back, struggled with for the better part of 90 minutes on Saturday.

It was not Zaha’s best game for Palace — not by a long shot — but most of his errors only came after he skinned his marker and had plenty of time to decide what to do next.

He really is a wonderfully exciting talent and one with a very bright future. But the feeling is that Saturday’s performance, in particular during the second half, was better than most he has managed since his England call-up to face Sweden last month.

Waiting game: Wilfried Zaha (right) has a number of Premier League admirers

Waiting game: Wilfried Zaha (right) has a number of Premier League admirers

Holloway seems to blame the dip on speculation surrounding the 20-year-old, with some reports claiming Arsenal are close to signing him, while one on Sunday said Manchester United are preparing a 10million January move that would see Zaha loaned back to Palace for the rest of the season.

Holloway said: ‘The last thing we need is for him to get confused about how good he is and what he can do. He just has to start concentrating on what he was doing well this year.’

Crainey will testify that he’s very close to finding his best form again.

By the way…

It's clear AFC Wimbledon were right to be wary of the hype surrounding the FA Cup clash with MK Dons. They know their real challenge lies in League Two, and their failure to win on Saturday leaves them just one point clear of the relegation zone.

Ryder Cup 2012: Ian Poulter guide to Europe and USA teams

Ian Poulter's guide to the golfing gladiators

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 27 September 2012

EUROPE

Rory McIlroy
Age: 23 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 1; Halves 2

Poulter's verdict: The new phenomenon. Like
everyone else, I knew it the first time I saw him on a golf course and
now he’s living up to all that potential. Looks like he can win when he
wants to.

USA

Tiger Woods
Age: 36 Ryder Cup record: Wins 13; Losses 14; Halves 2

Poulter's verdict: Not a great matchplay record
on paper but still the most dangerous opponent. Holes putts at the right
time, and hits a lot more fairways these days. Just tough to play
against.

Illustrations of Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy by Paul Trevillion, commissioned exclusively for Sportsmail. Paul is the legendary master of movement.

Illustrations of Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy by Paul Trevillion, commissioned exclusively for Sportsmail. Paul is the legendary master of movement.

Illustrations of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods by Paul Trevillion, commissioned exclusively for Sportsmail

Nicolas Colsaerts
Age: 29 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Poulter’s verdict: Three hundred and
fifty yard drives off the tee. That’s handy in fourballs, isn’t it I’ll
be telling him to just stay loose and go and play, because he’s such an
exciting guy to watch.

Luke Donald
Age: 34 Ryder Cup record: Wins 8; Losses 2; Halves 1

Verdict: Played incredible golf the
last two years and is a great man to have by your side. Someone you can
rely on to hit the right shot at the right time.

Sergio Garcia
Age: 32 Ryder Cup record: Wins 14; Losses 6; Halves 4

Verdict: The spirit he plays golf
with is like no other. We’ve seen him hit career shots time and again at
the Ryder Cup and it’s going to be very special for him to play under
Ollie.

Peter Hanson
Age: 34 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 2; Halves 0

Verdict: One of those pros that the
players probably notice more than the public. Deservedly made the side.
Been solid in the majors, and the big events, and makes a hatful of
birdies.

Martin Kaymer
Age 27 Ryder Cup record: Wins 2; Losses 1; Halves 1

Verdict: How nice to see him show some
form recently. He’s capable of turning it on very quickly and when he
does he’s great to play with. I’ve got a feeling he will surprise some
people and show his class.

Keegan Bradley
Age: 26 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Poulter’s verdict: A major
championship win and a WGC victory, both in the last 15 months. Plays
the game with the sort of intensity I love to see.

Jason Dufner
Age: 35 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Verdict: One of the most consistent
players in the last 12 months. He has led a quite amazing number of
events. The quietest man on either side.

Jim Furyk
Age: 42 Ryder Cup record: Wins 8; Losses 15; Halves 4

Verdict: Think of Jim and you think
of the word gutsy. He’s just dogged and when his putting is on he is a
seriously tough guy to play against.

Dustin Johnson
Age: 28 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 3; Halves 0

Verdict: A dangerous man. When you’re
up against someone who can hit it so long, it can spell trouble. A very
good man to have in the right format.

Zach Johnson
Age: 36 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 3; Halves 1

Verdict: Always hits the ball with
his draw, never tries anything different, and why should he when it
works so well What I like about Zach’s game is he never beats himself.

Airborne: Ian Poulter leaps into the air after hitting an approach shot to the 16th green during practice

Airborne: Ian Poulter leaps into the air after hitting an approach shot to the 16th green during practice

Paul Lawrie
Age: 43 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 1; Halves 1

Verdict: He’s some story, isn’t he
He is quite simply a man reborn and all year his stats have been
excellent. Paul is a great man to partner and he is someone I have a
hunch is going to do very well.

Graeme McDowell
Age: 33 Ryder Cup record: Wins 4; Losses 2; Halves 2

Verdict: I love the way his excitement
levels go through the roof at the Ryder Cup and yes, that does remind
me of a certain someone else in the European team!

Francesco Molinari
Age: 30 Ryder Cup record: Wins 0; Losses 2; Halves 1

Verdict: It doesn’t matter if he’s
hitting a driver, a hybrid, a long iron or a short iron. He will hit it
in the middle of the fairway and the middle of the green, and gives you
great options as a partner.

Ian Poulter
Age: 36 Ryder Cup record:
Wins 8; Losses 3; Halves 0

Verdict: I certainly don’t need to talk about
myself. I do far too much of that already.

Justin Rose
Age: 32 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 1; Halves 0

Verdict: People think he’s nice and
quiet but take it from me he’s a feisty character when he needs to be.
Upset to miss out last time and I expect to see him fired up and
passionate. He’s going to be great.

Lee Westwood
Age: 39 Ryder Cup record: Wins 16; Losses 11; Halves 6

Verdict: Lee is the perfect team-mate.
He is as hard as nails when he needs to be and a very good laugh when
he doesn’t need to be. Has seen it all.

Matt Kuchar
Age: 34 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 1; Halves 2

Verdict: The American team’s
Molinari. He puts the ball in play time and again and just has a very
solid game. Expect him to play in the two foursomes series.

Phil Mickelson
Age: 40 Ryder Cup record: Wins 11; Losses 17; Halves 6

Verdict: A new putting grip, I see.
As erratic as he can be, you never know when he’s going to chip in or
hole a putt and that gives you an edge at matchplay.

Webb Simpson
Age: 27 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Verdict: Showed what he is capable of
with his win at the US Open. Another who can really roll his ball with a
putter, as the Americans say.

Brandt Snedeker
Age: 31 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Verdict: With apologies to my mate Luke, here is the world’s best putter. His stroke is as pure as it gets.

Steve Stricker
Age: 45 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 3; Halves 1

Verdict: Hits it straight down the middle, has a great wedge game and holes more than his share of putts.

Bubba Watson
Age: 33 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 3; Halves 0

Verdict: Plays footloose and fancy free. You can see why people love to watch him. Makes shedloads of birdies.

Just warming up: Poulter plays off the 17th tee at Medinah Country Club in Chicago

Just warming up: Poulter plays off the 17th tee at Medinah Country Club in Chicago

Ryder Cup essential

Jose Maria Olazabal to pick four Ryder Cup vice-captains

Europe will have four Ryder Cup vice-captains again, reveals skipper Ollie

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UPDATED:

14:54 GMT, 21 May 2012

Jose Maria Olazabal has confirmed that, like predecessor Colin Montgomerie, he will be selecting four vice-captains for his European team at the Ryder Cup in Chicago in September.

'I am surprised to learn that there have been media reports suggesting that we will have only two vice-captains,' the Spaniard said. 'I don't know where they could have come from or whether there has been some misunderstanding, but I want to make it clear that I will be selecting four vice-captains.

'This is what Davis (American captain Davis Love) and I agreed in Chicago last September.

A little help from his friends: Jose Maria Olazabal will have four vice-captains

A little help from his friends: Jose Maria Olazabal will have four vice-captains

'I have said many times that as a vice-captain myself in 2008 and 2010 I learned that you need a lot of help that week. You need eyes, extra eyes to follow the players in the practice rounds to gather as much information as you can about how everyone is playing.

'Then it is important to have each match watched because you have to hand in your pairings for the afternoon matches when the players are still out on the course.

Monty's army: Olazabal's predecessor also employed four vice-captains

Monty's army: Olazabal's predecessor also employed four vice-captains

'That means it is absolutely essential to have all the information you can get before you put those pairings down on paper to be handed in. “I would say it is borderline to do the Ryder Cup with less than four vice-captains. Never at any time have I considered reducing that number to three, let alone two.'

Olazabal was the only official assistant to Nick Faldo in Louisville four years ago, although Faldo had other helpers, while he became the fifth vice-captain for Montgomerie during the 2010 match at Celtic Manor because bad weather meant there were six games in one session.

Jose Maria Olazabal on Seve Ballesteros – Ryder Cup

OLAZABAL EXCLUSIVE: Spirit of Seve can inspire my men to Ryder Cup glory

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 6 May 2012

Friends: Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballestero

Friends: Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballestero

One year on from the passing of his great friend and he still thinks about him every day.

How could it be any other way given all the adventures Jose Maria Olazabal shared with Severiano Ballesteros

Through the dim mists of time we see two blood brothers rescuing each other from the wreckage of each other’s wayward shots at the Ryder Cup. We see them walking in stride, or locked in an embrace after clinching yet another point for their team.

Then came the sadness when the latter’s health was failing. Two weeks before Ballesteros left us, Olazabal paid him one last visit where they reminisced about the glory days, poor Seve hardly able to talk, the two of them with tears in their eyes. In the months following his death, on this day last year, the younger man was bereft.

Now it’s invariably a poignant joy that comes to mind when Ollie conjures up his daily memory of Seve. Like the time in Hong Kong before Christmas, when he botched a recovery shot from the trees.

‘I was thinking how Seve would have made a much better job of it!’ he said, smiling.

It’s that sort of spirit he wants to pervade this year’s Ryder Cup in Chicago, where he will follow in Seve’s footsteps once more as the European captain and there will be a special Seve tribute in the days beforehand. Olazabal is keen to ensure it is free of mawkishness and puts a smile on people’s faces.

‘I don’t want to talk about it because we want it to be a surprise for everyone, including the players,’ he said. ‘We’re all conscious of wanting to strike the right balance. Whenever there was a meeting before the Ryder Cup it was Seve who had the last word, when he always managed to convey his core values: not quitting, being always ready and facing down adversity.

‘Yes, Seve will be there in spirit in every member of our team but it’s those core values we want to get across. We don’t want people so emotional they can’t play.’

Pain: Olazabal (left) was hit hard by Ballesteros' death a year ago

Pain: Olazabal (left) was hit hard by Ballesteros' death a year ago

Spend time in Olazabal’s company and it is not hard to understand why his name is considered a byword for integrity among his peers. Colin Montgomerie captured him perfectly when he said: ‘When Ollie speaks, everyone listens.’

Over the years he has turned down tasty offers from management companies because he’d rather leave his affairs in the hands of his lifelong friend, Sergio Gomez.

Millions of euros in appearance fees have been politely declined because he’d rather spend the time at home. The flashiest car he has ever purchased is his current one, a distinctly unflashy Volkswagen Touareg.

When the Real Madrid footballer Xabi Alonso received a Spanish magazine award last year for Sportsman of the Year, he knew exactly who he wanted to present it to him. Not because he and Olazabal are close. It had everything to do with respect.

Embrace: Ballesteros gives Olazabal a victory hug at the Ryder Cup in 1993

Embrace: Ballesteros gives Olazabal a victory hug at the Ryder Cup in 1993

‘I was happy to do it because Xabi is a very down-to-earth man,’ explained Olazabal. ‘We met a few years ago at a charity thing in South Africa and we have kept in touch. But I wouldn’t say we were close. I never want to get too close to people and overdo it. You want to respect people’s privacy.’

It’s like that in his hometown, the small fishing port of Fuenterrabia, just a few miles from San Sebastian, where everyone has a friendly greeting but no-one outstays their welcome.

‘Occasionally I’ll be walking down the street and someone will say “Hey, Capitano” and that sort of recognition is nice,’ he said. ‘But one of the reasons I’ve never moved and never will is that people are respectful.

‘All I’ve ever wanted to do when I’m away from home is play golf at tournaments. Why compete in tournaments just to get a big cheque for turning up I would rather spend the time with my family.’

/05/06/article-2140403-0CD0A88C000005DC-470_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Leader: Olazabal captains Europe's Ryder Cup team” class=”blkBorder” />

Leader: Olazabal captains Europe's Ryder Cup team

‘Yes, I am really happy with the career I had,’ he said. ‘When you’re a teenager with promise you dream of being a good player and perhaps winning a major, so to win two and play in six Ryder Cups while going through my injuries, I couldn’t ask for more. Even now, I don’t really think the doctors know why I couldn’t walk in 1995 and 96. Over the years my health has been a real medical mystery.’

Now 46, Olazabal still has problems with his shoulder and lower back but is thankful they won’t prevent him from playing a schedule full enough to know all about the personalities of the team he will captain.

Now that it is the start of a long run of tournaments that will shape his team, he must be delighted to see Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in the upper reaches of the automatic standings.

‘I think we all know how good Lee and Luke are and I hope they can win a major because there’s nothing better than watching players whom you think deserve to win majors finally doing so,’ he said.

‘That’s why Darren Clarke’s Open victory thrilled so many people last year. I’d place Sergio (Garcia) in the same category. Majors for a pro are the icing on the cake. It’s a special thrill to be able to say you won one.’

Is there anyone better qualified than Olazabal to say if this crop of European players is as good as the golden age in the 1980s Thinking of Seve once more, he screws his face up. ‘What happened to the easy questions’ he says.

‘I genuinely think it is hard to compare different players in different eras. That group of players led by Seve and Nick (Faldo) were special in their time. What we might see is a much larger group of high-quality players but it is going to be very difficult for them to achieve the things we saw in the past because the competition is so much closer these days.’

What we can say is that Olazabal will have a team to cope with what is bound to be a noisy cauldron, played out in the heart of one of America’s most raucous cities. Olazabal, of course, was the man standing on the 17th green at Brookline in 1999 when raucousness spilled over into yobbery and the Americans celebrated before he had even had the chance to putt.

New order: Rory McIlroy will be a key member of Europe's Ryder Cup team against America this year

New order: Rory McIlroy will be a key member of Europe's Ryder Cup team against America this year

Thankfully, we’ve all moved on from those disgraceful days and, with Davis Love at the helm for America and Ollie for Europe, there’s little chance of any grotesque repeat.

‘We’ve seen it all over the years, haven’t we’ said Olazabal. ‘We’ve seen calm men explode and good players become great. We’ve seen strong men cry. It’s a very proud moment for me to be captain of Europe.’

And when it’s over, when the last bellowed chant has rung out from the stands and the winning team room, Olazabal will retreat gracefully from the spotlight and back into the bosom of life back home.

He will go into the mountains with his father and their four dogs and go hunting for partridge and woodcock and savour their time together. There, following the sound and fury of a Ryder Cup, he will cherish the quiet and the innocence.

‘We might spend six or seven hours walking in the hills and the only noise you can hear is the dogs working and the whisper of the wind and that’s the beauty,’ he said. ‘Perfect silence I call it. There’s nothing like it.’

OLAZABAL ON…

Chicago: ‘They bid for the Olympics and the Super Bowl and they are thrilled to get the Ryder Cup. It’s going to be very loud but I’m confident it will be respectful.’

American captain Davis Love: ‘We have a lot of respect for each other. We’re going to try to beat each other like hell but it won’t change our relationship.’

The Ryder Cup: ‘We’ve seen it all over the years. We’ve seen calm men explode, good players become great and strong men cry.’

Seve: ‘I know he will be there in spirit and we want him to be proud of us. I think about him every now and then, certain moments on the golf course. It is always going to be like that.’

Vice-captains: ‘I’d expect to have three or four. If you have four or five players in the team from the UK it would make sense to have a vice-captain from the UK but only if that person has a good relationship with the players. There’s no point if all they do is speak the same language.’

Biggest regret: ‘Not winning The Open. To me, it is the biggest event in our sport, the one that tests every facet of your game. I love it because it is not about strength or patience or imagination, but all of those things.’

Ollie Phillips joins Gloucester

Former England Sevens skipper Phillips heads to Gloucester

On the move: Phillips has joined Gloucester

On the move: Phillips has joined Gloucester

Gloucester have strengthened their back division with the signing of former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips.

The Cherry and Whites turned to Phillips after wing Lesley Vainikolo left the club for La Rochelle and full-back Olly Morgan suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The 29-year-old has been a free agent since leaving Stade Francais in the summer, when a knee injury hampered his search for a new club.

But Phillips trained with the England Sevens squad to regain his fitness and will link up with Gloucester after this weekend's Heineken Cup clash with Harlequins.

'It's a fantastic opportunity for as I've always had a great deal of admiration for Gloucester and its rugby traditions,' said Phillips, who was the IRB world sevens player of the year in 2009.

'It's a proper rugby club in a proper rugby city and Kingsholm is a place I've always enjoyed playing at. I can't think of a place I'd rather play my rugby.

'I had a call from Bryan (Redpath, the Gloucester director of rugby) who told me that Lesley Vainikolo was moving on and that he needed to strengthen the squad.

'Then I heard that Olly Morgan was injured, which was terrible news. Olly is actually a really good friend of mine and I'm gutted for him but the news sped things up a bit.

'I'm fit and raring to go. There was an opportunity to play some Sevens but, once I knew of Gloucester's interest, my mind was made up.'

Danny Care arrested and fined for drunken rumpus

New blow for England”s discipline drive as Care is fined for drunken rumpus

English rugby”s drive to clean up its image has suffered an embarrassing early setback with Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care being arrested and fined for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

The 24-year-old was taken into custody after a “disturbance” at a bar in Weybridge, Surrey, in the early hours of Saturday morning, following the club”s Heineken Cup defeat at home against Toulouse.

He was later released without charge after paying an 80 fixed penalty notice, but despite this very public, off-field incident so soon after those which scarred the World Cup campaign, the RFU have decided to take no further action against Care.

Low moment: Danny Care in action against Toulouse at the Stoop

Low moment: Danny Care in action against Toulouse at the Stoop

A police statement said: “Surrey Police were called to the Noir Bar in Heath Road, Weybridge, at around 3am on the morning of Saturday December 10, following reports of a disturbance involving two groups of men.

“A man in his 20s was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly. He was taken into custody and later issued with a fixed penalty notice.”

Night out: Noir Bar in Weybridge

Night out: Noir Bar in Weybridge

While the union have decided not to take any formal action against Care, it is understood he has been verbally reprimanded by new England head coach Stuart Lancaster – who he played for during his time at Leeds.

It is also possible that Care, who has apologised for his behaviour, will face punishment from Harlequins.

Bright hope: Care is in contention for an England return

Bright hope: Care is in contention for an England return

Meanwhile, England Sevens star and former Newcastle wing Ollie Phillips, 29, who left Stade Francais in the summer, is understood to be a target for Leicester, Northampton and Toulon on a short-term deal until the end of the season.