Holloway challenge to players
Published 27/09/2013 | 15:51
Manager Ian Holloway has challenged his Crystal Palace players to box clever just like Muhammad Ali when their battle for Barclays Premier League survival continues at Southampton on Saturday.
The Eagles head to St Mary's on the back of a disappointing 2-0 home defeat by Swansea, where they never recovered from falling behind to a goal from Michu inside two minutes.
Despite his side having now lost four of the opening five matches on their return to the top flight since winning promotion via the play-offs, Holloway remains confident this new-look Palace squad will soon gel - and is determined to make them harder to beat while also capable of landing a knockout blow of their own.
"We will have to be slightly different away from home, but part of our game is drawing teams onto us and then knocking them out with a (sucker) punch," Holloway said.
"I don't think we are going to be a Sugar Ray Leonard, I think we are going to be more of a Muhammad Ali against Joe Frasier (rope-a-dope in the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle).
"I just want our lads to grow, and if we can give ourselves half a chance, then that will do.
"We are going to have to set our stall out and then look to counter-attack, maybe get a set-piece and hurt them, if we can get a goal, then away we go.
"It is more about staying in the games long enough when I can make those changes to try to go get the points - we have not had a draw yet, which is unbelievable if you think about the way we have played."
Southampton, who not so long ago were languishing in League One, picked up an impressive away win at previously unbeaten Liverpool last weekend as Mauricio Pochettino's side continue their own development back among the elite clubs of English football.
Holloway, though, is confident his men can rise to the challenge.
"We will have massive respect from Southampton, where they have come from and where they are going, with their new ground now, and with what they have spent this summer, they are really going to have a go," said Holloway, who can call on South African midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi again after his one-match suspension for a red card at Manchester United, although defender Damien Delaney (ankle) is sidelined.
"They have some fantastic players, with great deliveries from dead balls and have Rickie Lambert who is the England striker at the moment, yes we have got to be aware of that, but we can also hurt them at the other end.
"Southampton will be a fantastic opportunity to go and play on a wonderful surface to see if we can learn from the last game."
Holloway continued: "I am totally convinced our attitude and the way we are going to work hard for each other and what we have learned from last week, that we can take all of that into this next game.
"We have got to be right at it and on our game, but we are trying to gel this lot together and learn from our mistakes.
"As long as you improve and move forwards and don't go backwards on your belief, that is all you can ask from the players."