Holt ‘bugged’ by England snub

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech concedes that the club’s season is
likely to be shaped by events over the next nine days.

The Blues have found the going tough at times in 2012/13, with
an early exit from the UEFA Champions League and a mid-season
change in the dugout doing little for stability and

Chelsea are, however, still looking to secure a top-four finish
in the Premier League, defend their FA Cup crown and land another
continental title in the form of the Europa League.

Four games in the space of a hectic week will go a long way to
deciding how they fare in each of those competitions, and Cech
admits the capital outfit have reached a critical stage of their

He told The Times: “We need a great week, starting with
Southampton (on Saturday).

“If we have a great week, everyone will have a different view of
our season, the manager and the current situation.

“We play Southampton away and can move away from the teams who
are competing with us for a top-four finish. On Monday we can reach
the semi-finals of the FA Cup, which would be a great win.

“On Thursday there’s the home game against Rubin Kazan, where we
can take a huge leap towards the Europa League semi-finals and
winning the trophy.

“And next weekend we have an important Premier League game
(against Sunderland) and we can make the table much better.

“If we have a great week, everything will look much brighter.
Our confidence will be higher and the fans will have more joy.”


Meanwhile, Cech has also been speaking about his own future and
the emergence of Thibaut Courtois as a serious contender to his
number one spot – with the Belgian having shone during a loan spell
at Atletico Madrid.

Cech said: “I can play another four or five years if I keep my
fitness and level of performance, but if I don’t play well I’m not
going to get picked.

“I’ve never had a guarantee that I will play, and Thibaut will
never have a guarantee. One day, if we end up in the same team at
the same time, the manager will have to pick a number one

The Royals head into Saturday’s game at Arsenal seven points
adrift of safety, and facing an uphill battle to preserve their
top-flight status over the final eight fixtures.

Adkins, who was on Tuesday appointed as successor to Brian
McDermott, gave little away on his likely tactics or indeed team
news at his pre-match media conference, refusing to even confirm
whether goalkeeper Adam Federici had shrugged off his ankle

However, the former Scunthorpe and Southampton boss believes any
advantage his squad can gain could prove crucial as the fight for
survival heads to the wire.

“Normally, if someone is injured and it is obvious that they are
out, then it is no good turning around and saying they will be fit,
but just at this moment in time we need to somehow come up with
that element of surprise and that is what I have to utilise,” said

“I will use an example I had at Scunthorpe. We had (striker)
Gary Hooper and we went to a team, who I won’t mention, but there
was no way Gary would be fit and we didn’t let anyone know.

“All week that team had worked on stopping Gary Hooper and doing
certain things.

“We then went and played a totally different way with different
personnel, and they were absolutely gutted as they had spent all
week working on it.

“If they knew Gary wasn’t playing, then they might not have been
worried about it so much.

“We are going to the Emirates and it will be a great challenge,
but for now, I will keep my cards close to my chest and that might
just give us something, or it might not.”

Adkins suffered a 6-1 thrashing at the Emirates Stadium with
Southampton in September.

While his return to tackle the Gunners may have come sooner than
expected in the wake of his controversial sacking in January, the
48-year-old intends to make the most of the opportunity.

“It is all about experiences,” he said. “The experiences at
Bangor, Scunthorpe and Southampton have helped me be the Reading

“You can be placed in a situation once – make new mistakes, do
not make the same mistake twice.

“If you are in that situation again, you know how you reacted
last time and what the outcome was. “It is going to be a challenge
but we won’t complain, we just get on with it.”

Adkins added: “I am not a gambling man, but if people say ‘you
have not beaten them for ages’, then you are due to beat them at
some stage so why can’t we beat them next game?

“This season I have had a loss and a draw against Arsenal, so
maybe I am due a win.”

Benitez said it is “impossible” for players to be at their peak
for two matches inside 48 hours and the demands of back-to-back
fixtures will colour his selection.

But Chelsea’s interim manager admitted he does not have the same
luxury as Sir Alex Ferguson, who could name two entirely different
sides for Manchester United’s fixtures over the Easter weekend.

“We can’t do that. The difference between them and us is that
they are 15 points ahead (at the top of the Premier League),”
Benitez said.

“It is not an excuse. The reality is that their position in the
table gives them an advantage and they are out of the Champions
League. Their priority will be the FA Cup.

“We have to pick a very competitive team for Southampton. If we
can beat Southampton we will be keeping an eye on (trying to catch)
Manchester City.”

Chelsea are entering what Benitez described as the defining
period of their season, with five matches in the next 13 days
including quarter-finals in both the FA Cup and Europa League.

John Terry’s improving fitness is a boost for Benitez, who also
expects to have Gary Cahill and Ramires fit to face United on
Monday lunchtime.

The squad will come into training on Sunday, with those who play
against Southampton put through a light recovery session while the
rest focus on practice and tactics for the United game.

Benitez must be tempted to start with Demba Ba at the St Mary’s
Stadium because the Senegal striker has scored three times against
Southampton this season since his move to Chelsea.

Ba marked his debut with a double in the FA Cup and then scored
in the league at Stamford Bridge before Southampton came from 2-0
down to claim a draw.

“It is not easy to make a decision (on selection) because it is
impossible to be fully fit for the second game,” Benitez said.

“The day after a game you feel tired, two days after you feel
even more tired. That is the reality. The second day will be really
tough for everyone.

“All of them they can play (two games in 48 hours) but at what

“Sometimes you can do it if you are not 100% but it depends on
each position and each player.”

If Ba plays against Southampton then Benitez may have to turn to
Fernando Torres to face United, which would be a bold call given
how the Spaniard has struggled for goals this season.

Benitez said: “Strikers want to score goals but for me it is not
just that, it is what they can do for their team.”

The Welshman was signed for City by compatriot Mark Hughes for a
reported ?14million in 2009 but fell out of favour after Roberto
Mancini’s arrival and left in 2011 after 51 appearances for the

“I don’t understand why he managed me the way he did,” Bellamy
said of Mancini in an interview with the Daily Mail.

“I worked with people like Bobby Robson at Newcastle who taught
me how to be a footballer and a man. He did that even though I was
a selfish kid back then, a kid who let a great man down with some
things I did.

“He wanted us to come in and cherish what we were doing.

“Mancini was different but there was stuff I could have done
differently, too.

“I could have been more open but when Sparky (Hughes) went, I
shut down. I just wanted stuff to stay the same for me but I got a
change of manager and routine.

“I just clammed up, didn’t want to know. Typical.

“Mancini didn’t have to persevere with me because he could just
go and get someone else and that’s what happened.

“But I regret that. I could have made that work. That’s one I
messed up.”

The Canaries striker emerged as a dark horse for a call-up to
the national team ahead of Euro 2012 after netting 15 league goals
in the Canaries’ first season back in the top flight, but was
ultimately overlooked by England boss Roy Hodgson.

Holt claims the snub was down to Norwich not being viewed as
“fashionable”, and believes Southampton’s Rickie Lambert is the
victim of similar prejudice this season.

The 31-year-old Holt concedes his form this season is not worthy
of and England call-up – he has just five goals in all competitions
– but nevertheless frustration remains.

“It bugs me,” Holt told the Daily Telegraph. “I should have been
there in the summer; if not the Euros, I should definitely have had
the chance in the two friendlies before.

“It bugs me when a squad is called and I don’t hear Rickie
Lambert’s name mentioned once, not one breath, and he’s on form,
scoring, similar to what I did last year.

“Is it the ‘fashionable club’ thing? Are we so stuck in our ways
that you have to be at Manchester United, Arsenal or Tottenham?

“If I’d been at Arsenal as a kid, and done what I’d done last
year for Arsenal, would I have got in the squad? Yes. So what
difference does it make if I’m doing it for a so-called ‘lesser
team’ Norwich, banging 18 goals in?

“Why am I not getting a sniff? There was no contact.

“This year, there’s no way in the world I’m going to get called
up. My goal tally is not good enough, but that was disappointing
last year. I was scoring against the top teams, United, Arsenal,
Chelsea, and I don’t get the nod. It just disheartens me.

“When I then watched the Euros and saw England go out with a
whimper, it made it tougher to take. If they’d gone to the
semi-finals, it would have been easier to say I should never have
been near it.

“I watched that and thought, would I have made that