Okay so we’re not where we hoped we’d be after 11 Premier League matches, but we’ve taken a little while to get going in previous years, too. We always get better as the season progresses. If you want a case in point, we were 16th in the Championship exactly one year ago today, and look where we ended up. Every summer since Slaviša has been here there has been a significant turnover of personnel on the playing side, and I think that gelling time is why it takes us a little while to get going. It takes time for people to settle in and get used to the way we play.
That said, we can’t make excuses for what happened at the John Smith’s Stadium on Monday night. First and foremost in football, you’ve got to show the desire. It doesn’t matter how much good football you play, you’ve also got to have that desire, and we were definitely outfought on Monday. I knew the first 15 or 20 minutes would determine how the game went, and they swarmed us.
It’s so annoying when you know you’ve got quality players, yet you under-perform. Cardiff and Huddersfield are favourites, in my book, to go down. Man for man, pound for pound, we’re better than them in nearly every position, so to come away from those two games with no points, and a lack of fight and desire, was really disappointing.
I expect that after the disappointment in front of the television cameras in Monday Night Football, the lads will be hurting and wanting to show a response when they’re live on Sky again on Sunday. There are no hiding places in the Premier League. While it’s great to be on telly, if you do under perform like we did in Huddersfield, then the whole nation sees it. We don’t want to be labelled as a team of non-triers. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we were non-triers on Monday, but we didn’t play with the same intensity as Huddersfield, and it cost us.
I’m looking forward to the Liverpool game. I’m going to commentate on Leicester v Burnley on Saturday, which is the first match at the King Power Stadium since the accident, so that will be a very poignant occasion. And after that I’m travelling to Liverpool to watch our game as a fan with some friends. Hopefully we can pull something out of the fire – there’s no better game really because all the neutrals will be thinking we’ve already lost it, so we can go into it without any pressure.
Liverpool lost to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League this week, and while some people may see that as a bad thing as they’ll want to bounce back, I look at it as a positive. I think it’s a good time to play them because they had been just getting away with a few results of late, something they didn’t manage against Red Star. Liverpool are a dangerous team to play against, and there’s no better front-three in the country at nicking possession, and indeed the midfield three behind them. For me, they lack a little bit of imagination in midfield, but they’re also one of the best in the division at getting possession back. If you overplay against Liverpool, you will come unstuck. I think they will probably be the main challenger to Man City for the title, although I expect them to fall short because I believe City are the best team and squad by far.
In and around the ground, our fans should enjoy the day because they put a lot on in the surrounding area to really try and make it a day for people to remember. I really like the Liverpool fans, I always find them welcoming, and I expect that to be the case on Sunday as there’s no trouble between the two sides. It’s a must-see ground, one every fan should try and tick off.