Charlie Austin, Christmas jumpers, hot showers and the fans - Ollie's top 10 moments of 10 in 10
Last Updated: 06/12/16 3:37pm
Ian Holloway's days of living on a bus are over - but what were his 10 in 10 highlights?
From Charlie Austin to Christmas jumpers and a Take That tribute band, Ollie reminisces about a rip-roaring road trip that delivered on and off the pitch...
Team bonding in Sheffield
The first few days were probably the toughest as we had a quick turnover from Wolves to MK Dons and then to Sheffield United. It was hard to adapt to sleeping on the move.
We were all bit wet behind the ears at that stage. But life became much easier after a little bus team bonding evening out in Sheffield. It gave me, Kim (my wife), Lewis (digital media man), Larry and Mick (the drivers) a chance to sit down for a bite to eat and get to know each other.
We ended up having a drink in a small hotel just outside Bramall Lane, but they didn't serve food. Lewis saved the day by ordering an Indian on an app he downloaded and the kind staff at the hotel allowed us to stuff our faces with the ordered-in food.
It was just what the doctor ordered. Everyone got on famously well, which was brilliant, as it would have been impossible to live in such close quarters with people that did your head in. The drivers, who work for Starcruiser, are fantastic blokes and looked after us with great care and attention. Whatever we've needed they supplied it for us whilst also keeping to a tight schedule and making the journey from each ground as stress-free as possible. I can't speak highly enough of them.
I was given a heads-up about this young player by Sky Sports football presenter David Jones before we left. Dave's a director at Oxford United and Graham was on loan there earlier this season. He told me to look out for him and he was right. The Wolves winger made two goals in the games I watched him play and was a constant menace whenever he got the ball under his spell.
This kid has got it all. He's intelligent on and off the ball. He can beat people and his final ball is excellent. Although he has still got a bit to learn about the game, in terms of his team structure and shape, if he keeps his feet on the ground he's going to be a very, very good player.
'The best shower of my life'
I now know what it feels like when a little chick is born and sees the sunlight for the first time. That's how I felt when I managed to have my first proper shower on the Monday morning in the referee's room at Blackburn Rovers.
Our shower on-board was known as the 'last resort' shower. The shower is above a sink and there isn't much room to manoeuvre. It was a wet room really. Oh and there was a toilet in there. I had a go at showering on the second day. I took the shower off the hook and showered myself down like you would a dog that is drenched after a walk in the mud. It wasn't ideal.
I now know what it feels like when a little chick is born and sees the sunlight for the first time. That's how I felt when I managed to have my first proper shower. Blackburn Rovers, I'm forever in your debt.
That's why the shower at Blackburn felt so good. You know those shampoo adverts with the actors running their fingers through their hair in slow motion and just generally looking very pleased with life? Well, that's how I felt when the hot, soapy, water hit my face. Thank you, Blackburn Rovers. I'll forever be in your debt.
It was special going back to Loftus Road. My affinity with QPR has been forged over 10 years of service to them where I gave blood, sweat and tears to the cause on and off the pitch. I was delighted to see Charlie Austin score twice to bring the game against Brighton back to 2-2. That's not being biased, it's me speaking from the heart.
His performance was outstanding. He more than deserved to get two goals. The first was a thumping finish and the second was a textbook header. His knowledge of the game is incredible. He knows where to run and when to run there. It's a tricky skill to master as a centre-forward and he has got it sussed. I love watching him. Austin grabbed the game by the bootstraps and dragged his team back into the match. It was a pleasure to watch.
'Keep the change, you filthy animal'
Christmas spirit was very low throughout the trip as we were so concentrated on football and bus life.
That was one of the worst things about the trip, we've not been Crimbo'd up. 'Do they know it's Christmas?' No, we didn't. A couple of football clubs tried to help us in that regard by giving me some club-branded Christmas jumpers to add to my collection, I loved them, but it's hard to feel Christmas-y away from your home.
But we did have one night, when we were travelling from London to Hull, where we chilled out on the bus with some hot chocolate and whacked on Home Alone.
It's an absolutely fantastic Christmas film. The scene when Marv is slipping on the ice is hilarious and one I can relate to as that's what it's like when you tried to make a coffee on the bus, jiggling around from left to right. Also, the scene when the spider lands on his face. His screams were identical to Lewis's when he first tried the shower on board and the hot water tank was empty!
We were given a really fantastic welcome wherever we've been on this trip.
Birmingham City even invited us to their office Christmas party at St Andrews as we were parked up outside the ground in the car park. But we had too much work to do. I blame Lewis. He claims it was work, however, no one knows it but he was just playing the PlayStation all week - busted!
Anyway, about 30 people came down from the club and gave me a box of goodies. They had a look around the bus and were sprinkling Christmas cheer all over us.
The reception from fans and the clubs has been really special. We were always getting beeped down the motorway and given thumbs-up by drivers on the road. It's been the same friendly welcome when I've met fans face-to-face outside the grounds.
It's very difficult to gauge the love people have for their clubs these days with how many critics there are out there in the modern world but I've seen it up close during this trip. They love the feeling they get from being part of it, whether their team are winning or losing. Being a manager you don't get to see that side of the game as you're too busy trying to save your job, but it's really refreshing to be reminded that football still has that passion attached to it from the core.
Goal-gasm at Reading
I've been introduced to the term goal-gasm on these 10 days by Lewis and it was the perfect way to sum up my emotions watching Reading's opening goal against Hull City on Wednesday. It was an amazing goal.
The way Matej Vydra and Oliver Norwood knew where their team-mates were despite having their back to play was outstanding. Nick Blackman's finish was the best bit of the move though as his first time finish with the ball coming across his body is one of the hardest skills in football to master. Even if he was 10 or 15 yards further out that still would have gone in as he struck it so sweetly.
The only downside to it was his celebration. I would have absolutely gone mad scoring a goal like that - they would have had to open the gates as I would have ran out of the ground celebrating with my shirt off.
Time for a diet
I've put on half a stone in 10 days! It's been a food frenzy. I thought at one stage they might have to roll me on set. It's going to take me at least two months to work this weight off.
Kim usually does the cooking at home and it's all very nutritious stuff. The last 10 days have been the opposite of that.
The caterers at the ground that work for Sky Sports do a fantastic job and the portions are incredibly huge and tasty. Unfortunately, 10 days straight of eating giant portions and about two pork pies a day have taken their toll on my waistline. I'm going to have to take it easy over Christmas now. The buffet of cold meats we have on Boxing Day will be off limits for me. Easier said than done, I'd expect.
My suits got tighter by the day. I needed a shoe-horn to squeeze me into them by the final game! I had to warn the production team that one of my buttons on my waistcoat could fly their way at any point.
Boro are bouncing
Saturday was always a game I had one eye one and thankfully the results leading up to it meant we had a top-two clash to feast upon.
Middlesbrough smashed Brighton's unbeaten record into tiny little pieces. I was so impressed with them and what Aitor Karanka is building there. They didn't need to control the ball to win that game. They just controlled where the ball was allowed to go. Without the ball they are the best team in this division by a mile.
Brighton had far greater possession but they couldn't turn that into chances. The way Boro were set up was almost faultless. That's no fluke either. They must work on the shape over and over again on that training pitch. Anyone that finishes above them will go up automatically. They have put down a massive marker with that victory. Catch us if you can!
One final hurrah in Walsall
We arrived in Walsall's car park on the Saturday, our final night, and we needed feeding. After scurrying around for five minutes - a shining light emerged as our saviour: The Walsall Supporters Club, otherwise known as The Saddlers Club.
It was members-only but they were kind enough to allow us five in. A big bus with your face on can open so many doors.
With the Darts World Championships on the main screen, once again the kind people inside allowed us to order a takeaway - we went for an Indian again.
The food arrived but we weren't in the mood for eating as we had other fish to fry for the next few hours. A Take That tribute band were booked in to play in the main hall! So, we put our food in the kitchen to keep it warm and settled in to enjoy two hours of entertainment from "Take Three".
Our driver Larry wasn't too impressed though, it's not really his thing. "If I was Take That, I'd get them done on the trade's description act," he said, while Mick was loving it. I've never seen moves like that on a dancefloor.
Everybody was really friendly in there. There was a mix of Walsall and West Brom fans - it was a fantastic night.
It was a great way to sign off for us bus buddies. The camaraderie has been excellent on our travels and Lewis gave us a fantastic lung-bursting rendition of "Never Forget" to finish the night off - the perfect two words that sum up this experience.
It's been a privilege.
Visit www.skysports.com/10in10 to relive the action with match reports, features, interviews and all of Ollie's diaries.
The Football League is asking fans to 'Come Home For Football' this Christmas and attend 1 of 192 games over the festive period. Visit www.comehomeforfootball.com to find out more.