LONDON – At times, it feels as if Ian Holloway is out there by himself.
In a sport where principles are sometimes abandoned quicker than a change of team jerseys, one of the Premier League's newest — and returning — managers is resolute in sticking to his values.
"I have got (principles) and I will always have them," the Crystal Palace manager says. "Everyone's got principles — but in principle they want money."
After two years away from the Premier League, the former Blackpool manager is back in the big time with south London club Palace.
A few more zeroes at the end of contracts, the 50-year-old Holloway says with his distinctive southwest England accent.
Don't be fooled by the flippant replies. Holloway is passionate about the image of the game.
What irritates him is not necessarily the money the players make, but how the cash changes them as people. As he sees it, players today don't realize how good they have it. Remind them, he says. Send them to the lower reaches of soccer as a wake-up call.
"When they go out and come back in they appreciate it more," Holloway said. "So maybe some of these overpaid starlets we've got flying about the place should be released and see how they like it."
Holloway is more grounded than most, something no doubt rooted in the challenge of raising four children, three of them born deaf. He learned sign language along the way.
It puts soccer in perspective.
At work, he is immersed in a game that has never been so awash in money. The latest global television deals are generating $8.6 billion for the league over three years. Even if Palace returns to the second tier it will receive at least $93 million at the end of the season.
"Everyone is desperate to get to the money in the Premier League," Holloway said. "They think it's a free meal ticket, but it isn't."
Not when newly promoted teams like Palace have to try to compete against — not only the behemoths at Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea — but even more modest clubs.
"We're sharks in the water," Holloway conceded. "But there are others who are bigger than us. ... They're just bigger sharks than us."
The Premier League thrives as the people filling the stadiums often struggle to meet the cost of attending games.
"Countries are going bust for god's sake, but football's thriving," Holloway says. "I'm glad it is because it's a wonderful game."
In the shadow of the headquarters of Barclays, the league sponsor, Holloway is speaking at the gym of a college in east London that has benefited from the trickle-down effect of the league's riches. A grant of more than $1.2 million has funded several soccer fields.
"That's what we should be doing. It's not all about how much the top players get, however many grillion a week," Holloway says, inventing a word on the spot. "It's not about that, what that turns them into — not very nice people, going out spending god knows what in bars. It's not about that. It's about being people — proper people."
Holloway, a former Bristol Rovers and Queens Park Rangers midfielder, is now two games into his new season, and has two losses to show for it. His wit is still intact, although he is cutting back on the one-liners that have come to define him.
"I'm trying to talk in a way so people don't think I'm funny anymore," he said. "I'm fed up with that. I'm not a comedian, I'm a football manager."