After weeks of speculation linking the Blackpool manager to every vacant position in the country, Ian Holloway finally moved on to become the new Crystal Palace manager and leave Blackpool fans with an ever so slightly bitter taste in their mouth.
Blackpool fans should never, and in all honesty will never, forget what Holloway has done for the club. Arguably, nobody else could have come in and do what he did. After a year out of work he took a side that were fighting relegation in the Championship and propelled them – in his first season – into the Premier League.
Then, when in the top flight, he guided a team that defied the odds every week, beating teams like Liverpool and Tottenham with exhilarating football that had every pundit hoping they would get to go to Bloomfield Road and watch ‘little old Blackpool’. That terrific season ended with relegation at Old Trafford. After leading 2-1 against the Champions, people dared believe that it could happen, but United were just too strong.
The following season he oversaw a slight change in style and a raft of new players, yet still managed to get Blackpool to the play-off final where they really should have won against West Ham. Another season in the Championship beckoned and it started perfectly. Three wins out of three, and flying high at the top of the league, before he dismantled that winning side and things started to go wrong.
All of which brings us to a few days ago. After surviving the lustful advances of Blackburn, Bolton and Ipswich, many fans thought we would hold onto Holloway. The only vacant position was Palace and why would he go there? It would only be a sideways step at best, surely.
Well, it seems Holloway has wanted out for a while now, and when Palace made an approach at 8pm Thursday night, he jumped at the chance, signing for the Eagles by Saturday morning. Don’t for one second believe the ‘official’ explanation for his departure. The club cited family reasons, and him wanting to be closer to his daughters who work in London. Perhaps that is a bonus for him, but doesn’t explain why he refused to rule himself out of the Blackburn or Bolton jobs.
It is a huge shame that he doesn’t leave with the best wishes from everyone at Blackpool, but I’ll explain why he doesn’t.
He appears to have ignored his own advice which he dished out to a few players with regards to moving on. He told Adam, Phillips and Ince to stay at Blackpool and wait until a really big club comes in for them. Most recently it was Matty Phillips who was subject to an approach from Southampton. He told Matt that if he waited and continued to improve, he would be able to move to a bigger and better club. Yet only a few months later Holloway himself moved to Palace from Blackpool. Even if people believe the London club are ‘bigger’ than Blackpool, they certainly aren’t too much better.
Secondly, when he arrived, he endlessly harked on about his infamous ‘year out of football’ after he got sacked by Leicester. He said that in that spell he had time to think and decided that he would never again leave a contract, like he did at Plymouth to join Leicester. Yet here he is walking out on his contract at Blackpool to join Palace.
More recently, he has reacted angrily to anybody questioning him about the speculation, yet refused to rule himself out. He also came out and said he is happy here and loves the club. Yet days later he leaves for Palace.
There is also the fact he left on the day of a match, ditched a huge squad that he built himself with the aim of getting promoted and recently reacted badly to criticism from fans.
Unfortunately, there is quite a list of comments that if you look at now, prove him to be a hypocrite. But then that’s football sometimes. He says what fans want to hear. And it was what the fans wanted to hear. For 3 years he could do no wrong at Blackpool. And once the dust has settled everyone will accept that although he left the day before a match and with little explanation, he was the best thing to happen to the club.
So what about life after Holloway? Will it be the end of an era or just a new chapter?
Well it didn’t start all that well with a 4-1 loss to Derby. Holloway picked the team that travelled down but then left on match-day. Not the best preparation and it’s fair to say that Steve Thompson, who filled in as manager, may have picked a different team given the chance. The performance was stale. No determination, no flair, no quality. The players looked like they were still in shock and but for a 10 minute spell when it got to 2-1 (after a very generous penalty) it was a game totally dominated by Derby who looked lively throughout.
The Championship gives you no time to mourn, and hopefully by Tuesday the players will have realised they can’t dwell on things and need to get on with their football. For the first time in a while, they will be fighting for their place and trying to impress a new manager.
In the long term though, it is important that we appoint somebody to continue the fantastic work done by Holloway. Somebody who will come in and allow the players to express themselves. Somebody familiar with a passing and attacking philosophy. For me, I don’t care if this guy is out of work, promoted from within the club or is somebody I’ve never heard of. As long as he fits the bill in terms of carrying on the same philosophy that Holloway introduced, he is fine by me.
Personally, I would like to see either Steve Thompson or Keith Hill. Steve Thompson has been here for 7 years and has contributed to all the success we have had. He knows the players and knows the system, but will still have his own ideas of how he wants to do things. Keith Hill is a man I admire for his work at Barnsley. He has them playing good, passing football and always sounds knowledgable about the game. He has also spoken highly of our squad before, so he would appreciate the chance to come in and work with these players.
In fact, I think a lot of managers would want this job, just maybe not the pay packet. A club that is well run, in no debt, with a good squad, decent ground and good fanbase. Surely it is a manager’s dream except, as I said, the wage will be lower than elsewhere.
This has been a strange few days for Blackpool fans who have been angered by a lot of different things. Mainly though, anger is directed at either the Chairman or Holloway. The former for not supporting Holloway and letting him leave so easily and the latter for going back on his word and leaving in the manner he did and to the club he did.
But what we mustn’t forget is that Holloway leaving is not the end of our club. In a few weeks time, we will be starting a new era with a new (or old) face in charge. In the meantime, everyone should remember what we have achieved with Holloway at the helm and just be thankful that we experienced what many clubs don’t even dream of.