This season Blackpool Football Club have been a breath of fresh air to the richness of the Premier League. For a club that may lack the big stadium, bank balance or recent history of trophies, they certainly have showed a great character this season which has been refreshing for a league that is increasingly competitive.
Last season, Blackpool were mid-table by March and a spell of good form saw them surge into the play-off’s come the end of the season. I remember at the start of that season in the Championship, they were widely tipped to go down but under a manager who was brave enough to change his football philosophy, Ian Holloway inspired his team into the play-off final and they defeated Cardiff City to book their place in the Premier League.
With this shock promotion, the manager’s lack of Premier League experience (as a manager), the lack of house hold names in their squad and the size of their ground, fans and pundits alike were predicting that the Seasiders were going to be an embarrassment to the Premier League. Some even went as far as saying they will not win a game all season!
Now, with the Premier League season coming to an end, Blackpool are 17th – one place and point above the relegation zone on 33 points. Whilst their form since the turn of the year has been poor, they still have a chance of staying up, which would probably be one the greatest achievements in Premier League history given the budget Ian Holloway has had to work with compared to the 19 other teams.
Yesterday, I predicted Blackpool will be one of the three teams to face the drop. It came from my head, taking their form into consideration, the way the players have looked fatigued and to some extent even Holloway himself has started to look like a man for whom the season has taken its toll.
My heart wants them to stay in the Premier League, because it needs football clubs with character like Blackpool, with a traditional ground and a characteristic manager that gets his team playing good football.
Despite Ian Holloway’s often humorous press conferences, he is also a very good manager. It wasn’t long ago that I was watching him manage QPR where his tactics were often questioned as we played a very direct style of play but his man management skills were always spot on.
After a year out of the game, Holloway started to change his philosophy on how he wants his team to play football and starting with Plymouth Argyle and eventually with Blackpool, he now gets his team to play entertaining football that is also effective, whilst also being shrewd in the transfer market. Charlie Adam only cost £500,000 but has been one of the best performers in the league, whilst other performers like David Vaughan and Richard Kingson cost less.
Let’s not forget that Blackpool are former FA Cup Winners (1953) and runners-up twice, a history that the likes of Wigan Athletic can’t boast despite their big stadium and bank balance. With the potential of more house hold names likely to be promoted into the Premier League next season, it’s even more important that the Tangerines stay in the top flight.
Whilst the likes of Wigan have enjoyed some romance flirting in the top division, it was largely down to the funding of Chairman, Dave Whelan that got them there. But in Blackpool’s case, it’s been under the guidance of one of the best English managers in the game who’s been able to turn a squad of journeymen footballers into competitive Premier League players.
Hopefully, Holloway and his team are able to re-charge their batteries, remind themselves that they are the team that won 4-0 at Wigan on the opening day of the season, whilst also securing a 2-1 victory at Anfield as well as defeating Newcastle, Stoke City and Sunderland on their travels this season.
Whilst the potential of former Premier League teams gracing the top flight once again next year makes for even more competitive division, Blackpool staying up will be a beacon of hope for the smaller clubs in the Football League who want to match their ambitions. C’mon Blackpool!
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