Some say it was a pointless miracle, but the truth is that Blackpool winning promotion to the Premiership is the best thing that could have ever happened for football. If the game is to escape from the dungeon of debt in which it is trapped fans, players and chairmen alike must embrace what Blackpool have done, use them as an example and then stick to their methods.
This past domestic season will be remembered as the one where the real world finally caught up with football. Portsmouth are still in administration (according to reports Palace could have escaped it), Chester City are out of business and clubs such as Hull, Preston and Southend have accounts that resemble the red sea. However, the recent Championship Playoff Final could represent the parting of the ways for the future of football.
In some ways the match between Blackpool and Cardiff was bigger than just a cup final. To many it was Holloway versus Ridsdale (the worst football chairman of all time according to one recent poll), calculated versus erratic and football versus selfishness. For Ian Holloway and Blackpool represent everything that is still great about the game whilst the way Cardiff have been run in recent times is the epitome of everything that is wrong with it.
Blackpool winning promotion was not a fluke and the reason for this is somewhat simple and much overlooked- it’s because they have good players and an intelligent manager. Brett Ormerod and Jason Euell have made 397 Premiership appearances between them and both played critical roles in Blackpool’s promotion this season, whilst Charlie Adam proved his worth by scoring 19 goals from midfield. However, the real trick is the way in which the team has been assembled and how they have gone about their play. As we all know good management is generally defined as creating the maximum amount of revenue with a minimum amount of expenditure whilst providing an atmosphere in which everyone works for each other and performs to their full potential. To say that Blackpool boss Ian Holloway has carried this out to a great extent would be an understatement. Blackpool’s record signing is Charlie Adam- bought for £500k from Rangers last summer and this campaign they have had an average crowd of just 8611 with only three stands up in their stadium- yet this season they still beat a host of teams with twice the amount of resources.
Compare this to Cardiff. If moving stadiums wasn’t expensive enough during a global recession they also chose to make their promotion bid with players on very high wages- Michael Chopra, Mark Kennedy, Mark Hudson and Jay Boothroyd have all played Premiership football recently and would not settle for low salaries, whilst local boy Joe Ledley has seen his income skyrocket in recent seasons as a way to keep him at the club. The sums simply do not add up. There is currently not enough money being generated in the global economy for a medium sized business such as Cardiff City Football Club to support this kind of infrastructure.
Theoretically Cardiff should have won the playoff final as they do have a better squad than Blackpool and most of their players are in the prime time of their careers- Ian Holloway even stressed this before and after the game. However, the fact that they didn’t demonstrates to Championship clubs everywhere that they can achieve their goals whilst living within their means- if they employ someone who can bring the art of good management to their football club. The brilliance of Blackpool’s season is typified by the way in which Holloway has managed to get the very best out of players at different stages of their careers. The likes of Jason Euell and Brett Ormerod are approaching the end their journey as footballers whilst the likes of Neil Eardley, Charlie Adam and Alex Baptiste are just getting started.
Ian Holloway managed to get the most out of what he had by finding a flexible 4-3-3 system in which all his players could blend together and perform to the maximum of their ability whilst remaining balanced and entertaining, all of which was done on a shoestring budget. Consequently Blackpool now face a lucrative future regardless if they get 100 points or ten next season, whilst Cardiff scour the world for critical investment.
There are many blueprints for success in football as different clubs have shown throughout the years. However, if the beautiful game is to escape the horrors of debt and destruction then the methods shown by Ian Holloway and Blackpool this past season are the ones that now must be followed.
PS- News coming out reveals that Crystal Palace may have been saved after an agreement was reached at the 11th hour between the CPFC 2010 consortium (headed by Steve Parish and Martin Long) and Lloyds Bank, regarding an anti embarrassment clause on Selhurst Park. This is the second time in 10 years Palace have chosen the Cardiff approach and the second time in ten years that Palace have escaped liquidation by the skin of their teeth. Should the CVA be completed later this week, confirming Palace’s survival, let this be a message from the whole of football to the CPFC 2010 consortium to take the Blackpool approach.
Written By Kieran Lovelock