Even the most staunchly loyalist fan has a bit of neutral in them. And if there’s one thing the neutral loves, it’s a footballing fairytale. You know, like the heart-warming nature of a minnow eliminating a string of more illustrious teams during a glorious cup-run. Or a financially-strapped club defying the odds to beat wealthier opposition. Or, best of all, the unexpected promotion of a hugely unglamorous, perennially lower-league-dwelling side.
Amidst a sea of tangerine, Wembley Stadium played host to one of the greatest footballing fairytales of recent years, as an unfancied Blackpool side beat Cardiff City to reach the promised land of the Premier League. The seaside club, whose squad’s annual wage budget is less than that of John Terry alone, return to the top flight after an absence of nearly 40 years. Aside from the ‘fairytale’ nature of the fruition of the ‘tangerine dream’, a glorious by-product of Blackpool’s promotion is the long-anticipated Premier League ascendancy of walking sound bite, Ian ‘Olly’ Holloway.
Be it by way of dry wit, unashamed arrogance or humorous controversy, everyone loves a ‘character’. The likes of Brian Clough, Gordon Strachan and the late Sir Bobby Robson have all endeared themselves to the nation, with their press conferences and interviews all eagerly-anticipated. The media fascination of Jose Mourinho upon his return to Chelsea as Inter Milan coach two months ago highlighted the love of such characters within this country. Since the departure from these shores of the ‘Special One’ nearly three years, the top flight has been bereft of a managerial candidate that exudes such personality. However, the presence of ‘Olly’ within the top flight next season will go a long way towards filling the Premier League’s Jose-shaped hole.
The former QPR man has developed a reputation as somewhat of a cult figure within the lower leagues, amusing many with his signature wit and quirky metaphors. Named by Timeout Magazine as one of the fifteen funniest men in Britain, a series of Hollaway’s infamous quotes have also been committed to print. The following utterances are a just a handful of the wonderful sentiments that have fallen out of Ian Holloway’s mouth:
“He’s six foot something, fit as a flea, good looking – he’s got to have something wrong with him. Hopefully he’s hung like a hamster – That would make us all feel better. Having said that, me missus has got a pet hamster at home, and his cock’s massive.” (Speaking about Cristiano Ronaldo)
“Paul Furlong is my vintage Rolls Royce and he cost me nothing. We polish him, look after him, and I have him fine tuned by my mechanics. We take good care of him because we have to drive him every day, not just save him for weddings.” (Speaking about striker Paul Furlong)
“I don’t see the problem with footballers taking their shirts off after scoring a goal? They enjoy it and the young ladies enjoy it too. I suppose thats one of the main reasons women come to football games, to see the young men take their shirts off. Of course they’d have to go and watch another game because my lads are as ugly as sin.” (Speaking of the rule prohibiting players from removing their shirts)
Aside from his terrific tongue, Holloway is also known for being an all round good egg. The father of three deaf children, the Blackpool manager has undertaken significant campaigning to raise the awareness of deaf issues. On the field, Holloway’s deployment of 4-3-3 has been the key to Blackpool’s gloriously free-flowing football, banishing the memory of Holloway as an advocate of dour, long-ball football. His players have been quick to heap praise upon their manager, with play-off final matchwinner Brett Ormerod telling The Guardian that, “We got written off at the start of the season but the gaffer has come in and he deserves knighting I tell you. It’s him who has put the belief in the lads. We’ve never stopped fighting and this is the result of all that.”
For a league saturated with myopic, official-berating managers, the addition of Ian Holloway will be like a breath of fresh air. In the mean time, the following clip highlights the sort of insight we can look forward to on Match of the Day next season.
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zarifrasul