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Blackpool may have difficulty in shaking off the ‘jokers’ tag, but could it play to their advantage?

July 28, 2010

This may come to be a familiar sight throughout the coming months as Ian Holloway prepares for his first PL campaign as a manager

Blackpool is best known for its pleasure beach, arcades, and thousands of bald-headed, sunburnt British tourists that flock to the seaside each year. You wouldn’t automatically associate Blackpool with football, and you certainly wouldn’t have predicted this time last year that they had a realistic chance of reaching the play-offs, let alone actually gaining promotion to the Premier League. A relegation battle would have been a more customary suggestion, with a low to mid-table finish the ultimate objection. But Ian Holloway built a team combining youthful exuberance and a die-hard work ethic, and throughout the duration of the 2009/10 season, Holloway and his men slowly but surely began to prove everybody wrong. Now, they are on the verge of embarking on their first ever Premier League journey.

William Hill have Blackpool at 4/5 to finish bottom of the PL this season, whilst their odds to stay in the division are 11/4. On paper, Blackpool are sure-fire favourites to go straight back down, but it’s a label that could well work in their favour. Ian Holloway is a very stubborn manager, and a very stubborn man. He’s arguably one of the most honest men in the game, and whilst he’s voiced his concerns over the strength and depth of his squad in recent days, he also insisted that people shouldn’t write them off. As we witnessed last season, Blackpool defeated the odds and the opinion of most football fans across the country, to reach a remarkable achievement in the club’s recent history. Who’s to say they can’t overachieve once more?

Naturally teams find it very difficult to adjust to life in the Premier League, with the odd exception. In Reading’s first season in the top flight they performed admirably and above all expectations to reach an astounding 8th position in the league. Unfortunately for them, relegation loomed the very next season and they were back in the Championship. Stoke City are another team who have risen to the occasion of playing against the Manchester United’s and Chelsea’s of this world, and to this day remain very sturdy opposition in England’s top flight. Blackpool aren’t expected to be as successful as those two clubs in their first season, and they’d be foolish to aim any higher than surviving their first PL season. Indeed, I’m sure that is all Ian Holloway has his sights set on, but he knows he needs to add a number of new names to his rather small first team squad.

It’s very clear that Holloway’s personality and football character has somewhat rubbed off on his players over the last 12 months or so. Indeed, the team’s work rate is reminiscent of the way Holloway likes to work, although it would be unfair to dismiss his style of play on the field. Make no bones about it, Holloway likes his teams to play football on the deck, contrary to regular opinion of football league sides, the majority of which prefer a more direct, long-ball approach. Holloway is not that kind of manager. When asked on Sky Sports News whether he would have to abandon that style of play from time to time in the Premier League, Holloway replied, “you mean stop playing football on the deck and start hoofing it up in the air? If that’s what you mean by abandon”. It was a typical Holloway response, and one that suggests he is determined to keep moulding his side into the product that he prefers, rather than the one that would have the best chance of succeeding in the top flight.

West Brom are another of the promoted sides along with Newcastle United, and they are a side who also prefer to play their football on the grass. However, that style of play may well have flattered many in the Championship, but when it has come down to Premier League football, The Albion have been lacking something extra to keep them in the division. As a result, they have come to be known as the ‘yo-yo’ team of English football. For Blackpool to work as a unit in the Premier League, and to avoid any potential embarrassment at the hands of the bigger teams, they’ll need to show more fight and determination than West Brom have in previous seasons. However, I don’t think that will be a problem, as Ian Holloway has always been a stickler for work-rate and a winning attitude.

The one thing that may work in Blackpool’s favour is the ‘new boy’s’ tag. Few of the current Premier League sides know too much about Blackpool, and whilst they’ll all do their research before taking on the division’s newest side, Blackpool’s x-factor could be the fact that they are an unknown entity. They will also have excellent support, despite possessing the smallest stadium in the league, and no doubt the fans will get right behind their team when Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti turn up at Bloomfield Road. Opposition sides can expect a hostile, unwelcoming atmosphere, and this may be something that unnerves and unsettles visiting sides. Blackpool would love that to be the case, but there is no hiding the fact that they have to sign 5 or 6 decent players to have any chance of staying alive in the PL. As we know against teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham, if you don’t have a well-organised, efficient defensive line, you’ll have problems, as Wigan found out to their embarrassment against Spurs at White Hart Lane last season as they went on to lose a record 9-1. Wigan are far from being Premier League new boys now, having gained promotion back in the 2004/05 season. That probably further highlights the importance of being solid at the back, something that I know Blackpool are in the process of addressing with the potential signing of Dekel Keinan from Israeli giants Maccabi Haifa.

If Ian Holloway didn’t know it already, Blackpool’s pre-season campaign has alerted him to the problems his side may face if they enter the season without adding to their squad.  Holloway has also been struck with the news that Billy Clarke is likely to miss the entire season with damaged cruciate ligaments. 22-year old Clarke is highly rated in the Blackpool ranks and he may prove to be a big miss for them come April and May next year.

I’m sure that if Ian Holloway had a fully-fit, stronger squad, he’d be showing far more confidence in Blackpool’s ability to defeat the odds in the Premier League this season, but there are a couple of things that could work in their favour. To survive their first season in the PL, they’ll need a great deal of effort, a whole lot of luck, and a committed, understanding fanbase behind them. Good luck to them!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2010 3:33 pm

    house. on. blackpool. relegation.

    • seasider1988 permalink
      July 28, 2010 8:35 pm

      spurs.not.even through.champs.league.qualification.

    • South Shore Steve permalink
      July 28, 2010 8:37 pm


  2. Tangerine Misfit permalink
    July 28, 2010 8:51 pm

    oh look, opposition fans writing us off before a balls been kicked…I remember teams doing that last season! ;)

  3. George permalink
    July 28, 2010 10:48 pm

    Actually ‘tangerine misfit’ I haven’t written Blackpool off at all. I have merely stated where it could go right for them and where they need to improve. I also stated facts with the betting odds, and, as you say, people did write you off last season which is exactly what I said in the article.

    • Shallowgirl permalink
      August 9, 2010 8:53 am

      Think Tangerine was referring to the Tottenham Fan not the article. Could be wrong!

  4. July 29, 2010 3:02 am

    well the season has well and truly started with fan bashing session! hehe! let’s wait and see what happens!

  5. maserati4200 permalink
    July 29, 2010 12:31 pm

    You start to worry when the manager says…

    “I think we’ve bitten off more than we can chew” and…
    “We haven’t got enough players and I don’t know where they going to come from”

    On the other hand it could be Olly indulging in some reverse psychology.

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