Glorious relegation spells end of the road for the miracle of Blackpool
Published: 23.05.11 / Written by: David Gold
Gone but not forgotten.
Teams are dispatched from the Premier League with cold cruelty; West Ham last weekend had dug their own grave too deep to climb out before the season’s end. And then Birmingham, basking in the glory of Carling Cup success, played fire with their Premier League future. They got burnt.
Blackpool, unlike any of their predecessors, and probably any of those who will follow them on the path to the Championship in years to come, will be genuinely missed. A sadness clouded the final day of the season as everyone’s second favourite team cruelly found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time; Old Trafford, needing three points.
Not even a 2-2 draw would have done the way results turned out elsewhere. It seems wrong, somehow. Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City have bludgeoned their way into the Premier League and stayed there with tactics more closely resembling those you might expect to see at Twickenham. We’re forever reminded that they play to their strengths and that there is no right way to play football, the best way is the way that works.
But then, if that were true, few would be bothered by Blackpool’s demise. Their way, daring to pass and attack their way to survival, in the cold light of day, was a disastrous strategy. It evidently failed. Yet it entertained in a way which leaves rival fans genuinely disappointed at their all too fast departure from the top flight. Their last goal in the Premier League was a fitting tribute to their time. Who else, playing for survival on the last day of the season, could come from behind to go 2-1 up at Old Trafford, with a cheeky backheeled finish after a flowing passing move?
Theirs is a style and attitude all too rarely seen in the Premier League. Fans next season will be robbed of the chance to see Ian Holloway’s expansive style, and will instead have to make do with Rory Delap’s attempts to throw a ball further than any man before has done for the fourth successive year.
It seems wrong. It is wrong.
Blackpool could still be playing Europe next season, if they finish above Fulham in the Premier League’s fair play league. It would be nice to think that would keep their team together, in order that they could fight for a place in the group stages and at the same time, reclaim their rightful place in the Premier League.
It creates a bizarre situation, where star midfielder Charlie Adam looks set to move from a team who could be playing in the Europa League to a local rival with whom he can’t play in Europe next season – Liverpool. But the cold truth is that Adam will be more likely to play in the Champions League sooner rather than later under Kenny Dalglish at Anfield.
And Adam could be followed through the exit door by a number of other stars, though Europa League football could halt the breakup of the squad. Other players like Matt Gilkes are out of contract and could leave for nothing for better wages after performing well this season.
And what price Ian Holloway leaving? This is an English manager who has shown himself to be resourceful, enterprising and perhaps most importantly, intelligent enough to realise that the old style kick-and-rush football is dying a slow death, prolonged admirably by the likes of Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis, who have used extensive fitness techniques and robust organisation to give it a second breath. But forward thinking coaches like Holloway are the way forward, and it seems improbable that suitors from the Premier League won’t come after him soon.
For a club with such meagre resources, it is a remarkable achievement to have done as well as they have, but the unfortunate reality is that it was incredibly unlikely that they could have been promoted to the Premier League at all. This was a team with paltry resources by comparison with Championship rivals, let alone those in the Premiership. To have competed as well as they have is as close to a footballing miracle as has been achieved in recent times.
The miracle though, is over. As is this wonderful Blackpool side. So long, but thanks for the memories.