The Tangerine’s Wembley win over Cardiff yesterday might have some fans relishing the prospect of a trip to the Lancashire seaside next season but it will also mean a pretty hefty drop back down to earth for those more used to the palatial surroundings of Old Trafford or the Emirates.
Blackpool have just become the smallest side ever to grace the Premiership since its inception in 1992. Their record signing was bought for just £500,000, their £5m annual wage bill is less than John Terry’s salary (and his out-of-court settlements) and they were playing in the basement division as recently as 2001.
They are a gang of Cinderellas dressed in Orange and White and chief usurpers of the all-singing all-dancing Premier League gravy train. Their 12,555 capacity stadium is less than a sixth of the size of the Theatre of Dreams and the last time Manchester United played at Bloomfield Road (40 years a go!) Elvis was riding high in the charts, a loaf of bread cost 9p, Idi Amin took control of Uganda and hippys were still protesting about the Vietnam War.
I could go on. The sensible money is on them to be relegated from the big boys club after just one season but that will not stop boss Ian Holloway’s ambitions remaining as lofty as the town’s tower. Despite the ungenerous odds of 10,000-1 which have already been offered on Blackpool to win the title next season, Holloway will now be known for more than just his entries into football’s all-time list of humorous quotations.
Many will remember the comical analogy of pulling girls in nightclubs that he used to describe the importance of getting results but he has now successfully reinvented himself as the ultimate alchemist. He is a man whose single-mindedness and supreme confidence has transformed Blackpool from Championship relegation contenders to Premiership new boys.
The Tangerines’ finest hour was said to be the Stanley Matthew’s FA Cup Final of 1953 but up until now they had little else to choose from. Thanks to Holloway, Wembley will now hold fresh glories for the club.
The events of yesterday was welcome proof that the sheer weight of money can be challenged and that the size of the heart does not have to come a distant second to the size of the wallet. Blackpool may be more of an ugly sister than a handsome prince but how wonderful and refreshing is it to see another wild card entry into an increasingly exclusive and sterile top division.