Ian Holloway, take a bow. Blackpool FC may have been relegated from the Premier League on Sunday the 22nd of May after just one season in English football’s top tier this time around, but they do so in a manner which no team before them to suffer the dreaded drop has ever accomplished: They were relegated not with their tails tucked between their legs, ashen faced or staring down at their suddenly interesting bootlaces, or lying on the turf looking up at the heavens and bemoaning their luck, with tears and with surrender. They were relegated with their heads held high after giving the Premiership champions an absolutely rip-roaring back and forth contest on their own patch, the likes of which have rarely been seen at fortress Old Trafford this season.
While West Ham United were demoted by their under-achieving players and owners who didn’t take enough decisive action, and Birmingham City were relegated due to playing awful football in a miserable run of form after their Carling Cup win, Blackpool did so by battling right until the bitter and unfortunate end. Watching Ian Holloway’s post match interview was a sad sight, because anyone with a beating footballing heart can see that Blackpool were an absolute credit to the Premiership, and Ian Holloway will forever be remembered with fondness and affection by anyone who saw a game featuring his team, or a post-match interview, or a press conference for that matter.
Whilst it is unfortunate, Blackpool’s defence has ultimately been their undoing, and quite possibly the reverse fixture with United may have ultimately been the cause of Blackpool’s demise. After giving away a 2-0 half time lead and losing 3-2, those three points would’ve seen Blackpool join the top dogs of England for a second spell, but alas it wasn’t to be.
After their Wembley triumph in 2010, Ian Holloway vowed not to sit back and defend, but instead to attack the Premier League. He vowed that they would not do ‘a Derby’ and go down with record low amount of points. He vowed to keep Charlie Adam at the club during the January transfer window. He even suggested putting a bid in for Carlos Tevez: “I might put a bid in for him and see if he’d like to come to us, Blackpool’s probably a bit closer to home!”
Ok, scratch the last line. But the point is that Holloway has virtually delivered all of his promises, and Blackpool have been nothing short of magnificent this season. The League will miss them dearly, and we can only hope that the likes of Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City follow their gutsy mentality as they bid to avoid the drop next season.
Blackpool’s influence on the league isn’t quite going to wiped out of existence. Players such as Charlie Adam will very likely be on the books of a Premiership club next season and he may not be alone, with DJ Campbell and David Vaughan being earmarked as a possible target for one or two clubs. Other players will generate interest. Who knows, this time next year the club may even be celebrating promotion again from the Championship, it’s certainly plausible.
Speaking of next season, despite their troubles you’d find it hard to look past West Ham and Birmingham at least challenging for promotion back to the top flight next year. Birmingham have something of a yo yo tag as it is, and McLeish is a proven manager at Championship level. West Ham, for all their faults, are still a big club and will forever be known as such no matter what division they find themselves in, so they shouldn’t find it hard to attract the quality they need to finish strongly come May 2012, especially with the appointment of Sam Allardyce.
Whilst Blackpool, Birmingham and West Ham have our commiseration’s, congratulations must go to Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic. Blackburn never seemed in trouble on the final day, really delivering a ruthless first half performance when they really needed it most. For now, Steve Kean has bought himself some time with the Rovers faithful, but in my opinion he’ll struggle again to keep his team in the division next season. I think Rovers are a club going backwards rather than forwards like they were under Sam Allardyce previously. With clueless owners and a manager who just isn’t ready for the Premiership, it could be a grim 2011/12 campaign for the former league winners.
Mick McCarthy’s Wolves surely deserve to stay up simply for their performances against the big teams this season and also for their good run of form late on in the season when they too needed it more than ever. McCarthy is another likeable personality that is a credit to the league, but I don’t feel like Wolves will be anything more that relegation candidates yet again next season.
As for Wigan, Roberto Martinez is another manager who deserves to take a bow. Like Wolves and Blackburn, they delivered at the tail end of the season when it looked like they were all but destined for a return to the football league. At 2-0 down to West Ham, you thought their fate was near enough certain. A mesmerising 45 minutes later in that game they gave themselves a chance against the FA cup finalists on the final day, and they did the business. Wigan’s attacking football is similar to that of Blackpool, and the defending was arguably just as bad, but full credit to them all the same.
For the neutral, is was an excellent afternoon of drama. For Blackburn, Wigan and Wolves fans, a day a relief and triumph. For fans of West Ham and Birmingham, a day they’ll want to forget in a hurry. But for Blackpool FC, a day where they can proudly say they took the Premiership champions by the balls and went down swinging for the fences. Here’s hoping we won’t be waiting too long for their return.
By Nick Sellers – Norwich City fan