Blackpool Football Club
Liverpool, winners of the last league title, erm, 20 years ago, have been the centre of discussion everywhere since Blackpool’s majestic display in their back yard on Sunday. Talk of Luke Varney’s searing runs from the left flank, Charlie Adam’s midfield mastery in the face of England stalwart Steven Gerrard, and Matt Gilks’ instinctive block all come second on list of importance to a side, and a club who have been getting worse and worse for sometime.
It is fitting for a society so completely engrossed in the fall of the mighty, in largess whatever the form, that such a compelling and heart swelling story of the gradual rise of the purist should be deferred so easily. From the top, our manager is the epitome of a game that is desperate to do away with the over worn cliché of pragmatic football in order to survive, right down to his post match comments. ‘A bit false’ he said. ‘False’ is not a term any self-respecting fan or observer of the game can accuse either Ian Holloway, or Blackpool of being.
This is a man who has been caricatured as being a cider-drinking bumpkin, whose preference for an extended laddy metaphor has gained him only the kind of respect a person reserves for a mate who is usually in a good mood.
What they don’t see is the way he has consistently resurrected the careers of footballers whose self-life looks increasingly dated. Gilks, Varney, DJ Campbell, Marlon Harewood and more have come alive thanks to this unique man-management and attacking 4-3-3 system that allows his players creative licence and a fearless approach.
Granted, Liverpool were fairly dreadful, but then it is not surprising to me that Blackpool dispatched (what was at kick-off) a bottom 3 club with in such a way. Liverpool did not have an answer. The uneasy truth for fans who cling to the notion that high investment equals high returns is that all it really returns is a high-interest debt and a team whose individual purposes are incompatible with the historical success such clubs fans so desperately cling onto. Indeed, it is no surprise that assumptions based on cumulative, retrospective, heart-swell are so easily tarnished. Liverpool fans, fans of any club in fact, should not be surprised when they see our fans who do not have the burden of such a thing. What we get to witness is something that has grown in a way that is so anti EPL, so anti-corporate practicality, that it is understandable neutrals find it easy to ignore, or dismiss. The emotion that motivates us most as a race is fear, and fear of change.
If Blackpool do go down, and people react the way they usually do when another name like ours retires back into the midst of the football league, it is because they don’t want to believe it can happen. They would rather just accept that things should go on as they are. Strange things may happen occasionally, but a permanent change – the long, strong rock-of-the-boat the kind our side are capable of performing – may help shake our self-involved societal beliefs into thinking that there is another way to achieve a kind of success that can be at once genuine and kind without being vicious and greedy.
We are all happier in the Black, than we are in the Red.
Chatting with Liverpool fans suggest football fans can empathise towards a moral game.
The Blackpool Offside has taken the oppurtunity to speak with Noel-Of-Liverpool and give fans a slice of interactive soccer-pie ahead of our clash this weekend. The answers, surprisingly, allowing me a strong sense of sincere smuggish affection toward the reds of the coast.
1) Your club is currently a microcosm the battle between capitalist
scummery, and wholesome fan / state ownership. And your team appears
to be getting slowly shafted by it. What is going to happen?
As much as it might go against the roots of the club, and that before the current owners showed up many would have decried it, right about now I think most Liverpool followers would happily accept any number of wealthy sheiks or corrupt Russian mobsters if it only meant an end to the us getting shafted part. When you’ve been deprived of water for long enough the animal part of the brain starts to demand salvation no matter the source and no matter if it might leave others less fortunate and gasping by the wayside. All of a sudden the slick man in the three piece pin-stripe suit who might have devil horns sprouting somewhere back there unless it’s just the light starts to look like a decent option, even if the bottle of water he’s offering was made from the crushed dreams of dying kittens.
Or, in English: October 6th is rapidly approaching, and with it the RBS’ decision on whether to re-finance the debt. If they choose not to, and if the owners cannot find another bank to foot their now toxic bill, the bank taking over and sending the club into administration seems the most likely outcome. And I don’t think you would find a single serious Liverpool follower out there wouldn’t jump at administration and a nine point deduction over the alternative. So, what’s going to happen? Well, either Hicks and Gillett manage to re-finance the debt and we’re stuck with them forever and always, or the RBS takes control of the club and all sorts of potentially bad things happen, but potentially bad things at this point seem far preferable to certain bad things.
2) Your manager, Roy Hodgeson, is one of the greatest people in
football. Are you lucky to have him?
It’s complicated, and I’d like for him to somehow find a way to come good, but at its simplest I’m really not sure we’re all that lucky to have him. I don’t think anybody really expected him to come in and take us top of the table, not with the turmoil behind the scenes, but he was always billed as a steadying hand who would help take us through the rough stretch of the ongoing ownership issues. Unfortunately the players look less energetic than they did last season, the tactics employed are causing many to lose chunks of their hair suddenly and violently, the playing style he’s attempting to instal is about as far as you can get from aesthetically pleasing, and with little control over personnel decisions in Hodgson’s hands we’ve seen a definite downgrade in the playing staff already since he’s arrived.
I certainly can’t speak for everybody, but from my point of view if the league and major cup competitions were always going to be out of reach until new ownership arrived I would have rather stuck with Rafa: at the end of the day he was one of us, and he would have fought to keep as much of the club together for the future as possible. Unfortunately that’s a moot point now, and all we can do is hope that Roy finds a way to turn things around so that his legacy at the club isn’t “He was a nice guy.”
3) At some point, you may well end up sharing a stadium with your
Toffee rivals over the park. How does that prospect make you feel?
Annoyed. Intellectually it’s a concept that might even make a bit of sense, but it goes against the history and identity of the club, and it really shouldn’t be an issue if our lying owners hadn’t been, well, liars.
4) It must be pretty poor being a Liverpool fan when you are forced to
live in the here and now. What keeps you going?
A slight masochistic streak, the ability to look for silver linings such as the culling of more casual Sky Sports and call in show type fans that will inevitably come with a drop in performance, and a fascination with tactics that is getting a fair workout from the current morbid displays. Plus a possibly foolish little corner of my mind that still has some hope that tomorrow will be the day everything clicks into place and the world is full of flowers and sunshine again (well, at least from an LFC standpoint).
5) Do you ever look at Blackpool F.C, and think, ‘that’s how you do it?’
Absolutely. I look at a side just up from the Championship, one that all the experts picked to head straight back down, and I see you come out with an attractive, attacking brand of football and to hell with the consequences. And it’s working. Meanwhile we’re consistently putting on some of the most dire and dull performances I’ve ever seen, and it’s not as though it’s doing us a lot of good. Blackpool’s playing attacking football, so far they’ve been rewarded for it (well, aside from the occasional pantsing by Chelsea), and that’s as it should be.
The overriding emotion to come from Bloomfield Road after this week will be smugness eminating from the away team dugout where Sam Allardyce sat and watched his Blackburn take all three points back to Ewood Park. After delivering their best season in 18 years, the then prison-bound Chairman Owen Oyston sacked ‘Big Fat Sam’, a move that clearly saw him still smarting as he returned to the coast.
This blog recently explored the nature of Ian Holloways unique view of the situation, before a game which exposed the Darwinian truthes of winning football/pretty football dichotomy that burdens the Premier League and below. the opening exchanges saw ‘Pool all over Blackburn, whipping in high quality deliveries and were extreamley unlucky to go behind when Captain Charlie Adam turned a harmless cross into his own goal. Matt Gilks in Blackpool’s goal kept them in it, but the most pleasing thing to see was that everytime orange shirts hustled the Blackburn goal, it was either through tidy build up play or vicious balls swung in from either flank. Nothing displeasing on the eye to fans with an eye for a good show.
The emergance of 19 year old new signing Matt Philips, slashing home a drive along the floor in the bottom corner was the highlight for anyone who saw the highlights of the game. It was probably typically (un)just that the goal that won the game was a scrappy semi-clean swipe that bobbled into the bottom corner past Gilks hand after some questionable clearing from the Blackpool backline.
Holloway stuck the nail on the head with his post-match comments; “In the first-half, after that goal went in, we felt a bit sorry for ourselves and made a few wrong choices, but I felt second-half that was probably the best we’ve played since I’ve been here. It was exhilarating to watch”. And it was. The sad truth of the whole affair is that Blackpool’s misbalance toward floor-based entertainment has much to learn from the proven pragmatism of Big Fat Sam and The Like.
Blackpool boss Ian Holloway has again showed he is a cut above the average balls-and-cliché concoction that formulates the make-up of most English football managers. Speaking to The Daily Mirror, Ollie extended his own credentials in testing our basic beliefs about what is true when, referring the Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce, he asked the question “How do people know that if he was given the AC Milan job he couldn’t do a better job than anybody else?”
While most fans, players and managers are happy to sit back and allow their limited vocabularies to harness their mental processes, Holloway’s bilingualism (he can speak sign-language, having two twin daughters who have impaired hearing) has not only allowed him to take precedence as campaigner in the cause for education equality, it also allows him to philosophise in ways that to the laymen seem absurd, but to the thinker, prove themselves to be default truths, whether in football or in politics.
Sam Allardyce. ‘Big’, ‘Fat’, ‘Sam’. Not names one would ever associate with any form of flair or panache, be it in football, thinking, or otherwise. And to us: the English speaking, Match of the Day watching half-a-jobs, our initial response is to automatically lump him together with his all-too-familiar stereotype: the long-ball, big-man-up-front, route-one bollocks that has come to epitomise 90% of campaigns that most self-effacing fans of clubs like Blackburn and Bolton annually accept as successful as long as they can renew their Premier League season tickets in July. But the truth is that the same long-ball, big-man-up-front, route-one bollocks is generally what wins football matches. The same long-ball, big-man-up-front, route-one bollocks is what Chelsea fans reviled as brilliant under their ‘Special One’ José Mourinho for years; the infamous aesthetics of which, ironically, got Mourinho himself sacked. The irony was compounded in last season’s Champions League, as the press espoused terms like ‘mastermind’, and ‘genius’ as José’s unfancied Inter Milan swept aside Chelsea in the quarter finals and took the only trophy to have eluded him, and Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho’s Chelsea is not the only example of how Sam Allardyce, ‘Route-One’ football has provided the uneasy oxy-moronic paradox of Ugly Success for football fans to dwell in. Look at the fate of any side who dare play a little-bit on the floor in the Premiership and Leagues Below in the past 10 years and the only term to define their fortunes is inconsistent. Arsenal at the top, West Brom at the bottom. Argentina at the top, Crewe Alexandra at the bottom. Nottingham Forest circa 1979-80, Nottingham Forest 2000 onwards. The list goes on.
Of course there are exceptions. Spain’s current dominance of world football is unfailingly beautiful every time it happens, and hopefully will mark in a change to what all sides, foreign and domestic, aspire to. Under Carlo Ancelotti Chelsea appear to be knocking in cricket scores every week, and at the same time each week decimating the ‘boring’ tag that they were associated with for all of those years. And of course, there is Blackpool…
But the fact remains the same. People have pilloried Holloway for claiming that Allardyce could be successful at A.C Milan – one of the most successful clubs in the history of football. But Big Fat Sam has consistently kept sides in places they shouldn’t really be, playing with a proven formula, and working with minimal resources. Be pretentious if you like, but ignore the formula at your peril. For those of us who love to have what we want, there is a way of doing things; getting what you want rarely looks pretty to anyone else but yourself and those who depend on you. Just look at the history of western Europe post-1930. I suppose it is in our nature to refuse to accept the fact we want success and want to make a good impression equally badly. But this one dimensional stuggle, in politics as in football, is the ever present weakness of those of us who can only speak in tongues.
A great paradox emerged from a weekend where most turgid-league talk centred around the greatness of Chelsea /Ancelotti / Berbatov / Fergurson ad infinium. Mark Lawrenson, footballs most aloof and unentertaining man, defended the only thing worth defending about the Premier League: Blackpool F.C.
In his brief, albiet headlined ode to the tangerines on the BBC Lawrenson, amusingly, helped shaped the opinions of the public toward his complete opposite: entertainment. The world may not know that ludic play is a pastime of Lawrenson’s, but as he withers through the article in tiresome clichés, our imaginations begin to dance with the images of little orange firecrackers sparking across a canvas of green and white.
Blackpool are brilliant for football. Holloway himself admits his own attempts at playing a more rigid and defensive style are as effective as a Sol Campbell’s diet. Perhaps it is something in the water, (it’s definatley not the beer) that makes this story, makes every game, special. But it seems everything they do seems to come to something. As opposed to Lawrenson, whose tiresome verbal droolings smear the pages of the countries worst newspapers and whose devastating soulessness perforates otherwise quite enjoyable football highlights, Blackpool are worth it.
They may well fail, as they did against Chelsea, but who can deny that when they win they win twice. Once in the league and once against the odds. Who else has that effect on your average fan? Lets compound the metaphor, and use Marlon Harewood as a microcosm of Blackpool F.C. Fans have loved Marlon Harewood, wherever he has been, because he is so absurdly entertaining. Sometimes he is brilliant, battering opponents, blustering about the pitch and blasting the goals home. And sometimes he is dreadful. But whatever he is, he is something. He is not the footballing equivalent of Phill Collins; Mark Lawrenson has blind followers in their millions, and I know who I would pay £25 to see on a bad day.
Matt Gilks made 7 or 8 world class saves to deny Newcastle in this highly entertaining affair at St James Park; it was a game that combines exhilerating football with two background stories that would coax emotions other than the standard ‘high’ and ‘low’ experienced by the average football fan. ‘Doing something out of the ordinary’ should probably be written in orange on the pie napkins on Bloomfiled Road.
What most fans will notice is the goal celebration of skipper Charlie Adam, who held up a small white T shirt to the camera’s with the message ‘4 Parky’ after putting his penalty past Steve Harper for the Seasiders first goal. ‘Parky’ is Youth Team Head Coach Gary Parkinson, who was in intensive care last night after suffering from a stroke. In the way that has become typically Blackpool, unassuming, and moderate but lovable, the players and coaching staff came together at the final whistle to show a humble solidarity at such an unfortunate turn of events for the club. Parkinson’s current condition has been described by staff at Royal Bolton hostpital as ‘very poorly’.
The other second story of the day was the star performance of Blackpool goalkeeper Matt Gilks, who has been called up to the Scotland squad after resurecting his career from not even playing football and working in a garage, mending cars. Gilks denied Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll twice, and also denyed Joey Barton from point blank range to ensure a highly important victory for Ollie’s Army.
Newcaslte are, or were in almost exactly the same boat as Blackpool before yesterdays fixture, having made one hard faught draw, one surprising win, and one crushing defeat to a ‘top-four’ club. So playing football so fluently, with Adam pulling the strings and ‘Pool playing delightful football on the backyard of another big club – and winning – is surely nothing but a very welcome sign of good things to come.
Ollie Holloway has been sharpening his two centre-forward fangs with an eye on sinking them into Newcastle – a team whose results are almost exactly the same as those of the Tangerines. Newcastle, who are a team Blackpool will need to compete with and beat if they are to survive this year, will be looking to Sol ‘I’m not fat at all‘ Campbell, freshly back from his wedding and honeymoon, to make another bizarre Premiership comeback, and keep things tight at the back for Newcastle. Holloway – with his nippy pair of DJ Campbell and Marlon (The Pace,The Power, The Presence) Harewood – must fancy his chances. Solomon, who has recently celebrated his 48th birthday, is no spring chicken (he probably ate the spring chicken on his honey moon), and is likely to be relying on his famed positional skills and ability to read the game to not read the adverts and position himself as far away from McDonald’s as possible.
Holloway has been vocal about his support for his support stiker, who played such a pivotal role in Blackpool’s fortunes last season, suggesting that he ‘believes in him’, adding ‘he helped me last year, if you look at his record he’s scored one in two even in the Premiership but that was coming off the bench, I want to give him a run of games at that level and I think he’ll score because his record tells me he will’.Normally, Solomon would be able to eat stikers with Blackpool’s quality for breakfast (no pun intended), but considering the circumstances this game will be more than a fair match up.
His managers comments will mean a lot to DJ, who came from a non-league club straight to the top level, and has not really has time to justify himself at the top level. Partnered by Marlon, who is champing at the bit to get back at his former club where he was villified by the ‘Toon fans who didn’t see him as being good enough; Hollway will want to avenge the defeat they suffered at St James Park last season in the Championship.
Ian Holloway is not a stupid man, despite his pub demeanour and blokish outlook. In his own colloquial way, post being gunned down from their top 4 perch by Arsenal, he both diagnosed his sides competitive ailments and at the same time highlighted what so many have praised the men in tangerine for.
‘Last year we weren’t that good defensively but we outscored people’
It’s not very often that a team comes up from the Championship as extravagant goalscorers; zipping the ball around on the green stuff, noodling intricate passes and side-footed finishes is all very well and good while the turf is strong in the first 4 weeks of a season, but it is a style that is very difficult to sustain if a win at all costs attitude is adopted. And in the Championship it is adopted. Only West Brom have done it sucessfully in recent seasons and look what happened to them when they went up before.
The clubs who float above their means in this league are the defenders. They have to be. Wigan, Bolton, even Blackburn, all have fan bases and average attendances that are comparible in size to what Blackpool could have as and when their stadium is developed to full capacity. And they have got their by employing aesthetically repugnant football that often supplies the stock game of an overrated ‘Premier’ship game. Gary Megson, Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce anybody? Success very rarely looks pretty, and Blackpool do not have anytime for makeovers.
Check the highlights. You don’t learn how to deal with Arsenal, and Manchester United, and even the sides that make up the top third of the table in one season. No-one could. Everyone who isn’t totally brilliant in this league is on a wing and a prayer, and could get sacked out at any minute. Newcastle, Middlesborough, Portsmouth. The list of what were previously taken-for-granted top flight teams is endless, and this business has no time for reputation.
Blackpool are generally an ugly side to look at, but they have gotten into the habit of winning pretty. It’s romantic for anyone who isn’t an idiot. And it became habit last season for them too, as ‘Ollie points out. But they’re going to need more from everyone, more of what they are good at.
It could have been 1-1 halfway through the second half if the un-furnished Taylor-Fletcher had put his clear cut chance away. It could have been a different game.
And if the Blackpool back four were anymore respectful to the Arsenal players they would have turned up in uniforms, sat down and took notes. Every Arsenal goal – and you can check this – every goal, was helped along by some superstar player or other being given about 3 yards of space to move, think and play in.
The habit, the feeling of being able to put four and five into any team’s goals can flit away when on the receiveing and of a battering like this. Blackpool must get nasty, get in people’s faces, but they must remember what they can do. They must remember how to outscore teams otherwise they what they could have been for a long, long time.
It would be too easy for your any one to become overexited by the watching the tangerine-dream-opener this weekend against Wigan. They totally thraped Roberto Matinez’s hapless side in their own back yard, and to the unscrupulous viewer it would seem like the kind of performance that potential champtions would set out as a standard – cue Chelsea’s dispatching of Baggies.
But in similarly humble way to Carlo Ancelloti’s post match reaction – great minds (!) – Ian Holloway unsurpirisingly didn’t share in the post match delerium of the Seasiders fans, although no-one can blame them and why would they. It was a strange pre-season for Blackpool, but after aquiring 4 good signings and ace-in-the-hole Marlon Harewood their cards were not exactly played close to their chest, and Wigan looked about as card sharp as blue and white bubble-gum. They could not ontend with the pace and pressure that Blackpool excerted, and this was epitomised by Harewood running the show up front.
Holloways reaction probably suggested as much relief that that pre-season period was over and league football could actually take place. It was a disappointingly cliche-ridden post match repsonse from Holloway, adding to the impression that he’s a bit fed up of the frenetic capitalism that he is now engaged with:
“I’ve had those lads twice on the grass. It’s been a hideous pre-season for me, the chairman and secretary because I am so shocked at what everybody else is on and what they are paying – we are completely out of our depth.
“But we will try our best and keep going. The win is fantastic for the boys to start believing in themselves and keep the momentum going.”
And in this, Holloway echoes the sentiments of every follower. It is going to get much, much harder than the incredibly generous defending from Martinez’s side and the luck that granted at least three of the four goals.
‘It seems to me that the club doesn’t need to invest in a new player at all. The only thing the chairman needs to do is to plough all our money into buying Marlon Harewood a new brain…‘
The sentiments of this very astute football speculator may have been echoed around Upton, or Villa, or any of the parks that Big Marlon has charged around so far in his 12 career, but despite his obvious weaknesses as a player, he is always very well loved by the fans.
Putting the big Barbadian in the side is going to require an altogether different composition from midfield orchestrator Charlie Adam. Previously he has not had so much aerial presence in the form of lil DJ Campbell, Michael Chopra and Brett Omerod, although with the ball at feet, or played slightly in front, they are capable players. Enter Marlon…
Adam will (probably literally at some point) not know what has hit him. Marlon will quickly become a favourite at Bloomfield Road: once he gets the shirt on they will simply see a tangerine line compusivley sacrificing itself toward and for the goal, without a thought for much else. He’ll make diagonal runs, square runs, and strange runs. He’ll battle in the corners, battle in midfield, and battle with himself in front of 40,000 fans. He’ll get in at the front post, hassle the keeper, and then peel off the last man while the rest of the squad go about playing the quality of football that has earned the respect of romantics and purists alike.
This is not to say Alf is a bad catch. He’s a quality player, with a lot of experience and a lot of goals in the top flight, and people forget that. But he’s a confidence player, and needs to bag a few before he can bag a few more. To do this, he needs to integrate himself into the side quickly. This challenge, faced by Holloway and the rest of the coaches and squad, could be the one to keep Blackpool up, if they can overcome it.