Promoted Blackpool face their toughest test
Tangerine dreams have come true for Ian Holloway, but Blackpool's chances in the Premier League are slim
After their stunning play-off final win against Cardiff earned Blackpool a place in the Premier League next season it is now time for a reality check for Ian Holloway and his minnows as they plot a way to stay in the top division of English football.
Their task is not an easy one. Blackpool are arguably the smallest club to ever reach the Premier League - certainly they have the smallest ground, with a capacity of just 12,500. They also have a pretty small transfer kitty - their record signing, Charlie Adam, cost only £500,000. By way of contrast Manchester United's record signing, Dimitar Berbatov, cost 61 times as much in 2008.
However, promotion could be worth some £90m to the Seasiders, and the chairman Karl Oyston is planning to use the money to revamp the club's medical and media set-ups, redevelop the East Stand at Boothferry Park and, presumably, bring in some new players.
But history is against Blackpool, the club of Stan Mortensen, Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Armfield. Of the previous five play-off final winners only one, West Ham, are still in the top flight. Watford, Derby and Burnley only managed one season in the top flight and although Hull, the 2008 play-off winners, had a sensational start to life in the Premier League they were relegated last season.
Blackpool, also known as the Tangerines, have made it to the promised land by playing in an attacking 4-3-3 formation and their never-say-die attitude was enough to overcome first Nottingham Forest and then Cardiff. But the Seasiders' up and at 'em approach may have done them proud in the cup final atmosphere of the play offs, but a policy of all-out attack may not be quite as successful in the Premier League, where bigger clubs could take them to pieces.
That has not escaped the man who orchestrated their promotion push, manager Holloway, who has also admitted that some of the players who helped get Blackpool into the Premier League might not be around to enjoy it.
"I'm proud of the boys but I might have to be ruthless," said Holloway. "And I might have to coach a different system."
Holloway, the former QPR, Plymouth and Leicester boss, could represent their best chance of staying in the top flight. When he arrived in Blackpool the Bristolian with a broad west-country accent was best-known for his quips and one-liners, which were often in dubious taste.
However, since taking over he has let his side's football do the talking, while his players have paid tribute to his powers of motivation behind the scenes.
Given that Blackpool were widely tipped for relegation from the Championship when he took over last summer, his achievement is phenomenal. When he arrived he was even offered a bonus to keep the club in the division - it is unclear if he has missed out on that by winning promotion to the top tier for the first time since 1971. ·
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