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Where Does Ian Holloway’s Blackpool Go From Here?

Photo by Yellow Book

When he was interviewed on Saturday night Ian Holloway cut a desolate figure. The color drained from his face. You have to question whether it had dawned on him that his early season high flyers Blackpool are now very much entrenched in a relegation scrap.

In stark similarity to Hull from two seasons ago, they shocked the league with performances above all expectations with a talismanic midfielder grabbing all the headlines. The problem now is much like Geovanni from that Hull side, nullifying Charlie Adam has become the standard tactic for teams facing the Tangerines.

Lacking in pace Adam, like a lot of midfield schemer’s such as Juan Riquelme, requires time and space to pick out the pass that splits a defence. By closing him down quickly and limiting his space he quickly shifts from key player to potential liability.

As some of the goals Blackpool have recently conceded show, if Adam gets caught in possession in the middle of the park the opposition’s shift from defence to attack can be all too quick, especially for a midfield bereft of real pace such as Blackpool’s.

Of course it would be wrong to lay all of the blame at the foot of Adam as he has been fantastic this season. It seems obvious to say but when your first choice centre back pairing has such little Premier League experience between them, a high goals against column would seem consequential. Many may even say that for Craig Cathcart, formerly of Manchester United, and Ian Evatt have performed well above expectation and that they are just suffering the mental strain of a tough season.

In a regression to the Kevin Keegan mantra of ‘You score 3, we score 4,’ the eventual flaw in the plan has reared it’s ugly head, Blackpool aren’t scoring enough. What will leave Blackpool fans even more frustrated is the fact they are actually the 2nd highest scorers outside of the top four with 47. This is of course offset by a frightening stat that they are the worst defence in the division having conceded 69 goals. So in truth when I say they aren’t scoring enough, it’s not a goal drought, they just aren’t scoring enough to counter balance such defensive frailties.

The final few games of this campaign could also easily dictate the next few seasons for Blackpool Football Club. Should they survive there is potential to grow and improve. As survivors of the relegation cull you become a slightly more attractive proposition to certain players. Those who wouldn’t return your calls are now leaving you voicemail.

It does have its drawbacks as well because those clubs higher up now circle your team looking to dissect you and take your best players. Holding on to them is also difficult, as proven with the pursuits of Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam, the latter of whom will no doubt be hoping for a move come the summer.

If they do succumb to the drop and go back into the Championship then it is very much a coin toss as to where they may end up. They have used their money wisely in the long term, choosing investing in the club over the playing staff. Even still with players like Matt Philips, Frenchman Elliot Grandin and the aforementioned Cathcart, all good young players, they will provide a solid base with which to build a promotion challenging side next season.

Unlike most relegated sides you would also believe those in charge will not decide to dispense with Ian Holloway’s services. The Bristolian affectionately known as ‘Olly’ has done great things for the club, when you consider many tipped them to match the Derby side of a few years previous in terms of points total, he has done a fantastic job to have them with something to play for in the final 5 games.

I do question whether he’s able to mount another lower league title challenge however. Much like this season his strength has been the element of surprise. As the saying goes ‘Once bitten twice shy.’ Clubs will and have wised up to Blackpool. They know they like to commit bodies forward and play a scarily high line.

Take the Manchester United game as a case study. At 2-0 up most teams would like to slow the game down and draw the time out. Blackpool’s insistence on attack opened up gaps and Manchester United’s clinical finishing earned them three points.

One thing that is harder to counteract is Bloomfield Road. The ground, much like Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park, is very compact which can make it a daunting prospect. After all, last year’s Championship winners Newcastle only lost 3 games all season but failed to come away with points from the Blackpool away fixture despite many expecting a victory prior to the game.

That may possibly make for a good omen with Newcastle the next visitors to Blackpool on Saturday in what is vital game for the home side. In many ways one would imagine that with three of their last five fixtures at home, the atmosphere at Bloomfield Road could decide what patch is ironed onto the sleeves of Blackpool’s shirts next season.

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  1. blkpoolUSA

    April 19, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Things seemed to have just gone sour of late, Clubs at this level are taking advantage of what seems every Blackpool mistake. SEE first two wigan goals. The lads are struggling and yes, perhaps playing above most of their heads. This has been a dream ride, I hope it continues. Any honest fan will tell you no matter what club they support, that watching Blackpool this season has been a joy. Exciting from start to finish. Olly has never seemed to play for the draw as so many clubs seem to do. Maybe they go down, but at least they put on a great display. lets hope for the best

  2. Pakapala

    April 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Where do they go from here? Right back to the lower leagues where they belong. Ian Holloway would have to shift his ways of thinking if Blackpool are to stay in the EPL.

  3. JC

    April 19, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I hope they stay, they’ve been a joy to watch. It would be a shame to get stuck with a club that plays like Birmingham while Blackpool drops.

  4. brn442

    April 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Right back to the Chamionship – Hull all over again.

  5. Dave C

    April 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

    As a Hull fan, I find it weird how every season there seems to be one team that takes the league by surprise, only to suddenly crumble in the second half of the season. Burnley did it last year too, and before Hull there was Reading. It seems like the slow-but-sure approach of teams like Stoke is the best way to get through your first couple of seasons in the EPL.

    Anyway, as a Hull fan I’d also point out that your analysis of our reliance on Giovanni is a little off, I think. Gio provided some great moments during Hull’s hot-streak, but even during the team’s hot-streak, he was inconsistent (to the point of not even being a guaranteed starter). I don’t think that it was the opposition’s nullification of Gio that lead to Hull’s slump, but rather the decision to get rid of Marlon King (who truely was the key to Hull’s good form) for disciplinary reasons, along with several other man-management and tactical foibles on behalf of Phil Brown.

  6. Football

    April 19, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Blackpool lost a very important battle in this campaign to avoid relegation this Saturday. I didn’t expect a Wigan victory and I still don’t expect Blackpool to relegate. They played spectacular, attacking football and it would be a pity to lose a team like that in Premier League.

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