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Lincoln, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Senior news reporter at the Grimsby Telegraph, UEA History graduate, former BBC Kick Off sports reporter & Lincoln City fan.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Blackpool will be a 'breath of fresh air' to the Championship

Ian Holloway's 'Tangerines' were cruelly relegated back to the Championship on the final day of the Premier League season. I explain why they got exactly what they deserved.

Written by Matt Scrafton.

Their demise into the relegation zone was met with delirious cries from the media. One commentator pompously declared prior to their kick-off against Premier League champions Manchester United, "I'm sure I speak for every neutral watching today, that we all hope Blackpool avoid relegation". Well thank you for speaking on my behalf, but I'm going to have to disagree.

Whilst another bizarrely suggested Blackpool "didn't deserve to go down". Why, did their opponents cheat? Were they given a harsh points deduction? A la West Ham, had one rival side gained the services of a player that they didn't legitimately own? Or, more realistically, did they amass less points than those teams above them and thus, were worthy of their place in the relegation zone? I'll let you decide that one.

Let me give you a few facts. Blackpool were consistently praised for their gung-ho attitude which saw them supposedly score bundles of goals. 55, in fact. Pretty impressive for a side that has been relegated, but nothing out of this world is it? Admittedly, that is 18 more than Birmingham City, and 17 more than Blackburn Rovers. Yet these are two sides that are notorious for their defensive, containing, cautious style of football. Yet the Tangerines, who have been lauded as some sort of 'orange Barcelona', only managed to net 9 more times than Wolves, and 11 more than Wigan. And scoring 55 goals is all well and good when you have a tight, compact and organised defence, yet that is something Blackpool certainly don't possess. Holloway's men conceded an astonishing 78 goals in 38 matches.

Yet apparently, we're told, this is to be congratulated. Comments such as "this is how the game of football was meant to be played" filled the Sunday morning papers. I apologise, I forgot there was a concise  encyclopedic blueprint, dated from the Greek ages, that taught us mere mortals how to correctly play the game. Of course, football is primarily a form of entertainment, and I don't doubt for one minute that many viewers were entertained by their kamikaze approach. Even the great Sir Alex Ferguson noted that "the Premier League will miss Blackpool, they play attractive and attacking football". Seemingly, neutrals require teams in the Premier League wholly dedicated to entertaining the 'foaming-at-the-mouth' masses, as opposed to playing sensibly and giving themselves a better chance of survival. However, a lost art form is that of defending, one that I greatly admire and feel is lost upon certain fans who impatiently require as many goals as is humanly possible. I'd suggest that if a constant stream of action is what you want, then basketball or 20-20 cricket is more suited to your impatient needs.

But back to my original point, one of my favourite performances of recent times was that of Jose Mourinho's Internazionale in the Nou Camp last year; a sublime example of organised and containing catenaccio football.  Who says goals = entertainment? I couldn't keep my eyes off that game. In no means am I suggesting Holloway should have implemented these tactics in each and every one of his 38 Premier League fixtures. But would it not have reaped more rewards had he adopted a more sensible approach? Just maybe, his sides would not have suffered such reversals as a vital 4-0 defeat at Wolves, or a 2-2 draw at Bolton (when they were 2-0 ahead on the hour mark), had Holloway not ordered his men to attack constantly in the naive search for an endless supply of goals.

Here's the so-called 'breath of fresh air' himself

Speaking of Holloway - what exactly is the appeal of this man? As referred to in my title, Holloway was constantly referred to as a "breath of fresh air" to the Premier League.  Such praise was based upon his apparent "no nonsense approach", who "told it how it is" and "was not afraid to speak his mind". I'm not entirely sure, but I think that translates to "a repetitive, boisterous man who has an inflated ego and loves the sound of his own voice". Or something like that, anyway.

So all things considered, I think it's fair to say Blackpool deserve their place in the Championship. People point to their attractive and attacking brand of football, but in riposte I'd highlight their equally alarming defensive frailties. Instead, I'd much rather see sides like Swansea and Wigan in the top division. Clubs with young, level-headed, up-and coming managers that are dedicated to a patient approach, possession football with a solid back-four. That's right, Brendan Rogers is "a breath of fresh air" to the Premier League.