Blackpool; Rocking to the Bristolian jester

The whipping boys.  Those upstarts that think they can pull up trees in the English Premier League, ha!, they'll soon be heading back to......hang on, did anyone give Ian Holloway and Blackpool the script?  David Bevan looks at a famous club with a big smile. This is Armfield.

The sheer cheek of it. They were written off as no-hopers from the moment the final whistle went in the Championship play-off final in May to the moment they kicked off their first Premier League campaign. Their only Premier League campaign, if the critics were to be believed. And by critics, I don't just mean journalists. Neither do I mean critics in the literal sense of the word, really. Because practically everybody, this correspondent included, was a critic of Blackpool's chances of Premier League survival this season.

Derby County fans were particularly happy. No longer would their proud club's name be attached to the unwanted record of least points accrued in one Premier League season. This ramshackle bunch of lower-league journeymen were about to see to that, led by a Bristolian jester who lived for post-match press conferences rather than the game they followed.

In time-honoured fashion, the jester hasn't followed the script. In fact, he's rewritten it in a manner befitting a man whose wordplay has often won precedence in the press over his team's performances. What better way to haul his team, in the first week of October, to within a point of Derby's miserable target of eleven than with a goal scored by a Derby County player?

Three whole paragraphs and no mention of the team that Blackpool beat to reach the double-figure tally that some thought they would fail to attain by May, never mind October. And that team shall remain nameless, for enough has been written about them when the true story continues to be the effervescent way in which Ian Holloway has taken on the Premier League, without a single household name to call upon, and won. Three times out of seven, anyway.

You could say the World Cup has levelled the playing field, with a number of players present in South Africa this summer looking particularly jaded. In fact, to use the laziest statistic possible, two of the current three leading English goalscorers in the Premier League were cruelly denied a seat on the plane south: Sunderland's Darren Bent, with five, and Arsenal winger Theo Walcott, who has four, three of which were scored against Blackpool.

You could also argue that promoted teams often maintain momentum from the previous season and that Holloway's brightly-coloured charges are still on a roll from their barnstorming end to their successful Championship campaign.

I considered both when pondering Blackpool's chances of ending the season above the dreaded dotted line. The one that signals relegation should your club finish beneath it, to clarify. The one that other team are sitting beneath at the moment.

Everyone was writing them off. I desperately wanted to buck the trend, but then I looked at their squad and simply could not summon the courage. Their midfield enforcer was Keith Southern. Then even he got injured.

There was also the ongoing saga involving Holloway's inability to attract a striker for love, although I am not certain this commodity was actually ever offered, nor money, little of which was put forward either. Eventually, they picked up Luke Varney, DJ Campbell and Marlon Harewood from Derby, Leicester and the dole office respectively.

Each possess American drama-style non-league back stories to differing degrees. Varney used to play for Quorn, a meat-free alternative, while Campbell was a forklift truck driver when he played for Yeading, the second best team in the country whose name contains seven letters and ends in "eading".

Harewood trumped them both when he turned out for Central Midlands League side Whatton United, whose shirts he sponsors, in the summer before his move to Lancashire. These unheralded attackers are the biggest names in their team, along with the spectacular seaside schemer Charlie Adam.

And then there is the rest of their team. The Football League is looking on with a mixture of pride, envy and disbelief as Blackpool set about their task this season. Lincoln City fans are willing on their former favourite Gary Taylor-Fletcher. Rochdale supporters watch on as goalkeeper Matt Gilks repels the efforts of a series of international stars. Crewe Alexandra fans look back wistfully on David Vaughan's spell with their club. Stephen Crainey, for the love of God.

Holloway equips his men with two things. The first is belief. A fierce, intense belief in their abilities and unwavering trust that they belong on the same pitch as their more illustrious opponents. The second, which has hitherto either been underplayed or overlooked by the national media is the gift of tactics. Hard work only gets you so far. Tactics take you to new heights and Holloway has exploited weaknesses in opposition teams through meticulous planning.

When Blackpool won their place in the Premier League, the reaction of supporters of the existing top-flight clubs focused mainly on the night out they would have following their inevitable victory at the newest destination in the division. There were also some noises about how much they were looking forward to Holloway's post-match interviews. If Blackpool keep playing as they are, they might not fancy listening to his thoughts and the bars will rely on the drowning of sorrows to maintain a roaring trade.

David is site editor for the thoroughly excellent theseventytwo.com.  You can follow him on Twitter @The72football

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