With two days to go before Blackpool’s opening fixture against Wigan at the DW Stadium, manager Ian Holloway has been in the spotlight again, but for all the wrong reasons. On Tuesday, it was reported that Holloway had quit his post at Bloomfield Road when he missed training. The reasons cited for his departure were a strained relationship with chairman Owen Oyston over a lack of transfer funds and not being able to sign the players he wanted, because of the wage structure Oyston has at the club.
All these allegations were blown out of the window when Holloway announced the signing of five new players to his squad. Northern Ireland Under-21 star defender Craig Cathcart joins the side from Manchester United. The 21-year-old is tipped to be a regular Northern Ireland international and has joined on an undisclosed fee on a three-year contract. Cathcart cites his move to Blackpool as a chance to play regular first team football, something he did not receive at Man United.
Holloway has also gone for a French connection to his Seasiders, snapping up a trio of Gallic midfielders. The most experienced of the three is Guadeloupan international Ludovic Sylvestre, who joins the club on a two-year deal from Mlada Boleslav. The 26-year-old was also a youth team player at Spanish giants Barcelona and had a spell at Czech colossals Sparta Prague. Winger Elliot Grandin, 22, joins from Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia on a two-year deal and former Monaco youth player Malaury Martin earned his place on the team after the 21-year-old midfielder impressed Ian Holloway during his trial at Bloomfield Road.
The final signing that Holloway has brought in is ex-Aston Villa and Newcastle striker Marlon Harewood. The 30-year-old joins on a free transfer and has signed a two-year deal with the club. Harewood brings with him a wealth of Premier League experience, having played for 5 Premiership sides with an overall record of 124 goals in 439 appearances over the course of his career.
After the unveiling of his signings, Holloway has described his relationship with his chairman as “absolutely fantastic”. Holloway reacted angrily to the reports that he had quit his post, opening before the start of the press conference by saying: “Before anyone asks a question, I just want to make sure you can see me – you can see me here and I’m not a cardboard cut-out, because somehow or other, I’m not supposed to be here.
“ I had to be in London the day before and didn’t want to drive back at six o’clock in the morning to get here because I was too tired,” he said. “But welcome, and by the way, we’ve just signed some new players as well. I just want to get that straight.”
Holloway was not impressed. It is understandable because this concocted story will unsettle the players, staff and fans at Blackpool and before the start of the season, it is not ideal preparation. Aston Villa are feeling the full effects of Martin O’Neill’s departure from the club and the Blackpool fans have been lighting up the club’s switchboards and online forum with concerns, according to Holloway. The Blackpool boss said: “Our poor fans, who have been worried sick, on websites, asking what’s happening and writing me letters – did they think that I didn’t want to [sign players]? Did they think that I haven’t been trying?”
The Seasiders fans will be relieved by the news that Holloway has brought in some new faces. Blackpool have a very exciting young talent in Craig Cathcart, a product of Man United’s famous youth system who will be a prominent figure in the Northern Ireland national setup for the next ten years. The trio of French midfielders Sylvestre, Grandin and Martin, will add some Gallic flair and joie de vivre to a Blackpool midfield that loves to get forward and attack. Grandin, Martin and Sylvestre will likely join captain Charlie Adam and tough tackling terrier Keith Southern in midfield next season. Striker Marlon Harewood brings some much-needed Premier League experience to the side and will be used to hold the ball up well and bring people into play alongside him.
Blackpool fans and players alike will be eagerly anticipating the first game. There is a chance that they can pull off an upset at Wigan and come away with the three points. Ian Holloway is expected to field his new signings, whether from the start or of the bench. This writer feels that the team for Blackpool’s opener will be the team for most of their Premier League games, despite their five signings. The whole of Blackpool is glowing orange and is watching the clock tick down all the way until 3pm on Saturday.