When Ian Holloway declared that he wanted his newly promoted Blackpool side to play like Spain, suspicions that the man from Kingswood was a bit mad were laid to rest, and countless sniggers ensued throughout the country. But few are laughing now, especially the fans of Premier League rivals Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United.
A superb opening day win at the DW Stadium was followed by an emphatic and predictable defeat to Arsenal. Not that the Tangerines were bothered. A commendable draw with Fulham led to another superb away win on Tyneside, condemning the Magpies boss Chris Hughton to his first ever home loss.
Sceptics and non-football fans would be quick to challenge the hype and attention surrounding the club, but this is a special achievement. Spending less than a player like Yaya Toure earns in a few months, Holloway has carefully constructed a team with a never-say-die attitude, constantly willing to fight for the cause and a determination to succeed. Each and every Blackpool player has been taught the importance of working for each other and keeping their feet firmly grounded, traits of huge importance to Holloway and something they are far from afraid to show on the pitch. An epic journey which began on a sunny afternoon in Nottingham, and culminated in a magnificent victory at Wembley, has firmly thrust Blackpool into the limelight.
And yet still, the boys from the seaside refuse to be drawn into it, and are fully focused on survival in the Premier League. Survival, however, may not be an issue for Blackpool come the end of the season. If their opening four games are anything to go by, Holloway’s men should be away and into the sunset of Premier League survival.
An unrivalled determination and will to succeed has seen the Seasiders amass seven points from only four games – a dream start for everyone concerned with the club.
If ever proof was needed of their fighting spirit, then look no further than Saturday. Playing against a team who brought their rollercoaster 2009/10 campaign back down to earth with a thud after a 4-1 win and who finished a colossal 32 points above them in the Championship table, aided by a partisan crowd of nearly 50 000, Blackpool entered the lion’s den and emerged with the lion’s head and a 2-0 win. David had well and truly slain Goliath.
The fact is that Newcastle dominated the game from beginning to end, but a resilient and dogged Blackpool defence coupled with the influential and magnificent Charlie Adam pulling the strings in midfield led to a famous victory, made even more special and poignant by the sad news that youth coach Gary Parkinson had suffered a stroke. The unity and togetherness was there for all to see, with each and every player wearing an undershirt dedicated to Parkinson, as shown by goal heroes Adam and D.J. Campbell.
Ever the enthusiast and joker, Ian Holloway has transformed relegation cannon fodder into top-flight heroes. The joy and happiness of his players cannot be expressed in words, but the smiles on their faces tell the whole story. Championship journeymen such as Luke Varney have been converted into match-winners, a testament to Holloway’s managerial ability. If Blackpool are relegated come the end of the season, then at least they can say they have enjoyed every second of it, and frankly, so can the rest of us – unless of course, you are a Wigan fan.
He may be known for his light-hearted and easy-going personality, but the joker from Bristol is having the final laugh, and long may it continue. Spain they may not be, but inspirations they most certainly are.