Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blackpool FC: The Fate of Holloway

On reading the Guardian online's season preview for Blackpool FC (, the perils of being a successful small club became startlingly apparent. Blackpool's conundrum replicates that of Burnley last year: a small club advancing to the top flight via a low playoff position by playing an enterprising brand of football is a no-win situation.

The major problem is one of finance. Manager Ian Holloway has obviously gotten the best out of his squad in order to achieve promotion, especially considering there's (relatively speaking) minimal talent and money available. After a year out of football he decided to embrace a passing game rather than rely on defensive tactics with great success, yet he finds himself ten days from the start of the season with two major injuries (to key midfielder Keith Southern and striker Billy Clarke) and only 18 fit players, including three goalkeepers. The money hasn't been there to remodel the squad – nor has it been there to pay the players owed promotion bonuses – and this dumps the club into a sizable ditch. Should the Tangerines stink it up this year, the man universally known as “Olly” is on a hiding to nothing and will most probably get the sack. But should they win early there's the possibility of him “doing a Coyle”, where his head's turned by a larger club with a more secure future. Given his experiences with Plymouth Argyle that looks unlikely but Football Owners are businessmen and judge their employees by their own standards.

Before the Playoff Final said Olly said he was chasing promotion “To give some of my boys the (pay) raises they deserve”. Already it seems the money isn't there to back that up and the fall guy won't be Chairman Karl Oyston or Latvian owner Valeri Belokon, it will be the manager. According to the Guardian, their turnover last year was only seven million pounds, the second-lowest of all clubs in England's second tier; Belokon personally funded the signing of marquee player Charlie Adam.

Sure, they'll score goals. When you play as flowingly as the Blackpool of last year, there will be some rewards and given the ease with which they were able to pull apart (admittedly Championship) defences last term, they'll probably snatch the odd win. Add the state of their ground – small and roughshod – and the Seasiders may grab occasional Ws as opposition teams struggle to cope; but with the talent on hand, Olly's men look doomed for a sub-30 (sub-20?) point season and ultimately relegation.

Following promotion the rewards come immediately for the manager but they don't last for the long term. Blackpool FC sits awaiting the inevitable losses and will do the only thing viable for them financially: unable to blame the squad, they will blame the manager. When that's a man such as Ian Holloway, it's a damn shame.

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