Thursday 23 November 2017

Holloway demands players as Blackpool scale heights

Graham Chase



WHAT A joyful antidote for those that might not have been looking forward to the start of the season as Blackpool confounded those that felt they would spend the whole season in 20th place, by finding themselves top of the Premier League at 4.45.

Burnley, Barnsley, Bradford, Swindon have all been here before of course, offering their own study of how expectations change and how long it takes to dim optimism.

And there were fans filing out of the DW Stadium, summer hopes ruined with less than an hour of the season gone, but they were not wearing orange.

Marlon Harewood set up Gary Taylor-Fletcher's opener and added two more himself to before Alex Baptiste completed the unlikely rout.

Their supporters began the day by taunting neighbours Preston North End but ended it by singing of their belief they can do the same again at Arsenal next week.

Within seconds of winning promotion to the top flight for the first time in 39 years through the play-off final, Blackpool, who finished sixth in the Championship, 32 points adrift of winners Newcastle, were made odds-on favourites for relegation.

During a summer of uncertainty about bonus payments, Ian Holloway was not able to add a single player to that squad before he was finally to bring in half a dozen last week.

Holloway was thrilled but wasted no time in demanding more players from his chairman Karl Oyston.

"We're still miles behind everyone else," he said. "This summer's been hideous, I'm absolutely worn out.

"Hopefully the chairman might help me out with a few more players. We need so many more players it's scary. They are great lads to start with and good players. I'm trying to teach them a system I think might work at any level.

"I'll just take a photo of the league table. I think I'll retire now because that's the highest we're going to get."

Logic gives us so many reasons why this should not be happening. But Holloway can only fill his players with belief that their 4-3-3 formation can cause anyone problems.

They took to the Premier League with six forward-thinking players ahead of the defence but even then full-backs pushed forward and such is the freedom offered by the system, centre-back Ian Evatt can often be found on the edge of his opponents' penalty area during open play.

Even so, just three of the team that started at the DW Stadium had ever played at this level. Despite having played in the Champions League for Rangers and scoring 19 goals last season, Charlie Adam has to prove himself in the Premier League, but he began that process by threading a ball through to Harewood, who chose Blackpool over League One Huddersfield last week.

The former Aston Villa man crossed for Taylor-Fletcher, who started his career at non-league Northwich and sank as low as playing for Grays in the Isthmian League, to bundle in at the far post to spark scenes of joy rarely witnessed at this ground.

They were repeated when, even after Taylor-Fletcher had a second wrongly ruled out for offside, the lead was doubled as Harewood's deflected shot from 20 yards had too much on it for Chris Kirkland.

Finally Holloway allowed himself to express some pleasure when Kirkland could only palm away an effort from Elliot Grandin, a French attacker who joined from CSKA Sofia last week, and Harewood squeezed a shot under the Wigan goalkeeper from a narrow angle.

After the restart, Mauro Boselli hit the bar for Wigan but Baptiste made it four with a cross that somehow beat Kirkland at the near post.

For everyone other than Wigan, a wonderful day was made all the sweeter for the match being officiated by Mark Halsey, refereeing his first Premier League match since recovering from cancer.

Sunday Independent

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