Blackpool offer refreshing antidote to bloated Premier League
August remains a time for cricket and athletics in many people’s minds but if we are going to have football then it was probably fitting that the most uplifting performance of the opening day of the Premier League season came from the country’s number one seaside holiday destination.
For a few heady hours Blackpool were top of the league after their remarkable 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic and though Chelsea later displaced them after thrashing West Brom 6-0 Blackpool’s fans will cherish memories of Saturday for as long as they live.
In the top flight for the first time since 1971, red-hot favourites for an immediate relegation and with an annual budget that would barely cover Manchester City’s weekly wage bill, Ian Holloway’s team are the antithesis of what the Premier League has become.
As City continue to shell out untold millions to build a squad so big that someone like Craig Bellamy is squeezed out, Blackpool have steadfastly refused to be drawn into the potentially ruinous spending spiral that arrival in the Premiership can often spark.
Chairman Karl Oyston has already earned a reputation as a man not prepared to throw money around and Holloway was starved of any new players right up until last week when he brought in six on the eve of the first match.
His team produced a great performance at Wigan, maintaining their commitment to a fluid, passing game, that brought them up via the playoffs and may well cost them dear in the dogfight to avoid the drop.
Holloway, always forthright in his views, praised his players’ attitude, saying that if they were interested in money they would have gone elsewhere — with dozens of lower league clubs offering better deals — but that instead they were playing for the love of the game and the joy of pitting their talents against the best in the game.
It is a refreshing attitude in a league where short-termism and salary maximisation appear to mean more to some players than club loyalty or the opportunity to play every week.
Oyston said he had been “very disappointed” by what he discovered once his club joined the Premier League, particularly the behaviour of agents, whom he does all he can to avoid dealing with.
“It’s a shame the way that agents get in the way of football sometimes,” he said. “They stymie their players’ careers rather than enhance them and I think that needs to be resolved.”
Change is likely to be elusive, however, as Oyston readily admits.
“The more I talk to people at other clubs the more I realise I’m a lone voice,” he said. “Everyone else seems to subscribe to the way that business is conducted and to things that I find unacceptable.”
With the Oyston-Holloway axis not likely to start watching their words any time soon and with Blackpool’s players seemingly committed to their attractive, passing approach despite everyone telling them it’s soccer suicide, it is likely to be a highly entertaining 10 months.
PHOTO: A Blackpool fan reacts after their English Premier League soccer match against Wigan Athletic 14, 2010. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis