The fat lady has finished singing and I do not like the tune
A disgusted Ian Holloway said after Blackpool's 4-2 defeat at champions Manchester United which sent the tangerines out of the premier league. Leave alone the manager of Blackpool Football Club or their supporters, even as a neutral, it irks to see the tangerines depart from the most amazing football league in the world; not only for the cruel nature in which they were knocked out after leading United at OT in the second half at one stage, a feat rather unheard of these days, but also for the immense entertainment they offered during their premier league campaign as a whole. Had the whistle been blown on 60 minutes, they would’ve secured a place in next year’s premier league, but then, had the season ended in December, Arsenal would’ve been Champions. Jokes aside, the brand of free flowing football they endorsed was second to none and while they might have been short on experience and proven class, they more than made up for that with infallible commitment and indeed the vociferous support from their faithful.
I try looking down the years for a team that played so uninhibitedly and imaginatively in their first campaign after promotion to the premier league, but I find that the trove is empty, perhaps waiting in eagerness for its first possession, and well worth the wait it’d be. In hindsight, sceptics might perceive Blackpool’s attacking brand of football coupled with frailties in their defence as the chief causes bringing up their eventual demise but that was hardly the popular opinion midway through the season when things seemed to be panning out to near perfection with the seasiders enjoying a decent run in the top half of the table.
Initially looked upon as an eccentric with a quote too many, their outspoken manager slowly forayed into the hearts of masses, gaining respect of the most revered of managers and critics, most remarkably of the biggest authority of them all, Sir Alex Ferguson who paid a fitting tribute by dubbing him the manager of the season. His candid opinions and irrefutable faith in his players was an inspiration all season. Like his team, he would surely be missed next season.
Where did it all go wrong? Was it just that they rode out of form and luck at the business end of the season or being an inexperienced side capitulated under the pressure of a premier league survival battle or their relentless work intensity week in week out rendered them a spent force as the season neared its end? Its anybody’s guess. But there is evidence enough from their last two games to suggest they still had life enough in them to trouble the fiercest of oppositions, and fought right to the very end, well exemplified by a late Blackpool surge which was denied a goal by the crossbar in the dying embers against United; they knew their fate was sealed but simply refused to believe it. Perhaps it’d be just to say that they were undone, despite putting in a massive show, by the sheer class of the champions in the all important final match.
In what was an eventful campaign, they forced results against the powerhouses of British football including Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool and the best part was they didn’t have to grind them; they outclassed the mainstays by playing proper football. Twice they led the eventual champions too, failing though to take any points from either of these matches, these defeats the more recent one in particular proved to be fatal. And so the tangerines’ show of colours faded to black, though rumours are rife that they’ll host another equally enthralling one soon.