Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Anyone But Murray

A drained, emotional and disheartened Andy Murray gave a speech which has went someway towards endearing himself into the British public's hearts for the first time. A man often depicted as dour and his personality being non-existent, it was a welcome breach of his usual stony demeanour. Ever since the infamous 'Anyone But England' debate he sparked in the lead up to the 2006 World Cup, something clearly said in jest has lingered around him in the media leaving a distinctly anti-Murray feeling among those south of the border. The continued shouts of 'C'mon Tim' which gain a hearty chuckle from the Wimbledon faithful gives no respect to British number 1 who is regularly seen as Scottish until he is on the edge of victory. Hopefully the emotions witnessed pouring from Murray after Sunday's final will translate and allow a full backing in the future rather than an underlying desire to see him lose.

33 Grand Slams. 440 weeks at world #1. 155 titles.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have combined to make up the aforementioned statistics making it little wonder that Murray has failed to take his maiden Slam. These three men have taken tennis to a level which is unprecedented. With the advances in fitness and technology over the past couple of decades the standard of tennis is at an all time high. While the magic produced by the old guard was something to behold, this generations top 3 have excelled past this giving performances which seem impossible to the average strawberries and cream eater in the stand. Arriving into a generation which has produced three of the best players ever to grace the tramlines, it's clear that alongside Sampras, Becker, Borg and a few others these sportsmen will be put forward in the highest esteem, Murray is performing admirably to be the best of the rest as it were. Therefore the issue of Murray lacking 'bottle' is hugely misconceived.

While failing to gain a set in his three previous Grand Slam finals is hardly stellar reading, it's clear he was facing the cream of the tennis playing crop. Three final defeats to Roger Federer is something which Murray can reflect on in later life as an inevitability of playing at the top level in this current age. The Swiss artist continually paints a masterpiece on the tennis court while Murray at this time is still painting by numbers. The wizardry of Federer, the power of Nadal and the athleticism of Djokovic gives Murray an unerring prospect when plotting his way to the title. He has won numerous titles on the ATP Tour, 22 of them, showing that he has no problem winning trophies against the top players. The argument of an 0 and 4 record in Grand Slams can be put forward but it is clear that this was down to the superiority of his opponents rather than poor performance on Murray's part. Apart from the 2008 loss where he was really in uncharted territory and appeared overawed, Murray has not disgraced himself on the biggest stage. The glorious nature of his peers ability is something to be applauded rather than a stick to beat the young Scotsman with. The sooner the media and the public realise this then the quicker Murray will be able to play stress free, giving him a greater chance of success in the top level tournaments.


With Ivan Lendl now staring poker-faced at him from the coaches box, he now has someone who has been there in the situation Murray currently finds himself in. Lendl himself lost his first 4 grand Slam finals before finally achieving success at the French Open. Knowing his coach has been in the trenches as such will be a huge spur to Murray's attitude moving forward. Technique and fitness are all well and good but temperament may be the most important attribute of all to a sportsmen. Lendl's experience will be invaluable to Murray as he has been in the same spot, therefore isn't speculating what it feels like but has real input to give. Having this in his camp could be the extra 5% he needs to convert his next attempt.

While I don't claim to be a tennis expert, far from it in fact, it seems clear to me that Murray is possibly the best defensive player in tennis today. His uncanny ability to make his opponent hit one more shot gives him those few extra points per match that has propelled him to his number 4 ranking. Decisiveness could be the key to going that one step further. Waiting for his opponent to make a mistake rather than taking the initiative is something which lets him down against the elite and once he gains the confidence to go for his shots a little more it can give him the edge he needs to sustain his challenge for more than a couple of sets. Overall Murray has the skills in place to win, the confidence to implement them repeatedly is what he needs to actually come through.



A certain Irish brewery says 'Good things come to those who wait', well it seems Murray's pint is approaching the brim and it won't be long until the sweet taste of success embraces him.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Death of a Giant- A Fan's Viewpoint

The 12th of June 2012 was the date HMRC stuck the final nail in the coffin of Glasgow Rangers.


Now I won't hide that my footballing allegiances are firmly towards the Ibrox side, but unlike the majority of my fellow supporters I have no complaints over the situation we are in. Bottom line this is our fault. We overspent and withheld our tax for a number of years in order to fund a push for European success. Now that it is coming back to haunt us we have no valid basis to argue that we should stay in the SPL.


While I do believe that it has not been handled well by the powers that be i.e. trying to bring in new rules which directly effect the situation at hand was a disaster waiting to happen. It completely undermined their authority and neutrality in which to govern over the situation. The discussions over the new rules should have been delayed until after the outcome of Rangers woes. It may be a rule change that is needed but the timing left the SPL in a lose-lose position.


By trying to introduce these measures it just gave a platform for the 'experts' to see bias withing the organisation. I put the word experts in quotation marks as all the hotlines and forums around Scotland are filled with people discussing something they know little about. The intricacies of administration and newco's are hard enough to assess for the professionals never mind your average punter down the pub. It's frustrating to hear fans berating those trying to buy the club over the speed of making bids or sending out the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). By all means debate why we are in this position, why it has been allowed to get this far but the financial documents are not simple to produce in a short space of time. In essence the SPL were caught between a rock and many hard places and they were never going to be seen to be acting fairly by both sides meaning controversy was always going to ensue. What's clear is Rangers have had to take what is coming and should be trying to hold onto what slight dignity we have left.


I move onto the role Rangers have had to play in their own downfall. It pains me to see the state the club currently is in, and there are a variety of people responsible. Firstly Sir David Murray has to take his share of the blame for the current state of the club. "For every five pounds Celtic spend, we will spend ten". If he could take those ten words back then i'm sure he would. The Dick Advocaat era at Ibrox has given Murray a lot to answer for. While the fans would love to see that spending taking place in every transfer window, a businessman of Murray's stature must surely have seen that spending outwith your means will not end well. Signing Tore Andre Flo for £12 million, £4.5 million for Arthur Numan among a 36 million pound spending spree in his first season was the supposed dawning of a new era. All that it has achieved it pushing the club to the brink of extinction. The level of idiotic spending is personified with the realisation Bert Konterman was being paid £18,000 per week. It baffles me how a man with a net worth of over £100 million could fail to see the flaws of operating at this level. Surely he had to seperate the fan from the businessman and realise a few years of success is not worth the decimation of our great club. All was not rosy in David Murray's garden but his European ambitions meant things would continue to spiral out of control.


Craig Whyte is the next man to feel the frustrations of the Ibrox faithful. A man who came into the club stating his pride at being a 'lifelong supporter', his actions since taking over have certainly not been befitting of  being in the Rangers family. Mercilessly draining the financial assets of the club has resulted in this rapid decline into the forced formation of a new company. Funding his takeover using the fan's season ticket money was a fundamental attempt at deceiving everyone involved, an attempt at which he succeeded, and a blatant misuse of funds which he had gained. A fact that enrages me further is that since his takeover Whyte refused to pay tax, meaning our bill went up and up. While i know we were struggling to make ends meet, surely aggravating our main creditor by refusing to pay what we owe is not a smart business move. It is my belief that Whyte's denial to act in the proper interests of the club and only himself has made this situation even worse. The BBC documentary 'The men who sold the jersey's" just added to my, and everyone else connected with Rangers, anger at the way this man has went about his business. The Employee Benefit Trusts are neither here nor there as the use of these is not illegal, and it would not have surprised me had the tax case regarding these been won by Rangers. However the dismissal of club legend John Greig along with most of the previous board should have been a clear indication all was not well. This entire situation has been a disaster from day one and the SFA's 'stringent' checks applied to new owners must be tightened up as to stop something like this happening again.


Overall we as a club will just have to accept our fate and try to move on with dignity. Division 3 looms but this may be a punishment we just have to take and rebuild. Livingston and Gretna have been forced to start again due to financial misdemeanors and in reality we should be no different. Despite the size and tradition of our club, we have broken the rules, lived without our capabilities and the consequences have to be suffered. I'm sure we can advance through the leagues sufficiently within a few years if we retain a base of players and the club will continue to have its fan base whatever division we are in. I wish it hadn't got to this stage, and this wasn't our only outcome, but it is no longer in our control. We must band together, take our punishment and support our team wherever we end up.


As the club motto states, we will always be 'Ready'.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Troubled Times

Journalists are hardly the apple of the nation’s eye at the minute so writing a blog is possibly not the best thing to be doing. However I’ll persevere and stay clear of the voicemails, at least until I run out of things to say.
Thought I would have a look at the current situation which is escalating within the walls of the Emirates as Arsene Wenger’s vision seems to be crumbling beneath him.
Crossroads
Arsenal are the Premierships perpetual nearly men and possibly one the most frustrating sides ever. The footballing displays on show at times are mesmerising, with some of the top teams in the world chasing shadows as the ball sticks like a magnet to the feet of these technically brilliant players. However their continual failure to covert ability into silverware has left the red and white faithful beginning to lose faith in the man at the helm.
Arsene Wenger has developed the style of play football purists dream of. In a perfect world, every team would play in similar fashion. However we don’t live in said world and, unfortunately, sometimes strength beats ability leaving Arsenal vulnerable to the battlers they come up against in the Premier League, the likes of Stoke being a continual obstacle. Wenger’s refusal to invest in experience has meant they are the perennial underachievers, and it’s time now to lose that ‘In Arsene We Trust’ mindset and face up to the fact this team should be winning trophies and the manager has to be held accountable.
It’s a complex issue as he does have the track record to suggest that he can mould this team into winners but the question remains of how long he can go on telling the fans his young team will come good. The days of ‘The Invincible’s’ are a mere memory now but it is interesting to note that that squad had an average age of 27.6 whereas last season this was down at 23.6. Now I’m not going into Hanson mode but it does give a reflection on the lack of understanding of the game at the top level from the Arsenal squad. Putting a couple of experienced campaigners in that side would have done wonders for their title hopes this year. Investing in for example Shay Given and Richard Dunne, both out of favour at their clubs last year, would have in my eyes won the title for Arsenal, or at least run United a great deal closer. However the flat out refusal to change his philosophy of young is best has left the club’s supporters once again empty handed.

Confused Captain

It seems that the players are beginning to lose their never wavering faith in their manager as they’re queuing up to leave. The long running saga over the captain Cesc Fabregas is becoming tiresome and not beneficial to either party. It has to be set out in stone this summer that he will either be staying and seeing out his contract, or joining a side which is quite frankly being greedy taking on yet another quality player, in Barcelona. Although with Xavi reaching 31, it is not surprising they are seeking out his replacement. For the captain of your club to continually have his head turned is not helping anyone so it has to put to bed once and for all, if that means he leaves then so be it.

In demand

Another player seemingly on the move is Samir Nasri. A player in exactly the mould Wenger delights in creating and it is understandable he wants to bury his head in the sand and feel there is no reason for him to leave. But in reality there is. Arsenal are simply not able to match the ambition of their top players at the moment which is winning the Premier League and Champions League. They are not able to sustain their challenge throughout the course of a competition and it must be addressed immediately before they are left with a young team full of potential but with no stars who are keeping their heads above water, that is the top 4.
A host of players are scampering for the exits this summer. The aforementioned duo alongside Bendtner, Almunia, Denilson and Arshavin are all looking to join Gail Clichy in seeking pastures new. The talent that is possessed in the Emirates dressing room is formidable, I mean they beat Barcelona at home this year and were unfortunate to go out after the second leg but the sheer number of players looking to leave shows all is not rosy in Mr Wenger’s garden. Even today’s signing of Gervinho will not reassure the top stars and the paying punters everything will be alright. It is not the striking areas that need addressed first. With Van Persie, Chamakh, Walcott, Arshavin, as well as Nasri and Fabregas still being there, the firepower is not exactly below par. The almost stubbornness to bow to media pressure and sign a top quality centre half and goalkeeper could prove costly and mean his dream of a second wave of Invincible’s could clattering down in front of eyes. If he sees it that is.

Distant Memory

Don’t get me wrong, the loss of a few of these players aren’t going to mean Arsenal plummet down the league. But they do need to invest. The takeover by Stan Kroenke means Wenger wouldn’t be short of money should he want it and that has all ready been confirmed by the chairman Peter Hill-Wood. If he can swallow his principles and add to the fantastic squad he has at his disposal then the trophy cabinet might have to be prised open and the cobwebs cleared to allow the Premier League trophy to be placed inside. With talents such as Wilshire and Ramsey coming through the ranks they certainly have the basis of a team that will prove a tough test for those at the top of the game. So if Wenger can swallow his pride then Arsenal will be a major force next year. But going on recent evidence it may be that the burden will be thrown onto the shoulders of their young players once again, an attitude which is yet to bear fruit in the last 6 years.

All in all Mr Wenger isn't going to conform to his nation stereotype and fly the white flag over the North London club’s base just yet. He still believes in his philosophy and if it all comes together this season then we are looking at footballing perfection, much like the Catalan giants over in Spain have provided for us. However with mass uncertainty over who’s staying and going, and the continuing lack of proven winners at the club, the Frenchman has a tough job to keep the Gunner’s fans mantra of ‘In Arsene We Trust’.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Actions speak louder than words

Straying away from my usual topic, the biggest fight in recent memory approaches on Saturday as David ‘The Hayemaker’ Haye takes on Wladimir ‘Dr Steelhammer’ Klitschko. Not since Lennox Lewis fought Vitali Klitschko has there been as much anticipation in what has become a stagnant heavyweight division as the two men try to unify the division.
Heavyweight boxing has been a let-down for boxing fans in recent years with big punching brawls swapped for boring jab-fests, or less than that should ‘Fraudley’ be involved. In previous decades the sight of two heavyweights entering the ring was a mouth-watering prospect with a knockout firmly on the cards in every fight. However the modern day style of jab, jab, grab, as Haye likes to call it, has left a disillusioned boxing contingent see the Klitschko brothers sit at the head of the heavyweight dinner table. However in 2008 Haye arrived and, much like an annoying little brother, began to force his way nearer the top knocking everything over on his way including his appetisers Monte Barrett, John Ruiz, Nikolay Valuev and the aforementioned Audley Harrison.
The undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world Haye has certainly earned his corn in the boxing world. With a professional record of 25 wins to 1 loss he has fast tracked his way to the top with speed and power being his two main weapons. Haye’s mouth is also a big influence in his career as he seems to talk his way into fights. The way he goes about his business is rather uncouth and not the traditional way of going about things but it is very, very effective. He has a superb chance to knock over the challenge ahead of him as he has all the key skills to deal with the contest. However will his chin survive against a powerful puncher remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though, Haye produces exciting fights and one moment of explosion can change the course of the fight. If he can get his tactics right and release his big shots at the right time we may see the 6 foot 5 inch figure tumbling to the floor. The bigger they are...
Haye comes into the fight with publicity again at an all time high due to his belief he is a modern day Ali when it comes to the out of ring trash talk. He has certainly rattled the Ukrainian ‘robot’ which was clearer no more so than in HBO’s 1 on 1 special with the two fighters, achieving his aim of getting the three belt champion out of his comfort zone. While he has nothing like the lyrical qualities of the great man, see ‘more one-sided than a gang rape’, the cocky Englishman is exactly what this division needed. Britain and America had fallen out of love with the heavyweights to an extent; with the more exciting, fast hands of a Mayweather or Pacquiao dominating the mindset. However as Haye steps up to devour his main course, he has sparked new life into the division when it needed it most and it makes for a thrilling prospect on Saturday night.
Klitschko is an interesting character as he seems to be playing the nice guy card at every opportunity in the media. As Haye commented “He’s like a contestant on Miss World when they come in and talk about world peace. He doesn’t seem to realise we’re getting in the ring to punch someone in the face and to try to knock them unconscious”. The repeated attempt to shake Haye’s hand and appearances on television shows seem to say he wants the crowd on his side. This may show a slight fear which he hasn’t felt before in his time as champion. Even his legendary trainer Emanuel Steward says he is wary of Haye, acknowledging that his charge hasn’t faced anyone like him in the previous 5 years and his fight with Samuel Peter. The fast punching Haye is a challenge that the champion hasn’t been face to face with for a significant number of fights i.e. not being an overweight bum that is there solely for the pay cheque.
However the youngest of the Klitschko brothers should not be underestimated and it seems he may be. Despite being a favourite with the bookmakers, and as a regular pools man they are rarely wrong, all the ‘experts’ and media are geared towards a Hayemaker win. Let’s not forget that this man holds the IBF, IBO, WBO and The Ring championship belts and he hasn’t got their by luck. A hugely experienced fighter with 58 fights he may be the leading light in how to jab your opponent into submission but there is no denying his style is hugely effective. Due to the sheer height of the man, leaning on the other fighter can sap a lot of their strength and leave them vulnerable to attack. The powerful right hand possessed by the Ukrainian has also been underrated in the media before this fight and he is very much capable, with 49 KO’s on his record, of knocking down a fighter who has been on the canvas at cruiserweight level. Haye has yet to be in the ring with a real heavyweight puncher after fighting men who were not anywhere the ability of Wladimir. That first shot to the chin will be crucial and if any weakness is sensed then Klitschko could make short work of Haye.
Overall it lines up to be a cracking fight and in all honesty it could go either way. This is Haye’s first proper test at heavyweight level and all the talking will stop in a matter of days. Once that first bell sounds Haye is in the lion’s den and we will see if he can back up all the talk and deliver that knockout punch.
If Haye can finish his main course in Wladimir, then dessert will come in the form of Vitaly as he fights to regain the family honour. It could come to pass that Haye will be atop the table at his retirement/31st birthday party unbuckling his belt and letting out an unceremonious burp as his hands have backed up his mouth.
Prediction: Haye in 4 or Wladimir in 8

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Feeding Ground for Stars

I’ve lost count of the times, after watching Rangers struggle through another game; my English housemate’s have taken great delight in putting it down in comparison with even the Championship. Of course pride takes over, with the Scottish league defended to the hilt but it has come a point that I may have to admit defeat.
The Championship has become one of the most competitive and unpredictable leagues in the world. The attendance figures are staggering for being a second tier league. In the 2008-2009 season it came only behind the top leagues in England, Germany and Spain, beating Serie A and League 1 from France. While the quality may be higher in the Premiership, La Liga, Italy and the like, they are increasingly having only two or three teams fighting it out for the title. Compare this to the Championship where there is only 7 points between 2nd and 8th, chasing a QPR side who are quite rightly surging ahead.


Didn't quite work for Strachan
 
As a betting man, the Championship is a proverbial minefield when it comes to the weekly coupon. On any given day one team can beat another, a fact proved by pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough currently scrapping it out in the bottom half. The team of proven SPL ‘stars’ has failed miserably; meaning my argument for the SPL is getting even thinner on the ground.
One area in which the Championship holds power over the Scotland’s top league is the standard of player it manages to produce. With talents such as Conner Wickham, Jonny Howson, Shane Long and Scott Sinclair lighting up the division along with a great selection of others; it puts the relative standard of player in Scotland into perspective, for instance I doubt any player from outside the top 2 could hold down a place in a Championship play-off side. One man however has shown how good a breeding ground the division can be.
Adel Taarabt has been an inspiration to his QPR side, who sit with their feet resting on the others at the top of the table. His gaffer, Neil Warnock, described him as ‘talented, exciting and frustrating’ and they are probably the 3 best words to sum him up. With the attitude of a sulking child at times, he looks like he wants to pick up the ball and go home if things aren’t going his way.

Breath of Fresh Air

However the first two are the most important. His movement, skills, assists and goals have been the difference between a playoff place and almost certain title glory. A man who would be chased out of Scotland for his lack of effort at times in a league which prides itself on its work ethic, has been a shining example of confidence producing success. A certain Charlie Adam might just agree with me.
The play-off system in England’s second tier is another reason which further puts down my bias towards the SPL. The top and bottom half split in Scotland has gone drastically wrong and has left the embarrassing situation of 7th place finishing with more points than those in 6th. Change is needed and has begun to be addressed recently by the SFA which may help the league in the long-run.

Brilliant spectacle for fans and neutrals

In the present however the Championship has a clear edge. The 2nd to 6th play-off structure gives a great end to the season. Last season’s final between Cardiff and Blackpool was a fantastic game of football and a great advert for the league; whereas an end of season game between St Mirren and Hamilton on television doesn’t exactly promote the Scottish game. With Cardiff, Swansea, Forest, Norwich and Leeds all fighting it out at the top at the minute, it leaves a mouth watering line up for the end of the season.
The performance of the promoted 3 from last season is also an encouraging factor in showing the quality of the league. Newcastle, West Brom and Blackpool have made a tremendous fight of avoiding relegation this season, leading to 10 points separating 7th to 20th place. This shows the gap between the two is smaller than would be imagined. Even for an Old Firm supporter it is hard to think that we would break into the top half of the Premiership within 5 years of joining.
So as I sit here scratching my head for reasons the SPL is better my mind’s a blank. This may be my own fault but I think I may have to admit defeat to those gloating Englishmen. Apart from the sheer passion, and occasional exciting game, which arrives on Old Firm day, Scotland’s ‘finest’ league doesn’t have all that much to offer.
From now I’ll be keeping quiet when the next piece of bait is cast towards me, resisting the temptation to bite and hoping with everything I’ve got England somehow fail to qualify for Euro 2012 so I have something to fight back with.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Masters v The Minnows

 
Pele: Arguably the greatest
Lucio, Dani Alves, Pato, Neymar. While the Brazilian names of the present don't strike the same sort of fear as the Pele's, Jarzinho's and Romario's of old, the South Americans still have a presence that the footballing world appreciates. A country rich in tradition and success on the footballing field gives an alluring picture to those used to falling at the last hurdle of qualifying time and again in recent years. When the Scotland team take to the field against the mighty Brazilians, it is a chance to test themselves on the biggest of all stages.
The Brazilians have long been admired for the attractive, creative football, showing the kind of flair and arrogance that only the best can get away with. Free flowing in their passing, fearless in attack, these players are the pinnacle to what every young footballer should be aiming to be. With 5 World Cup's and 8 Copa America string's to their bow, this is a country that doesn’t accept failure easily and the recent dwnturn in terms of silverware has led to the third change of manager since the 2002 World Cup victory. Mano Menezes is the man now charged with inciting the flamboyance and skills into this side, while delivering the success that their fans demand.


A goal against the best
 Contrast this to their opposition at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday and it’s a very different picture indeed. Names such as Bell, Crainey and Davidson won’t be throwing Brazil’s plans into disarray. With these players drifting into our squad, it is little wonder Scotland haven’t managed to qualify for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup where, incidentally, they faced Brazil in their opening group game. A John Collins goal made it 1-1, and although Tom Boyd scored a late own goal, it gives credence to the irrational hope the Tartan Army have going into every game. The subsequent years since have been frustrating for the loyal contingent with a combination of poor performances and narrow exits from qualification leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the devoted support.

It has come to be expected that 4-5-1 is the way forward for Scotland with Walter Smith and Alex McLeish achieving relative success with a defensive, long ball structure that saw wins over the Netherlands and France in recent years. Fans have been forced to grudgingly accept that on the international scene, Scotland really are the minnows and in turn must play as such. Gone are the days of Dalglish and Gemmill who excited the fans with trickery and here to stay for the foreseeable future are a team of battlers, such as Darren Fletcher, Kenny Miller and Scott Brown. The Samba stars have their own brand of football, unfortunately for Scotland so do we.


Don Cowie: Striking fear into Brazil since 2011
Focusing on Sunday’s game it is something which every Scotland fan and player wishes to be a part of. The buzz and excitement, and the mere mention of Brazil, has injured players up of the treatment table and that ‘slight knock’ they have at most friendly’s, miraculously disappearing. Craig Levein, however, will be filling his players full of confidence ahead of what could be the biggest game of their careers. The chance to tell your grandchildren about the time you faced the best is one that many a soul would be sold for. A country famous for its carnival will come face-to-face with a country enjoying their own day in the sun and in front of a sell out crowd, who are probably not there to see Gary Caldwell shelling balls into the stand or the shirt-selling name of Don Cowie, everyone will enjoy the occasion for what it is. A chance to see the best playing against our own. To see football as it should be played. And have the chance to say you were there.

David Narey, Archie Gemmill and James McFadden among others have made themselves heroes with goals against the greatest. Who will step up on Sunday?

Bring it on.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Modern day fairytale

When Blackpool F.C. entered the promised land this season, many believed it would be a short lived journey amongst the big boys of English football. The incredible achievement of promotion from the Championship when considered relegation favourites at the start of the season seemed the pinnacle and a few tantalising trips away from the seaside and to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates would be all they could take from a harsh season in the top division. However an already rollercoaster season has seen the ‘Seasiders’ delight their loyal contingent with high-profile wins, exciting football and the teasing prospect of being in the queue to buy their season ticket for the 2011/2012 Premiership season.
When Ian Holloway signed a one year deal to take charge of Blackpool, even ‘Ollie’, and his considerable optimism, could not have predicted what was to come. Avoiding relegation was the target set and a realistic one at that. A side with a limited budget even by Championship standards, showed grit and desire to see off their pre-season critics and rise up the league. Fast forward to the 23 May 2010, and the Tangerine dream had come true with a 3-2 win over the favourites Cardiff. An underdog story to rival the best and David would soon be facing Goliath on a weekly basis as the side stepped up to the next level.

Underdogs

The current Blackpool side have been a breath of fresh air in a time where money has become the be all and end all of modern day football. While the other clubs splash out millions on transfer fees and wages, Blackpool have relied on some aspects that are missed by clubs. Belief, Confidence, Organisation are all prominent in the Seasiders style of play and attitude towards their task. Coming up against the big spenders was never going to be easy, to put it in perspective it is estimated that Blackpool have a maximum wage for all players of £10,000 a week while an unhappy Carlos Tevez earns well in excess of £200,000. Therefore a tilt for the title was certainly a bridge too far from this small-time club. The gung-ho and fearless approach they have taken to the Premier League though has given hope to all lower league teams that the dream is possible and the millionaires can be beaten by the less affluent, unfashionable club from the North-west of England.

Breath of fresh air

The success can be nailed down to a few areas and their charismatic manager, Ian Holloway is certainly one of them. This man has lit up the game better than Blackpool’s illuminations themselves. When the great Jose Mourinho left these shores, a gap for a manager with a bit of humour was left and this man has certainly stepped up. When asked if he had any injury worries, the quick-witted reply was “No, I’m fully fit, thank you” and this is a measure of the man who I could quote all day. However a joker off the park he may be, but in-house he has worked with the players to create a side who are unafraid of their opponents and go into each match with the same philosophy of keeping the ball and creating opportunities. On the first day of the season, Blackpool turned up at the DW stadium expected to be Wigan’s whipping boys for the day, and showed the class and determination to leave with a 4-0 win and a crucial 3 points tucked away in their back pockets. This result sent out a message, that Blackpool weren’t there to make up the numbers and the loyal supporters had a season to look forward to.
That brings me nicely onto another factor behind the success which is the Tangerine Army who have followed their heroes around the country so far this season. They have created a tremendous atmosphere at each game they have attended and given their players fantastic backing even during games such as the 6-0 hammering at Arsenal. They have been rewarded for their support with two wins over Liverpool, the 4-0 thumping of Wigan among other brilliant wins and performances. The fans who arrive at Bloomfield Road each home game go there with the right attitude for a team newly-promoted and rarely is a boo heard ringing round the stadium. The results and league position they have achieved at this half-way stage of the season in just reward for fans that have toiled since the days of the great Stanley Matthews and are finally able to see their team successful again after many barren years.

Leader

Finally the players deserve enormous recognition for their performances guiding Blackpool to the top half and a vertigo-challenging 9th place. A task led by the captain Charlie Adam in fine style. Since being bought for £500,000 from Rangers, Adam has reignited his career with the club and become a key man in the side. Having scored and created in vast amounts he has repaid the belief Holloway has showed in him, and is finally realising the potential many believed he had. He is ably supported by colleagues such as DJ Campbell, Marlon Harewood, Ian Evatt and Matt Gilks among a squad unheard of by many individually but known as a tough outfit collectively. The aforementioned players have stepped up to the mark tremendously this season, Gilks in particular whose performances led to a call up for Scotland although he remains uncapped at that level. They have all showed that quality will only get a team so far and with the right attitude, organisation and belief, anyone can beat anyone on a given day.
Overall, Blackpool have reached the January window in a position much higher than anyone could have thought. If they continue the form and effort they have put into the first half of the season, and maybe add a couple of quality names in the window then it is almost certain, when the illuminations are switched on next year, Blackpool will still be a Premier League club.