Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wow. Well what can you say about the first half of the Championship Play-off Final at Wembley this afternoon?

It was fantastic fare served up by Blackpool and Cardiff City in that first 45 minutes. The whole game was good, but the first half was breathtaking.

All of the Championship playoffs have been fantastic to be fair, as have most of the ones in Leagues One and Two as well. It's no wonder that crowds across the whole Football League have seen their highest crowds for 50 years. More people are starting to clue in that you don't need the top players and pay the big money to get entertaining football.

I'm thrilled for Blackpool and Ian Holloway. What a dream season for them. Their fans must be still pinching themselves. As we said last season with Burnley, what a great feel-good story for fans of smaller, unfashionable clubs across the land. It gives hope to all of us that being in the top flight is not beyond our wildest dreams.

They probably had the backing of pretty much every neutral this afternoon. The East Fife support were firmly behind them thanks to not only their underdog status but the Fife connections with the Club, which are strong and go back over 50 years. Allan Brown, Dougie Davidson, Hughie Kelly, Colin Methven, Bobby Waddell and even Arnold Dwarika link us and we had a friendly down there in the 90's. Yup, we have Blackpool connections and weren't just jumping on the Ollie bandwagon! :p

When Cardiff went one up after just 9 minutes through Michael Chopra, I wondered if it was maybe one step too far for the Seasiders but they fought back superbly with Charlie Adam's spectacular free kick just four minutes later. Both goals were superbly taken and very worthy of any Wembley Final.

Cardiff must have thought that they would be going into the break with the lead when local lad Joe Ledley put them 2-1 up on 37 minutes but Blackpool showed there and then why they deserve to be in the Premiership hitting back with two quick goals through Gary Taylor-Fletcher's opportunistic header and then from veteran star Brett Ormerod. Never give up. Keep fighting. That's been Ollie's message all season.

3-2 to the Tangerines at the half and although that's how it finished, it was still a pulsating second half. You felt the next goal would have been key. Blackpool could have wrapped it up with it and Cardiff would possibly have gone on to win it if they had got it.

It never came and the final whistle saw jubilant scenes from the orange clad fans. It was a real shame either team had to lose this one. It's an old cliche but true. I felt so sorry for Cardiff and their fans. I would have loved to have seen both of these teams go up and not boring old West Brom again and Newcastle.

Both teams would have graced next season's Premiership. On a big day like this both sides came to attack. None of that boring defend and get men behind the ball nonsense. They both went for it from the off and some of the passing around in the midfield, from Blackpool in particular, was better than anything that was to follow in the Champions League final (the whole game was better in every aspect - you can keep your "big" team money finals).

Having followed Blackpool all season through the Beeb's Saturday night "Football League Show" it's been great to see them rise up the table and challenge for promotion. They're in the Premiership now and it will be all the better for having them there.

And also the wit of Ian Holloway of course.

He's one of those managers who you love hearing from. He's amused us on Soccer AM for years now. When he took over Blackpool at the start of the season, one of his classic quotes was: "I love Blackpool. We're very similar. We both look better in the dark".

There's so many of these quotes and fans are well worth checking out his books of Ollieisms. He once said that the only way he would be in the Premiership would be through promotion as he was just a "bumpkin from Bristol". Well he's there now!

Him, and the likes of Gordon Strachan, are what football need more of to counter the constant gloom of Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and Avram Grant (smile guys, please).

Blackpool of course will be amongst the favourites (actually the favourites) to come straight back down again next season. It's going to be so tough for them but what an amazing time the fans, players and clubs will have on the way. Don't right them off immediately though. Remember they were one of the favourites to be relegated from the Championship this season and look at them now.

Ollie has shown that dreams can come true. Let's hope it's a long time before everyone wakes up.

1 comment:

  1. How could you forget Mike Green? He of early 70's centre forward fame, scorer of about 2 goals. Easy to forget I suppose, one of those goals though was a thumping 25 yarder against Ayr Utd down at the school end. Amazing how I can recall things from 38 years ago in total clarity but if I try to remember say, a Ross Graham goal from 2004 I can hardly think of one at all!

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