The odds have been stacked against Blackpool since the moment they clinched an improbable promotion to the Premier League. Many were quick to write off Ian Holloway’s men before a ball had been kicked, predicting that the Seasiders would finish rock bottom. Yet, so far, Blackpool have been the feel good story of the season.

Holloway has masterminded an incredible turnaround at the club. Of the 24 Championship clubs during the 2009/10 season, only Scunthorpe United had a smaller wage bill than Blackpool and even the most optimistic supporters would not have envisioned a trip to the playoff final.

Despite the recent success, it is all too easy to paint Holloway as a joker, more comfortable trading memorable analogies than preparing immaculate game plans. But there is far more to the 47-year-old former midfielder than meets the eye. He has become a shrewd football thinker and, combined with his proven man management, it has translated into success.

A trip through Europe while between jobs opened Holloway’s eyes to different formations, approaches and playing styles. It was a voyage of discovery that convinced him that 4-3-3 was the formation for the future and that short, careful passing and clever movement – a la Spain – were the key ingredients.


And Blackpool have reaped the rewards. With Holloway’s men adopting a refreshingly open, attacking style, sceptics have been forced to rethink their stance. So often, newly-promoted teams go into their shell with ultra-defensive game plans, but Blackpool have been gung-ho from day one.

However, while things have been rosy through the first four months of the season, there is a fear that Blackpool might run out of steam – especially when consulting the history books.

One look at Hull City’s record in their first Premier League season confirms that Blackpool cannot afford to be complacent. The similarities between the two teams are evident. Hull were the talk of the league after an enterprising start to the 2008/09 campaign, with their never-say-die spirit and a dose of attacking flair, yet only survived the drop on the last day of the season.

Blackpool have managed 25 points thus far from 19 games. If they were to repeat that over the second half of the season, a top half spot would be a possibility. But, again, the memory of Hull’s struggles linger.

The Tigers had 27 points at the halfway stage, but once the rot set in after Christmas, they never recovered their early season swagger. Hull managed one point in January, one in February and four in March. By then, they had plummeted down the table.

Remarkably, the Tigers then collected just two points from their April and May fixtures. In many other years, a tally of 35 points – eight from their last 19 games – would have meant certain relegation. Luckily for Hull, there were three teams with even worse records. A year later, the Tigers’ fate was sealed though as 30 points and only six wins sent the club back to the Championship.

There is no clear evidence to suggest that Blackpool will slump the same way that Hull did – but it is noticeable that the heavy Christmas fixture list kickstarted Hull’s woes. Holloway’s men played well in December, but the fear is that losses to Manchester City and Birmingham could start the type of winless streak that dents confidence and sparks a freefall down the table.

Blackpool have upcoming home games against Manchester United, Sunderland and a beleaguered but still dangerous Liverpool – so there will be no free points. Two of those games have been rearranged after the December snow, just adding to the fixture list for January.

But Holloway is the type of character who will ensure that a couple of defeats do not deflate his squad. He will know that the job is only half done, even if he will be patting his players on the back for their proud, resilient displays thus far.

With the Premier League as competitive as ever, there is reason to believe that only seven teams can consider themselves to be out of the relegation discussion at this stage. And, of the other 13 teams, few have played as fluently as Blackpool.

Only time will tell whether Blackpool can avoid the Hull collapse, but many neutrals will hope the Seasiders continue to prosper. And that speaks volumes for what Holloway has achieved this season.