Blackpool v Tottenham: Life’s a beach as Seasiders make waves

WITH almost half of the season gone, Ian Holloway is probably wondering what he and his players have to do to be taken seriously in the Premier League.

The moment the Seasiders won the play-offs, they were immediately written off and pencilled into the bottom of this season’s final top-flight table.

August came and the Tangerines kicked off their campaign with a 4-0 victory away at Wigan. Since then they have gone on to win at Newcastle, Liverpool and, perhaps most impressively of all, Stoke on Saturday.

Only Arsenal and Manchester City have won more top-flight games on the road. With 16 games behind them, Holloway’s side have banked 22 points and currently sit 10th, six points above the drop zone and five points behind Spurs – with a game in hand on everyone but Manchester United.

Still, pessimists wait for the bubble to burst and bookmakers continue to rank the Seasiders as the fourth favourites to go down, offering meagre odds of 6/4 on relegation.

“It hurt me and the players to see some people predicting we’d be the worst team in Premier League history. Someone had us down for 10 points – bit of a laughing stock,” said Holloway, nicknamed ‘Ollie’, this week.

“We have used that as motivation to help keep us going. We are still light years away from securing our place in this division, but I am so proud of the way these players have responded to being disrespected like that. They have already doubled the lowest points total.”

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Much of the credit must go to the manager, and Harry Redknapp recently singled Holloway out for special praise as the Spurs boss stressed the quality of home-grown managers.

“Even Jose Mourinho would struggle to do better. I like Mourinho, I think he’s fantastic, but you put him in at Blackpool and do you think he could have had this many points by now? I wouldn’t bet on it,” said Redknapp.

“He certainly wouldn’t have done any better than Ian Holloway’s done. What he has achieved there has been incredible.”

Blackpool’s success has caught everyone by surprise given their lack of household names and top-flight experience. Goalkeeper Richard Kingson only played five games for Wigan before moving on a free transfer in the summer, and he is protected by a relatively unknown back four of Stephen Crainey, Ian Evatt, Craig Cathcart and Neil Eardley.

It is the same for the midfield and few Spurs fans will recognise any of Blackpool’s three-man central core.

Skipper and playmaker Charlie Adam has been highlighted as a key man all season but the 25-year-old will be suspended against Tottenham, and will be replaced by either Keith Southern or Ludovic Sylvestre, alongside David Vaughan and Frenchman Elliott Grandin.

Up front, DJ Campbell has moved rapidly through the ranks since playing for non-league Yeading in 2005, and the 29-year-old has scored three goals this season – all away from home.

He is supported by Luke Varney – who has five goals to his name after arriving on loan from Derby – and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, whose last three clubs were Dagenham & Redbridge, Lincoln and Huddersfield.

The verdict: Blackpool’s success is based on a fearless, attacking approach and a 4-3-3 formation which results in goals at both ends.

“They play roulette football,” said Stoke boss Tony Pulis this week. “They’re throwing the dice and hoping that things will drop for them. They’re very, very positive with it.

“They remind me a little bit of Hull the first year they came up. They play with no fear and they’re quite happy to play that way.”

The same could be said of Tottenham these days, and those who witnessed the frantic clash with Chelsea on Sunday will surely empathise with Pulis’ ‘roulette wheel’ analogy.

There has never been a dull moment at Blackpool or Tottenham this season and, with two open, attacking teams on show at Bloomfield Road, this is set up to be one of the games of the season.

Prediction: Blackpool 1 Spurs 2