A few years ago on August 22nd Blackpool were playing Stockport County away in the League Cup. Steve McMahon’s team were in the equivalent of League Two (whilst the Hatters were in the Championship) and fielded a team including Tony Caig, Steve Bushell and Tommy Jaszczun. The Pool won thanks to an Adam Nowland goal in front of just 3,000.
In the present day, Ian Holloway will tomorrow lead his Premiership side out in front of 60,000.
That comparison in itself serves as a pointer to the huge achievement that the Seasiders have undergone before and after Ollie joined the club. In a way, with all due respect to Wigan Athletic, August 21st marks the true day that Blackpool have arrived in the top flight of English football for the first time in four decades.
You don’t need telling, but the Gunners have world class stars right across the park and for the likes of Gary Taylor-Fletcher (who last week joined the elite few to score in every division), Ian Evatt and Matt Gilks it must be a dream come true.
And that dream is mirrored by the supporters, who must have thought that worldwide fame was a million miles away whilst watching that win at Edgeley Park in 2000.
Whether the team sink or swim is actually of little relevance to the occasion. After the tremendous win at the DW Stadium last week, the club have bought a few games worth of honeymoon period, which will probably see the team express themselves and ultimately give a good account of themselves. We hope.
If not, we’re still battling against the likes of Arsenal at one of the best grounds in Europe. Savour it!
So no moaning about Brett Pitman turning us down or that we look slightly lightweight up front. The 3,000 that descend on London tomorrow should go and have a cracking time. I certainly will be!
Arsene Wenger remains cautious ahead of the Seasiders’ trip to the Emirates after being reminded of Hull’s victory there two years ago: ‘We need to be cautious because as long as doubt had not been created in their mind by the Premier League, they are on a wave of a positive momentum. That makes any team in the world dangerous.’
Ian Holloway chose the pre-match build up to talk about the transfer window: ‘I’ll be really delighted when the window slams shut. I haven’t enjoyed it at all.
‘It has been very educational but something I wouldn’t really want to do again and hopefully we can get the club in really decent shape heading towards the next window in January.
‘We don’t want to have to do much business in that one because that is the one where people panic.’
Arsenal Team News:
The home side welcome Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Johan Djourou into their squad after injuries.
Robin Van Persie could start after being a late substitute in the 1-1 draw at Liverpool last week whilst the Gunners are missing Denilson and Samir Nasri in midfield.
Tomas Rosicky is expected to start and new central defender Laurent Koscielny is out after his harsh red card at Anfield.
Player to watch: Andrei Arshavin
Apparently the Russian’s twitter said that Arsenal would destroy Pool so Arshavin will have to follow that up with a performance after his no-show at Liverpool last week.
Stephen Crainey, beware!
Blackpool Team News:
Paul Rachubka has been added to the list of long term injuries, which includes Billy Clarke and Keith Southern.
Some of the press are reporting that new signing Dekel Keinan will start in defence but I’d be surprised if either Evatt or Craig Cathcart were dropped after a clean sheet last week.
Marlon Harewood should be ok despite a bruised foot and Mark Halstead will take up the goalkeeper’s spot on the bench.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Ollie goes for either Basham or Sylvestre in midfield.
Player to watch: Stephen Crainey
The left back has been accused of lacking pace by supporters in the past year but looked composed and capable of dealing with Victor Moses at Wigan.
However, Walcott, Arshavin, Eboue and the rest are a different test; it could be the making of Crainey tomorrow if he stands tall.
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Saturday 28th August, 2010