By Jack Gaughan
It happened with Simon Grayson, and now it might be happening with Ian Holloway. Adored by thousands, the messiah may be about to desert his flock.
Throughout the tenures of the two best Blackpool managers in over half a century, media speculation as to who might be attracted to their services, or who could offer added financial incentives, followed the club around like a bad smell. It was the case upon promotion to the Championship, it was the case when the Seasiders stayed there, and it has been the case for Holloway over the past two years.
The news of Grayson’s decision to leave for Leeds United in December 2008 was, however, a bolt from the blue. Unexpected and, for some, leaving a slightly bitter taste. Leeds were ‘the only club’ he would have left Bloomfield Road for.
Holloway is a different animal. For what he has accomplished and where he could go.
Comparatively he had less to spend than his predecessor – Larry’s job was to keep us up, Ollie’s rather more after an excellent first six months in charge – and the things he achieved have been magnificent for a club seemingly destined to remain in the Football League lethargies for eternity. If he decides to take the plunge to Blackburn Rovers, the year ‘lighting up’ the Premier League (please) was one which will never be forgotten.
The attacking brand of never-say-die, philosophically barmy, attractive football in which the manager sent Pool out to play was wonderful. It was exciting. It got the transient Blackpool support into the ground and off their seats. For that, Karl Oyston must be eternally grateful.
Ollie is a man who will, long after he has left the Fylde Coast, be thought of as a one-off, stand-out character, who illuminated a club strangled so tightly by a regime bereft of footballing lust.
Take a step back for a moment and think of what has led us here. Holloway, if he received the call from Rovers, may well leave the club. Why? He has just moved to Lytham St Annes, is still in the process of ‘building’ the club and is in – yet again – an excellent position to lodge a tilt at promotion.
Wrangling with those above has become too much.
Valeri Belokon had to stump up the £500,000 to sign Charlie Adam. Holloway was promised a training ground at least twice. He was forced to call the proposed postponement of a Premier League fixture against Manchester ’embarrassing’ because no undersoil heating was installed. Ollie was then promised that technology 18 months ago: it never came.
Then there are the players. Oh, the players. In no particular order, the ones we know definitely turned the club down. Brett Pitman. Jamie Murphy. Jeremie Aliadiere. Albert Adomah. Adam Hammill. Kwesi Appiah. Jon Stead. Robbie Fowler. Emile Sinclair. DJ Campbell. Charlie Austin. Tyrone Barnett. David Goodwillie.
There are obviously many more names. Ryan Hall, for example. Hall may end up being the reason Holloway is no longer. He, along with Campbell, might have been the final straw and chose a Championship rival instead of the most beloved side in the division.
Problems also clearly lie in the playing squad. Speculating as to the reasons for Barry Ferguson`s imminent departure out of the club isn’t helpful – conjecture would bring us to the same conclusion, no doubt – but the fact Ollie is only able to bring in Marlon King using Ferguson as a sweetener presents rank average stewarding of finances. For a club collecting parachute payments that is criminal. It turns out following King’s hat-trick in midweek, Birmingham City have pulled the deal.
Is it really any wonder the manager, faced with the option of a club who have spent £8m on a striker this season fancies a move? Despite their creaking credentials, the Venky’s seem a better bet than the Oystons. A willingness to back a manager – so much so their support of Steve Kean bordered on the ludicrous – is alluring for someone who feels unloved. He must be heartbroken.
The global advisor at Ewood Park, Shebby Singh, has changed his tack after backlash from supporters in the aftermath of an approach for Billy McKinlay. They are now looking for a more experienced coach. Holloway has already met Singh and now seems the obvious choice to appease the fans – barring a cure for Harry Redknapp’s phobia of working north of the M25.
Holloway admitted recently that he decided to turn down another club earlier in 2012 – either Wolves or Swansea City – and that was admirable. A choice, perhaps, based on assurances he had been given here. When another comes knocking it is difficult to see how he can turn that opportunity down. And who could blame him? Let us pray that Belokon’s introduction this week banged some heads together; it would be a travesty for it to end this way.
There is a game on tomorrow. Brighton at home.
Comment: Who to blame if messiah Holloway leaves?
By Jack Gaughan