Blackpool in the Premier League- the Tangerine Dream

The 2010/11 Premier League season saw Blackpool Football Club members of the top flight and it was a dream that became a reality. It was a whirlwind year but ultimately ended in Blackpool being relegated back to the Championship. We take a look back as it is nearly a decade since Blackpool were top of the league after their first game.

Blackpool took on Wigan Athletic at the DW stadium. It was a match that was meant to be at Bloomfield Road but due to development to the east stand taking longer than expected it was rearranged. They dominated proceedings and grabbed a 4-0 win and Blackpool wanted the season to end right there. However, the ecstasy of playing in the Premier League came back to earth with a major crash as they were obliterated by Arsenal 6-0. This was the manager Ian Holloway’s football and it proved to be the amazing exciting football you love to watch but ultimately the downfall of the club.

The first home game was something special and fans were in disbelief as they could not believe it was really happening; Bloomfield Road was hosting top flight football again. After going 1-0 down, they thought Luke Varney had scored the winner as he slotted past the goalkeeper with just 14 minutes to go. However, former Preston North End player Dickson Etuhu snatched a late equaliser.

In September, former loanee DJ Campbell re-joined the club in a permanent deal and he was quickly back to his goalscoring ways as he scored against Newcastle United to grab a 2-0 win. However, a 4-0 loss to Chelsea and a soul crushing 2-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers took the wind out of Blackpool’s sails.

October started with a bang. Blackpool travelled to Anfield and stunned the Kop into silence. The Seasiders showed Liverpool up and they were 2-0 goals to the good at half time thanks to captain Charlie Adam and Luke Varney. Despite conceding one, Blackpool were much the better side all over the park and no side in the country could have played against them. The following week saw them play Manchester City and despite a 3-2 loss they were never out of the game and if it was not for some poor referring, they might have grabbed all three points.

Up until the new year nobody wanted to play Blackpool.  They were finding their feet defensively with Ian Evatt and Craig Cathcart at the heart of the defence. Evatt was showing he could make the step up despite question marks over his credentials as a Premier League footballer. This was the case with other footballers at the club for example Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Stephen Crainey. However, Holloway brought something out in them so that they could mix it with the big boys in the division.

Through November and December Blackpool grabbed victories against West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and impressive back to back wins away from home against Stoke City and Sunderland. Frustrating draws against Everton, West Ham United and in particular Bolton Wanderers (where they were 2-0 up) came back to haunt them at the end of the season. The period also included a 3-2 loss to Aston Villa and Ian Holloway nearly resigned as he rung the changes but was fined by the F.A for changing his squad too much. Blackpool lost in the last minute against a very strong Aston Villa side.

January arrived and so did new faces. The experience of James Beattie and Andy Reid, the raw talent of Jason Puncheon and the Champions League experience of Sergei Kornilenko. However, many questioned the lack of defensive cover to help the Seasiders stop leaking goals including an adequate replacement for the injured Matt Gilks as Richard Kingson did not look comfortable between the sticks.

The main thing in the January transfer window was the fact the were able to keep hold of talisman and captain Charlie Adam. Despite interest from many clubs the club refused to accept poor offers and even turned the fax machine off on deadline day! He was vital for Blackpool with his set pieces and control in midfield.

Two losses against Manchester City and Birmingham again was not the New Year cheer they wanted. However, the unthinkable happened again, Blackpool beat Liverpool. Goals from lifelong Liverpool fan Taylor-Fletcher and in form Campbell stunned the Scousers once again. Moments like that will never be forgotten.

After the miracle against Liverpool, Blackpool lost five games on the bounce including squandering a 2-0 lead against Manchester United. It might not have been the case if the referee had awarded a stonewall penalty against Varney. However, the Red Devils were full of praise for their counter parts and felt they were more than worthy to be in the topflight.

Included in the barren spell was a 5-3 loss to Everton. This has gone down as a real Premier League classic. In a ding dong match Blackpool took a 3-2 lead through Alex Baptiste, Puncheon and Adam but let that slip into a 4-3 deficit in the final 15 minutes. Chasing the equaliser led to Louis Saha grabbing his fourth goal late on. The game is also remembered for Evatt’s acrobatic clearance as goalkeeper Paul Rachubka was caught in no man’s land.

A draw against Aston Villa followed at Bloomfield Road, with Prince William watching in the stands, but the Seasiders faithful were about to witness another special night. With the visit of Tottenham Hotspur attracting plenty of attraction given that they had just beaten AC Milan at the San Siro, they were expected to easily grab another win. However, they were humbled at the tight knit ground with goals from Adam, Campbell and more importantly Brett Ormerod. Blackpool legend Ormerod’s goal meant he had scored in all four divisions for Blackpool; the north stand could barely contain itself as the striker bundled the ball into the back of the net in front of them.

However, once again that ecstasy of humbling one of the big teams led to Blackpool not winning another game for ten games. Incredibly abject and poor performance against West Ham, Wolves, Wigan and Fulham led to the Seasiders being dragged into the relegation scrap and falling into the relegation zone for the first time with the loss against Wigan. Once again they showed up against one of the bigger teams with an incredibly heroic performances against Arsenal but only to lose 3-1 after another poor refereeing decision not to send Jens Lehmann off after he brought DJ Campbell down but because Taylor- Fletcher scored the referee played advantage rather than giving the penalty and a red card to the German.

Blackpool again turned up against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Despite Charlie Adam missing a penalty only to convert a 2nd penalty just one minute later as Gomes went from hero to zero as he brought down Taylor-Fletcher . It was the same old story for Blackpool who were unable to keep a clean sheet as Jermain Defoe hammered home an equaliser in the 89th minute leaving the Seasiders in a more precarious position with just two games to go.

The final home game at Bloomfield Road and like the Everton game at Goodison Park a ding dong match. Blackpool, however, were victorious in a 4-3 win with goals from Campbell (twice), Puncheon and Adam. It was a real thriller as Blackpool’s captain took the relegation battle to the final game of the season. However, that was against Manchester United…at Old Trafford.

With tensions high for the Tangerine Army and the pressure off Sir Alex Ferguson’s men who were already champions and preparing for a Champions League final the emotions were a stark contrast. It is understood many Manchester United fans wanted Blackpool to win but it wasn’t to be the case. Despite Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher putting Blackpool into a shock 2-1 lead and jumping out of the relegation zone they once again capitulated as they did many times that season. Anderson equalised, Ian Evatt scored an own goal and Michael Owen finished the job off as Manchester United won 4-2 and Blackpool were relegated.

The dream was over but the memories will live on forever as the new boys showed how the game could be played and many players who were deemed not good enough won lots of plaudits.

Throughout the season Charlie Adam was linked with top four teams, DJ Campbell was linked with an England call up, Luke Varney scored a goal of the season contender against Wolves, David Vaughan and Keith Southern were noticed for their hard work to let Adam play his natural game and ultimately Blackpool were the feel good story of the season even if they did get relegated.

Ian Holloway and his Tangerine men. We thank you.


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