When Blackpool secured promotion to the Premiership after beating Cardiff in last year’s playoff final, everybody was expecting them to go back straight down. Blackpool though were going to have real go and under manager Ian Holloway, they were instilled with belief that they could do what many considered as impossible; avoid relegation. Come the end of 2010, they had defied pre-season expectations with some brilliant victories and were sitting ninth in the table having amassed 25 points from 17 games.
However, 2011 has been a very different story for Blackpool. In their last 15 games, they have managed to claim just eight points with two wins and two draws. Consequently, the Tangerines have dropped from sitting comfortably in the top half of the table to flirting perilously with relegation. They now just sit one point above the relegation zone with six matches remaining.
While they may have had a nightmare second half of the season, they have shown in certain performances that they have the fight to stay up. Take yesterday’s game against Arsenal for example. When Emmanuel Eboue made it 2-0 in the 21st minute, it looked inevitable that Blackpool would be on the end of a hammering. While many teams would have rolled over, Ian Holloway’s men got themselves back into the game in the 52nd minute courtesy of a Gary Taylor- Fletcher goal and were then unfortunate not to been given a penalty when Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny brought down the Blackpool goalscorer in the box. Keith Southern then missed a glorious opportunity when the goal was gaping before a Robin Van Persie strike sealed the win for Arsenal in the 76th minute. In the end, Blackpool can consider the 3-1 scoreline a tad harsh.
The doggedness that Blackpool showed in the 2nd half would have encouraged manager Ian Holloway and he will undoubtedly be telling his players each day that they can stay up. Blackpool have one big advantage as they fight for survival in that four of their last six games will be played at home. Next weekend, Blackpool have a crunch game against bottom placed side Wigan and that looks to be the perfect opportunity to record their first win in six games and create a potential breathing space between themselves and bottom three.
After Wigan, they have two consecutive home games against Stoke and Newcastle before a trip to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham. Then they play their last home game of the season against Bolton. They will be hoping that their relegation worries are over before their final game when they travel down to Old Trafford to face current league leaders Manchester United.
Make no mistake about, with the resources available, Blackpool have had a phenomenal season and the players and Ian Holloway deserve a lot of praise. No-one could have expected them to have done so well and if they are to stay up then it will have been one hell of an achievement.