Can Blackpool survive next season?
The final whistle had barely been blown at Wembley when the pundits started tipping Blackpool for relegation next season.
Unsurprisingly, the football betting odds make them favourites for drop, mainly due to the tiny budget boss Ian Holloway will have to work with.
But are we being a little hasty in writing off the Seasiders’ Premier League hopes? After all, no one tipped them to be anywhere near the play-offs this season, so can’t they spring a surprise next year?
Here are five reasons why Blackpool could stay up:
Winning becomes a habit and success breeds confidence. The whole town will be buzzing over the summer as the club gears up for their first top flight season for 40 years. The memories of their stunning rise into the play-offs and that Wembley win over Cardiff will still be fresh. That confidence could spill over into the new season and mean they pick up vital early points.
2) Surprise factor
Many of these players have never played top flight football before, while many Premier League players will not have played at a ground like Bloomfield Road. As a new kid on the block Blackpool could use this to their advantage and outfox the opposition. Remember, Blackpool aren’t without star players – Hameur Bouazza was unlucky to miss out on a call up for Algeria, a side who face England, third favourites in the World Cup betting odds, this summer.
3) The manager
Ian Holloway was previously known as a bit of a joker, an image which often clouded his achievements at Plymouth and QPR. But a year out of the game after relegation with Leicester, which he spent studying tactics and formations saw him comeback refreshed and full of new ideas. His 4-3-3 formation has produced an attacking side full of goals and a never-say-die attitude. Holloway admits he may have to rein in his sides attacking intent slightly in the Premier League, but that doesn’t mean they will sit 11 men behind the ball. They may lose a few games 4-0, but they could win a few as well.
4) Hull City
When Hull beat Bristol City in the play-off final two years ago they were also tipped to plummet straight back down. However, a thrilling first season in the top flight saw them beat the likes of Arsenal and Spurs to secure safety. Blackpool will take heart from Hull’s exploits, but must also learn from their mistakes.
5) Weakening of the Premier League
Although many still see it as the best league in the World it can’t be denied that there are several average teams at the bottom of the table. Troubled West Ham stayed up this season despite only gathering 35 points – seven more than they gained in 2003 when they were relegated. Though this could point to stronger teams at the top, I believe the difference between the top of the Championship and bottom of the Premier League is decreasing and Blackpool should not go into games fearing the opposition.