DCSIMG

Taking a risk on Holloway

Ian Holloway with Pool chairman Karl Oyston and (below) in a typical pose on the touchline. Bottom: Celebrations in his finest hour as Pool are promoted to the Premier League.

Ian Holloway with Pool chairman Karl Oyston and (below) in a typical pose on the touchline. Bottom: Celebrations in his finest hour as Pool are promoted to the Premier League.

  • by Steve Canavan
 

Former Blackpool FC writer STEVE CANAVAN looks at Ian Holloway’s appointment and departure from Bloomfield Road.

KARL Oyston had better reach for his tin hat.

Despite being at the club during its rise from bottom to top division, the manner of Ian Holloway’s departure will cause fresh questions to be asked.

It comes down to this: if Oyston had offered Holloway a lucrative, long-term contract then would he have stayed instead of departing for Crystal Palace?

That’s what the fans will be upset about. They’ll see it as a lack of ambition from the chairman (a charge long labelled against him) and a case of allowing the best Blackpool manager since the 1950s to walk out.

Karl doesn’t help himself. In typical incendiary fashion, while the club’s supporters were reeling from Holloway’s departure, Oyston remarked: “Managers come and go – it isn’t something to get too excited about”.

That will go down among the fans as well as a knackered lift.

But it is important to remember there are two sides to every story, so here, m’lud, is the case for the defence.

For starters the reason Holloway is at the club is because Oyston hired him.

I don’t recall too many Blackpool fans, three-and-a-half years ago, crying out for Holloway to be named boss.

Oyston, impressed by the Bristol Special One during a slightly shambolic interview at the Marriott Hotel in Preston (Oyston walked in 20 minutes late wearing jeans; an affronted Holloway, suited and booted, threatened to walk straight out), took a gamble and went through with the appointment.

Holloway had been out of work for a year, after failing badly at Leicester, and was considered a zany, loose cannon. Oyston was prepared to take a risk.

There is another reason to think before criticising the chairman too strongly: Holloway has wanted another job for a while.

He was strongly linked with Wolves in January, he was keen on the Swansea job in the summer (before Michael Laudrup was appointed), and the Burnley and Ipswich jobs interested him last week.

What it boils down to is that he didn’t think he could take Blackpool much further and he was aware there might be a backlash if the club finished mid-table this season (a failure in comparison to other seasons under his tenure).

Now perhaps Oyston could have fought harder to keep him (offering a wage rise and a long-term contract). But would Holloway - a proud southerner, whose family home and children are in Bath - have stayed anyway? We’ll never know.

It is what it is.

Slag off Oyston’s approach if you want but the bottom line is that Blackpool FC is in a wonderful position, getting £12m plus worth of parachute payments for the next two seasons after this, and it hasn’t happened by fluke.

Yes Oyston has got lucky with his last two managers (Holloway built on the fantastic work done by Simon Grayson) but the chairman has played his part.

He runs the club the way he thinks fit. That might frustrate many but the Seasiders are in the black and look set to establish themselves as a top end Championship club, capable of challenging for promotion to the Premier League. That is a world away from where they were six years ago, struggling to avoid the drop to League Two.

The key now, in my opinion, is not for the club to explode in some kind of messy civil war, with the fans campaigning against the chairman - it is to stick together and make sure the good work done in recent years doesn’t go to waste.

The worst thing now would be for the club to slip into trouble at the wrong end of the table and to find themselves in League One, just a couple of years after that delirious, thrilling ride at the top.

Oyston is frustrating, massively so at times, but he has bought success to the club.

The truth is that managers come and go all the time. Sir Alex Ferguson is not the norm. Three-and-a-half years is actually a pretty good run at a club and, in my book, Seasiders fans should simply thank their lucky stars they had Holloway, who got the team playing some of the best football ever seen at Bloomfield Road and took them to a division most long-term Pool watchers never thought the club would reach.

Holloway will go down in history as one of the Tangerines best ever managers. He deserves to be held in the highest regard and although his departure was messy, most are. That’s football. It’s why we love it. Same happened with Simon Grayson. He worked wonders, then went.

If you want to believe that managers leave because of Karl Oyston and the way he operates, fine. It might be. But he runs the club, it’s his business, and - put bluntly - there’s not much anyone can do about it.

If he was ruining the club and they weren’t having success, then get on the streets and wave placards.

But that’s not the case, hence my belief that the right thing to do now is support the next manager, thus providing a settled environment which will give the club every chance of continuing to go from strength to strength.

As for Holloway, I say thank you.

The man is unpredictable, hard to read, an enigma. But my goodness he did a quite stunning job and to get Pool in the Premier League, on his budget, with the players he had, was nothing short of a miracle.

Whether Palace is the right move for him career-wise is a moot point. Time will tell.

All I know is he was a truly superb Blackpool FC manager, perhaps the best since the legendary Joe Smith, and I for one will never forget what has been a truly terrific ride.

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