Crunch time for Pool

Ian Holloway
Ian Holloway
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THIS week could be critical to the future direction of Blackpool FC. Football writer Steve Canavan spells out the importance of the top-level talks at Bloomfield Road.

To say it is crunch-time is over-egging it, but the next few days at Bloomfield Road will be tense to say the least.

While he was on holiday in Italy, Ian Holloway spoke to a reporter from the Sunday Mirror, as usual, to do his weekly column.

What ended up in the paper wasn’t exactly explosive and was nothing that Holloway hadn’t said in public before – in a nutshell, he wants Karl Oyston to give him a few extra quid. So what?

But the timing was interesting – it wasn’t just a very public message to Blackpool’s chairman, but to those in charge of other clubs too.

Not quite a ‘come and get me’, more of a ‘look, I’m a little cheesed off, so if you want me, now might be a good time’.

It is easy to understand Holloway’s frustration.

He has been the Seasiders’ most successful manager since the legendary Joe Smith in the 1950s.

His stock has never been higher. He is viewed as a man who can work miracles on the tightest of budgets.

A few weeks before the end of the season, he vented his frustration about not being offered top jobs.

He put that down, probably correctly, to the fact that he has a reputation for speaking his mind and being a character.

It scares some chairmen off. They probably see him as a loose cannon, which is ridiculous because Holloway, if you study his past, doesn’t cause any trouble at clubs.

He is very loyal to those he works for and his management record – one nine-month spell at Leicester aside – is outstanding.

He is clearly a very fine manager – hence his frustration and bemusement at not being courted by the Premier League. However, with his success in the past three years, he may attract the interest of a top-flight club (say, a Wigan, if Roberto Martinez goes) or one of the big teams in the Championship.

Which is why he can afford to make the comments he has about Oyston, and about needing a little more money if he is to continue to bring success to Bloomfield Road.

His problem is that he is talking to Karl Oyston, a man for whom the word stubborn could have been invented.

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Now that stubbornness upsets many fans.

They would love him to relax his iron-like grip on the club’s purse-strings and get his money out – particularly as there is plenty of it following the Seasiders’ season in the Premier League.

But that stubborn streak has also helped revolutionise football (many other clubs now adopt the same clauses in contracts that Oyston was once criticised for – percentage rises/decreases in the event of promotion/relegation; a basic wage in summer when revenue from matches isn’t coming in) and has undoubtedly brought success to the club.

You can’t argue with the facts – Pool, with Oyston as chairman, have gone from bottom division to top, and are now an established Championship team with serious ambitions of getting back to the promised land.

Oyston isn’t stupid. He is well aware how much of a difference Holloway has made over the last three years and he dearly wants to keep the manager.

But on the other hand, he will not be bullied by anyone, including Holloway, into changing the way he operates. The limited budget will remain.

All of which means the talks between manager and chairman this week – two men not scared to speak their mind – will be interesting to put it mildly.

Oyston’s trump card is that Holloway is tied to the club on a rolling contract. It means the manager can’t walk out.

It would require another club to pay compensation for his services.

I desperately hope Holloway stays. He has been a dream to deal with on a professional level for the last three seasons, and has proved an incredibly talented manager, getting Blackpool to play to a standard I never though I’d see.

He has been magnificent.

But I also know Oyston will not change or make too many, if any, concessions – not because he doesn’t care about the club; on the contrary, he runs it so carefully because he absolutely does care.

But will that wash with Holloway, still reeling from play-off disappointment and now facing another long, arduous Championship campaign under the same restrictions?

Maybe not, and if another club – of the Seasiders’ standing or higher – comes in for the manager, there is every chance he may decide to go.

Let’s hope not. There surely isn’t a sane Blackpool fan who would choose that outcome.

But it is going to be a tense few weeks, and we can only hope the two of them can get over their differences and start planning for next season.

Pool have an excellent squad. But for it to excel again, they need their excellent manager in charge of it.

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