IAN Holloway returns to Blackpool today, where he says he enjoyed some of the best days of his life.
The former Pool boss brings his Crystal Palace side to Bloomfield Road for the 3pm kick-off, the first time he’s been back since walking out of the club in November.
Holloway wrote his name into Blackpool folklore with three memorable seasons in charge, the second of them in the Premier League after an amazing promotion.
And speaking exclusively to The Gazette, Holloway said: “It will be a very special day for me. Those were the best days of my life, apart from the birth of my children and my wedding day.
“It’s something I am so proud to look back on, and in years to come I’ll say, ‘Yes, I did that’.
“It was a great time, a really special thing to be a part of. The way everything went was just fantastic.”
This afternoon’s game is not only important for sentimental reasons, it is vital to the future of both clubs.
Victories for Peterborough (against leaders Cardiff) and Wolves on Saturday have left Blackpool just two points above the Championship’s relegation zone, while Palace lie in fourth place.
Whatever reception awaits Holloway this afternoon, it doesn’t seem to be concerning the Palace boss.
He said: “I have more than enough to worry about than the threat of a couple of people booing me.
“I basically did a job in Blackpool and now I’m trying to a job in south west London.
“Blackpool took over my life. I think if you asked any of my squad what the best time of their career is, they’ll say it was at Blackpool.
“Charlie Adam and David Vaughan have gone on to the Premier League but I bet they’ll tell you they enjoyed Blackpool most.
“It was such a special place to be – the atmosphere in the changing rooms, the supporters, the town, everything.
“I know people will say what I say isn’t genuine, but I can assure you it is.”
Under Holloway, Pool started this season brilliantly and topped the table for the first month.
But things started to turn sour and the manager moved on to be (briefly) replaced by Michael Appleton.
Holloway explained: “I didn’t want to be there and fail. Between Karl (Oyston, Pool chairman) and myself I don’t think it was anyone’s fault what happened. The Championship is such a tough division.
“If you aren’t willing to grab it, build and relish the challenge, then it’s always going to be tough.
“I haven’t left much of a legacy, that was my biggest worry really. If you look at it, all that is different now from when I arrived are some sprinklers for the pitch.”
But Holloway’s time at Bloomfield Road will always be remembered. He added: “I spoke to the lads when I first walked in the door about becoming heroes and new legends for Blackpool FC. I have to say, I think they did it. But unfortunately it doesn’t last, does it?
“Blackpool are very very fortunate to have that fan base. I think the fans there are completely, and utterly awesome.
“The supporters deserve full commitment and at the end of the day I didn’t feel I could give that anymore.
“I just wish Paul Ince all the very best as it’s a wonderful club to work for.”