IAN Holloway says Blackpool FC are in their best shape ever.
The Pool boss has seen huge developments on and off the pitch during his three years on the Fylde coast.
As well as the improvements to the stadium at Bloomfield Road, he also believes the club now has a footballing infrastructure to be proud of.
Holloway said: “If we had this set-up when we were in the Premier League we’d still be there.
“The club is in the best shape it has ever been in. We have a structure in place which we can all be proud of.
“It’s not just about the starting 11 any more – we now have a development squad and a youth system which can help players to be ready if I need to pick them.”
This summer saw the introduction of the club’s Under-21 development squad, which has replaced the reserves.
Holloway brought in former Bristol City manager Keith Millen to oversee the squad and ensure the style of football the manager demands of his first team becomes standard throughout the club at all age levels.
And he’s delighted with how it’s going so far. “It’s all about getting the level of the first team down into our development squad,” added Holloway.
“They do that by playing games and learning how we play. They aren’t in a league but there isn’t a league they can enter which I think will test these lads enough to come into my first team.
“We’ll play a lot of games against the first-team squad and try to get friendlies against higher-level teams. We’ll work on their development.”
The development squad allows Pool to take chances on young overseas players and see how they adapt to English football. This summer players from France, Spain and Algeria have all arrived at Bloomfield Road.
While some may never be seen in a first-team shirt, Holloway believes the process will prove worthwhile if he unearths one or two gems.
He said: “All I want from this squad is to test these boys to see if they are good enough to get into my team.
“It’s all about preparing them, so if they are needed they are ready and our fans won’t notice a difference.
“Hopefully we’ll benefit by finding a couple of stars. We didn’t have this support system before. I think the atmosphere is building because the lads are all being trained in the same professional way. They are being well cared for.”
Holloway has built a backroom staff boasting huge Football League experience. Steve Thompson, Phil Horner, George Wood, John Murphy, Keith Millen, John Hills, Alan Wright and Ciaran Donnelly are now employed at the club.
“What more can I do to move this club forward?” asked Holloway. “Keith Millen is an ex-Championship manager and I have some hugely experienced staff working for us.
“I think the proof will be in the pudding. To beat what we’ve done before we’ll have to be good but I think we can.”