Paul Ince hailed his battling stars as Blackpool recorded their best start to a season in 67 years.
The 1-0 victory against newly relegated Reading made it three wins and a draw from Pool’s first four Championship games, a start which hasn’t been bettered since the days of Stan Mortensen in the 1946/47 season.
It also meant Ince’s side spent 24 hours at the top of the table, until Nottingham Forest moved ahead on goal difference with yesterday’s draw at Watford.
Pool’s start is all the more remarkable when you consider their lack of numbers, three more injuries having left an already depleted squad right down to the bare bones.
Manager Ince said: “I’m so proud of the lads, of how they just stuck to their guns.
“Many were out of position, but they realised they just had to do a job because of our injury situation.
“It was fantastic. We just keep defying the odds all the time. You look at a team like Reading, who have spent an absolute fortune on their squad.
“But I said to the players before the game: as much talent as Reading have got, that alone won’t win you games.
“We know we haven’t got the quality others have, but we have a real togetherness and spirit which will carry us through games.”
Already missing star man Tom Ince, Pool had to contend with the late withdrawals of Stephen Davies, Isaiah Osbourne and Craig Cathcart.
To make matters worse, Gary MacKenzie limped off during the second half with a hamstring strain.
Ince said of his bad luck: “I don’t know if I’ve run over a black cat or something, it’s baffling me.
“We lost Cathcart, Osbourne collided with Basham in training, then we lose Gary on Saturday.
“The only saving grace is we have an international break coming up (after Saturday’s home clash with Watford), which will allow our players to have a bit of a rest.”
As for his square pegs in round holes, Ince explained: “I don’t think Neal Bishop had ever played right-back before, let alone left wing.
“These players have a real mental toughness and awareness. Funnily enough, Nathan Delfouneso played against Bury on Tuesday in midfield, but it’s a different thing asking him to do it against a team like Reading. We were at sixes and sevens, we really were.”
Saturday’s display saw everyone pulling together at Bloomfield Road, and Ince had a special message for the supporters.
“A big thank you has to go to the fans - they really got us through it. When you are under pressure, you really need your fans to be your 12th man.
“I think the fans realised we had players giving everything out of position and really got behind us. “As much as it’s great from the players, I’m so proud of the fans too.”
Royals boss Nigel Adkins conceded his side need to tighten up at the back.
Adkins’ side have won only once since relegation and he said: “We came with a desire to win but we didn’t take our chances.
“We made a mistake at the back for their goal, and fair play to the Blackpool player for taking advantage of that but we’ve got to be doing better in that situation.
“It was a very slow game but we got ourselves into it.There were reasons the game was slow (Adkins was not happy about the pitch) but well done to Blackpool because they’ve got the three points.
“We wanted a clean sheet and there’s no reason we shouldn’t have done that. It was a poor goal to give away.”