Ollie says he’s created more pressure

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IAN HOLLOWAY says he has no problems if Blackpool fans now expect more from his team.

The boss admits that when the Seasiders got promoted two years ago there was no pressure on him to succeed.

He took over a side struggling to keep their heads above water in the Championship and the rise to the Premier League was hailed as a staggering achievement.

But because of that year in the top flight, and the financial windfall it bought, expectation has increased and supporters want to get back to the big time.

That means this season has been a very different experience for Holloway, but one he has no problem with.

“We have built up expectation and I am proud of that,” Holloway said.

“Without expectation you are nothing, so great, bring it on.

“Our lads have played so well that the fans are wanting success. We’ve had it before and we want it again.

“You can’t stop that.

“We have to be ready to shoulder that responsibility and that is what we haven’t done well enough in the last couple of away games.

“But in general we have been fantastic this season and I am so proud of my players for what they’ve achieved.

“I think they are trying their utmost all the time and they are learning to handle a difficult new situation, because expectancy isn’t what most of them are used to.

“They have done very well. We already have 60 points.

“Unfortunately the team that is top of the table, tonight’s opponents Southampton, has 18 more.

“But I don’t think we’ll be 32 points off the top like last time we got promoted. We finished 32 points behind Newcastle two years ago and yet back then everyone was shouting how good we were.

“So how good are we this year? That’s what I want people to realise. We are doing really well and we are still in there with a great opportunity.”

With seven games to go and the competition fierce - at least 10 clubs fancy their chances of gatecrashing the play-off places - Pool have to make sure they take as many points as possible from the last 21 on offer.

They host the leaders Southampton tonight (kick off 5.25pm) in front of a sell-out crowd.

Holloway knows that a victory will be a huge boost in the Seasiders quest to make the top six.

“We will see what happens tonight, It is a really tough game against a quality side,” said the boss.

“But I am happy because I know I’ve got a very good squad. Are they good enough? I believe they are but I don’t know for certain yet.

“I believe they could have got an awful lot more points. But unfortunately there are a lot of other good sides in this division.

“The top 10 has never been so strong. It is as good as most teams at the bottom end of the Premier League.

“You could throw a blanket over the top 10 in this division and the likes of Wigan Blackburn, QPR and Wolves at the lower end of the next league and it wouldn’t be clear who the best teams are.

“So everybody has a chance of making the play-offs.

“The skill of it is trying to get on a run at the right time to get you what you want.

“We have left it too late now for automatic but let’s see if we can get in these play-offs and win them. I don’t see why we can’t.”

Matt Phillips, Tom Ince, Keith Southern and Neal Eardley are all expected to be back in the starting 11 tonight after missing last weekend’s clash at Reading.

Stephen Dobbie, in his second spell at the club after another loan move from Swansea, could also feature from the off.

Nouha Dicko, on loan from Wigan, increased his chances of a call-up by scoring a brace in a behind-closed-doors win over Leeds earlier in the week.

Southampton dangerman Rickie Lambert, the Championship’s top scorer with 24 goals, will start after overcoming a hamstring strain.

Kevin Phillips will be keen to add to his 17 goals – he is a former Saint, spending two seasons with Southampton earlier in his career.

Stephen Crainey and Brett Ormerod have also had spells at the St Mary’s Stadium.