Ian Holloway in buoyant mood as Seasiders prepare for crucial Easter double-header - 10 years on from Blackpool's promotion to the Premier League
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Over the coming weeks, The Gazette’s football writer Matt Scrafton will be dipping into the archives to bring you our reports from a decade ago on Blackpool’s remarkable journey to the promised land.
Ian Holloway is “absolutely buzzing” at the prospect of trying to cap a sensational first season in charge by leading Blackpool into the Championship play-offs.
But he’s labelled tomorrow’s trip to Scunthorpe as the toughest game of the season and admitted that his players can’t afford to slip up.
His squad will be boosted by the return of fit-again DJ Campbell and Hameur Bouazza.
David Vaughan has also made a quicker than expected recovery from a foot injury and could start.
Stephen Crainey (knee) and Brett Ormerod (fractured hand) are out, and will miss both tomorrow’s game and the Easter Monday visit of Doncaster.
That’s a blow but it hasn’t dampened Holloway’s spirits as he enters the make or break stage of the campaign.
“I am absolutely buzzing I have to say, I’m loving every minute of this,” said the manager.
“I am pleased for the lads that we’re doing well and in with a chance because they’ve been so good all season they deserve it.
“If you think about the games we’ve lost, we’ve still been in with a chance in nearly all of them.
“There have been only three performances where we haven’t done very well, all involving Sheffield – United away and Wednesday away and home. We let ourselves down in those.
“But the rest of the season has been an absolute joy and I think we’ve played some fantastic football.
“The lads are improving. They are gaining belief as a group, although they are having to learn as we go on because they are not used to being in this position.
“They are more used to a dogfight than a promotion chase.
“But they’ve been magnificent and I honestly think that every single one of them has done this club proud.
“I think they’ve worn this shirt with pride. They’ve given me everything they’ve got.”
The players will have to keep putting the effort in for a little while longer though, for the next half-dozen fixtures are crucial to Pool’s chances of making the top six.
Holloway feels his team must get something from every game.
“We’ve given ourselves no margin for error. That is the truth,” he said.
“If you’d have said to me that, with six games left, we’d be four points off the playoffs in seventh place, I’d have ripped your arm off, so we are delighted to be where we are.
“But we’ve had a couple of bad games that have caused us to drop out of the top six.
“Two games ago you’d have thought we were dead and buried but football is a funny game.
“I want us to nick as many points as we can, but I do really think we need to get every point if we are going to catch the teams above us.”
The final push begins tomorrow against a Scunthorpe side that are scrapping for their lives at the bottom end of the division, followed by the home match with play-off rivals Doncaster.
“The next two matches are huge,” added Holloway.
“The challenge I’ve set to the lads is ‘can we give ourselves a chance to get in the play-offs by the last game of the season?’
“There will be some twists and turns but all we’ve got to try and do is put the pressure on the people above us immediately, starting tomorrow.
“It is the toughest game of the season I think. Scunthorpe have won the last three games and they are fighting for their lives.
“We had a very tough game against them at our place in November. We were 10 down. They got a man sent off and we managed to beat them 4-1 but until that it was such a tough game.”