Ian Holloway pays tribute to Blackpool fans as play-off bid goes to the wire - 10 years on from Blackpool’s promotion to the Premier League

Blackpool boss Ian HollowayBlackpool boss Ian Holloway
Blackpool boss Ian Holloway
It’s 10 years since the greatest achievement of Blackpool FC’s recent history: promotion to the Premier League for a season feasting on unforgettable football at the English game’s top table.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be dipping into the archives to bring you STEVE CANAVAN’S Gazette reports from a decade ago on Blackpool’s remarkable journey to the promised land.

Ten years ago, boss Ian Holloway was waxing lyrical about Blackpool’s loyal supporters...

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Ian Holloway has praised Blackpool’s “terrific” fans after the club’s biggest crowd for more than 32 years watched the win over Nottingham Forest.

A superb 11,164 fans packed into Bloomfield Road to see Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Forest.

That is the best attendance for a league game since April 1978, during the Seasiders’ final few weeks in the top two tiers before what turned out to be a 29-year absence.

Back then a crowd of 12,201 watched a 1-1 draw with Stoke City.

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“The fans have been terrific all season. They have backed us from the word go,” said a delighted Holloway.

“There has been a great atmosphere in the ground throughout the season.

“I saw it as my job to try to help get people through the turnstiles, and if our fans are going away happy with what they have seen and entertained by how we play, then I am delighted.

“The optimism the fans have is fantastic and we need to make sure it remains that way.

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“Don’t get carried away with what we could do because that’s the only time you ever get disappointed, when you think you’ve got something and you haven’t.

“No-one turned up expecting us to be where we are now. If there was a Blackpool fan at the start of the season who did, I’d like to meet him and shake his hand because he is a genius or a fortune teller.

“But I don’t think there was anybody in the ground who thought that with two games left we’d be two points outside the playoffs.

“So let’s remember that and go into these final two games full of hope and fully backing the lads.”

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Attracting crowds of more than 10,000 has been rare in the past three decades, with attendances dwindling as the club’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

There have been a handful of FA Cup clashes which have broken the five-figure barrier.

But prior to Saturday, the last occasion Pool smashed the 10,000 barrier in the league was in November 1998, when 10,949 turned up to watch the goalless draw with local rivals Preston. There were more than 5,000 North End fans in the ground that day.

Only 10,427 turned up to watch England World Cup winner Alan Ball’s first game in the manager’s dugout in August 1980.

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But now, with the club riding high in the Championship and the opening of the Armfield Stand, supporters are finally returning.

That will please chairman Karl Oyston, who says the club needs a much larger fanbase to be able to compete on a more equal footing with their Championship rivals.

Oyston said: “The main determining factor on the squad budget is the crowd size, and it would be unfortunate if the fantastic work the manager and players have done couldn’t be built on because of constraints.

“The bottom line is that if we have any aspirations whatsoever to be a big club and move forward, we have to be averaging 10,000-11,000 home fans every week. That’s the aim.”

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In other news, Pool forward Gary Taylor-Fletcher will disagree with anyone who reckons Pool have the easiest run-in among the Championship play-off rivals.

The Seasiders’ last two games pit them against Peterborough United and Bristol City, and they are likely to need all six points to force their way into the top six.

Sixth-placed Swansea, who are two points better off than Pool, go to Sheffield United and host Doncaster Rovers, while Leicester City, a further two ahead, follow Saturday’s trip to Preston with a home game against Middlesbrough.

“I wouldn’t agree we’ve got the easiest last two games,” said Taylor-Fletcher.

“Peterborough in particular is going to be tough.

“There is no pressure on them after relegation.

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“They are just there to enjoy it and will all be aiming to please the new manager.

“But all we can do is turn up, play our football and hopefully get the right result.”

Taylor-Fletcher won’t be worrying too much about results elsewhere.

He said: “All we can do is concentrate on winning our games.

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“Only after we come off the pitch can we worry about whether Swansea or Leicester have dropped points.

“If they don’t, we’ve still had a great season but at this stage there is still every chance.

“One thing you mustn’t do is get deflated.

“On Saturday, we came into the dressing room after beating Forest to find Swansea and Leicester had both won. But it is no big deal.

“We have worked wonders this season and we’re continuing to do well and win games.

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“We can only carry on doing that and hopefully one of the others will slip up.”

Taylor-Fletcher, who started in the middle of a front three on Saturday – “a role I really like playing” he says – added: “I think we can make it.

“Swansea have a tough game at Sheffield United, then Doncaster at home – two hard games.

“But it could still go either way and we have to continue playing like we did against Forest.

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“Right from the off we knew what we wanted to do. We got at them, we turned them and we played our football in the right areas.

“We got three goals and they were three good goals too. The lads are buzzing.”