Gary Parkinson received the perfect birthday tonic when he saw the Seasiders team for the FA Cup clash with Southampton.
Ian Holloway picked eight members of Parkinson’s youth side in his 18 for Saturday’s third-round trip to St Mary’s Stadium.
And although the Seasiders crashed out 2-0, Holloway reckons that naming so many teenagers was a testament to the fine work that Parkinson, 43 today, has done as youth team coach.
Holloway gave youth its chance in a bid to keep his regulars fresh for Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool.
And he said he hoped the 1,033 Pool fans who made the journey to the south coast understood his decision.
“Unfortunately we are out of the Cup. I hope our fans, who were again absolutely magnificent, enjoyed it,” said Holloway.
“I want that cup competition every week and that is what it feels like for us. We haven’t got to wait for a cup draw – we have got Chelsea and Manchester United coming to Bloomfield Road soon.
“I want that to continue and so do my players, and that is why I picked the team I did.”
As for Parkinson, Holloway says he wants his colleague to make a full recovery and return to the job he was doing so well before suffering a stroke last year.
Parkinson is continuing to undergo treatment in hospital four months after falling ill and Holloway said: “I just can’t believe what has happened to Gary. We are all hoping he comes back.
“In the summer I asked him to get the young lads playing the same way as my first team lads and he did that.
“The energy he gave them is there for all to see because they are having a magnificent season in the youth league.
“Everybody at the club is galvanised by what has happened to Gary. I am putting temporary measures in place to help us but I want Gary to come back to work for me again. I want him to get well and I will never ever give up on him.”
Cumbria-born Liam Tomsett, 18, made his full debut in the centre of midfield. Youth team striker Tom Barkhuizen, winger Kingsley Francis-Reynolds and left-back Josh Roberts all came off the bench for their first taste of senior action, while Mark Halstead, Biko Younda, Adam Dodd and Pa Modu Jobe were unused substitutes.
Holloway felt the youngsters all did a great job, and would have performed even better with more time to prepare. “They all go to college on a Thursday, so they couldn’t train with my first that day,” he explained.
“Our coach left Blackpool at 9am on Friday, so there wasn’t any time that day to rehearse anything either.
“I met them in the team hotel near Southampton that night and told them the team, so they didn’t do badly at all considering how little time they had to ready themselves.
“It was quite a brave thing to do, given the form Southampton have been in of late (Saints went into the tie on a four-match winning run), and I am delighted we didn’t get hammered.
“I thought my lads did well not to fold after they scored their second.
“Two was about right. Three might have flattered Southampton because we had a couple of chances at the start of the second half – Jason Euell’s header and Brett Ormerod hitting the post.
“We have no injuries and I rested some lads for our match with Liverpool. I thought that was what we needed to do with the strength of our squad. I was very proud of all the lads.”
As his comments suggest, Holloway wasn’t too upset to be out of FA Cup. He had described the game as “an inconvenience” beforehand and is happy he can now concentrate solely on the Premier League survival.
Holloway praised Southampton and admitted the better side won, though he did take issue with a few of the home supporters’ choice of chant.
“The only thing that dampened it a bit was the mentality of certain people singing stupid songs,” said the Pool boss. “They were singing, ‘Premier League, you’re having a laugh’. Well, I am – I am loving every minute of it and you can’t wipe the smile off my face, you Southampton fan.
“You should have more respect for us because we have earned the right to be there and you haven’t at the moment.
“I hope you get back to where you were before but that song isn’t very nice and not very graceful. To the proper Southampton supporters, I’d like to say thanks for not singing an absolutely ridiculous song.”