POOL have been here before. And so has Stephen Dobbie.
Though he has never been a permanent Seasider, he is in the remarkable position of perhaps helping them to the Premier League for a second time.
Has a loan player ever made such a contribution before? Probably not.
Two years ago, just like now, Dobbie joined on loan from Swansea. Back then, he perhaps didn’t play as key a role as he has this time.
Ian Holloway was playing a more traditional 4-3-3 in 2010, with a midfield of Charlie Adam, Keith Southern and David Vaughan.
And with DJ Campbell a permanent fixture up front, and the likes of Brett Ormerod and Gary Taylor-Fletcher bang in form, Dobbie often had to make do with a place on the bench.
This time round, it would be unthinkable to have him among the substitutes.
In Holloway’s 4-2-1-3 formation, he fits in beautifully playing as that ‘1’, in between the midfield and the front three.
The impact he has made since arriving on March 22, is nothing short of startling. Seven starts, six goals. He is a talisman.
Just about the only thing he hasn’t got right since becoming a temporary tangerine was a first leg miss in the semi-final with Birmingham, when he blazed over the bar in front of the north stand at Bloomfield Road, when it seemed easier to score.
As usual, he bounced back in the next game – firing in at St Andrew’s to ease the nerves and set the Seasiders on their way to the aggregate victory which set up tomorrow’s Wembley decider with West Ham.
Remarkably, it will be the third season in succession that Dobbie has ended his year with a trip to the national stadium.
First he helped Blackpool beat Cardiff, then he scored in Swansea’s 4-2 win over Reading. Tomorrow he aims to complete a remarkable treble with victory over West Ham.
“That personal record doesn’t concern me though,” said Dobbie, a 29-year-old, who is as modest as they come.
“I’m just here to try and help the boys achieve something. If it ends in me winning at Wembley again then great.
“But the most important thing is trying to get this club into the Premier League. That is the only aim among the lads and it isn’t going to be easy because we all saw how West Ham played against Cardiff in the play-off semis – they were fantastic.
“But there is no reason in a one-off game why we can’t beat them.
“Yes, it is going to be a tough task, but we’ve got the boys in the dressing room to do it.”
Those boys have certainly done a fine job, not least because no one really gave them a chance of achieving what they have this season – even Blackpool fans.
Last summer, when the gloom of relegation was still hanging heavy in the air and the best players had departed, a top-10 Championship finish was a realistic target.
To have got back to Wembley is a special achievement indeed, especially without the likes of Adam, Vaughan and DJ Campbell.
Dobbie agrees it has been a hell of an effort by a team that has had to rebuild. But he says that although there are no longer as many star names in tangerine, there is more consistency and quality throughout the squad.
“I’d say that there’s more of a team here now than there was last time,” Dobbie added.
“We had some great individual players in the squad last time but we are more of a team now. The younger players like Tom Ince and Matt Phillips are fantastic.
“Now we have to try and finish the job, and hopefully we can do just that.”
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