Bear pit atmosphere, never-say-die attitude and euphoric celebrations - Keith Southern recalls his memories of Blackpool's play-off triumph at the City Ground

The “bear pit” atmosphere at the City Ground for Blackpool’s unforgettable play-off victory in 2010 is the best Keith Southern has ever encountered.

Monday, 11th May 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 11th May 2020, 12:11 pm

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It was on this day in 2010 that the Seasiders sealed their spot in the Wembley final after an enthralling 4-3 victory over Billy Davies' much-fancied Nottingham Forest side.

It is a night that Blackpool fans will never forget, many supporters even claiming it was a better game than the 3-2 win against Cardiff City in the final which clinched promotion to the Premier League.

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Keith Southern joins in with the euphoric celebrations

Recalling his memories from the night, Southern told The Gazette: “The atmosphere at that game was probably as good as I’ve played in. Night games under the lights, there’s just something about it.

“I know it was a warm evening and the lights probably didn’t turn on until 9pm or 9.30pm. But games under the lights always seem to add that extra special feeling to the atmosphere.

“On that particular day, when we did our warm-up, Billy Davies was in the centre of the pitch which is something we’d never seen before from a manager.

“He was really rousing and rallying the Forest fans and I felt the roof was going to come off the stadium at one point.

“It was a bit of a bear pit by the time we got back into the changing room to get our shin pads on and our tape on and match boots on.

“By the time we got into the tunnel and ready for kick-off, the place was electric.”

Play-off ties are usually cagey affairs and, leading 2-1 from the first leg, the Seasiders could have been forgiven for sitting on their one-goal advantage and trying to see the game out.

But that, according to Southern, just wasn’t in Holloway’s make-up.

“It was never in Ollie’s mindset or the players’ mindset to go and try to shut up shop and protect our lead,” the former midfielder added.

“The mentality was, if we’re going to fail, let’s fail on how we’ve done it all season and let’s continue with our identity and press our personality on them. If it’s not good enough, then so be it, but let’s continue in the fashion that got us there in the first place.

“It never really bothered us going a goal down. You hear a lot of so-called experts say goals change games, you hear that quote quite a lot in football now, but it never really affected us.

“For us, it was just a case of picking the ball out of the net, moving on quickly and get back to doing what we were doing. Even going two goals down, it didn’t really affect us.

“We knew, deep down, that Forest were going to score that night. But we also had belief that we had the players at the top end of the pitch that could make the difference.”

Looking back on those unforgettable post-match celebrations, Southern expresses his surprise at how euphoric they were given only half of the job had been completed.

“The celebrations at the end with the fans behind the goal will live long in the memory, likewise in the changing room after,” he said.

“I must say, it always fascinates me - especially now I’m a coach, why do players - myself included - celebrate and go overboard when all we had done was get to Wembley? In a final there’s a 50-50 chance you may not win.

“But we celebrated that night, we had drinks on the coach on the way home and some of the boys went out in Blackpool afterwards - it was a real party atmosphere.

“But that was just us that season, we had that camaraderie and team spirit which helped us steam-roll that energy to the final. It was an incredible night all round.

“I don’t think it was in Ollie’s nature to calm us down. He wore his heart on his sleeves because he’s as emotional as they come.

“He joined in the euphoria, he jumped, he danced, he sang and I think he felt something great was bubbling along.

“There was an energy within the camp, so he didn’t try and temper what we were doing after the game. He knew there was another two weeks until the final, so he let us have our night.

“I think he knew there was a time and a place and we would soon get our feet back on the ground.”