Blackpool in the Premier League 10 years on: Ian Holloway vows to change the Seasiders' methods

It’s 10 years since Blackpool graced the top flight and we’re retelling the story week-by-week of that sensational season in the big time.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 3:00 pm

A decade ago, the Seasiders had a free weekend thanks to the international break and, as STEVE CANAVAN reported at the time, manager Ian Holloway used the time for some studying abroad….

Ian Holloway reckons his fact-finding visit to Spain has changed his life.

The Seasiders boss is now more in love with the Spanish game than ever and has vowed to change Pool’s training methods from top to bottom.

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Ian Holloway and Steve Thompson were preparing to implement a club-wide playing style

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He says it won’t happen overnight but, by the start of next season, he wants everyone at the club – from the youth set-up to the first team – to be playing in the same style.

“The trip was more than worth it – it has changed the rest of my life, ” said an excited Holloway after his five-day trip to Madrid.

“I am a man on a mission now. I believed in the revolution of passing the ball before but now I believe in it even more. I believe everything they are doing in that country is fantastic.”

Holloway twice saw Spain’s World Cup-winning side train, as well as visiting Real and Atletico Madrid and Getafe.

He was given guided tours of training facilities and told the secrets of the Spaniards’ brand of football.

Holloway said: “It isn’t totally different to how we train but I think there are some things we can really learn from.

“I was trying to do this sort of thing anyway – to pass the ball and play football the way it should be played – but I am even more convinced that what I want to do is right and I am going to continue with it.

“From what I’ve seen, Spain’s teams do it at all levels and at all ages.

“They make the game harder for the opposition by making it tighter and their players are getting better and better with the ball. That’s what I want my players to do.

“Will we get done if we try to do the same things? Possibly.

“I’ll have to be careful about how I introduce it. I’ll have to do it bit by bit but there is nothing I am more intent on doing.

“I just love watching Spain’s football and the way they pass the ball.

“They were always the nearly men who played lovely, but now I think the rest of the world is trailing in their wake because they dominate the ball better than anyone else.”

While Holloway was away, he left instructions for the reserves to play in a Barcelona-style 4-4-2, with the four in midfield forming a diamond.

It didn’t exactly work last Wednesday, when an experienced Pool second string were beaten 4-2 by a West Ham reserve side mainly made up of teenagers.

The boss is determined to get it right, adding: “It won’t happen overnight but, believe me, I am going to tweak the whole club. We are all going to do it.

“Most of my players can play the way these Spanish lads do. I am delighted with the work we’ve already done but it can always get better and it will.

“Obviously we are letting late goals in and I think I know why, so we are going to do things slightly differently and change things as we go along.”

Elsewhere, Steve Thompson has described this Premier League season as the most unpredictable ever and says there will be plenty more thrills and spills before the end of the campaign.

The Seasiders assistant boss is confident Pool will stay up but claims nothing can be taken for granted in a division which has produced shock results all year.

Thompson says preparations for the next assignment – at Fulham on Sunday – are going well but he is wary of the trip to Craven Cottage and admits he is surprised Mark Hughes’ side are at the wrong end of the table.

Fulham are just three points clear of the drop zone, two points above Pool.

Thompson said: “Am I surprised they aren’t higher? You could say that about half the teams in the league but I am surprised Fulham aren’t safe because on paper they have players to hurt you.

“They have missed Bobby Zamora, who had that bad leg break, but he is back now and is a quality striker. They have Andy Johnson who can also cause damage.

“Every player in their side can hurt you and they have a top-quality manager but it is very much in our hands.

“A couple of wins will give you a bit of breathing space, though a couple of bad results and you are right back in it. That’s why everyone from halfway down the division can still get dragged into it.

“It is probably the most unpredictable Premier League ever, with a lot of clubs at the bottom winning and dragging others into trouble.

“There are going to be some helter-skelter rides for a few teams between now and the end of the season.”

Thompson held a lengthy meeting with Holloway after the boss returned from Spain this week.

Holloway explained exactly what he had learned on his fact-finding trip and spelled out how he wants to change training methods.

Thompson added: “The gaffer has come back with fresh ideas, things he has learned from the Spanish people, and we are going to make things more demanding for the players.

“The passing drills and possession work we do will become more intense. You watch the Spanish passing game and their mentality is probably a little different to the English one. We tend to pass a couple of times and then someone thinks he has to have a go.

“In Spain they have a more patient approach. From youth team to first team, they try to play to a system that suits them. They use the ball well, even when they get it under pressure.

“Ajax had a very similar system, which went right through their club to suit them. That is what we are trying to implement here.

“Obviously we have only a short time between now and the end of the season but we will alter the sessions to make it tougher.”

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