Blackpool in the Premier League 10 years on: Woeful Seasiders suffer Wigan Athletic defeat
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.
A decade ago, the Seasiders suffered a third straight defeat with Wigan Athletic running out 3-1 winners as STEVE CANAVAN reported…..
Two 3-1 defeats in a week but worlds apart.
It was hard to be disappointed after the loss to Arsenal, so well did the Seasiders play and so much effort they put in.
After Wigan? It was difficult to feel anything other than mindblowing disappointment, after Pool inexplicably threw in their worst display of the season.
It was the performance of a Championship side. Ian Holloway will not take offence at that. He knows it.
He also knows these displays have been few and far between and that, in the main, the Seasiders have been magnificent.
The truth is this: Pool are in the Premier League, so did you really expect anything other than a relegation battle? Holloway’s plea to supporters not to lose heart is spot on.
The team has done the town proud, lighting up the top flight and winning admirers the length and breadth of the land. They’ve hit a bad patch – now’s the time they most need support, not stick.
Who can tell how things will pan out, though there is one inescapable truth: Pool will drop if they continue to play like they did on Saturday.
It was a weird afternoon, because at no point during the 90 minutes did Holloway’s team perform like it can, and has done, for most of the season.
There was no cohesion. Passes went astray. Even Charlie Adam looked ordinary. It was just horrible.
Mind you, conceding in the manner the Seasiders did after just 145 seconds doesn’t exactly help.
Any students writing a dissertation entitled ‘football’s most absurd goals’ will surely include Wigan’s opener.
It was like the Keystone Kops meets Psycho – farcical and so bad it was frightening.
Craig Cathcart, magnificent all season, had what can only be described as a moment of madness, taking a free-kick on the halfway line and passing it straight to an opponent.
You sometimes see it in a five-a-side game when they let the kid on who’s not played much footie before, but not at a professional level, never mind Premier League.
To make matters worse for Cathcart, he slipped as he desperately tried to make up for his error and was still on the ground when Hugo Rodallega slotted the ball through Matt Gilks’ legs.
What a welcome back for Gilks. Cheered like a returning hero prior to kick-off, his first touch was to retrieve the ball from his net and boot it towards the halfway line.
Holloway had made three changes for what was, given everything at stake, one of the most important matches of the season.
Gilks, Neal Eardley and Elliot Grandin were back, Gilks most surprisingly, given the manager had answered a pre-match question about his keeper by saying “Gilks? No, he’s miles away. Got no muscle on his thigh.”
A little Fergie-style kidology, but it didn’t really matter – the team performance was so below par, Pool could have had Gilks, Richard Kingson and Paul Rachubka between the posts and they still wouldn’t have won.
The early goal was a sickener all round, as before kick-off, the atmosphere had been red hot.
Both sets of fans knew how important victory was, so cranked up the noise.
It was great to witness. Wigan’s early goal, though, took the wind out of the sails of the home supporters but it was only 1-0.
With top flight status at stake, Pool would roar back and do their damnedest to grab a leveller. Well, no, it never happened.
The half drifted by with very little to report other than those in tangerine constantly giving the ball away.
Wigan deserve credit for their shape and pressing, but the Seasiders made it easy for them.
So desperate were the home contingent for something to cheer, Keith Southern almost got a standing ovation for a harmless-looking shot from 25 yards that cleared the bar by several feet.
It represented the Seasiders’ first shot of the afternoon, and came after 44 minutes and 26 seconds.
If this could be classed as a fightback – though it would be rather generous to describe it as such – it was snuffed out a minute later when Wigan were gifted a second goal in first-half stoppage time.
A Pool throw-in from the right, Adam lost the ball to Charles N’Zogbia and the classy midfielder nipped into the area, drifted past Cathcart and Ian Evatt, and slotted past Gilks.
Even a Churchillian-style team talk by Holloway at the break didn’t get his charges going.
The boss reacted by making a triple substitution before the hour – James Beattie, Matt Phillips and Jason Puncheon joining the party, though that word somehow doesn’t seem appropriate.
A few minutes later, Wigan got a third. Moments before, the talk in the press box had been how Blackpool needed a scruffy goal to get them going.
Lo and behold, it happened. At the wrong end.
Mohamed Diame swung his left foot from distance, the ball walloped against Eardley’s buttock and skidded past a wrongfooted Gilks. It summed up the day.
With just 29 goals all season prior to kick-off, Wigan had arrived as the Premier League’s lowest scorers.
Pity they picked Saturday to start putting that right. This was the first occasion they had scored three away from home since beating Burnley in October 2009.
Pool did give their fans something to cheer seven minutes from time when Eardley’s free-kick was blocked, Phillips crossed the loose ball and DJ Campbell got in front of his marker to stab home.
It was just about the only bright spot of an otherwise miserable day.
This was Pool’s 12th defeat in 16 Premier League games since the turn of the year and pushed them into the drop zone for the first time. They are now being tipped by all and sundry for relegation.
If there has been an overriding quality amongst the squads at Bloomfield Road since the club’s remarkable rise to the top began with the League One promotion campaign in 2007, it has been spirit, character and a never-say-die attitude.
It may have gone a little AWOL in recent weeks, but now the club is actually in the bottom three and their backs are well and truly against the wall, I daresay we’ll see it again.
We need to, the club faces the mother of all battles to prove the country wrong and stay up.
They can do it but they need a win in at least one of the next two games.
It is time to remember how good they can be and to get at Newcastle next week from first whistle to last.
Put simply, it’s now or never.
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