soccer

2010 English Premier League Preview: Blackpool

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Has a professional sports team ever entered a season as expectation-free as Blackpool does in its first time in top flight of English football during the Premier League era?

Literally nothing -- nothing -- is expected from Blackpool, aside from showing up all 38 matches and wearing matching uniforms. This, friends, is a team Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza could have gotten behind and pitched to NBC executives if the year still happened t0 be 1992.

Few, if anyone without a Blackpool tattoo inside their lower lip, is making a case how the Tangerines will miraculously avoid the drop, much like Hull City did two seasons ago. There aren't stories about how this is a good footballing side, with underrated players.

In actuality, nothing much has been said about Blackpool other than it's a nice, surprising underdog tale for a club that was -- correct me if we've heard this before -- caught adrift for many decades, but have seen there fortunes change thanks to the investment of rich Latvian businessman Valeri Belokon.

No matter how you slice it (no pun intended), the Tangerines in the Premier League could get ugly.

Not even after a long night at the pub, would be Holloway able to predict anything beyond a 20th place finish. By whichever preferred metric you choose to assess squads, it doesn't bode well for Blackpool.

The club only has 20 players in its squad, and even with Belokon's money they haven't spent wantonly (or at all for that matter) to supplement the team ranks. Arguably it's most influential player in the Championship promotion playoffs -- D.J. Campbell (*) -- is back for the time being at Leicester City.

(*) Shame he might not return since he played with both neck tats, and I think, an ankle monitoring unit.

It'll be hard pressed to convince most players with any pedigree to spend a season in the English resort town, too. Despite whatever charms Holloway or the Blackpool seaside amusement parks possesses, almost all modern footballers, despite their typically low IQs can read the situation for what it is -- a one-year holiday in the top flight.

For instance, rising U.S. star Michael Bradley's name was bandied about being linked to Blackpool. Sure he'd get plenty of playing time, but come May 2011 he's looking for another club once Blackpool is back down in the Championship. It'd be a way to dip his toes into the waters of English football, but could easily backfire and set his career back a season or two. Bradley is a nice prospect, but he can't carry a team like this on his shoulders -- perhaps no one short of a transcendent talent like Cristiano Ronaldo could.

What's left is a collection of lower-league journeymen like Brett Omerod, Stephen Crainey, Jason Euell and Gary Taylor-Fletcher to name a few.

If Holloway has this team within six points of safety in April, call up the Queen because he deserves an O.B.E.

That's the harsh reality for Blackpool, and your typical Championship playoff winners. It's a wonderful, inspiring underdog story when the plucky, unheralded club wins promotion. Yet once it reaches the Premier League, sports Darwinism takes over.

It doesn't matter how many classic interviews Holloway is able to make, or how quaint the stadium is. It's a results oriented business and Blackpool finds itself up against it. The club simply isn't equipped to swim in the same pools as the top tier clubs in the League.

Lately, the Championship playoff winners have become Premier League chattel, a departure from the turn-of-the-century when Ipswich Town finished fifth in its promotion season. Bolton, came up in 2001, and placed 16th but has remained in the Prem ever since.

Since 2003 five Playoff winners have gone straight back down -- Wolves (2000); Crystal Palace (2004); Watford (2006); Derby (2007) and Burnley (2009). Only Birmingham (2002); West Ham (2005) and Hull City (2008) avoided the immediate trapdoor and Hull's reprieve lasted but one season.

The bar for Blackpool is clearly very low.

If it finishes ahead of the meager 11-point, one win haul by Derby County in 2007-08 the year will be a moderate success. Even if it's somehow worse, the one-year financial windfall for reaching the Premier League should at least allow Blackpool to shore up it's books and get its house in order.

Yet, as grim as it seems for Blackpool from a purely, clinical sporting standpoint it's not going to matter all too much. Fans will cheer their lungs out when the big boys -- Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. -- come to town.

For them it will be a season, however fleeting, in the sun.

Curbing your enthusiasm doesn't also mean curbing your fun while it lasts.

And for Blackpool, the clock is already ticking toward proverbial midnight when the Tangerines turn back into pumpkins.

Bottom line -- Blackpool should serve two purposes this year. First, the comedy potential by Holloway after a 5-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge should be off the charts. Second, this club is without question a three-point ATM. Burnley were supposed to play this role last year but were pretty plucky until Owen Coyle left. It's not far-fetched to say Blackpool will have an impact on all of the Premier League's mini-tables. Teams that fail to take all six points off the Tangerines are going to be kicking themselves come May.

In case you missed it:

* Blackburn Rovers
* Wolves
* Wigan Athletic
* West Brom

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