LONDON: Blackpool manager Ian Holloway vowed to take the fight to the Premier League’s big-guns after leading his unfashionable club into the top-flight for the first time in 39 years.
The Seasiders clinched promotion from Division Two with a 3-2 victory over Cardiff in Saturday’s play-off final at Wembley, but the champagne corks had hardly stopped popping before Holloway turned his attention to the challenge of competing against Chelsea and Manchester United and the rest of the elite.
Although Holloway can look forward to spending some of the club’s estimated £90mil (US$130mil) windfall on new players, he is well aware his team will be expected to struggle.
Many sides promoted via the play-offs come straight back down, as was the case with Burnley this season.
Yet the always-honest former Plymouth, Leicester and QPR boss has no intention of changing the attacking game-plan that helped his team come from behind twice to beat Cardiff.
“It’s way beyond my wildest dreams that this group of players have achieved something that I think history might not see again,” Holloway said.
“I want to win the Champions League in two years. Well, that’s as wild a dream as us being in the Premier League.
“But it might find a few out when they come to our ground, if the pitch is bobbly and the stand isn’t quite there yet it might find a few out.
“Chelsea are going to have to come to Bloomfield Road, and they had better have the right spirit because we will have a right go at them – and hopefully they won’t win 8-0.
“To be blunt, you’ll probably see us take a few hammerings but I hope it won’t destroy what we have got here because our fans won’t get expectant, I guarantee that. They are just loving it.
“It’s a different level now and the challenge for all of us is can we move forward? But it’s too early for that, we deserve the chance to celebrate and that’s what we are going to do.”
Blackpool’s promotion was as much a triumph for Holloway as any of his players after a career spent in English football’s lower leagues.
His one-liners and gags during his interviews have led many to regard Holloway as a figure of fun rather than a serious football man.
But he had been keen to emphasise his professionalism and passion for the game in the build-up to Saturday’s match and took the opportunity to underline the point in the aftermath of promotion.
“I’m not a clown, I’m not an idiot and I’m not madcap,” Holloway said.
“I’m just a human being who tries to encourage other people and who sometimes needs encouraging himself – and I might need a lot of it next year.”
Cardiff led twice through Michael Chopra and Joe Ledley but they were pegged back by Charlie Adam’s free-kick and Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s close-range header.
Brett Ormerod hit Blackpool’s winner in first half stoppage time as he poked home after DJ Campbell’s miscued effort rolled into his path.
For Cardiff boss Dave Jones, another season in Division Two beckons after his men failed to become the first team from Wales to reach the Premier League.
“I wish Ian and Blackpool all the best, while we have to take it on the chin and try to bounce back. We’ll live to fight another day,” Jones said. “We went close but not close enough.”
Cardiff at least have a brighter future to look forward to having fallen foul of the taxman this year, with a Malaysian consortium led by Tan Sri Vincent Tan taking over the club and ploughing in funds.
Jones said: “My heart and my mind are towards Cardiff City – maybe the new board will want a change but at the moment I’m focused on going away on holiday for a few days and then starting again.” — AFP