IH: Drop would be end of world

When the Tangerines were being tipped to be relegated from the

Championship at the start of last season, the idea they would be

facing Manchester United at the end of this one seemed

preposterous. Even last summer, when the Tangerines were preparing

for their first top-flight campaign in three decades, few gave them

any hope of travelling to United with their Premier League future

still to be decided. With by far the smallest playing budget of the

20 clubs, and the lowest average gate, Holloway has performed a

minor miracle to reach this stage. However, telling the charismatic

Bristolian what a good job he has done will not ease the pain

should Sunday teatime bring a return ticket to the Championship.

“It will be the end of the world,” he said. “It will definitely

feel like that. You can’t be a football manager, or a player, or

have anything to do with a club and be happy if you go down. “All

you can do is let the dust settle and go on.” Holloway made a

pledge when Blackpool gained promotion by beating Cardiff in a

Wembley play-off he regards as secondary to the task now facing his

team. Tempting as it would be to smash a pay structure that had

been strictly adhered to by chairman Karl Oyston, the pair knew it

was no way to run Blackpool’s finances. So, should they fall, the

Tangerines will do so knowing the financial disasters that have

affected so many other Premier League clubs who find their status

cruelly stripped away will not be creeping up on them. “We have

been very clever with our budget,” said Holloway. “We have

contracts to protect the club that other clubs don’t. More fool

them. “There is no danger of not being in existence. We will not go

out of business. “What I will have are some very tough business

decisions to make because we might lose this group of players. “I

can’t do much about that. We are not in the same ball park as some

of these other teams and what they can pay. That is just the way it

is.” Always ready with a quip, one senses Holloway’s claim earlier

this week that the Premier League would like to see the back of him

was made for the benefit of his own players, as a galvanising tool.

Behind the scenes, nothing is being left to chance. Sir Alex

Ferguson has already agreed to a request for Blackpool to visit Old

Trafford tomorrow to get a feel for the environment they will be

asked to fight for their futures in. That, nor a succession of kind

words delivered throughout the season, should not be interpreted as

a sign Ferguson is merely going to step aside to let Blackpool win.

In fact, with out-of-form Birmingham facing an equally tough trip

to Tottenham and Wigan gearing up to combat an aerial bombardment

at Stoke, having failed miserably to cope with similar tactics from

West Ham last weekend before their jaw-dropping comeback,

calculators might be required to cope with a scenario when any of

the three teams locked on the same number of points could win and

go down, or lose and stay up. “One of my analysts was looking at

the table the other day. I said ‘Good God. What are you doing? You

are going to go mental’. “My dad was an amateur player. He would

say ‘our name is on the cup’. Sometimes it is. “This weekend, we

have to do something no-one else has managed this season. Beat the

champions on their own ground. “I take great motivation from the

way we played against them earlier this season. For 70 minutes we

were absolutely magnificent. Then they brought on Ryan Giggs and

Javier Hernandez and we ran out of steam. “It scares me just saying

that. “But this is an opportunity for us to achieve the best thing

we could ever have dreamed of. Keeping a club like ours at this

level.”