Last on MOTD: Ian Holloway’s biggest achievement

UNDER the Football Truisms And Clichés Act 2010, brought in by the Coalition Government when everyone was worrying about spending cuts and stuff, it became an offence to refer to Blackpool FC without using the phrase “a breath of fresh air”.

Anyone who fails to abide by this law must, as punishment, climb to the top of Blackpool Tower wearing nothing but a tangerine afro wig and a matching leotard bearing the message: “I love fresh air.” (Though if they appeal, most people will be allowed to use the Tower lift.)

Ian Holloway promised Blackpool would be attacking when they won promotion to the Premier League and, by and large, his approach has paid off. While they could yet be sucked into a relegation battle, they have given themselves an excellent chance of staying up.

(If they do, I suspect the Premier League will ask them to celebrate the achievement by installing an undersoil heating system after the recent cold snaps saw them go six weeks without playing a home game.)

Holloway’s tactics have largely proved correct another prediction he made before the start of the season. In an interview with the Blackpool Gazette in June, he said that Blackpool’s entertainment factor would ensure they avoided appearing last on Match of the Day regularly this season.

“We won’t change our philosophy about attacking people, home and away, and that might lead to some entertaining games, so we won’t end up last on Match of the Day every week because there might be some goals going in,” he promised, showing a disappointing lack of interest in finishing top of the Gubbometer.

People talk about Holloway’s achievements in taking Blackpool into the Premier League on one of the Championship’s tiniest budgets. And they talk about the way he has really gone for in the top flight.

But while Holloway deserves credit for all of that, perhaps his most remarkable achievement has been to get Blackpool all the way to January before they appeared last on Match of the Day for the first time.

Before this set of midweek fixtures, 13 of the 20 Premier League clubs had appeared last on MOTD this season. Blackpool have become the 14th.

MOTD’s final match: Blackpool 1 Birmingham 2
Reporter: Damian Johnson

Blackpool’s fate was pretty much sealed on New Year’s Day, when Fulham’s 1-0 defeat at Tottenham was on last. You see, for midweek editions of MOTD, the Tuesday games appear at the end of the show, after Wednesday’s matches have been shown. Blackpool v Birmingham was one of three Tuesday night games this week, the others being Manchester United v Stoke (no chance of being on last, as it involved the leaders) and Fulham v West Brom (no chance of being on last, because Fulham had brought up the rear in the previous edition on New Year’s Day).

Blackpool would have had to pull out something extraordinary to avoid being on last this time. A 2-1 home defeat against Birmingham, however dramatic, just wasn’t going to cut it.

Holloway’s team are making rather a habit of letting in late goals at Bloomfield Road. They’ve played seven home games this season, and conceded goals in the 85th minute or later in six of them.

The latest late show from a visiting team came courtesy of Scott Dann, Alan Partridge’s favourite footballer. After Blackpool’s top scorer DJ Campbell, once of Birmingham, had cancelled out Alexander Hleb’s opener, Dann tucked in the 89th-minute winner, seemingly from an offside position. TV replays showed that while Cameron Jerome and Roger Johnson were offside, Dann was not.

“I’ve had to eat the biggest humble pie ever,” said Holloway afterwards. Still, that’s a night out in Blackpool for you. Oh no, hang on, he said a bit more. “I went mad thinking it [Birmingham’s winner] was offside. The fellow who headed it on wasn’t offside and the fellow who scored wasn’t offside. But the other two were.

“I had to go in [to see the officials] and say: ‘Sorry, you got that right under the new rules.’”

Ah, good old honest, Ollie. He’s a breath of fre – well, you get the idea.

Gubbometer

1. Fulham: 6 (2L: 5, 3L: 1)
2. Wigan: 5 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
3. Stoke: 4 (2L: 5, 3L: 4)
4. Birmingham: 4 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
5. Bolton: 4 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
6. West Brom: 3 (2L: 5, 3L: 1)
7. Everton: 3 (2L: 4, 3L: 3)
8. Blackburn: 3 (2L: 3, 3L: 6)
9. West Ham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
10. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
11. Sunderland: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
12. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
13. Tottenham: 1 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
14. Blackpool: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
15. Aston Villa: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
16. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
18. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
19=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
19=. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)

2L=On second last (Fulham 3 West Brom 0)
3L=On third last (Manchester United 2 Stoke 1)

(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony at the top of Blackpool Tower, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Cannon and Ball, Tony Gubba and Roy Walker, with music from The Grumbleweeds.)

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