Hollow Man

by Tyrone Marshall

Always seen as a jester figure, Blackpool boss Ian Holloway in now finally soaking up the praise for his managerial skills after guiding his side to the Premiership.

Until this season Ian Holloway was best remembered by football fans in this country for comparing a scrappy victory for his QPR side to a young lad pulling the female equivalent of Stoke City.

To put it in gentleman’s terms if you’ve been out for a night and you’re looking for a young lady and you pull one, some weeks they’re good looking and some weeks they’re not the best. Our performance today would have been not the best looking bird but at least we got her in the taxi. She wasn’t the best looking lady we ended up taking home but she was very pleasant and very nice, so thanks very much, let’s have a coffee.

The comparison, after his team had beaten Chesterfield in 2003, showed Holloway’s penchant for being the funnyman of English football, and for his teams grinding out results.

But after spells of varying success at Bristol Rovers, QPR, Plymouth and Leicester City Holloway found himself out of work for almost a year between May 2008 and 2009.

In that time the likeable and immensely passionate West Country lad, who is still only 47 despite 14 years in management, realised that he wanted more.

He was fed up of being the one laughed with, and to an extent, laughed at, and was tired of telling his teams to be play careful football and to hit the big man up front.

He wanted his next team to be carefree, to embrace the ball, and to give the fans value for money.

And above all he wanted to prove he was good for more than a witty line in a post-match interview.

On Saturday, Wembley saw the new Ian Holloway.

When he got the job by the seaside, he decided he wanted to style his team on Roberto Martinez’s free-flowing, but ultimately unsuccessful Swansea City side of last season.

He convinced notoriously tight chairman Karl Oyston to part with £500,000 and beat off competition from local rivals Preston for Charlie Adam’s signature, and the rest is history.

Adam, who looks he belongs in game in the 1970s, has been Blackpool’s heartbeat all season, playing at the base of a 4-3-3 and probing with his technically brilliant range of passing.

Holloway has transformed a team that were favourites for relegation into the tangerine version of Total Football, encouraging his players to keep the ball, to move for each other and to dominate possession.

His rota of gags has dried up by the seaside, and this season he has fought for the respect he believes his players deserve and has shown immense pride in the players, the club and the town.

Until this season Holloway was regarded by some as a comedian who did a good line in football management.

Next season he will take his collection of cast-offs and lower league journeymen to places like Old Trafford and Anfield, and he will be determined that they stick to their principles, to entertain.

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