Blackpool’s footballing heroes have taken part in a victory parade along the town’s promenade to celebrate their promotion to the Premier League.
The Seasiders won the Championship play-off against Cardiff on Saturday.
Thousands of fans lined the famous prom to greet manager Ian Holloway and his players for their triumphant homecoming.
More than 35,000 Blackpool fans travelled to Wembley for the final – a quarter of the town’s population.
The game, which the team won 3-2, was said to be worth £90m to the Lancashire club.
Blackpool Football Club Team Manager - Ian Holloway
A native of Kingswood, Bristol, Ian Holloway opted to manage in the North-West for the very first time when he agreed to become the new boss of the Seasiders on May 22, 2009.
The former Bristol Rovers and Queens Park Rangers midfielder became the permanent replacement for previous manager Simon Grayson, after Tony Parkes had initially taken caretaker charge for the remainder of the 2008-2009 campaign.
A popular figure with the media, Holloway started his managerial career with Bristol Rovers in 1996 while continuing as a player. His managerial education continued in 2001 when he was appointed the new manager of Queens Park Rangers, another one of his previous clubs. He was tasked with a near-impossible mission to keep QPR in the old Division One but the time wasn’t on his side as the team were relegated. Holloway returned to the division with QPR three seasons later but was placed on gardening leave in 2006 after constant speculation linking him with a move to Leicester City.
As the sun shone through at the Blackpool end of Wembley stadium, making for a picturesque scene of luminous tangerine, the shaded Cardiff City fans had to sit and endure their side twice lose the lead in a pulsating encounter where the stakes and the temperature could not have been higher.
It will be Ian Holloway’s Blackpool that will attempt to defy the odds and survive in the Premier League next season.
Michael Chopra’s early strike set the tone for an entertaining first half. Blackpool equalised through a sublime 25-yard free kick from playmaker Charlie Adam, but with Blackpool in the ascendancy Joe Ledley broke the offside trap to restore Dave Jones’ side’s advantage.
The Seasiders continued to press and drew level for the second time thanks to a Gary Taylor-Fletcher header. Brett Ormerod grabbed the winning goal just before the break, with a well-taken toe-poke.
Chopra hit the bar in the second half, but the day belonged to Blackpool, who will take their place in the top flight of English football for the first time since 1971.
Known within the media industry as ‘rent-a-quote’, Holloway’s enthusiastic and philosophical outlook on football usually grab all the headlines, but there is a side to Holloway which people rarely give him credit for. He is in fact a football manager with an abundance of talent.
This feat compares favourably with anything that has been achieved in British football over recent seasons, and Blackpool’s Keith Southern, who put in a towering performance on Saturday, revealed his manager’s team-talk before the final gave his side the edge.
“His pre-match team-talk was brilliant,” Southern told Skysports.
“He told us how he’d been out of football for a year and how hardly anyone in the game had talked to him, but how privileged he was to have got back with such a wonderful bunch of lads and how proud he was of us. There were quite a few of us close to tears. And he told us this was our time, that we were the team in form and that we were the team with the most belief. He said we deserved a crack at the big time as much as anyone. It was stirring stuff.”
The man everyone calls Ollie fully deserves his chance to be placed among the elite of English football, but he is entirely aware of the task that awaits him.
“I can’t be prouder of these boys, but I am going to have to be ruthless and think about what I’m going to do,” Holloway said.
“I might have to coach a different way. Chelsea and these teams will have to come to Bloomfield Road and they better have the right spirit because we will have a right go at them. It’s all about getting each individual to believe in themselves and shine.”
Ancelotti, Wenger and Ferguson, beware.