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Ian Holloway ready for mission improbable

22 May 2011 11:58:58

Ian Holloway ready for mission improbable

ShareBlackpool's task on Sunday would be daunting enough without the knowledge of what is riding on the outcome. Defeat by Manchester United will almost certainly mean relegation from the Premier League after just one season. Beat the champions in the fortress that is Old Trafford and they might - but only might - survive. Football's neutrals will be hoping for the latter result. For Blackpool's thrilling commitment to attacking football - and the humble origins of their squad - has earned Ian Holloway's team huge plaudits. 'If anyone has liked what we've done this season, then thanks,' said the effervescent Holloway, in his familiar Bristolian burr. Mission improbable: Ian Holloway (centre) takes his team to Old Trafford 'We've always tried to entertain. I think you should have a game that's end-to-end instead of "all blocked up and, oh dear, no goals". That sort of football, I just can't stand watching. But when I see Barcelona play I can't turn off. The ball is the future of football.' Blackpool were favourites for relegation from the Championship two years ago when Holloway encouraged them to try to play like Barcelona, even though he is under no illusions that his squad have the talent to replicate the intricacies of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Written off before this season started, Blackpool set the tone with an exhilarating 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on the opening day. But now it has come down to Survival Sunday and Holloway admits that if results do not go Blackpool's way they will wave goodbye to ?90million and 'it will feel like the end of the world'. Bargain: DJ Campbell once played for ?50 a game at Yeading BLACKPOOL'S BARGAINS:GARY TAYLOR-FLETCHERForward, Age 29Previous clubs: Northwich, Hull, Leyton Orient, Grays, Dag & Red, Lincoln, HuddersfieldCost Blackpool: Nothing. Free transfer from Huddersfield, 2007Wages: ?6,500 a weekALEX BAPTISTEDefender, Age 25Previous clubs: Tamworth, Burton, MansfieldCost Blackpool: ?50,000 from Mansfield, 2008Wages: ?6,000 a weekMATT PHILLIPSWinger, Age 20Previous club: Wycombe WanderersCost Blackpool: ?325,000 from Wycombe, 2010Wages: ?7,000 a weekMATTHEW GILKSGoalkeeper, Age 29Previous clubs: Rochdale, Shrewsbury, NorwichCost Blackpool: Nothing. Free from Norwich, 2008Wages: ?3,000 a weekIAN EVATTDefender, Age 29Previous clubs: Northampton, Derby, Chesterfield, QPRCost Blackpool: Nothing. Free transfer from QPR , 2007Wages: ?8,000 a week His players have been excited to rub shoulders with some of the best in the world, and no wonder. Defender Alex Baptiste was snapped up for ?50,000 when his club, Mansfield, dropped out of the league. Gary Taylor-Fletcher's CV includes Dagenham and Redbridge, Lincoln and Grays. Six years ago, striker DJ Campbell worked in a warehouse during the week and picked up ?50 appearance money playing on a Saturday for Conference side Yeading. 'The gaffer seems to find players like me who want the chance to prove themselves,' said Campbell. 'I've been on the dole. I've been there, done that and got the T-shirt. I've lived two lives. All the lads here have got stories they can tell you like that.' Campbell has scored 14 goals this season, including a double against Bolton last weekend which gave Blackpool hope of finishing above two of their drop-zone rivals - Wigan, Birmingham, Wolves and Blackburn - and so avoiding relegation from the Premier League alongside the already doomed West Ham. He feels the humble background of many Blackpool players has helped team spirit and given them public backing. 'It's one of the reasons why we are so together as a team,' he said. 'My experiences have made me the person and the player that I am. If I had grown up on a YT scheme and become a young professional at a club, then I probably wouldn't still be in the game because I'd have fallen by the wayside. But when I was on 50 quid a week at Yeading and working in a warehouse, I was hungry to succeed. That's why I'm now a Premier League footballer. 'I couldn't afford a car and used to rely on borrowing a Vauxhall Corsa from my girlfriend. The standard of living I now enjoy might be a lot different but I like to think I'm the same person I have always been. I drive a Jaguar now but I'm still with the same girl and we're getting married next month.' Holloway was yesterday planning to take his team on a tour of Old Trafford to get them used to the surroundings. His team talk may include the time he played in a 4-1 victory for QPR against United in Sir Alex Ferguson's early years. 'I'd like to say I set up all the goals but we were 2-0 up before I'd even touched the ball,' joked Holloway. Free transfer: Gary Taylor-Fletcher arrived for nothing from Huddersfield One man who will have a ringside seat for his old club's crucial game is Blackpool legend Jimmy Armfield, who will be at Old Trafford today as part of BBC Radio 5's commentary team. Armfield, 75, played a record 569 times for Blackpool and his last game was on the final day of the season 40 years ago. Spookily, the opponents were Manchester United - and Blackpool were relegated. 'When the fixtures came out for this season, my first thought was "I hope we don't need a result from the last game",' he admitted. 'But then again, I wasn't sure we'd get enough points to take it into the last game anyway, so you have to say that Ian Holloway and the team have done incredibly well, really.' FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN BLACKPOOL'S SEASONAugust 14 - Blackpool beat Wigan 4-0 in the opening game of the season to go top of the league. Dream start: Marlon Harewood celebrates scoring at Wigan on the opening day November 10 - Last-gasp agony for a 'weakened' Blackpool as Aston Villa's James Collins scores an 89th-minute winner, leaving the Tangerines in 14th place. December 11 - DJ Campbell scores as Blackpool beat Stoke 1-0 to go 10th (halfway in the Premier League) at the halfway point of the season. January 25 - Goals from Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell give Blackpool a 2-0 half-time lead over Manchester United. But Dimitar Berbatov hits back and Blackpool slump to a 3-2 defeat. Fighting chance: Jason Puncheon celebrates his goal against Bolton May 22 - Blackpool have a fighting chance of survival at United after last week's 4-3 win over Bolton, in which Jason Puncheon is on target.  Fergie hints at strong United team to face Blackpool despite rivals' fearsVeteran Van der Sar admits he is dreading Old Trafford farewellThe ?40m prayer: Five Premier League teams have a last shot at survival on SundayAll the latest Blackpool news, features and opinion  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Ian Holloway, Xavi, Dimitar Berbatov, Jimmy Armfield Places: Barcelona, Birmingham, Norwich


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