OPINION: Blackpool’s relegation emphasises City’s achievement

So, the trio of demoted sides is known: next season, we’re going to West Ham, Birmingham and Blackpool.

Ah, Blackpool. Plucky, brave, heroic Blackpool, everyone’s favourite underdogs, the side the media loves to patronise, managed by wacky japester and all-round character Ian Holloway. But despite this seemingly limitless array of qualities, the Seasiders have still been relegated in their first Premier League season – unlike City in 2008/9, it’s worth noting.

Let’s be clear from the outset. This isn’t intended to denigrate Blackpool. Quite the reverse – their elevation to the Premier League via a win at Wembley was a pleasing tale of overdue success, and the grinding predictability of the top flight would have been leavened substantially by them staying up. Like Burnley the season before, it’s a pity that ultimately they couldn’t stay the course after their stirring play-off success, but money talks.

We also should avoid the trap of sounding small, bitter and paranoid about the media. There’s enough stupidity in football without us adding to it. Yet…am I alone in contrasting the press’ coverage of Blackpool’s doomed battle with our actually successful one? Phil Brown and Ian Holloway are both eccentric individuals, but one is adored and one is reviled. Blackpool came from nowhere to go up, played attacking football and were universally willed to succeed; City similarly came from nowhere to reach the top flight, took the division on but managed to stay up…and appeared to be resented for it.

Why?

No easy answers suggest themselves. I have heard it suggested that City’s survival was unwelcome because it was at Newcastle’s expense. Perhaps, but I doubt it. Newcastle are liked by the media and the wider footballing world to an extent out of proportion to their likeability, but there has to be more to it. Was it because of Phil Brown? Possibly…he lurched from aimable clown to devil incarnate in a single afternoon in Manchester, for reasons still unknown. Lazy commentators still attribute THAT team-talk to our collapse in form, and haven’t let a widespread refutation of that by ex-players,or the fact City were already losing games sway them from an “A happened, then B happened, so A must have caused B” analysis.

That still doesn’t ring true, though. But what else can it be? Blackpool’s no more or less glamorous a place than Hull. Neither club had troubled the Premier League’s élite before. Ah, wait…when City got up, we DID trouble that élite. In our four trips to the then Sky Sports Amazing Incredible Big Four, only Man U beat us. Just. City weren’t just making up the numbers, they did actual harm to the favoured ones. Arsenal’s title challenge never recovered from losing to City, while Phil Scolari was sacked after drawing at Stamford Bridge against the Tigers. That really did put a few noses out of joint. But then again Blackpool won at Liverpool…

Pass. All that really remains is that while Blackpool were broadly expected to go down, City were forecast to do something altogether worse: “a Derby”. That prediction didn’t last past the first week of October 2008  – did the embarrassment of the punditocracy play a part?

Who knows. It may well just be one of those things that defies obvious explanation. It still doesn’t seem entirely right that Ian Holloway will be applauded (deservedly) for his achievements, whereas greater achievements received much less credit. Such is life. Perhaps I do sound bitter after all. Hard luck in not emulating City, Blackpool. See you next season…

19 replies
  1. cyberiantiger
    cyberiantiger says:

    A touch of chaos, a catchy meme and critical mass. I have heard some disapproval of Holloway’s outbursts but it hasn’t caught on.

  2. Paul
    Paul says:

    I’d have to agree that while I like Blackpools style of play I’ve seen a lot of moaning from Holloway, not least before their last game, that has severely damaged my opinion of him. That said I think a lot of the derision of Brown came when we were plummeting which we did to a much greater extent then Blackpool, we were receiving a lot of praise during our high times. I think it’s how Brown reacted and embraced the limelight that rub the media the wrong way.

  3. Eduardo Corrochio
    Eduardo Corrochio says:

    Some short memories on display here, I think.

    Blackpool finished on 39 points, and were unlucky to go down. City finished the 2008/09 season on 35 points, staying up because they shared a division with an unusually high number of poor teams that year – West Brom, Middlesbrough, and the self-destructing Newcastle (with Alan Shearer playing the Iain Dowie of his day) all going down having accumulated an even meeker points total.

    As for whether the media has some sort of bias against Brown, who knows. But what is clear is that Blackpool have a much more responsible attitude to their finances compared to City in 2008/09. Look at the roster of expensive underperformers we had on our books at the end of 2009: Mendy, Halmosi, Kilbane, Cousin, Geo (thanks for those goals against FC London), and the umpteen £million Bullard – who is still there, and who we’ll presumably be trying to offload again this summer. We were spending way beyond our means and we were still less deserving of a continued place in the top flight than Blackpool are now.

    Duffen was a disaster. If it wasn’t for our recent bail-out by the munificent Allams there’s every chance we’d be in League One by now.

    So less of this premier league nostalgia, ta!

  4. Officer Fucking Crabtree
    Officer Fucking Crabtree says:

    “Blackpool finished on 39 points, and were unlucky to go down. City finished the 2008/09 season on 35 points, staying up because they shared a division with an unusually high number of poor teams that year – West Brom, Middlesbrough, and the self-destructing Newcastle (with Alan Shearer playing the Iain Dowie of his day) all going down having accumulated an even meeker points total.”

    Eduardo: I think most pundits would tell you that this has been one of the poorest Premiership seasons in recent years. The performance of the Premier League clubs in the Champions League over last year and this shows this. When we got promoted we were being promoted into a division with three Champions League semi-finalists. The season we stayed up, the Premier League threw up another three. If Newcastle and West Brom were so poor, how come in the season after they went down they had first and second in the Championship all-but sewn up by early April?

    Over the course of a season, the three worst teams will finish in the bottom three, and luck has nothing to do with it. City stayed up that season because we deserved to. And we stayed up in a much better league than the one Blackpool have just been relegated from.

  5. Eduardo Corrochio
    Eduardo Corrochio says:

    @crabtree On whether this was a poorer premier league than 2 years ago, I don’t know really. At the top that’s probably true – Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal are none of them the forces they once were. And as for the Other City, well, we’ll have to wait and see next season. But City (or Blackpool) never really looked right in the top half of the table anyway. Our priority was always avoiding relegation, and the fact is that 35 points was enough to stay up that year compared to 40 this time round.

    But suppose City had gone down in 2009 instead of Newcastle. Do you think we’d have come straight back up in the same emphatic style. Would City even have made the play-offs? I suspect what would have happened would have been similar to what happened at the end of the 2009/10 season. The board’s high-risk financial gambling would have been exposed for the suicidal craziness it was, and we’d have had the same humiliating fire sale of players and fear of administration and docked points we had last summer, only it would have come a year earlier. Newcastle were always in a better position all round, which makes me think that luck has must have had something to do with it.

    Virtual history aside, Brown is assured of a place in City history as the man who took us to the premier league, and kept us there for a second season. Does it matter that non-Cityites do not hold him in the same saintly regard? I don’t think it does, every club has its own heroes.

    Incidentally, good post on the Daily Mash today:
    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3853&Itemid=26

  6. Officer Shitting Crabtree
    Officer Shitting Crabtree says:

    Eduardo – I get the points you are making, and they do have some merit. I think that had we gone down that season, we’d have done a bit better than this. Financially, AP says that it was the summer of 2009 that really fucked us. All of that’s conjecture though. It doesn’t really matter because we stayed up – because we were better than a team that had been better than us the season before, as well two established Premiership teams. Luck has very little to do with things over 38 games. It was one hell of an achievement. How many Championship play-off winners have stayed up in the past few years?

    I agree on your paragraph about Brown though.

  7. gjhdurham
    gjhdurham says:

    Was sitting watching MotD last night contemplating much of what appears here. Absolutely agree with what OF Crabtree says in reply to Eduardo’s somewhat bitter & twisted comments. (Except the bit about luck perhaps, as if you haven’t got the investment & you get injuries then….well, ask Birmingham!)
    I think EC, if you look more deeply at the Tigers’ set up, the problem was down to Bartlett (seller of Turner…..Ultimately the major cause of relegation+injuries like Hunt)…not Duffen, (although PD’s transfer thinking may have been coloured by exposure to WHU’s financial way of doing things!)….Not to mention whoever’s bright idea it was to sack Brown so late in the season…& appoint Dowie! Doh!! Wigan’s sticking with the manager plus the players gelling around him was there to see!! The financial problems come big time on relegation…especially when the owner has no cash!!
    Blackpool look good points wise & may well have survived had not Adam been destabilised by transfer talk in Jan.He seemed then to go off the boil for a few games…which proved critical on Sun! We would have survived more easily if various players hadn’t rocked the boat…stand up Marlon & the saintly Deano!!! We picked up injuries & Geo & Cousin decided they’d done enough for the year. Holloway did very well in keeping them going (better than PB/probably not so many “boat rockers”…Is that why Harewood was loaned out, when he seemed to be scoring?)), although their defence never looked good enough & a quality player here was needed. IH probably found …like PB…. that getting someone to sign in Jan. wasn’t too easy!!
    Another random thought occurred while watching Hunt play for Wolves. Neatly tricked the ref. to win a freekick. Was it really an accident when he lost the ball so stupidly, thus leading to Wolves late equaliser at the KC? Cost us 2pts which would have been handy at the end of season!! Conspiracy theory…
    Wigan(again!), Bolton, Blackburn & Wolves to struggle next year…plus those coming up, of course!

  8. Eduardo Corrochio
    Eduardo Corrochio says:

    @gjh I agree with most of your analysis, actually. I must plead guilty to overlooking Bartlett’s shadowy Dick-Cheney-plays-Blofeld role in the whole thing, yes. I don’t exactly know who was responsible for what, to be honest – didn’t take a very keen interest, but clearly some very bad decisions were made by those in charge of the cash during City’s two seasons in the premiership, and we’re lucky we’re not now worse off for those decisions than we are.

    As for your charge that I’m bitter, maybe I am, but I don’t feel bitter. I certainly feel no jealousy on P. Brown’s part towards Blackpool and Ian Holloway, who will be all but forgotten by the national press in a year or so, I imagine, but will presumably remain a Blackpool hero. (This is assuming no spectacular Europa cup run from the championship of course.) Fans only really care about their own club, and they’re bound to have a different outlook from outsiders. Why should things be otherwise?

  9. Eduardo Corrochio
    Eduardo Corrochio says:

    @crabtree Pearson is no doubt right about the summer of 2009, yeah, that was a summer of insanity.

    City aside, the argument that luck has little to do with things over 38 games is a common one, and correct to an extent I think – the teams that end up in the top half are invariably ‘better’ teams, on the whole (more talented, better managed, etc.), than those that end up in the bottom half, and the teams that finish in the top four are generally better than those that finish outside of it. But it doesn’t follow that the team that finishes 14th is necessarily better than the one that finishes 15th. Not over 38 games. Over a million games, maybe, or a thousand. But over 38 games, too many random variables come into play – injuries to key players, unjust refereeing decisions, a distracting cup run, etc. – to say that the first team genuinely ‘deserves’ to be 14th, and not 15th.

    If it was true that over 38 games all teams end up where they deserve to be, should we really be seeing a final day when five teams are fighting to avoid two relegation slots? Surely these matters should be sorted out well before the final day. Can you really say that Birmingham and Blackpool ‘deserve’ to be going down any more than, say, Wolves and Blackburn? The first two got less points (or got the same points, but scored less goals!) overall, and that puts them further down the table than the second two according to the rules which all teams agreed to at the start of the season – so they go down. But ‘deserts’ seem to be another matter.

    Anyway, that last day was great fun – and the uncertainty was the reason for it. (It’s certainly more enjoyable when City aren’t in it.)

  10. Carlostomy Bag
    Carlostomy Bag says:

    Heh! Oh yeah…… it won’t be today either, you mongtard. They will be with you momentarily, like, totally tomorrow, or something.

  11. amberbadger
    amberbadger says:

    1 reason why Ian Hollloway is more liked by the masses than Phil Brown – years of bumming by Soccer AM. Sad but true.

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