|photo by Smabs Sputzer||via PhotoRee|
Not content to take Correspondent Ed's word for it, I journeyed down to Bloomfield Road Wednesday night to see the Tangerines take on the Reds from Liverpool in a mid-week EPL match up. Ed has been raving about Blackpool for months now, but to know Ed as I do is to know that he raves about many things that aren't worth caring much about: for instance, his fetish with the body parts of small cloth dolls, and his strange habit of ordering a late afternoon lunch every Wednesday consisting of a polish hotdog slathered in peanut butter, cream cheese and celery salt, no bun (an "Ed Dog," we call it around the office) -- but I digress....
"You've got to see these guys play football," Ed shrieks, in his own inimitable way. "When are they going to be considered the favorites instead of the underdogs?" he asks. And based upon what I saw last evening, the answer is pretty damn soon.
These Blackpool FC Tangerines are an impressive, attacking football team, one that wins not by playing the game everyone else "thinks" a team just up from the Championship should be playing (that would be Stoke City's physical, "long ball over the top" game), but one that wins by playing the type of game everyone else "dreams" they could be playing. Blackpool, as coached by the irrepressible Ian Holloway, is a mesmerizing, rollicking, swashbuckling football team that punches the accelerator to the floor and opens the throttle full for 90 minutes of edge-of-your-seat entertainment. Win or lose, you're going to know you've seen a game, and you're going to love every minute of it.
These are the San Diego Chargers of "Air Coryell", who live by the motto that the best defense is a good offense. And how is it that a team just up from the Championship is showing the rest of the EPL how to play? It's all in the attitude: Blackpool expects to be able to compete with anyone, and is not afraid to attack them, even at the risk of leaving themselves exposed on defense.
And these Tangerines seem to be able to attack from virtually anywhere on the pitch. A 3-on-1 break against them? No worries -- there'll soon be a mishit cross, and Blackpool will use the opportunity to launch a blistering counter-attack involving five of their players, a backheel or two, and a 25 yard searching cross, culiminating in a sharp DJ Campbell header. Loose ball floating around the midfield? That has Charlie Adam's name all over it, just sitting and waiting for his turn to catch the goalkeeper off his line with a 50 yard attempt on goal.
In case you're not getting the picture, let me offer you this: Blackpool is as close a team as the EPL has -- save Arsenal on their very best day -- to seeing el joga bonito up close and personally. They remind me of a poor man's Barcelona, and that's not a knock -- they may not have the big names (and associated salaries), but they have incredible talent on the team, and their ball handling and attacking skills are nonpareil. Blackpool will shuck you, juke you, whirl you, jink you, jive you, and generally beat you into submission -- all while their coach reads his texts on the sideline. [Ed. Note: I'm fairly certain Holloway wasn't reading Tweets from Ryan Babel or Glen Johnson during the game, but that's as far as I'll go out on a limb as to what in the world he was doing on his cell phone in the middle of a match.]
To see them destroy -- absolutely tear apart -- the Liverpool defense Wednesday night was a joy to watch. Glen Johnson looked like an amateur rather than an England fullback (maybe that's part of England's problem, by the way), and Agger and Skrtel's central defense was torn asunder on numerous occasions by a whirling dervish rotation of Varney, Campbell, Taylor-Fletcher and Adam.
After ceding a very early goal to one of the EPL's (former) best strikers -- he's back? -- Blackpool could have folded under the pressure, but refused to do so. The Seasiders took down Liverpool 2-1 in a wide open contest in which they never felt like they were going to lose. For all the fuss about King Kenny's return on Merseyside -- he's 0-2 by the way, but who's counting? -- there was one only team on the upswing in this match, and I'll give you a hint as to which it was: they were the ones wearing the orange colored shirts.
This is an impressed farlieonfootie for January 15.