Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2
IAN Holloway received the plaudits from his players after leading Blackpool to the Barclays Premier League with a 3-2 Coca-Cola Championship play-off final win over Cardiff.
When the charismatic Bristolian arrived at Bloomfield Road last summer, the unfashionable Seasiders were being tipped for relegation to League One, a fate that Holloway suffered as Leicester boss in 2008.
Yet a year out of the game re-energised the 47-year-old and Blackpool reaped the benefits in remarkable fashion at Wembley as they secured a lucrative promotion to the top flight.
A deserved 3-2 victory over Cardiff in the play-off final ensured Holloway’s men will rub shoulders with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United next season and guaranteed a bumper pay-day of around £90m.
Charlie Adam, who captained the Seasiders to victory and scored his 19th goal of the season at Wembley, said: ‘‘The manager has instilled a lot of pride in us and given us so much belief.
"That has to be our biggest strength next season.
"We’re not kidding ourselves.
We know it’s going to be tough and there are a lot of world-class players in the Premier League.
"I’ve been to watch Manchester United and Chelsea and I know how good they are, but I’m sure the manager will prepare us for the challenge.
"Everyone laughs and jokes about Blackpool but this club is a very proud place to be right now." The energy and desire that has come to characterise Holloway’s team was evident again as they twice hit back to equalise before forging ahead in an absorbing opening 45 minutes.
Adam, a £500,000 signing from Rangers last summer and a transfer target for Middlesbrough in January, drew Blackpool level with a superb free-kick after Michael Chopra opened the scoring.
Although Joe Ledley restored Cardiff’s lead, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Brett Ormerod struck shortly before half-time to give Holloway’s men an advantage they did not surrender.
Blackpool, whose average home crowd of 8,611 was the second-lowest in the Championship this season, will be the smallest club in the top flight since the formation of the Premier League and will probably be tipped by most pundits to finish bottom.
Yet Holloway is expected to be handed funds to sign new players and striker Ben Burgess says his manager should not be underestimated.
"Every team that goes up finds it hard but we’ve got a manager who is very clever," said Burgess.
"Everyone thinks he’s just a madman and he can be at times, but I’m sure he’ll know what to do in the Premier League.
"The Premier League has not seen anything like him but I’m sure they’ll enjoy it.
"I think he’s used that year out of football very well and he’s proved a lot of people wrong. We’re not massively different to last season in terms of personnel but the 4- 3-3 formation he’s played is the right way and he’s brought in the right players.
"In our first meeting with him I thought ‘wow’. He’s got us so well-drilled and whoever starts the game knows where he should be in every minute of the match."