It was a special occasion at Bloomfield Road on Saturday afternoon as Blackpool played in front of a packed home stadium for the first time in years.
A fan boycott had been in place in protest of the Oyston tenure and in the last few campaigns we’ve often seen the Tangerines play in front of an empty, orange set of seats.
After being placed into receivership and having a new era ushered in, though, things are finally looking up for the Seasiders, who remain in contention for a play-off place in League One.
It’s a club that retains a place in the heart of former Pool manager Ian Holloway, too, who, in an extensive chat exclusively with Football League World, revealed just how fondly he looks back on the period:
“It was a fairytale to be part of the club, it’s ten years ago now and it’s still fresh in my mind.
“I’ve got a mug with all my players on it after we got into the Premier League.”
Even then, though, it was becoming clear that all was not well at the top of the club, and money was starting to be removed after their Premier League stint.
Holloway, manager at the time of the club’s relegation back to the Championship, had this to say on the issue:
“At the end of the day, there were loopholes in the game and the rules and the money was there to be taken out if someone had that inkling to do that.
“It’s the same in all walks of life, there are loopholes, and it’s not right but they do take advantage.”
Advantage, then, is what was taken by the Oystons – whose intentions were becoming clearer as time went on – and they were not ones that fans, rightly, were pleased with.
The boycott came into place, then, and was heavily supported by not just supporters of the men in orange.
Holloway, though, also wonders what impact it might have had on the players’ performances who regularly played in front of an empty stadium:
“I’ve read lots of things about the fans and why they stopped going and I think it might have hurt the players.
“I think Gary [Bowyer] found it tough without the crowd.
“That crowd helped me and my team like you wouldn’t believe. You walk out the ground and you see candyfloss and rock, it was like a fairground, it was an amazing place.
“I’m not blaming anyone that didn’t go, but I would have kept going.”
The former Pool manager can completely understand the fans’ grievances but suggests that they should have tried to focus on just the players themselves, knowing what impact their support can have.
To that end, Holloway is of the opinion that Valeri Belokon – a man that took the Oystons to court and won – would have brought the Oystons’ run in charge to an end anyway, regardless of fan protest, thanks to the money they’d lose in paying the Latvian back:
“The argument with Valeri and Owen was always going to happen anyway and Valeri was always going to win because he had more money than them.
“They ran into the only man who was prepared to take them on because he wasn’t going to be dealt with the way they dealt with him.
“I could call up a queue of people that could argue they want to take the Oystons to court but they didn’t have enough money to do that.
“I’m saying Valeri was going to win his fight with or without the fans doing what they did, so I just feel like they’ve missed out.
“I think their team has missed the fans and because of what they did for me and my team. I want them to get behind Terry and the boys because who knows how this season could end.”
It’s safe to say now, though, that the Tangerines are back, and ready to finish this season on a high.
Holloway hopes the fans will be able to take them to those heights, too, but has also warned against future owners being thoroughly checked out – something they’re surely well prepared to do:
“You’ve got to be very careful too now with who buys the club, there will be some sharks out there.
“All I can say is that for those that feel so aggrieved I hope they don’t feel like that anymore and that they have got what they were fighting for.
“But, for me, as a supporter, I would have carried on going because the money that was saved from the Oystons from the 8,000-less crowd every other week wasn’t going to make Owen and Karl go. Valeri was always going to do it.
“I would have kept going because your team needs you, regardless of anything else.
“Just go and enjoy yourselves now that it’s over.”
Over, it is, and now hopefully matters on the pitch, rightly, will be the talk of the town once more.
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