Blackpool Football Club: Who on Earth Are They?
When Blackpool kick-off at Wigan next Saturday, they will become the 44th different club to play in the Premier League since its inception in 1992.
However, there will be many followers of the EPL whose first thought will be "Blackpool who?"
And you may well be forgiven for thinking that. Most football fans will know more about Blackpool Pleasure Beach than the town's football club.
So here's a quick look at the club, a dive into its rich history, and an overview of the current team.
A history lesson
Blackpool Football Club were formed in July 1887, making the club just a year younger than Arsenal and older than the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea.
For the first 60 years of their existence Blackpool spent most of their time in the second-flight of English football, with the odd foray into the top flight.
During the Second World War, Blackpool became a key training centre for the Royal Air Force, and many of England's best players were drafted to the town and this in turn strengthened the football club.
After the end of the War in 1945, two of Blackpool's most famous players came to the fore—Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen.
After joining the club in 1946 Mortensen was Blackpool's top goalscorer for the next nine seasons and became the first Englishman to score at the FIFA World Cup finals when he scored against Chile in the 1950 finals.
The 1940s and 50s proved to be the golden era for Blackpool.
They reached the FA Cup Final in 1948 and 1951, losing to Manchester United and Newcastle respectively, and were runners-up in the first-division in 1956—the closest the club has ever come to winning the top-flight of English football.
The club's most notable achievement came in 1953 when they returned to Wembley for the third time in six years to play Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup Final.
Played in front of a crowd of 100,000, Blackpool won the game 4-3 after an injury-time winner.
The game—which is better remembered as "The Matthews Final" after Matthews' performance—remains the only Wembley FA Cup Final to have seen a hat-trick, scored by Mortensen.
As the 1960s dawned, the famous side of the 50s departed and in 1967 the inevitable happened and Blackpool were relegated to the second-division.
The period did, however, see the emergence of two very talented players.
Jimmy Armfield—who spent his entire career at the club and is now a match commentator for the BBC—would go on to make 569 appearances for the club and he was joined by Alan Ball.
Ball was still a Blackpool player when he won the Man of the Match award in the 1966 World Cup Final.
But after one year back in the first-division in 1970-71, the next 40 years saw the club go up and down the lower divisions, and spent seven years in the bottom flight.
However, despite starting the 2009-10 Championship season as second favourites to get relegated, Blackpool FC beat the odds to reach the playoff-final where they beat Cardiff City 3-2 to secure their return to the top-flight.
The current side
The seasiders will be most people's favourites to get relegated and a return to the Championship is certainly on the cards, even before the season starts.
Manager Ian Holloway has expressed his frustration at how difficult it's been for him to bring in new players and as of today there are no new faces at Bloomfield Road.
Key players from last season have left with Hameur Bouazza seeking a move back to his native France and DJ Campbell—who was on loan from Leicester—returning to his parent club.
Another blow was dealt when it was revealed striker Billy Clarke will miss the entire season after surgery on a ruptured cruciate ligament.
But Blackpool will undoubtedly provide entertainment.
Holloway is well-known to many fans as being a good man for a quote. He once said of the lights along the coast at current home that "I love Blackpool. We're very similar. We both look better in the dark."
They have experienced players in Jason Euell and Brett Ormerod and are captained by the talented Charlie Adam.
Adam, 24, is a product of the Rangers youth system and was an unused sub when the Scottish club reached the 2008 UEFA Cup Final. A skillful midfielder, Adam was Blackpool's top scorer last year, netting 17 times in 46 games.
A lot will rest on his shoulders if Blackpool are to do the incredible and stave off relegation.
They don't have the easiest of starts though. Blackpool will play Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool in their first eight games.
It will be a great experience for their fans though, and for their players.
Danny Coid—who joined Blackpool as a trainee in 1998—will have played in every flight of English football while at the club when he plays in the Premier League.
Blackpool will also have an upgraded stadium for the new season as they upgrade the capacity from 9,650 to 17,600.
While the work will not be complete for the start of the season—the game against Wigan next week was originally scheduled to be played at Bloomfield Road—it is on target for the visit of Fulham on Aug. 28.
Blackpool will struggle this season—to be honest, a 17th place finish would be something close to a miracle for this club—but I'm sure they will gain many fans over the next eight months.
At the very least, it will be a very popular away trip for fans of the other 19 clubs.
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