Blackpool boss Ian Holloway put himself in a difficult position when his team faced Aston villa in November. Not the fact that he decided to change ten players from his side that faced Everton the week before the game against Villa.
But when, after the game it was revealed his club were to be pulled before the FA for fielding a weakened side, the Blackpool boss threatened to quit if his club were found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute.
The North-West club have had a sensational season so far. If football bets placed were the sole decision maker in the Premier League, Blackpool would have be tipped to sink without a trace, but under Holloway the side currently sit comfortably in 12th position. More than that, have played with an attacking flair that some more established Premier League sides can only dream of playing with. Their away goals tally is only bettered by the top four clubs and on par with Manchester United.
Now Blackpool have been handed a suspended £25,000 fine for their actions, a similar amount that Mick McCarthy’s Wolves side were handed when he fielded a weakened side against Manchester United last season. There is no indication that Holloway will go through with his threat, but Blackpool would be wise to take the slap on the wrist and move past the issue which has been hanging around the club since before Christmas – there is far more at stake with around half the season to go.
Holloway must now focus all his powers on keeping his side in the Premier League, and while his side show no danger of flirting with the drop anything but total focus on the league would be detrimental to their cause.
Hand in hand with retaining the clubs Premier League status is keeping hold of club captain Charlie Adam. In inspirational form against Manchester United earlier this week, he provided the crosses which helped put Blackpool 2-0 up against the current league leaders.
It is not a coincidence that as his influence over the game faded so did his team as they surrendered their two goal lead. Reports of Holloway’s contractual right to receive a fee from the sale of Adam confuses the issue further, but as Holloway rightly points out, he holds more value for the club if he stays than if he is sold for the rumoured £12 million Liverpool are likely to offer before the end of the January transfer window. If football betting patterns are to be believed, Adam will end his season playing in red rather than orange.
Holloway is currently in the midst of his most testing time in charge of Blackpool during their time in the Premier League; the sale of Adam, the manner of the defeat at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday and now the £25,000 fine will surely push the former QPR manager to his limits. How he responds will not merely shape his own future, but the future of the club he has shown so much passion for this season.