Cardiff, Blackpool fight it out in 'richest match'
Cardiff and Blackpool meet at Wembley on Saturday for what is often referred to as the richest match in club football, with a place in England's Premier League the prize. Blackpool was in the bottom tier as recently as 2001, while Cardiff's pursuit of a spot in the Premier League has left the club in financial trouble.sports Updated: May 21, 2010 21:30 IST
Cardiff and Blackpool meet at Wembley on Saturday for what is often referred to as the richest match in club football, with a place in England's Premier League the prize. Neither team has been in the topflight of English football since the 1960s but one will return as winner of the League Championship playoff final and enjoy a windfall in broadcast revenue and other income estimated at 90 million pounds ($129 million). That could transform either club for years to come.
Blackpool was in the bottom tier as recently as 2001, while Cardiff's pursuit of a spot in the Premier League has left the club in financial trouble.
Blackpool is on a roll as it aims for a fourth promotion in just nine years.
It finished sixth in the League Championship for its highest finish since 1971 and beat playoff favorite Nottingham Forest 6-4 over two matches in the semifinals.
"It's the energy of the whole club," manager Ian Holloway said. "It's changing and it's actually starting to believe in itself because I believe in it. I believe in the history of the place, I believe in the people here and I always believed there was a fantastic core group of players.
"I wanted to add some extravagance going forward. Luckily, the board has allowed me to add some of those players which has made a huge difference and added to the optimism of the group." Holloway has astutely bolstered a meager squad with loan players and the club-record 500,000-pound ($720,000) signing of Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam.
The key figure in Blackpool's midfield, Adam scored 16 goals in 41 league matches - three more than leading striker Brett Ormerod. Better known for his quips and southwest England accent than his coaching ability, Holloway has spoken of his desire to stop joking so much and prove himself as a manager.
His serious attitude showed when he spoke of the financial impact promotion to the Premier League could have on the northwest seaside town - which suffered in the 1980s and '90s as more Britons opted to take vacations overseas.
"I'm trying to build something here and I've only just started," Holloway said. "People have been so welcoming and so genuine in their love of what we're trying to do here. I would love to try and help their businesses and my lads feel the same. "It's not just our lives we're trying to change: it's everybody in the town."
Blackpool was demoted from the topflight in 1967, five years after Cardiff's most recent appearance.
One of three Welsh clubs playing in England's four professional leagues, Cardiff is the only Welsh team to have won the FA Cup - way back in 1927 - and reached the final of the famous competition just two years ago.
Cardiff winger Chris Burke said his club will not adapt its tactics to mark a player with whom he played at Rangers. Both left the Scottish club during the 2009 winter transfer window. "I practically grew up with Charlie Adam at Rangers," Burke said. "He can spot a pass, dribble, likes a tackle and he scores goals.
"He will be key for their morale but we have to concentrate on ourselves. We have not set out any special plans. The way we got here is doing the same thing week in week out and we will not change our plans for this one game."
Cardiff is favorite to win after finishing two places and six points above Blackpool, but the teams drew both their league matches 1-1 so it could be a close match.
Cardiff's record signing, striker Michael Chopra, cost eight times what Blackpool paid for Adam and is one of several players in Cardiff's squad with Premier League experience.
Gavin Rae, Peter Whittingham, Jay Bothroyd, Stephen McPhail, Riccardo Scimeca and Peter Enckelman have all played in the topflight.