HATS off to Gary Taylor-Fletcher – and Ian Holloway!
It doesn’t seem long since Fletch and I were playing alongside each other in blue and white stripes.
Since joining Blackpool in 2007, when Simon Grayson was manager incidentally, he has scored at Wembley and shone in the Premier League.
Now he’s on the verge of helping the Tangerines make it back to the top flight at the first attempt after they got the better of Birmingham to seal a return to Wembley in another Championship play-off final, this time against West Ham.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer or harder-working bloke, and I don’t think Fletch has really had the recognition he deserves.
It’s well worth remembering he took the long route into top-level football, playing part-time for Northwich while working as a roofer before Leyton Orient gave him his big break in 2001.
Peter Jackson brought him to Town from Lincoln, and while he didn’t look that much like a footballer – and certainly didn’t have the diet of one! – it soon became clear he had a great engine and good feet.
Fletch is capable of both scoring goals and making them, and he was a pleasure to play alongside.
And much as I have a soft spot for the claret and blue of West Ham, who would also be a welcome addition to the Premier League, I’d love to see Blackpool win what promises to be a colourful clash on Saturday.
Like Fletch, I think Ian Holloway is underrated as a manager.
He’s a real character, and journalists will want Blackpool back in the Prem for that alone, but he’s also a very good manager who has built on the sound platform left by our boss Mr Grayson.
Blackpool’s big strengths are their unity and work ethic, and both assets were clear as they overcame Birmingham over two legs,
Chris Hughton has done a great job at St Andrews, where the foray into Europa League football perhaps took an effect towards the end of the campaign.
But Blackpool showed terrific character to come through the semi-final, and while West Ham are favourites, don’t write them off!