Golden Mile turns tangerine as Blackpool salutes its heroes

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The Independent Online

Not since the 1960s have the tangerine army played in English football's top division – a time when a "wag" was no more than a feckless bounder.

Since then, when Sir Stanley Matthews dribbled his way down Blackpool's right flank and into the history books, and George Formby flicked on the seafront illuminations, the town has not had a great deal to cheer about. So yesterday would have been a glorious day whatever the weather – and no more than a flight of fancy as recently as four months ago.

The presence of some of the sporting world's most improbable heroes – namely, the first-team squad of Blackpool FC – making their way down Blackpool promenade in an open top bus will endure in the memories of the town's 140,000 inhabitants.

The victory is said to be worth £90m to Blackpool Football Club, and to the local economy, even more.

Yesterday though, the most significant economy was no doubt with the truth, as it was applied to the town's employers, by the thousands lining the parade's route on the hottest day of the year so far. The bus set off from Blackpool's Gynn Square and travelled from North Shore down the promenade to the Waterloo Headland, near South Pier.

A stage and screen was erected for more than 20,000 of them, decked in orange from head to toe, to watch the Blackpool manager Ian Holloway make a speech.

The club have already been installed as favourites for immediate relegation. To put it in perspective, Manchester United's average attendance this season was 75,304; Blackpool's was 8,611. The last time the Mancunian club's fans made the journey to Blackpool's Bloomfield Road, the town was still a popular honeymoon destination.

Yet Holloway, a man with a turn of phrase as colourful as the crowd he addressed, and who is considered "The Real Special One" by those dismissive of Jose Mourinho, maintained that his team will not play defensively against the titans such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.

"What I'd like to say to all of you is please stick with us," Holloway said.

"I tried to explain what we were going to do and we were going to play a different way.

"Now next year, we will try and attack the Premier League. I don't want to defend."

Councillor Peter Callow, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: "Blackpool is now part of the world's most successful football league.

"It is an amazing achievement and one that has secured a huge economic boost for the town."

Tony Openshaw of the resort's tourist board, said: "The result is a huge fillip for Blackpool and the whole of the Fylde Coast. We've already had bookings from companies who were making inquiries almost as soon as the final whistle was blown."

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