James Lawton: We all share the pain as the lights go out and Tangerines' hopes fade

As Owen ended the Premier League's most romantic story, who couldn't bleed for them?

In the end we had to settle for mere integrity, the kind that said the all-time champions of England and Champions League finalists must influence Survival Sunday without the need for a stewards' inquiry.



However, when Michael Owen gave us a sliver of his past with the goal that put Manchester United's victory beyond doubt – and ended potentially the most romantic story in the history of the Premier League, which has become so much about money and power – who couldn't but bleed at least a little for Blackpool?

Who couldn't sigh at the reality that the great illumination show of English football, the neon fantasy that for one season at least it might be more about the wit and the spirit of a team and its dreamy, passionate coach Ian Holloway than the size of its payroll, was probably always doomed?

None of this is to minimise the dramas elsewhere, the ones that saw the superior football instincts of Wigan's Roberto Martinez and the sheer dreadnought defiance of Wolves' Mick McCarthy emerge safely at the expense of Birmingham City's Alex McLeish, a tough and practical football man who ultimately may have paid the price for one extraordinary day of overachievement against Arsenal at Wembley.

It is just to say that at Old Trafford we went to the heart of how it is when you fight enormous odds, when you play with all the courage at your disposal, and still have to face the most dispiriting of conclusions – the one that insists that you can only do so much in the face of deeper strength and resources.

Of course, there is no solution to a problem that will always exist so long after the concept of a level playing field went the way of gaslights and hansom cabs.

Holloway said all that he could as he walked away from the Old Trafford pitch. If he had regrets they had little to do with a final statement of the spirit – and the inherent weaknesses – of the team which had questioned at times so fiercely the distribution of Premier League strength.

His pain was that there was nothing that could be said to ease the fact that a thrilling, improbable adventure was over. Of course, you can attempt to pick up the pieces but in football there is another reality and one which gathered like iron filings around the magnetic presence of Blackpool's outstanding player, Charlie Adam.

Here was the man who, at 25, had put so far behind the career crisis which came when he was loaned out to Ross County. There were two more such assignments for the Scot before Blackpool signed him to a contract which now has been converted into an unanswerable statement that he has made his home in the top flight of English football.

He could not have done this more eloquently at Old Trafford yesterday. He scored with a superb free-kick which took much of the hyperbole out of Sir Alex Ferguson's statement that for set-piece work on the ball alone he is worth £10m, and this was after he had delivered an opening piece of work which should have seen Blackpool jump into an instant lead. It was Adam who most effectively carried Blackpool's unlikely challenging of the odds and when it was over, and he shook hands with some of the United players it was not as someone taking a last grasp of the big time.

Holloway confirmed as much when he said, with infinite sadness: "We had a great group here but now it will dissipate. Yeah, it hurts, whatever you say."

What could you say? Only that he and his team had dared to do something as unlikely as it would have been great. They gave everyone in football, wherever they languished, the most precious of gifts. They gave hope.

Wolves and Wigan survive, Birmingham go down, pages 4&5

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower