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

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

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific