Ian Holloway, the Blackpool manager, finally signed four new players yesterday after admitting that he had only discovered on Monday that his chairman, Karl Oyston, was under the illusion that other Premier League sides would be offloading non-squad players at the start of the season.
A difficult build-up to the new campaign, with Holloway's side forced to play Saturday's first Premier League home game against Wigan away because Bloomfield Road is not ready and the club lacking the ready funds to pay bonuses or buy players, took its first positive turn when they signed centre-half Craig Cathcart from Manchester United and the French trio of midfielders Ludovic Sylvestre, Malaury Martin and winger Elliot Grandin from the Czech side Mlada Boleslav, CSKA Sofia and Monaco respectively. Later on it was announced that free agent Marlon Harewood, released by Aston Villa in the summer, had also signed on a two-year deal.
But the sense of chaos surrounding the newly promoted club has been compounded by rumours that Holloway was on the brink of quitting in a row over wages and transfer budgets. The announcement of a new two-year rolling contract killed that story, though the manager confirmed he had been unhappy that Oyston had not adequately rewarded his assistant, Steven Thompson, and the players. "I wasn't concerned with my relationship with the chairman. I was concerned that he looks after my staff," Holloway said.
He was also perturbed to discover this week that Oyston believed he could pick up plenty of players excluded from bigger clubs' 25-man squads. "I found out on Monday that my chairman had a plan," Holloway said. "He thinks there are going to be loads of players who'll be paid up by their clubs and won't want to sit there until January. Then we can wade in and sign them. Well, I asked Sir Alex Ferguson on Monday, and Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson and Mark Hughes if they thought that was going to happen, and they laughed. The spare players they've got can play in the FA Cup and the other cups, and they'll just save their Premier League squad."
Holloway added that Oyston had not been able to pay last season's bonuses until the Premier League's first instalment of money arrived. Blackpool also face a race against time to get their ground ready for the visit of Fulham on 28 August.