'Holloway is manager of year... if Blackpool stay up'

Blackpool 0 Stoke City 0
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The Independent Football

Perhaps there was an element of bias. Tony Pulis has known Ian Holloway since they were "12 or 13" but, should Blackpool survive, he argued there was no question who should win the title of manager of the year.

"If Blackpool stay up, you have got to give it to him," said Pulis, whose achievement of taking Stoke to the first FA Cup final in their history also makes him a candidate.

"There is such a big difference between those who have and those who haven't in this country. We never look at that and we should do. There are clubs with millions to spend who can pay players £100,000 a week and then you have the likes of Ian with the smallest budget in the Premier League."

The members of the League Managers' Association, who vote on the award, tend to look beyond silverware. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger are the only recipients in the 17 years it has been running to have won trophies. Usually it has gone to the likes of Roy Hodgson at Fulham, Steve Coppell at Reading or George Burley at Ipswich – men who have achieved remarkable things at small clubs with small money. None has had as little as Holloway.

The question, though, is whether Blackpool, who have not won a match since beating Tottenham here in February, will survive. In the desert every puddle seems an oasis and Holloway thought that Kenwyne Jones's bizarre miss, screwing horribly wide with the goal at the mercy of the Stoke striker, might be a turning point.

"Who is to say luck hasn't turned at the right time for us," he said. "Maybe fate has twisted things for us to get away with it?" Then Holloway ran through Blackpool's three remaining fixtures.

First, Tottenham away: "They will be under huge pressure from their fans to beat us – and that suits us; we have always played better away from home." Then, Bolton by the seaside: "Stoke beating them in the FA Cup has hit them a little bit." And finally, Old Trafford: "You never know, their season might be focused on a huge, huge match at Wembley and they might already have won the title."

There are flaws in there, of course. Bolton's response after their disembowelling by Stoke was to end Arsenal's title challenge and in 2009 a Manchester United side that had already won the league and fielded a reserve side at Hull to prepare for a European Cup final against Barcelona still won 1-0.

"But I do think keeping Blackpool up would be a bigger achievement than getting us here in the first place," he added. "I met Steve Bruce and Mick McCarthy at a managers' get-together in Leeds the other week and both said it was their best ever achievement." And both had more money.

Substitutes: Blackpool Varney (Phillips, 72), Kornilenko (Taylor-Fletcher, 73). Stoke City Shotton 6 (Wilkinson, 56), Carew (Delap, 81), Diao (Pennant, 90).

Man of the match Evatt.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance 16,003.