One player was conspicuously absent as the Premier League's surprise package descended on Dublin for their Christmas party over the weekend. Surprisingly, given that his club are a throwback to the days before footballers became acquainted with property portfolios, he was otherwise detained in a business meeting.
DJ Campbell was present only "in spirit" for what he termed a "good bonding" exercise by his Blackpool colleagues. Crucially, none of them went missing on Saturday, his well-taken goal ensuring the only party pooped was Stoke's. For Campbell it represented the best performance of a pundit-defying season because "we had to dig in and show guts".
Three points against Tottenham next Sunday would put Ian Holloway's team in contention for Europe. Like Stoke, they draw inspiration from the perceived barbs of critics. "Lots of people wrote us off," said Campbell, "and still do." His manager put it more bluntly: "People said we'd be the worst Premier League team ever. That hurt. The lowest points total is 11 and we've doubled that already. It's very satisfying after the players were disrespected like that."
Stoke defender Danny Collins afterwards reflected on Blackpool's emerging status. "A lot of people were expecting them to go down but I think they'll do fine," he said.
Scorer: Blackpool Campbell 48.
Subs: Stoke Tuncay (Pennant, 70), Walters (Jones, 70), Whelan (Wilkinson, 83). Gudjohnsen. Blackpool Phillips (Grandin, 80).
Booked: Stoke none. Blackpool Evatt, Adam.
Man of the match Adam.
Match rating 7/10.
Possession Stoke 46% Blackpool 54%.
Shots on target Stoke 6, Blackpool 4.
Referee A Taylor (Cheshire). Att 26,879.