The boiler engineers were hard at work on Sunday, trying to ensure that the hospitality on offer for Rooney, Berbatov and Co at Bloomfield Road tonight will at least include hot showers. Liverpool didn't get such a luxury after they lost here a few weeks ago and neither should Manchester United hold their breath. Blackpool bought the new boiler last week but it certainly wasn't working on Saturday and its viability remained in some doubt yesterday afternoon. "It's both dressing rooms. There's no hot water there," Ian Holloway observed when it was put to him that his side and United could perhaps swap rooms.
It's a story which says as much about the financial gulf between the sides – Blackpool's £10m annual players' budget being roughly what United paid for Chris Smalling, who has played two Premier League games – as it does about the Charlie Adam turmoil which has overshadowed the fixture, originally scheduled for Boxing Day, which had Holloway up and about in a buzz at 5.30am yesterday, watching the DVDs of United's goalless draw at White Hart Lane.
Holloway knows Adam, his best player, is "really important to us in staying up," as he put it – a challenge which, with Manchester United and Tottenham to play twice, plus Arsenal and Chelsea on home soil where Blackpool have tended to come off worst, is "a huge mountain to climb". Where, the manager asked rhetorically, are the four wins from 17 games Blackpool need actually going to come from? Yet there may never be a better time to sell Adam than in the middle of a glowing first season, and to judge by the song emanating from the home dressing room when West Bromwich Albion were in town three days ago, all the players know that Anfield is the place where the 25-year-old Scot wants to be.
"Charlie walked down the corridor and he's one of the last to get in the dressing room. So I walk in behind him and the lads are singing 'Walk on, walk on," Holloway revealed. "And he just laughed."
To judge from Holloway's narrative, he has been here before with Adam. "Last year it was Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough – good job he didn't go. This year it was Aston Villa, Aston Villa, Aston Villa," Holloway said and Adam's decision to put in a transfer request yesterday morning may actually have done more harm than good. Chairman Karl Oyston was infuriated to find news of the transfer request leaked to broadcast media and, in Holloway's mind, that may cause him to dig his heels in and refuse to sell. "If my chairman thinks that [leak] has come from somewhere... he is the most pig-headed, stubborn bloke I have met in my life," the manager said.
The relationship between captain and chairman has not been good since Adam pursued him through the courts for the wage rise he was promised but which never came after Blackpool's promotion – "Charlie won, but did he? He had to pay legal fees," Holloway observed – and the manager portrayed himself as a referee between the two, seeking to keep the player he bought from Rangers two years ago motivated enough to drive up his performances and value, and secure the move to proper wages which he hankers for.
"Out of the £90m we got for getting promotion I would have given Charlie his bonus. I would not have looked at the wording. But the chairman thought differently. Away he goes. Oh deary me. I told Charlie: 'They have only offered £4m and you ain't going for that. You are more valuable than that to us. You are only halfway through a marathon. You are at the front, you are leading. You will get caught. You won't get what you want'."
The question for tonight, when Manchester United can restore Paul Scholes, is: will Adam be affected psychologically? Holloway said the midfielder had told him "it's doing my head in" earlier yesterday, but there is no question of the manager leaving him out of his side, and judging by his display against West Bromwich, 24 hours after Oyston had rejected Liverpool's £4m offer, Adam will perform as well as he did in the 2-1 defeat of Liverpool at Bloomfield Road. "If I tried to stop him playing against Manchester United, he would probably kill me," Holloway reflected. "He loves this club and just because he has put a transfer request in, that doesn't change. So watch out Man United because we've got Charlie Adam playing and he's good."
The brouhaha has overshadowed a fixture which this club have been longing for. "Already I'm bursting with pride because Manchester United are coming to Blackpool," Holloway said, though his suggestion that "if we are not a couple down in the first 10 minutes I'll be delighted" is a way short of the truth. Holloway revealed in his Independent on Sunday column that he cautioned a few of his players when he heard them calling this "a free game because no one expects us to win". There'll be no charity, no fine wine for Sir Alex – "he'll just have to put up with our stuff from Tesco or Sainsbury and I might just offer him white because I know he likes red!" – and probably no hot water either.
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