On the road: Ollie gets payback for an old rejection as Blackpool scrape point
22:35 GMT, 9 December 2012
22:35 GMT, 9 December 2012
It's a hell of a thing to carry a grudge for seven years against a man who doesn’t recall ever having met you.
Wes Thomas wasn’t shy last week in talking about the deeper meaning to his appearance on Saturday for Blackpool against Crystal Palace.
He had a score to settle with Ian Holloway, he said — and to judge from his bulging eyeballs as he mocked Palace’s fans 89 minutes into the game, he felt the mission was successful.
Revenge mission: Wes Thomas was released by Ian Holloway at QPR
Blackpool’s striker, borrowed from Bournemouth three weeks ago, had just created the late equaliser for Nouha Dicko with a delightful run and cross from the right. For Blackpool it meant a point from a 2-2 draw; for Palace it meant two dropped in pursuit of Cardiff.
For Thomas it meant a smidgen of revenge against the man in charge when he was cut from QPR’s youth ranks as an 18-year-old.
‘Ian Holloway is the one who released me when I was at QPR, so Saturday is a game I’m really looking forward to,’ Thomas had said ahead of the match. ‘I took it quite hard. It’s my chance to show Holloway I’m back.’
Thomas, 25, went on to speak about the pain of rejection, the uncertainty he felt as he fought his way back to the professional game via Waltham Forest, Fisher Athletic and various other non-League sides. It was a touching tale.
Alas, Holloway said: ‘Don’t know him at all. But he looks a good player.’
Thomas would have stood out to Holloway even if he was lousy. Of the 14 players Blackpool used on Saturday, Thomas was the only one who did not work under Holloway in his three-and-a-half years at Bloomfield Road, a relationship that ended on November 3 amid some mystery.
Holloway’s line has been that he
fancied a fresh challenge and a move back to his family in the south;
others suggest he was unhappy with elements of his rolling contract.
Familiar faces: Ian Holloway welcomed his old side to Selhurst Park
What was initially presented as an amicable split — or as amicable as these things ever are — has recently evolved via insider testimonies into something a little more strained.
Ian Evatt did not play for Blackpool on Saturday because of a knee problem but he was there through Holloway’s best years in management, when he took them up to the Premier League in 2010, came within a whisker of keeping them there, and then reached the play-off final last season.
Evatt’s still there now, playing under Michael Appleton and a fortnight ago offered an intriguing and alarming insight into the final months of the Holloway regime. ‘I think we both needed a change,’ Evatt said. ‘In the last couple of months, we hadn’t really done much training. We had numerous days off — anything from two to five or six at a time.
‘It was as surprising to the lads as
anyone else. We’re an honest bunch of players and we want to work hard,
but at times we weren’t doing that.’
For their part, the Blackpool fans were largely respectful.
They clapped Holloway on and they
clapped him off. But in between, when Blackpool took the lead through
Nathan Delfouneso, they sang: ‘Ollie, Ollie, what’s the score’
‘They weren’t singing that when we went 2-1 up,’ Holloway said later.
Party time: Michael Appleton celebrates after Blackpool equalise
There was an element of anger in his tone but not as much as he reserved for a member of Appleton’s staff.
‘I didn’t like the reaction of one of the men on their bench,’ he said. ‘One of the new fellas looked straight at me when they equalised. It’s a war out there, and I carried my shield very proudly.
‘He didn’t stare me out. No one can stare me out. I know Michael wouldn’t have done something like that. He’s got more about him than that. But I didn’t look round at them when we scored, did I
‘I was at Blackpool a long time and had great times, but you have to move on.’
Easier said than done. Just ask Wes.
Whither Wilfried now
Where will Wilfried go next It’s a question Stephen Crainey, Blackpool’s left back, struggled with for the better part of 90 minutes on Saturday.
It was not Zaha’s best game for Palace — not by a long shot — but most of his errors only came after he skinned his marker and had plenty of time to decide what to do next.
He really is a wonderfully exciting talent and one with a very bright future. But the feeling is that Saturday’s performance, in particular during the second half, was better than most he has managed since his England call-up to face Sweden last month.
Waiting game: Wilfried Zaha (right) has a number of Premier League admirers
Holloway seems to blame the dip on speculation surrounding the 20-year-old, with some reports claiming Arsenal are close to signing him, while one on Sunday said Manchester United are preparing a 10million January move that would see Zaha loaned back to Palace for the rest of the season.
Holloway said: ‘The last thing we need is for him to get confused about how good he is and what he can do. He just has to start concentrating on what he was doing well this year.’
Crainey will testify that he’s very close to finding his best form again.
By the way…
It's clear AFC Wimbledon were right to be wary of the hype surrounding the FA Cup clash with MK Dons. They know their real challenge lies in League Two, and their failure to win on Saturday leaves them just one point clear of the relegation zone.