The English Premier League is not only arguably the world's preeminent soccer league: It's, in a lot of ways, the biggest. Chelsea's transfer budget in the most recent window was somewhere around 80 million euros; Manchester United is the second most valuable brand in sports; the overseas rights to televise Premier League matches fetched 1.4 billion pounds. Tiny Blackpool FC doesn't seem to fit.
And yet, now, it belongs.
Recovering from two separate one-goal deficits, Blackpool defeated Cardiff City 3-2, with Brett Ormerod scoring the game-winner in stoppage time, to win the last remaining Premiership spot this morning. Considering that the Seasiders were in the lowest division of English soccer in 2001 and expected to be relegated out of the Championship this year, this is a bit of an upset.
But while the obvious comparison is to Hull City, a team that rose from the basement to the penthouse in just six years, Blackpool did as much with a little less.Hull City's gotten a bit of financial backing in the past decade from a new ownership group. That has led to a new, 25,000-seat stadium, a bolstered budget, and the attendant success—Hull City played in the Premier League for the last two years, escaped relegation by a single point in 2008-09, and became a familiar name to many American soccer fans when it took on Jozy Altidore on loan. (Whether that loan was a good move for Hull City on the field is debatable, but it certainly helped their international Q-rating.)
Blackpool, on the other hand, play in a 12,555-seat stadium, one smaller than many high school football stadiums in Texas. Their costliest player ever is striker Charlie Adam, whose price tag was 500,000 pounds, which is a little over $730,000 and a little less than the minimum salary for a second-year NBA player. Blackpool's uniform doesn't even make sense: It's orange and white, wasting one of the cooler natural possibilities for a team based on its city.
Blackpool are a gang of Cinderellas in cleats, and the team will be expected to be relegated after their one tour of the big boys' club. But Hull City hung on for a year, and you can be sure that Blackpool, the newest little engine that could, will scrap to stay at the highest stratum.â†µ
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