Blackpool's first top-flight match since 1971 is not the glamorous Premier League debut fans were dreaming of when the Tangerines were promoted via the Championship play-off final in May. But at least today's short trip to Wigan Athletic gives them a realistic chance to start the season with some points, unlike the other two promoted clubs, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, who face Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.
Marlon Harewood, the striker, joined Blackpool this week and is one of the club's few players with Premier League experience. He said even a game against a Wigan side that finished six points above last season's relegation zone could prove too much of a challenge for his new teammates. "We're the underdogs now but we've got nothing to worry about," said the former West Ham United and Aston Villa forward. "They'll get used to it straight away but obviously it's a big step up from the Championship and they'll realise that on the first day.
"They're used to playing football but we're up against top-class players now." Harewood is one of the few additions to a side that finished sixth in the second-tier Championship and clinched qualification through the play-offs. Harewood, Craig Cathcart, a defender, the winger Elliot Grandin, Bolton utility player Chris Basham and the midfield pair Ludovic Sylvestre and Malaury Martin all arrived at Blackpool this week, with the club's first pre-season transfers going through only after Ian Holloway, the manager, had ended speculation he was going to quit by signing a new contract.
Harewood, Basham and Cathcart, a former Manchester United trainee, should make their debuts, but Sylvestre and Grandin need international clearance. Blackpool are the favourites to be relegated, but they were also expected to be relegated last season instead of being promoted. Holloway has spurned the usual newcomers' approach of signing former Premier League players, opting for Cathcart, Monaco-trained Malaury and Grandin, a former Marseille wide-man. That should continue Blackpool's reputation for attractive football.
"I will make good preparations and I'll be ready," Grandin said. "I can keep hold of the ball and I'll create opportunities for the guys in front of me, applying speed to the game out wide." * Associated Press Wigan Athletic v Blackpool, today, 6pm, ADMC Sports 8, to order call 800 2388 or log on to www.admcsport.com