Billy Bingham and Ian Holloway are poles apart as people and in managerial style. But they share one thing in common — a burning desire to see Blackpool in the Premier League.
Bingham was the eloquent general who led Northern Ireland to the World Cup Finals in 1982 and 1986.
Holloway is the rent-a-quote Blackpool manager, king of the soundbite.
Holloway’s Tangerines take on Cardiff at Wembley tomorrow in a play-off for a place in next season’s cash-rich Premier League.
Little wonder it is billed as football’s richest match, with victory worth anything up to £100m.
And the legendary ‘Bingy’ would love to see Blackpool secure their place in the top flight for the first time in almost 40 years.
The Belfast man lives just up the road in Southport and Blackpool are close to his heart after a stint as director of football at the club following his time as boss of the Northern Ireland team.
“I really enjoyed my time at Blackpool and I would love to see them getting promoted to the Premier League,” Bingham said last night.
“They have brilliant supporters and I wish the club the best of luck against Cardiff.
“I have always looked out for their results and hoped that one day they would get promoted.
“It is a club associated with legends of the game like Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen.
“Players like that had Blackpool up among the top clubs at a time.”
And although Bingham (pictured) is confident Blackpool — who beat Nottingham Forest 6-4 on aggregate in a thrilling play-off semi-final — can get the better of Cardiff, he acknowledges it will be particularly difficult for them to survive in the top flight.
“There are so many clubs close to Blackpool that it can make life tough as you are competing for fans and competing for players,” he said.
“If Blackpool do go up, they will need money for players.
“All Premier League clubs now search the world for good players so Blackpool will need the funds to enable them to do that if they are to survive.
“Basically to survive at that level, clubs need to be rich.”
Bingham, now 78, was quick to pay tribute to the man who has taken Blackpool to the verge of the big time.
“Ian Holloway has done a
very good job. He’s got them to the brink of the Premier League so he has done very well. I congratulate him on his achievement,” he said.
Bingham feels Premier League football would be a huge boost to Britain’s most famous seaside resort.
“It has been a mecca for holidaymakers over the years, with people coming for the amusements and for the razzmatazz. There were great shows as well with all the top variety artists.
“But then the holiday trade moved abroad so having a Premier League football team would give the town a lift.
“If Blackpool go up it would create so much excitement and bring new people into the town.
“Everybody in Britain knows Blackpool but if the club was in the Premier League, everyone abroad would know Blackpool as well!” he added.
Blackpool is famous for its tower, pleasure beach and illuminations.
From tomorrow evening it might be just as famous — once again — for its football team.