Ready for the Prem?
We dissect the credentials of Blackpool and Cardiff ahead of the Championship Play-off.
Last Updated: 21/05/10 11:46am
The Premier League and all that it has to offer lies tantalisingly close for Blackpool and Cardiff City with just 90 minutes, or maybe 120 minutes, separating them from a place at English football's top table.
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final, a contest worth a possible £90million to the victors, skysports.com takes a look at the credentials of both hopefuls and contemplates whether they could cope with life in the big time.
Blackpool have waited 39 long years to grace the top flight again but are now within touching distance of providing a fairytale ending to a remarkable season.
Few had the foresight to tip Ian Holloway's unfashionable outfit as potential promotion material ahead of the 2009/10 campaign, but they are one game away from joining England's elite.
How, though, would they cope if they were to rip up the rulebook one more time and head back up Wembley Way on Saturday evening as Premier League newcomers?
They would undoubtedly need to strengthen, as the top flight is an unforgiving animal which will show no mercy to a lightweight squad thrashing frantically to keep their head above water.
Funds, therefore, would be an issue, with it unclear whether Holloway would be handed a workable war chest or a transfer trinket.
Bringing on board a number of proven, experienced Premier League performers would be a must, as the vast majority of Blackpool's squad have previously only graced that level in their dreams.
Implementing a squad overhaul would be harsh, though, on those who have fared so admirably this season and Holloway would likely stick by the vast majority of those who have helped the Seasiders punch above their weight thus far.
The most logical, and financially sound approach, would be to sweet talk a few of the top flight big wigs into loaning out a few of their talented youngsters, while perhaps dipping into the resources of a few fallen giants along the way to ensure the required blend of youth and experience is obtained.
While Blackpool would need to find yet another level if they were to make the step up, there are still a number of reasons to be optimistic.
Few pampered Premier League stars are likely to relish a trip to a windswept Bloomfield Road in mid-February, with the Seasiders' compact home yet to embrace the glitz of the illuminations which adorn the nearby promenade.
Should they go up, any hope they have of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship would likely rest on their ability to maintain a home record which has been almost immaculate of late.
They would, however, need to start getting a few more bums on seats, with an average attendance of just 8,611 during a campaign which could yet end in promotion a poor return to say the least.
The opportunity to see Wayne Rooney and co in the flesh is likely to get the turnstiles ticking over, but how many of the Johnny-come-latelys will stay the pace if the going gets tough?
Finally, in Holloway Blackpool boast a larger-than-life manager who would like nothing more than the opportunity to cause a few bloody noses on the biggest stage of all.
The former Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers boss may act the fool at times, when the situation allows, but his tactical nous should not be underestimated and he has a reputation for bringing the best out of those under his tutelage.
While Blackpool would welcome the financial rewards promotion would bring, the Cardiff coffers are perhaps in greater need of a cash injection.
Results on the field this season have helped to paper over the cracks of financial difficulty, but there is only so long running repairs can be carried out.
With that in mind, it appears that money would be the main sticking point for the Bluebirds were their destiny to lead them to the promised land.
Funds generated from extra television revenue may be required to fight fires away from the field, keeping the hands of manager Dave Jones firmly tied.
While Cardiff are able to boast a squad brimming with potential, and a number of players who have graced the top flight before, they would need to add in order to be competitive.
The likes of Michael Chopra, Jay Bothroyd, Peter Whittingham, Chris Burke, Joe Ledley, Anthony Gerrard and David Marshall deserve to be strutting their stuff in the Premier League, but they need reinforcements to help them along.
Cardiff would also need to beware of the January transfer window, with the vultures likely to be circling if they find themselves in trouble.
With their financial woes very much public knowledge, expect the Bluebirds' resolve to be tested to the full with a few cheeky bids in the New Year if they struggle to cope with the demands of life at the highest level.
Other than the obvious need for fresh faces, Cardiff appear to have everything else in place required to be a top flight outfit.
Their Cardiff City Stadium home, opened in July 2009, is a marked improvement on Ninian Park and has brought the club screaming into the 21st Century.
A state of the art stadia is by no means an essential quality to have, but it helps to generate extra revenue and there are few grounds more vociferous than Cardiff's when things are going well.
Jones also has plenty of prior experience at the highest level from his time at Southampton and Wolves and he will provide a composed head in the dugout - which might prove invaluable if all hell breaks loose in the boardroom.
The threat of administration was all too real this season and Peter Ridsdale and co must find investment, or a way to balance the books, if results are not to be undermined by distracting episodes on the sidelines.
Portsmouth have set the standard when it comes to putting on a Premier League circus and Cardiff must learn from those harsh lessons if they are to avoid a similar fate.
They are, however, something of a sleeping giant and can expect the locals to come out in force if and when they clamber their way back onto the top rung of the Football League ladder.
Do not underestimate the power of national pride either as Cardiff will relish the opportunity to become the first Welsh outfit to grace the Premier League - allowing them to stick two fingers up at local rivals Swansea City and bring about an end to English dominance at the pinnacle of the game.