Blackpool enjoy dream return to top flight

LONDON - Blackpool enjoyed a dream return to English football's top flight when they thrashed Wigan Athletic 4-0 to illuminate the opening day of the Premier League season on Saturday.

Champions Chelsea hammered West Bromwich Albion 6-0 inspired by Didier Drogba's hat-trick but the day belonged to seaside club Blackpool who have been in the wilderness since 1971.

Tottenham Hotspur and free-spending Manchester City, two sides intent on challenging for the title, played out a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane in which City were indebted to a sensational goalkeeping performance by Joe Hart.

Aston Villa responded to the shock resignation of manager Martin O'Neill with a 3-0 win over West Ham United with winger James Milner, poised to join Manchester City, scoring the third goal in what could be his last game for the club.

Blackburn Rovers beat Everton 1-0 and Wolverhampton Wanderers defeated visiting Stoke City 2-1. Birmingham City grabbed a later equaliser to draw 2-2 at 10-man Sunderland and Fulham and Bolton Wanderers finished goalless.

Relegation favourites and with their dated Bloomfield Road ground still undergoing a makeover, Blackpool and their joyous orange-clad fans unexpectedly stole top billing as the world's most-hyped domestic league opened for business.

"This is a great group of lads and we had a great day today," Holloway told Sky Sports.

"I had to throw in three boys today who had literally just met each other. If we stay together we may cut it and have half a chance to stay above three teams at the end of the season."

While Blackpool have been scratching around to bolster their squad with obscure signings and journeymen like Marlon Harewood, who netted twice against Wigan, Manchester City paraded 70 million pounds worth of new players in drizzly North London.


But it was Hart, who did not cost a penny and was preferred to Ireland's Shay Given, who made six top-drawer saves to keep Tottenham at bay in the opening 45 minutes.

"I was happy to make the saves and be part of a good performance," Hart, who eclipsed the debuts of Yaya Toure and Davis Silva, told the BBC.

"All I wanted to do was play for Man City but I've got to keep on my toes because Shay is a great keeper and next week I might be out of the team again."

Hart denied Jermain Defoe twice, Tom Huddlestone and Benoit Assou-Ekotto with dazzling saves in front of England manager Fabio Capello who picked him to face Hungary last week.

Blackpool's preparations for the season had been far from ideal but Wigan threw down the welcome mat as the visitors cruised into a 3-0 halftime lead.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher side-footed Blackpool ahead before Harewood struck twice. Wigan, jeered off at halftime, had a goal disallowed after the break and Alex Baptiste completed the rout.

Chelsea struggled during pre-season, losing a succession of friendlies and the Community Shield to Manchester United, but they hit the ground running against West Brom to co