Holloway's winning ways
Jimmy Armfield jokes that when the fixtures were published for Blackpool's return to English football's top tier after a 40-year absence he studied them with great care - to work out when they might win their first corner.
Blackpool were every pundit's favourites for relegation and most realists in the grand old seaside town were bracing themselves for a one-season ride on the domestic game's equivalent of the "Big One".
And yet, under the inspirational leadership of manager Ian Holloway, the Seasiders have emerged as one of the stories of the Premier League campaign, capped by a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Bloomfield Road on Wednesday that gave them the double over the Anfield giants.
Blackpool have already secured 28 points towards the recognised survival target of 40 - seven points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, if you are real romantic - and club legend Armfield is marvelling at the feats achieved by Holloway and his players.
Armfield was at Bloomfield Road, where a stand is named after the former England captain, to see the latest chapter in the season unfold.
Campbell heads Blackpool's winner. Photo; Getty Images
With the spotlight firmly on Kenny Dalglish, taking charge of a league game as Liverpool manager for the first time in 20 years, it was Holloway's men who stole the show.
Armfield, who ranks alongside Sir Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen as iconic figures in Blackpool's history, told me: "It is a remarkable story, although we always have to remember there is still a long way between 28 points and the 40 points that most people accept you need to stay up.
"The fans are just enjoying it and I don't think anyone expected this. And don't forget, they could have had more than 28 points. They conceded very late goals against Fulham, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Bolton that cost them points.
"I had a laugh with my son when the fixtures came out. He asked whether I was seeing where our first win would come. I told him I was looking for where our first corner would come. I was only joking but then they went and won 4-0 at Wigan on the opening day.
"I think they have just carried on from last season. Blackpool were probably happy to stay in the Championship but got to the play-offs. They then beat Nottingham Forest, who were favourites, home and away in the semi-final and then beat Cardiff at Wembley after being behind twice."
Armfield's own illustrious playing career ended when Blackpool played their final game in the former First Division against Manchester United in May 1971. Holloway's players are making that lengthy wait for a return worthwhile.
Blackpool's achievements this season have ensured Holloway's readiness with a quip now takes second place to his ability as a manager. The madcap quotes may never be far from his lips but he has forged a reputation as a boss to be taken seriously.
And Armfield was able to reveal, from first-hand experience, some of the methods that have enabled Holloway and Blackpool to maintain this unlikely story.
"Yes, Ian is a character but he is so much more than that," said Armfield. "I think his past life as a manager is now reflected in his team and the way they play. He has left jobs and lost jobs - and he has clearly decided that the way to play is passing, possession football.
"I spoke to Mark Lawrenson at the game with Liverpool and he was impressed that they just try to play. Blackpool are an attacking side.
"It was probably a good time to play Liverpool. They were missing Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, who are two big items for Liverpool, but when Fernando Torres scored after a couple of minutes you thought 'hello, how will Blackpool react to that?'
"They just kept playing, kept attacking and turned it around and won. There was no doubt Blackpool were the better team on the night.
"Ian has also captured the crowd. There was just over 16,000 in Bloomfield Road for Wednesday's game and yet when I spoke to the Liverpool directors they were telling me it was the best atmosphere they had experienced this season - this from people who watch their football at Anfield.
Holloway has outfoxed Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish
"Ian has also given the players a tremendous belief. He has made players who have never had much, who have come through the divisions with Blackpool, believe they are Premier League players and can play in such illustrious company. That is an incredible achievement."
Armfield also delivered an insight into how Holloway has worked off the field to foster a unity and team bond that he believes has been a central plank of their progress.
He said: "People talk about players like Charlie Adam but I think a key factor is that they have no key players. They are a team and Ian works at it to ensure they stay like that.
"Before Christmas, during the cold spell, he took them out in the afternoon to play cards. Then they came to our church for a carol service, with some of the players reading the lessons. The players also went to the Trinity Hospice in Blackpool to see the children. Doing all these things together has helped to make them a team and stay as a team."
Blackpool's success is also spreading the feelgood factor around the place. "Obviously it is delighting the people in the town," said Armfield. "They are more optimistic about the team and the results have lifted them."
And Armfield, an expert BBC radio summariser for so long, believes it is a story that has not just given hope to Blackpool but clubs lower down English football's ladder.
"It is remarkable and as much as anything it gives so much hope to all those clubs who think they may never get a chance of playing in the Premier League, or even if they do they will only be there briefly," he said.
Armfield remains as measured as ever in his assessment of his beloved Blackpool, even as they sit in the top half of the table just off the European places, saying: "I haven't thought about getting my passport out just yet."
Survival is still the aim - but the whole of Blackpool and one of its favourite sons continue to revel in the dramas taking place by the seaside.