THE future of North Devon football looks bright – and judging by a last minute entry to next month s Joma 2010 South West Challenge Cup, it ll certainly be Orange! Premier League new boys Blackpool have become a shock eleventh-hour wildcard inclusion in t

THE future of North Devon football looks bright - and judging by a last minute entry to next month's Joma 2010 South West Challenge Cup, it'll certainly be Orange!

Premier League new boys Blackpool have become a shock eleventh-hour wildcard inclusion in the annual pre-season competition, taking place in the region from July 19-25.

Manager Ian Holloway telephoned organisers on Friday evening to accept an invitation to take part. Tournament Secretary Heather Schofield said that since the announcement was made public this morning (Monday), the phone had been ringing non-stop.

"To secure a Premier League club is a major coup for the West Country," she told the Gazette.

"Blackpool's inclusion puts a whole different atmosphere on the tournament and the phones have gone crazy this morning with calls from everyone from Sky Sports to fans wanting to travel to the region to watch the games.

"We now have nearly every level represented from the Western League, right up to the Premier League."

Tournament Director Michal Bradshaw added: "On behalf of the entire tournament executive, I want to warmly welcome Ian Holloway and his victorious side back to the West Country for the Joma 2010 tournament. We are privileged to host such a gentleman of integrity and principle whose feats this past season have just left people absolutely spellbound.

"When Ian enters a room, it immediately lights up; and he has just lit-up the entire 2010 South West Challenge Cup. Welcome back Ian."

Holloway and his side - still buzzing from their famous Championship play-off final against Cardiff City at Wembley last month - took part in last year's tournament and were knocked out on penalties at the hands of Rushden and Diamonds,

The Seasiders will join Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock, established English Championship club Doncaster Rovers, League One side Leyton Orient, and League Two's Accrington Stanley and Shrewsbury Town.

Joining them will be the Blue Square League's Eastleigh, Rushden & Diamonds and Havant and Waterlooville, while closer to home, Southern Football League sides, Bideford and Truro City, and Western League sides Barnstaple Town and Ilfracombe Town, will be looking to mix it up with the big boys.

All will be looking forward to Monday's challenge cup draw, taking place at the Barnstaple Hotel, at 2.30pm.

The 13 teams will be split into four groups, with the top team from each group playing off in a semi-final and the winners playing in the final.

The games will be played at six venues around North Devon, including Barnstaple Town, Bideford, Ilfracombe, Torrington, Holsworthy and a further ground to be announced this week.

A limited number of flexi-tickets are available until June 30, priced £15. The tickets permit one adult and one child to all 12 group games. Pensioners can buy a concessionary ticket for all the group games for £10.

For more information and tickets, visit the tournament website at www.southwestchallengecup.moonfruit.com