Now in the first week of January, it feels like the right time to sit back and reflect on the first half of the season so far for Blackpool Football Club.
As a lifelong Blackpool supporter, I have seen the best times as well as the worst, but I don’t think I have ever seen a season quite like this; injuries, short-term contracts, red cards, stadium bans, fines; it is never dull at Bloomfield Road.
At the beginning of the season, looking at the lack of depth in Paul Ince’s squad and as ever our lack of expenditure, many fans would have expected and accepted a mid-table finish. However, by the end of August, the Seasiders were unbeaten and top of the Sky Bet Championship. Blackpool’s first league defeat came in September away to Ian Holloway’s new side Millwall. After this defeat, the Seasiders then went on to win only two of their next nine league games, but they still maintained a play-off place.
Saturday 30th November 2013 was the last time Blackpool left the pith as victors. They have lost six of their last seven league games, and were knocked out of the FA Cup by local rivals Bolton Wanderers. The Seasiders plight since that Millwall defeat to the beginning of January has been catastrophic.
Various injuries and an incredible five red cards in two games saw Blackpool endure their worst ever Christmas period, picking up only one point from a possible eighteen. Many fans have been critical of Paul Ince as a manager this season; the style of football has been very negative, and Ince’s substitutions have left fans puzzled. On top of this, Ince received a five-match stadium ban in October due to his conduct following the side’s win away at Bournemouth. What example does this show to the players when they see their own manager lose his head and receive such a hefty ban and fine? No real leadership seems to be apparent from the man in charge of the squad.
The squad itself has been light all season, in terms of both quality and quantity.
Although a few players of genuine Premier League class have come in to the club this season, such as Ricardo Fuller and Dan Gosling, last season’s stand out performers were never replaced in August. The gaps left from the departures of Neal Eardley, Alex Baptiste, Matt Phillips and Ludovic Sylvestre have not been filled, and this has been shown on the pitch.
A number of the teams key personal were missing in December due to injury or suspension, and this took its toll on the side. Many players were required to ‘take one for the team’ and fill in at positions completely alien to them. Take Neal Bishop for example; a central-midfielder by trade who has spent the majority of his career in the lower echelons of League 2, he was made to play on the right and left-hand side of midfield this season, as well as right-back. Inevitably, making changes like this will have an adverse effect on the team’s performance and subsequent results.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, many Blackpool supporters would have been happy finishing mid-table this season, the place which the Seasiders currently occupy and have thirty two points to their name. But what fans will not be pleased with is how the team has performed since September. Most players look a shadow of their former selves; Thomas Ince scored eighteen league goals during the last campaign, but this season he has looked a very disinterested figure who is ready to move to pastures new in the near future. The team itself are low on confidence. It seems that whenever they concede a goal, their heads drop instantly and no desire is shown to turn a game around.
We all know that the Championship is the most open and competitive league in the world, any team can win no matter who the opposition is. Despite the Seasiders fall they are still only four points off a play-off spot, and it only takes two or three wins in a row to climb up the table and back into the promotion mix.
As far as Blackpool are concerned, let’s hope that 2014 will be the year which sees the club turn its misfortunes around. Let’s hope that they can pick up a couple of wins soon, and stop this ship from sinking.