What a week it has been for Blackpool F.C. Two away defeats and five red cards saw the Seasiders drop out of the play-off places.
This couldn’t have come at a more difficult time for Ince’s side. Winter is notoriously the toughest period of the footballing calender with games coming thick and fast. This is emphasised by the opposition Pool will face at Bloomfield Road on Saturday, Queens Park Rangers; who arguably boast the best manager and strongest squad in the whole of the division, and are placed a healthy second in the Championship, behind leaders Burnley only on goal difference.
There are many different arguments as to why the Seasiders have slumped recently, one being a lack of discipline amongst the squad. And when you look at the cold hard facts, they speak for themselves; five red cards in two games, making it eight overall for the season. This is highlighted when looking at the manor of the dismissals; particularly Ricardo Fuller’s straight red at Yeovil Town, a deliberate head-butt is not what you expect from such an experienced player given the context of the game. Gary MacKenzie’s sending off at Yeovil and Angel Martinez’s at Derby County, both for two bookable offences, also highlight this claim. According to some supporters, this lack of discipline stems from the manager; Paul Ince received a five-match ban from stadiums following his actions away at Bournemouth in September. Many fans have since asked, what example does this show to the players if they see their own manager losing his head and receiving such a hefty ban and fine? No real leadership seems to be apparent from the man in charge of the squad.
On the other hand, and the view which assistant-manager Steve Thompson takes, some individuals have shown a lack of judgement rather than a lack of discipline. In an interview with The Gazette, Thompson refers to Martinez’s second yellow at Derby as an example of this. He believes that if a player has already received a yellow card , there is no need for them to “make a rash tackle”. Angel and Liverpool loanee Jack Robinson both have two red cards each to their names, with Robinson’s second red card of the campaign coming against Blackburn in October following a mass brawl on the pitch. The emphasis here is on the player, and not the manager, to take responsibility for their actions. Ince supports Thompson’s view and added that the lack of judgement shown was due to the fact that his players are tired. The Seasiders did have to travel down to Yeovil on Tuesday, a 10-hour round trip, and then to Derby for a game on Saturday morning. Ince said that “People do get tired and make the wrong decisions.”
Ince also presented another argument; he believes that poor refereeing decisions are to blame for the Seasiders sizeable red card count this season. Ince claims that Neal Bishop’s foul that lead to Derby County’s fourth goal last Saturday was worthy of a penalty being awarded, but not of a red card. Ince branded the decision to send Bishop off as “rubbish”. Ince has called for Premier League referees to come and officiate in Pool’s games, something which other Championship teams have benefited from this season. Hopefully, this will lead to better decisions being made, and thus improving Blackpool’s tarnished discipline record.
Things will hopefully change for Saturday’s game against QPR. Craig Cathcart and Kirk Broadfoot look set to return to the defence which will have a much more solid look about it compared to the back four that started against Derby. A win against Harry Redknapp’s side will put Pool back in the play-off places. Ending the game with eleven men still on the pitch will be a good start towards putting Pool’s season back on track.