Tomorrow afternoon’s game with Norwich City sees the return of a former ‘Pool favourite, partly responsible for our Promotion to The Championship.
However, there are more pressing matters on the minds of Blackpool fans everywhere. The ‘R’ word has become a very real possibility in the last few weeks. 2 points is all that separates The Seasiders from the drop-zone and, with a -15 goal difference, if ever there was a game to win, tomorrow’s against 23rd place Norwich is just that.
As for the return of a former hero, Wes Hoolahan – who left the Seaside in the summer – makes his very first return to Bloomfield Road since his departure. His departure still sours in the mouths of many, particularly the famed ‘release clause’ in his contract allowing him to leave for a pittance of what many valued him at, but the fact still remains that Mr. Hoolahan can be credited for being one of our best players in the Promotion season and ultimately, led us back to The Championship after a 29-year absence – and who on Earth can forget THAT penalty against the old enemy on a wet December day in 2007?
Never-the-less, all that is inconsequential going into tomorrow’s game. The term ‘must-win game’ is a horrible footballing cliché, however, the sentiment rings true. A defeat would leave Tony Parkes and Steve Thompson with a potential mountain to climb (others have games in hand over the Seasiders) whereas a victory – the first at home since the Birmingham game back in January! – would no doubt ease the air of resentment towards the Chairman and the dark cloud hanging over Bloomfield Road and potentially kick-start a revival leading to the most important thing; safety.
Given the importance of the game, the Official Blackpool Website has published an article with players asking for unity from the fans to make some noise and spur the team on to an important victory.
‘Pool skipper, Rob Edwards;
‘You, the fans, can really make a big difference in the game against Norwich by making the atmosphere intimidating for them.’
‘We all need to pull together at times like this and that 12th man will be needed more than ever.’
‘Fans, players and staff – everyone has got to get behind us now so that we can keep pulling in the right direction.’
Norwich City manager, Brian Gunn;
‘We’ve managed to claw our way back into the situation after having been written off by many different agencies, individuals and supporters.’
‘But our result on Tuesday night has given us the opportunity to leap-frog, or certainly join Blackpool on the same points tally.’
‘Should we get a very successful result it will give us an even better opportunity to finish the season and stay in the Championship.’
Blackpool Team News:
Ian Evatt and Rob Edwards are both set to miss out with knee and ankle injuries respectively, while Burgess is a long-term absentee.
Parkes could name the same side that started on Tuesday night against Burnley, with Brett Ormerod preferred to partner DJ Campbell than loan signing, 19-year-old Nick Blackman (from Blackburn).
Player to watch: Alex Baptiste
The versatile defender has turned heads in the last month with some impressive, composed performances – another inclusion in the ‘Championship Team of the Week’ was rewarded to him after his performance against Bristol City – and his partnership with Shaun Barker at the back is growing with every game.
Norwich City Team News:
Adam Drury and Dejan Stefanovic are long-term injury problems for the Canaries while loan signing David Mooney goes straight into the squad after a hat-trick in the reserves, mid-week.
Gunn is more than likely to stick with the same team that beat QPR on Tuesday night – meaning Hoolahan should start, with Alan Gow taking up a place on the bench.
Player to watch: Wes Hoolahan
We all know what the tricky Irish winger is capable of and, while I’m sure he has fond memories of Blackpool and his subsequent rise to fame in the English leagues, he’ll be going out of his way to make sure that the Canaries get something out of the game, so he and the club don’t slip down into League One for next season.
Match Facts & Stats
Last time the two sides met in the league, they played out a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road – a Ben Burgess penalty cancelled out by a Russell header.
In the 2007/2008 season, the last time the sides met in Blackpool, Norwich ran out 3-1 winners. It would be a game in which Hoolahan missed a penalty and Dion Dublin endured the wrath of the ‘Pool fans after going in hard on Paul Rachubka near the corner flag and only receiving a yellow card. He’d then go on to score 2 goals and see his side run out the victors.
Blackpool 1-1 Norwich City
vs Sheffield United (A) – Tuesday 10th March, 7.45pm.