Thursday, 30 December 2010

Seaside Strategy - Sunderland Away

Much like Steve Bruce commented on in his post-match interview, I too felt from quite an early stage of this match that it was going to be Blackpool's day. When Richard Kingson fumbled a shot around the post mid-way through the first half, it appeared than even when making defensive mistakes, the ball just was not going to hit the back of the Seasiders' net. Fortune certainly played its part in 'Pool's fifth win of the season, but once more a steely grit about the way the side put their bodies on the line resulted in consecutive clean sheets on the road, and Blackpool's first back-to-back victories this season.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Season Ticket Reward Refunds - Where Are They?


Original Offer

'Your Loyalty Rewarded' - this was the slogan in the 2010/11 season ticket brochure. The deal was that for every friend existing season ticket holders could persuade to sign up, they would receive 10% of the cost of their own season ticket back as a reward. This seemed like a great idea, and with the club sorely lacking in ideas in a commercial sense down the years, a breath of fresh air. In the end, promotion to the Premier League probably meant that no such incentives were necessary, with the full allocation of season tickets being snapped up in no time at all.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Man Utd Postponement - Avoidable?


So arguably the biggest home game of the season has fallen victim to the weather. Despite measures being taken to get the game on, referee Peter Walton was not convinced that the pitch would thaw out in time for the late evening kick off tomorrow. Is this merely a case of force majeure, or could the club have done more to ensure the fixture did go ahead?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Defining Part of the Season?


Time for another periodic overview of the season so far. Towards the end of October, I wrote an article about how Blackpool's season was panning out after the first eight league games. The mood at that time was not quite as buoyant as it had after the first four games, but the consensus was that 'Pool were performing above expectations (admittedly not too hard).

Examining the next seven matches (Birmingham until Bolton) I had identified this as a crucial period in the season. Compared with the opening fixtures, many of these should have been seen winnable, and so it was vital that points were picked up in this period. I surmised that reaching 20 points or more would be a great return, and survival would look more than achievable. While not quite reaching that target, 'Pool fell only one point short and if they can replicate this points tally over the 38 games, a mid-table finish is on the cards.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Seaside Strategy - Bolton Wanderers Away

A great point, all told, but disappointing not to claim all three points having led 2-0 with just 15 minutes to go. Bolton have proven on many occasions this season that they are not a team to be taken lightly and following their last home outing resulting in a 5-1 demolition of Newcastle, you'd have been hard pressed to find a 'Pool fan unhappy with a draw at the Reebok. However, DJ Campbell's missed chances with the score at 2-0 ended up costing the Seasiders the victory when it looked all but assured.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Seaside Strategy - Wolverhampton Wanderers Home

Blackpool never make things easy - this we know - and so despite what for large parts of the game seemed a straight-forward victory, another late goal caused a panicky end to a match once more. It may not have been the most eye-pleasing of wins, but it was a vital three points over a side against whom 'Pool are directly competing with this season. This result puts the Seasiders nine points ahead of both West Ham and Wolves, a sizeable cushion at this stage of the season. What about the performance though? Where did Ian Holloway's side gets things right, and which areas need to be looked at for improvement?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Seaside Strategy - West Ham United Away

Quite how this game finished 0-0 is hard to comprehend for anyone who witnessed it, but in the end a point each was probably fair. Both teams will argue they could have won it, and Blackpool did have the better chances (plus the wrongly-disallowed Harewood goal) but a share of the spoils away from home anywhere this season has to be a respectable outcome. What do the stats tell us about the game?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Seaside Strategy - Aston Villa Away

With all the hoo-hah about team selection hopefully behind us, I'd like to take a look at how some of the fringe players performed, and whether it's possible for them to oust their teammates on a more regular basis.

Three players who had perhaps been closest to breaking into the starting XI prior to the game at Villa Park were David Carney, Ludovic Sylvestre and Matt Phillips. Did they put in a good enough shift to warrant keeping their places for the game against West Ham tomorrow, or are they likely to be back on the bench in another all-change approach from Ian Holloway?

In order to compare performances, I have used statistics from those who they replaced from the Manchester City game - that match also ending 3-2 being possibly the most suitable comparison.

Looking at Carney first, can he hope to keep Stephen Crainey out of the side? Crainey has drawn criticism for some of his performances this season, most noticeably away at Arsenal, but more often than not he has bounced back with a solid performance, making it hard for Holloway to drop him. Carney was brought in on deadline day as back-up for Crainey, but despite his experience with the Australian national side, has had to bide his time.


 by Guardian Chalkboards

The easiest thing to notice is just how much further up the pitch Crainey plays. Not only that, but Crainey also tries to contribute with assists, providing crosses on a number of occasions, while Carney failed to make one cross all game - his only passes into the Villa box coming from corners. This is fairly surprising, as Carney has played large spells of his career as a midfielder, giving the expectation that he would get forward more often than he did at Villa Park.


What, then, of Ludovic Sylvestre? I've chosen to compare his statistics against those of Charlie Adam. With Adam's future at Blackpool in doubt beyond January, many will be hoping that the former Barcelona trainee can step into his shoes. Sylvestre's performance was one of the highlights against Aston Villa, as he looked composed in possession and moved the ball neatly. He did tire as the game wore on, being visibly slow to track back in the latter stages, but that is only to be expected with so few first team minutes under his belt. What do the stats say about Sylvestre though? Can he hold a torch to Adam?


 by Guardian Chalkboards

Sylvestre made a particularly large number of passes, completing 61 of them successfully. In terms of sheer quantity, few Blackpool players have made quite so many passes in a single game this campaign. What about the quality of these passes though? Where Adam holds the advantage over Sylvestre is the areas in which he sees the ball. Adam's role is slightly higher up the pitch and thus taking up more dangerous positions in an attacking sense. Sylvestre looks to keep the ball ticking over nicely, but whether he offers the same drive as the 'Pool skipper remains to be seen.


Last, but not least, let's take a look at the star man from Wednesday night's game, Matt Phillips. When he signed from Wycombe in August, I expected he would be a peripheral figure for much of this season - one for the future, if you like. Even his cameo appearances have caught the eye, including his memorable goal against Blackburn, which should have been enough to earn 'Pool a point. A starting place was long overdue, and nobody took their chance more so than Phillips. For many, he was the most exciting player on the pitch, and of the 10 changes, he is possibly the candidate most likely to stay in the side tomorrow at Upton Park.


 by Guardian Chalkboards

Comparing his performance to Gary Taylor-Fletcher's against Man City, you can see how Phillips helped give the Seasiders real width. Whereas GTF has a tendency to drift towards the centre of the pitch, Phillips ran at the full-back time and time again. He briefly switched to the left at one point in the first half, but even then he kept wide, rarely coming inside and making the 'Pool attack narrow. Perhaps most impressive was Phillips determination to get to the byline and deliver a cross. He created a number of chances doing this, which with some better finishing from Marlon Harewood, could have resulted in a more positive result. How long Phillips can maintain the high standards he has set himself is uncertain, but he is already establishing himself as a player of real quality.


Looking forward to tomorrow, Holloway has to decide which players come back in, and which ones drop out. I doubt there'll be another 10 changes, but you have to wonder if Carney and Sylvestre have done enough to keep out Crainey and Adam. Only fatigue or injury is likely to prevent Matt Phillips adding to his first Premier League start, and I'm hoping I'll have plenty more to write about the highly-exciting prospect after the game against West Ham.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Just the 10 changes, then

When I wrote before the Aston Villa game that changes were afoot, even I wasn't expecting quite so many of them. Ian Holloway opted to make no fewer than ten changes to the side that took to the field against Everton, and in doing so has drawn the full glare of the media spotlight. In the wake of this story, I think there are some key issues that should be looked at:

  • Was Holloway right to make so many changes?
  • Were the 'Pool fans who travelled short-changed?
  • Did Holloway over-react in the post-match interview?
  • Should the Premier League be getting involved?
  • Is Holloway's quit threat genuine?
  • What does this mean for Saturday?
  • What are the longer-term consequences? 

Let's take a look at these questions one at a time, and try to provide some answers...

Was Holloway right to make so many changes?

This obviously depends on your definition of right. The reasons given by the manager for the overhaul were twofold - the first being to rest players who have played regularly. This season has no doubt been a step up in terms of the standard and pace of the game, so the view that players need to be kept fresh is a worthy one. The second reason given by Holloway was to let some of the fringe players have an opportunity. Fringe players, might I add, that have been selected among Blackpool's 25 man squad submitted to the Premier League. 

By the letter of the law, surely fielding players part of this squad cannot possibly be construed as purposely sending out a weakened team? Then again, you have the ambiguous Premier League rule E.20 - "In every League Match each participating Club shall field a full strength team." In whose opinion? With pre-selected squads of 25, who determines just which players are strong and weak? Some might suggest a rule of limiting changes from game to game, but where would this arbitrary limit be set? A maximum of six changes? Seven? What if injuries and suspensions mean a team has to make more changes than this pre-determined limit?

Holloway has a squad, and he is surely entitled to use it as he sees fit, without outside influence.


Were the 'Pool fans who travelled short-changed?

This is a tricky one. Anyone who was at Villa Park last night cannot argue with the level of performance. First choice team or not, for long spells the men in tangerine matched their more illustrious counterparts, and but for a last minute goal from a set-piece, 'Pool would have come away with a well-earned point. The team sent out did not roll over, and did not do the club a disservice. Fans were given a chance to see potential future starts, such as Matt Phillips and Ludovic Sylvestre, shine on the big stage.

Then again, had a more familiar XI started the match, Seasiders' fans could have been rewarded with another away win. Villa, through a number of injuries, were also depleted, and arguably there for the taking. Last night cost me in excess of £50, and it will have cost many even more than that. Personally, I don't regret going and I still feel it was value-for-money in entertainment terms (as much as Premier League football can be good value). However, for financial reasons I am having to miss my first away game of the season at Upton Park on Saturday. Would I have chosen West Ham over Villa if I'd known that Holloway would make 10 changes? Possibly, possibly not. Is it really for me though, to pick and choose my games depending on the chances of my team winning? Absolutely not. Following Blackpool through some truly horrendous times, it would be churlish to now cry off at the first sign of the Premier League dream turning sour.

What's to say, though, that Blackpool would have played better with an unchanged team? In spells, 'Pool played as well as they have done all season, and in Phillips had one of the outstanding performances of the season so far. If some fans feel aggrieved at Holloway's decision, then that is their prerogative, but by and large, I believe most Blackpool supporters understand the reasons, even if they don't necessarily agree with them.


Did Holloway over-react in the post-match interview?

For me, this is possibly the heart of the story. Would the media reaction today have been so pronounced had Holloway not have been so 'wiggy' in his post-match interviews? I doubt it. In some ways, Holloway's reaction has become the story, rather than the changes themselves. Holloway may have felt his fringe players weren't being treated with due respect by post-match interviews, but a little more civility towards them might not have gone amiss. A quiet post-match press conference would have, in all likelihood, kept the issue largely under the radar.


Should the Premier League be getting involved?

This is a no-brainer. With the new rules on 25 men squads, this should be the end of the debate on weakened teams. It is not for the suits to decide what constitutes a full-strength team. The confirmation that the Premier League are looking at this issue is disappointing. By handing Wolves a suspended £25,000 fine for making 10 changes at Old Trafford last season, the authorities put themselves in an awkward predicament.

The precedent set in that case leaves the Premier League with three choices
  1. Follow through on their original decision giving Blackpool a similar punishment
  2. Admit their original decision was a mistake
  3. Judge Blackpool's transgression to be 'less wrong' than Wolves, perhaps giving Holloway a warning, or possibly take no action whatsoever
Going off past form, the second option is unlikely. I rather suspect the Premier League will take the easy way out, taking no action. Holloway has endeared himself to the country, and any sanctions would surely result in a public backlash Scudamore et al will be hoping to avoid. Following the first course of action could potentially have some very serious repercussions.

Is Holloway's quit threat genuine? 

Initially, I thought it probably wasn't. We all say things in the heat of the moment, and Holloway is certainly no different. In his press conference today, Holloway has stood firm on his threat to quit if the club are fined, claiming the team he picks should be down to him alone. It's hard to argue with him on this, and nor would I dare, but it still looks like he is backing himself into a bit of a corner. I don't imagine it's likely the club will be fined, but it cannot be completely ruled out.

If the club are fined, would he keep to his word and resign? This would obviously be disastrous, and I find it hard to believe he would walk away just like that, but it only goes to show just how intense the pressure is on managers at this level. I can't help but feel though that he has brought some of this on himself by being so outspoken post-match yesterday.


What does this mean for Saturday?

With 10 changes last night, there's every chance that nearly all those who were left out could return to the starting line-up, which would surely only magnify the issue and increase the probability of a fine. Again, you have to wonder if Holloway has dug himself into a hole here. Does he ignore all the media scrutiny and just pick the team he wants, or to temper the reaction, does he try and retain some of those who featured last night? 

Realistically, it's hard to imagine more than three or four players keeping their places. Phillips has done himself no harm in retaining his place, while Marlon Harewood might be given the chance to score against another of his former clubs. Injuries at the back to Craig Cathcart and Dekel Keinan could mean Rob Edwards stays at centre back, but beyond that I find it hard to see who else will keep their place. This would mean another eight changes, which is bound to cause another stir, deservedly or not.


What are the longer-term consequences? 

Looking forward to January, yesterday's match will prove very useful in assessing who might be surplus to requirements, and where extra depth might be needed. There are one or two who played last night that could be moved on to make room in the 25 for new blood, and others who will have impressed the manager enough to feature on a more regular basis.

More significantly though, is wondering how costly dropped points tonight could be. As already mentioned, picking a more familiar starting XI might not have necessarily effected a more positive result, but if 'Pool are relegated by a narrow margin at the end of the season, critics may well point to last night's team selection and wonder 'what if?'.

Conclusions

The outcome at Upton Park on Saturday will be instrumental to how last night's decision will be viewed. Three points on Saturday with a rejuvenated and fresh group of players will look like inspired management, especially when one considers how close 'Pool were to a draw last night. However, back-to-back defeats will inevitably lead to more searching questions about the decision to rest key players. Holloway has denied the changes were made with the trip to West Ham in mind, but from the outside looking in, a win over a team also battling against the drop is a more valuable one.

One point I must stress, and one that Holloway sought to achieve in his press conference today, is to note how well the replacements played. I've often thought more attention should be paid to the football itself, rather than the circus which surrounds it. That a Blackpool team with 10 changes was still able to compete at this level is a hugely encouraging sign for the rest of the season, when changes may be forced due to injuries and suspension, rather than fatigue.

I'll be doing a full analysis of the Villa match in the next 24 hours or so, when the focus will be firmly on the pitch.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Changes Afoot

As 'Pool prepare for their second of three games, in what our German friends would call an englische Woche, Ian Holloway has indicated that he may rest certain players for the trip to Villa Park, as he seeks to give some of his new players their first real chance to shine. But just how many changes can we expect?

The most obvious example of Holloway's willingness to make major changes to his side came in last season's home game against Sheffield United, where he made no fewer than seven. Ian Evatt, Charlie Adam, David Vaughan, Keith Southern, Hameur Bouazza and Billy Clarke all dropped to the bench, despite being automatic picks at the time. After a goalless opening 45 minutes, Adam and Vaughan were unleashed at half-time helping the Seasiders to a 3-0 victory.

Who, then, is vulnerable from the starting XI against Everton? Resting the goalkeeper would seem unnecessary, so I'd expect Matt Gilks to keep his place. Neal Eardley too looks hard to displace with Alex Baptiste still a couple of weeks away from fitness - it's unlikely Danny Coid would be thrown in. An injury to Craig Cathcart looks set to rule him out, while at left back David Carney may finally get the nod over Stephen Crainey.

The rest of the team isn't quite as easy to predict, the midfield especially. Holloway has shown in the past he's not afraid to rest his star men, but leaving out Vaughan and Adam for the same game would surely be a high-risk strategy. A few injury niggles to Adam in recent weeks though may mean that he is the more likely of the two to be rested. With Keith Southern not yet fully match fit, it is doubtful he will add to the 62 minutes he managed against Everton.

Up front Taylor-Fletcher is the man I would expect to be most at risk. GTF has stepped up to Premier League level surprisingly well, although his form has tailed off in the past few games, with time out of the side possibly the best thing for him. Luke Varney nearly missed the match against the Toffees, while DJ Campbell's goal drought could put his place in jeopardy.

With all this in mind, this is one potential team Holloway could send out to face Aston Villa.


Dekel Keinan is the obvious replacement for Cathcart, and with Carney featuring with more regularity from the bench, I suspect he may get his first start. Ludovic Sylvestre could come in if Adam is rested, with Elliot Grandin regaining his place behind the front three. Matt Phillips could not do any more to earn a place on the teamsheet and Marlon Harewood could be given the chance to score against his former employers. The remaining attacking place is anyone's guess, but at the moment it seems like Campbell is somewhat undroppable.

I'm not for a minute suggesting this is the team I would pick. A severely weakened Villa side is seemingly there for the taking, but Holloway's intentions to rotate his squad have been made quite explicit. It could be all mind games, but I'd expect the unexpected when the teams are announced tomorrow evening.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Seaside Strategy - Everton Home

The sole change to the Seasiders starting XI was to give Keith Southern his first Premier League start. It was a change I anticipated for the West Brom game, as I blogged about following the defeat at Birmingham. Despite notching up the first home win of the season against the Baggies, Ian Holloway opted to change a winning team to play Southern from the start. It was perhaps unexpected, but nonetheless deserved for a player who down the years has epitomised the team spirit which has proved so successful for 'Pool. So was it an effective change, or did it restrict Blackpool's attacking impetus?

The common consensus appears to suggest the latter, and it's hard to disagree with that. Although 'Pool took the lead through Neal Eardley's free-kick, the first half very much belonged to Everton, who arguably would have been disappointed to go into the break on level terms. The Toffees caused 'Pool countless problems, with former loan man Seamus Coleman one of the main protagonists. On the opposite flank, Leighton Baines showed why he has flirted with the national team, spending most of the half occupying the left wing and looking assured on the ball.

The second half was a vast improvement from the Seasiders' point of view however, and when Southern was replaced by Phillips, 'Pool showed their attacking prowess in an end-to-end 45 minutes. With the man in the hole behind the front three - initially Gary Taylor-Fletcher, then Grandin when he entered the proceedings - there were stronger signs of link-up play between midfield and attack, which had perhaps been lacking with last season's traditional three-man midfield on the pitch.

Analysing Southern's contribution on a micro-level, I won't bother with chalkboards of his tackles and interceptions, purely because there were so few of them. Amazingly, for someone who is often thought of as a combative midfielder, Southern failed to make a single tackle during his time on the pitch, and his sole interception came in the first minute of the match. It's easy to see why Holloway opted to pick Southern as Everton often pack the midfield with bodies, so Southern would have been in there to try and break things up. For some reason though, that never materialised. That's not to say Southern's contribution was a complete loss however. Looking at the chalkboard below you can see that Southern did not misplace a single pass in his 62 minutes on the pitch, managing 100% pass accuracy.


 by Guardian Chalkboards

22 passes seems on first glance like a rather low amount, but it compares favourably with Charlie Adam's 28 successful passes and David Vaughan's 26, given Southern spent the final third of the game sat watching from the bench. It's hard to know quite where Southern lies in Holloway's mind though, and whether he will stick with a 4-3-3 for the forthcoming matches, or whether he will return to the 4-2-1-3 which has been so effective for the Seasiders this campaign. Southern should not be cast aside based on this one performance however. He clearly deserves a run of games at some point, and with talk of resting certain players in the manager's post-match interview, Southern could feature several more times in the next few weeks.

Away from Southern's impact, what other conclusions can we draw from the cold numbers? One area highlighted by Zonal Marking and Tangerine Dreaming last week was the significant left-sided imbalance to 'Pool's play. Looking at all Blackpool's passes yesterday, the pattern is one of symmetry rather than the lop-sided chalkboards of recent weeks.


 by Guardian Chalkboards

One has to think that this must have been a deliberate plan from Holloway, as 'Pool's left-sided emphasis has surely not gone unnoticed by rival managers. The addition of Keith Southern to the starting line-up is likely one contributing factor in this. Both Adam and Vaughan favour their left foot and perhaps it is no surprise that more use is made of the left flank, but with Southern adding more balance to the midfield, there was more incentive to move the ball both ways.

However, even if Southern does not retain his place, I suspect that we will see more focus down the right in future games. With Taylor-Fletcher's form wavering, and Matt Phillips' contributions from the bench continuing to impress, it is surely only a matter of time before the former Wycombe man gets his chance. The direct nature of his game, and the raw pace he possesses make him an ideal outlet down the right to give opposing sides problems down both wings. I'll be taking a closer look at potential team changes, including a first start for Phillips, in the next day or two.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Seaside Strategy - West Bromwich Albion Home

Well, where do you start with this one? The adverse weather conditions, not to mention the two red cards, made for an unusual game, and one that's hard to read too much into in terms learning lessons for the rest of the season. Such bizarre circumstances are unlikely to be repeated for quite some time and so judging the Seasiders on this performance probably isn't fair. However, I would like to take the opportunity to examine how 'Pool made it hard for themselves, and how they nearly allowed a spirited West Brom side to claim an unlikely point.

After the first sending off, Blackpool seemed to respond well, and at this point there was no sign of the panic that would later ensue. Until the half hour mark 'Pool did well to keep possession, neatly moving the ball around making West Brom chase the game. During this period, it looked as if the three points were safe and we were all in for a comfortable evening. At one point the Sky Sports statistics showed Blackpool having a 10 minute spell with a massive 81% of the possession. As you can see from the chalkboard below, 'Pool misplaced only nine passes of the 157 attempted in the opening 30 minutes.


 by Guardian Chalkboards

However, with the second red card of the match on the half hour mark following a reckless challenge from Gonzalo Jara, the Seasiders seemed to go to pieces. It was West Brom who finished the half stronger, carving out a couple of good chances on the break in spite of their reduced numbers. Rather than sticking to their usual game, the 11 in tangerine lacked the patience to unlock the Baggies' defence, often rushing the final ball rather than working the space, tiring Albion out, until a better opportunity presented itself.

Although 'Pool began the second half with a high tempo, the nerves continued with the failure to double the scoreline, prompting Holloway to make two curious substitutions. Neal Eardley and Craig Cathcart, the latter through a suspected injury, were taken off and replaced by Matt Phillips and David Carney. While obviously designed to go for the goals to kill of the game, this resulted in an unfamiliar back four. From what we've seen so far, Phillips is too attack-minded to be a natural full back, with Carney regularly having played midfield too. Stephen Crainey as a makeshift centre back was arguably the oddest change, especially with Dekel Keinan on the bench. Crainey has excelled going forward this season, so I was surprised that Holloway deemed it necessary to throw Carney on at that point rather than allow Crainey to drive forward on the left.

Nevertheless, these changes allowed West Brom to cause problems on the break, which was almost a gamble too far. As one of the only two out and out defenders on the pitch, you'd have expected Ian Evatt to sit and protect, but even in this all-out attack formation, Evatt continued to surge forward, as is his wont. Evatt's Beckenbauer-esque runs have been a sign of the team's bravery, but also portray a vulnerability. West Brom showed that even when down to nine men, counter-attacks can be launched in an instant, and with 'Pool's back four playing such advanced roles, it gave the Baggies to cause a number of heart-in-mouth moments for the nervous tangerine faithful.

As evidenced by the chalkboard below, Evatt could often be found on the left wing in the second half, which often left you wondering who exactly was doing the defending.


 by Guardian Chalkboards

After getting the second goal, it should have been plain sailing through to the end, and the decision to bring on Dekel Keinan should have restored some normality to the Seasiders' defence, but still the never-say-die attitude of West Brom continued to cause concern as they did pull one back with five minutes to go. A heart-stopping finale could have seen goals at both ends, but a combination of poor finishing from 'Pool and some fortunate defending at the other end finally saw the points secured.

Far be it from me to criticise the attacking philosophy Holloway has set out, but this appeared to be one occasion which warranted a little more calm. Unsettled already by playing against nine men, some of the changes made caused more uncertainty in the shape of the side, when a more regular approach would surely have made the two man advantage more effective. For example, giving Phillips a purely attacking role would appeared to have been a better option, rather than compromising his ability with a need to track back.

Ultimately the home win was the important outcome regardless of how it came. 'Pool have long been overdue an ugly win, and so the good fortune was perhaps deserved this time around. Let's just hope that's not the last bit of luck we have for a while, because we certainly used up a lot in one go.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Beginning of the end for Adam at Blackpool?


As the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and the picture emerging this week is that Charlie Adam's days at Bloomfield Road look to be numbered. In addition to press reports linking the 'Pool skipper with a move away, the news this week of complex contract wranglings only serve to reinforce the feeling that Adam might not be wearing the tangerine shirt for much longer.

Barring his unusually poor performance at Birmingham last week, superbly analysed by BFC Blog, Adam has made the step up the Premier League level with ease. As the talisman of the side, Adam has won numerous supporters in the media, none more so than Jamie Redknapp. Concluding the Sky coverage of the 3-2 home defeat to Man City, Redknapp heaped praise on the Scottish midfielder, signalling Adam is set for a long Premier League career, even if the Seasiders are not.

This is not necessarily anything new, and most Blackpool fans would accept that failure to stay up this season would inevitably result in the loss of the captain. It now appears however that his departure could be hastened, with a move in January becoming ever more likely. The story emerging this week of a reported unpaid bonus is a damaging one for the club, especially as Adam's is supposedly a test case, with other players ready to take action should the ruling go in Charlie's favour. Who is right and who is wrong is not for me to decide - only the parties involved know all the facts. Quite simply though, things should never have been allowed to get to this stage, and it is another embarrassing PR failure for the club.

That the issue could not be solved internally by the club is a worry - it cannot be doing the relationship between player and employer any good whatsoever. Regardless of the outcome of the arbitration hearing on Thursday, no good can come of it. A ruling in favour of the club will surely the sour feeling among the whole squad, not just Adam. If the Premier League rule in favour of Adam, then the ramifications could be dire, with some quarters suggesting Adam's contract could be deemed null and void, effectively enabling him to move on for nothing in the transfer window. Such a scenario seems far-fetched, but the contractual issues are not likely to persuade Adam to see out the season at Blackpool with a big money move on the cards in January.

Should Adam leave in January, he will do so with the thanks of every single Blackpool fan, who surely recognise that he was the major key in the last season's promotion. It should not however be assumed that everything will go to pot without him. In recent years many influential players have moved on, only to be replaced with new heroes. A like-for-like replacement for Charlie is hard to imagine, but there are several players waiting in the wings, such as Ludovic Sylvestre and Chris Basham, who will be looking to prove their worth. 

If Adam stays, then it will be a massive boost for the rest of the campaign, but with the vultures circling, I rather suspect we might have to get used to playing without him. If injury keeps him out against West Brom tomorrow, it will be a good test of how the Seasiders will cope post-Adam.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

4-2-1-3, 4-3-3 or Something Else?

Last season the 4-3-3 formation employed by Ian Holloway was a revelation. Most teams faced in the Championship lined up in the traditional, if rapidly unfashionable, 4-4-2. While it took some time to get used to, once the players were familiar with the system most opponents struggled to cope with the way in which 'Pool attacked and the end of season form helped propel the Seasiders into the Premier League.

Despite the success under this system, Holloway opted to tweak the formation and instead play a 4-2-1-3 for the opening game at Wigan, sticking with this formation for every game aside from the failed experiment at Chelsea. This was perhaps forced due to Keith Southern's injury ruling him out of the first four weeks of the season - it's hard to imagine that Southern would have been dropped for Elliot Grandin if he had been fit.

Grandin has since dropped out of the side periodically however, with Southern yet to start in the Premier League. With the former Marseille player benched, it has been down to Gary Taylor-Fletcher to occupy the role behind the front three on two occasions, with little success - both games ended in defeat, to Blackburn and Birmingham respectively. Taylor-Fletcher has handled the step up to the top flight very well in my opinion, but has been noticeably less effective when playing in the more withdrawn role.

Below you can see how 'Pool lined up against Birmingham on Saturday.

 

As I wrote on Sunday, Marlon Harewood struggled out on the right, with the side often being overrun when defending. Following two disappointing results, it appears likely that Holloway may now choose to change not only personnel, but the system too. Ian Holloway has come out and said that different players may be given a chance, mentioning Southern and Ludovic Sylvestre among others. It doesn't take a genius to work out that a place in the starting XI for Southern or Sylvestre would mean a different formation, as neither David Vaughan nor Charlie Adam are likely to be dropped.

See the below diagram for how I expect Holloway to set out his side against West Brom.


It seems inevitable that Keith Southern will now get his first Premier League start and I can see him being reunited with his midfield partners from last season, Vaughan and Adam. The extra bite that Southern offers may be what the Seasiders require to be more combative on their own pitch. Elsewhere, following impressive cameos from the subs' bench, Matt Phillips could well earn his first start. Phillips' defensive awareness might not be the best just yet, but with Southern tucked in midfield giving the 'Pool backline more protection, it will give Phillips more licence to do what he does best...attack. With a wealth of attacking options at his disposal, Harewood may have to settle for a place on the bench after his disappointing display at St. Andrews, while Luke Varney's strong run in the side may come to an end. DJ Campbell is hard to drop, despite his mini goal drought, and Taylor-Fletcher would be the sole aerial outlet in the above scenario.

Then again, Holloway could throw us all a complete curveball. The manager has done it before, and I certainly wouldn't put it past him again. Sylvestre, Chris Basham and David Carney have all been unlucky not to make an impact since their arrival, and with the promise of changes from Holloway, it may be their chance to shine. Similarly, Dekel Keinan was probably unlucky to be dropped after his performance at Anfield. So many options...who'd be a manager?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Seaside Strategy - Birmingham City Away

It only takes a cursory glance of the message boards to see that Ian Holloway has drawn criticism for his team selection, dropping Elliot Grandin for Marlon Harewood. In typical online fashion, the reaction was over the top, but the performance was way below par. In his defence, Holloway wasn't afraid to admit that he had to take responsibility for the way Blackpool were set up. Birmingham never let the Seasiders settle and choked the space that 'Pool have become accustomed to having this season.

Even the heavy defeats at Arsenal and Chelsea were not a total loss in performance terms. At the Emirates Blackpool started strongly, and until the sending off / penalty, had matched Arsenal and were unlucky not to be level. At Stamford Bridge 'Pool did not let their heads drop despite the 4-0 half-time scoreline and delivered a sterling second half performance to walk away from the champions' backyard with some pride intact. It's hard to take any positives at all from yesterday's game at St. Andrews however, in what was arguably the worst performance in over six months.

The decision to employ Harewood on the right of the three-pronged attack is surely one Holloway will be rueing. One gets the feeling that like Ben Burgess last season, if Harewood is to play it should only be at the centre of the attack. Neither players are mobile enough to fulfil the demanding wide role and it is to be hoped it is a lesson learnt for the manager. I feel Harewood will have a lot to offer this season, but if he is misused, he will quickly develop as a target for the 'boo boys', for want of a better term. As it is, Harewood's selection left 'Pool's right side exposed, particularly in the first half. The main benefactor was Birmingham's left-back Liam Ridgewell, as shown by the chalkboard below.




Time and time again Ridgewell found himself in acres of space, and Blackpool made him look like Ashley Cole who terrorised Neal Eardley a few weeks ago. Perhaps the comparison to Cole is going slightly overboard, but Ridgewell was given licence to act almost as a left winger, not helped by Harewood's inability to track back. 'Pool's ultimate downfall came from sloppy defending at set-pieces, but with a better final ball, Ridgewell could have put the Seasiders to the sword in the first half.

Changes are bound to made for the visit of West Brom to Bloomfield Road a week tomorrow, and Harewood is most likely to find himself dropped to the bench, having incredibly completed only four successful passes during his time on the pitch. Another potential casualty is Luke Varney. While appearing to be full of more vigour and energy than Harewood, the on-loan Derby man only managed five successful passes all game, and with plenty of attacking options to choose from, Holloway can afford to be ruthless with his selection against the Baggies. I'd be amazed if Matt Phillips didn't get his first start in a tangerine shirt. Whatever the starting XI is next week, the performance will hopefully be a vast improvement over the one witnessed yesterday.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Eight Down, 30 To Go


Just over a month ago, I wrote a post posing the question of whether Blackpool fans were getting carried away with the start to the season. At that point in time 'Pool were occupying 4th place in the league, with two wins and a draw to their name following the opening four fixtures. The only defeat, while a heavy one, came away at Arsenal - hardly a disgrace. I suggested that the next four games would perhaps be more challenging, and that we could draw more accurate conclusions following these games. 

Featuring three of the big name clubs (whether Liverpool deserve that accolade is an argument for another time) I thought that if the Seasiders could rack up more than four points from these fixtures, the euphoria could be justified. As it happens, 'Pool only picked up three points. It's still a respectable haul and save for the late, late goal conceded against Blackburn, and some dubious refereeing decisions on Sunday, that tally could have been a few points higher.

Eight games in then, and 10 points on the board. Even the most optimistic of Blackpool fans would surely have settled for that at the start of the season, especially when you consider there have only been three home games, and the away games have included trips to Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. In fact, some of the so-called experts in the national media were of the opinion that 'Pool would struggle to reach double figures all season. Derby County's record looks set to remain for at least another year.

Looking forward, what do the next batch of games hold in store for the Seasiders? We are now going into a period of seven games that could be key to 'Pool's season. Away trips to Birmingham, Aston Villa, West Ham and Bolton aren't the most daunting the Premier League has to offer, while Ian Holloway will be eager to start picking up points at Bloomfield Road with the visits of West Brom, Everton and Wolves next in line. Doubling the current points total after these games appears to be a realistic target, whereby 20 points from the opening 15 games would see Blackpool well on the way to survival.

After 15 games the home / away imbalance will remain in place, with the Seasiders still only having played 6 matches on the Fylde Coast. The number of points picked up at home so far has been the major disappointment, even if performances have warranted more. If 'Pool can get to 20 points, or dare I say more, after playing 9 of the first 15 away from home, you'd have to start to believe that another miracle season is upon us.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Seaside Strategy - Manchester City Home

Deciding what to take a closer look at this week was no easy task. My first instinct was to analyse Charlie Adam's masterful performance, which signalled his arrival as a player of true Premier League ability. Adam has rightly drawn plaudits from all quarters, with Sky's Jamie Redknapp perhaps most vocal in his praise for the former Rangers man. The aim of this blog was always to try and view all things BFC from a different angle, so I'll refrain from lavishing yet more attention on the 'Pool skipper.

I was then tempted to pay tribute to the contribution of Adam's partner in crime, David Vaughan. Vaughan has been exceptional this season and perhaps the stand out player to date. Adam was deservedly man of the match, but Vaughan ran him a close second. His workrate has been key to the way the Seasiders play, starting a large proportion of Blackpool's attacking moves while also helping out the back four. Once again though, all 'Pool fans know how well Vaughan is playing, even if the national media aren't giving the Welshman the praise he deserves.

From a team perspective, the chalkboards show how 'Pool dominated the game with 349 successful passes to Man City's 262. Yet, in spite of all the positives Ian Holloway can take from an impressive performance, the cynic would say that there's only one statistic that really matters. For all the problems the Seasiders caused City, it was a failure in front of goal that was ultimately the difference between the two sides.



Whereas Mancini's side were ruthless with their chances, 'Pool's wastefulness in front of goal meant a third consecutive home game where the performance merited a better result. Of 16 shots only four were on target including the two goals. City also restricted 'Pool to mainly long-distance shots - 10 of the 16 attempts occurring outside the box. By contrast eight of City's 13 shots took place inside 'Pool's area, with the other five only just outside.

Just to be testing a Man City side assembled on a budget the Seasiders could only dream of is a feat more than anyone could have realistically expected. However, as a manager who is always seeking improvement from his side, it is the final third where Holloway will surely be focusing on in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oyston In?


"A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." If this hadn't been said about Russia in 1939 by Winston Churchill, that phrase could aptly sum up the reign of the Oyston family. Shrouded in secrecy, it's fair to say nobody ever knows what's truly going on behind the scenes at Bloomfield Road. My very own blog post two months ago when Karl Oyston announced he would be stepping down spectacularly missed the reason for his decision. Days after that post, it emerged that Oyston had a bankruptcy order against him, and with Premier League rules barring directors from being bankrupt, the situation seemed clearer.

Quite how Karl Oyston, an heir to a massive family fortune, had become bankrupt wasn't so clear - the murmurs around the Fylde Coast suggested links to his personal life - but it at least explained why he could no longer continue as Chairman. The statement at the time said Oyston would stay on as Acting Chief Executive until a replacement was appointed. The weeks went by without any sense of urgency, a staple of the Oyston era, which appeared to draw the attention of the Premier League.

With no effective change in the stewardship of the club, the Premier League began investigating whether Oyston was operating as a shadow director, which goes against the league's ownership rules. It would appear that this investigation may have triggered a reversal of the bankruptcy order announced today by the club. This would open the door for the return of Oyston to the role of Chairman, albeit in rather embarrassing circumstances given the increased level of media scrutiny in the top flight. The way this saga has unfolded is amateurish to say the least, a term frequently aimed at the way the club has been run under the Oyston family.

Of course, this assumption could be wide of the mark, and the annulment of the bankruptcy order may just allow Oyston to continue as a shadow director in the role of Acting Chief Executive while a successor is sought. Oyston may well have had enough and be looking to leave, but I'm now not quite so sure this is the case. The likeliest scenario is that he will return as Chairman, restoring the former boardroom set-up.

What does this mean for the future? Well, not an awful lot in all probability. The frugal marshalling of the club will continue, and while such positive results are being achieved on the pitch, it's hard to make too much of a fuss. One thing's for certain however, I know this will not be the last post I write about Karl Oyston this season.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Great Premier League Away Ticket Swindle


By far the biggest difference about travelling away this season has been getting used to inflated ticket prices. Trips to Stamford Bridge (£46) and Anfield (£39) have hurt the wallet, although on the flip side, the games at Wigan and Newcastle were a reasonable £25. However, much has been said about ticket prices in the Premier League before, so I'm not going to re-tread old ground. We all know that the cost of attending football in this country has got out of hand and, unlike Germany, the fan culture here isn't strong enough to campaign against this.

My major gripe currently lies with the way some home clubs are allocating ticket numbers for away fans. Premier League rules state that away fans should be given 3,000 seats, or 10% of the capacity where capacity is below 30,000. Bloomfield Road is one of the few grounds in the top flight with such a capacity, which should ensure that the Seaside faithful get a minimum allocation of 3,000 at the majority of away fixtures. 

'Pool have always had a good away following, especially when you consider our home attendances have often fallen way short of our contemporaries, and the demand for tickets this season was always going to be increased for our first year in the big time. That said, the marquee games aside (Liverpool, Arsenal, Man Utd), 3,000 tickets would generally suffice. After all, the aforementioned cost will likely make it difficult for many to attend a high number of away games as well as financing a home season ticket. The problem we are beginning to discover is that some clubs are sneakily getting around the rules. The first such instance has occurred with the arrival of the tickets from Villa Park.

Aston Villa have issued Blackpool with an initial batch of just over 1,000 tickets. It is believed that further tickets are available (presumably upto 3,000 in line with the regulations), but that some or all of these will need to be bought by the club on a 'no return' basis. Therefore if 'Pool failed to sell the extra tickets, the club would potentially be out of pocket to the tune of thousands of pounds. 1,000 tickets will never satisfy demand, while 3,000 would probably be too many. It's certainly hard to fault Blackpool FC for not taking the risk of losing money.

Gerard Houllier's new club aren't the only team to take this stance on away tickets. Newcastle's NUFC Blog identified this issue right at the start of the season, suffering similar treatment at the hands of Man Utd and Wolves. With a larger fanbase to call upon, the problem is arguably worse for the Geordies who would surely sell out 3,000 for every away fixture given their fanatical support. This has given Newcastle reason to look internally for a scapegoat however, with Mike Ashley in the line of fire once again. The risk of losing money for Newcastle is minimal compared to that of the Seasiders, so turning my fire at the hierarchy of Blackpool FC probably wouldn't be fair.

This surreptitious ploy being used by some clubs is another sad indictment for a league that specialises in marginalising its core support for the sake of a quick buck. Before Blackpool reached 'the promised land' I found the inverse snobbery of our fans referring to the Premier League as the 'Greed League' irritating. Issues like this though only support that view though, and it is to be hoped this feeling doesn't grow within me should 'Pool have an extended stay at this level.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Seaside Strategy - Liverpool Away

In the immediate aftermath of the home defeat to Blackburn Rovers, Ian Holloway was quick to set out his plans for the following week's game at Anfield - all-out attack. The Seasiders had been criticised in some quarters for the way they approached the away fixtures at Arsenal and Chelsea - Blackpool's attacking policy was deemed naive rather than brave.

However, with Liverpool at an unprecedented low in recent years, it seemed like there would never be a better time to attack Roy Hodgson's side. The chalkboard below shows how the opening 20 minutes panned out in terms of the number of passes.


The top chalkboard shows Blackpool's data, with the lower displaying Liverpool's passses in the opening 20 minutes.

Amazingly 'Pool successfully completed more than double the amount of passes than their hosts. What is most evident is the amount of possession Blackpool were allowed in the middle of the pitch and at the back. This shows how Liverpool stood off the Seasiders, allowing Holloway's men time on the ball and giving the Seasiders the chance to play their natural game.

By controlling the opening exchanges, 'Pool were able to dictate the match and take the game to the under-pressure home side. Unlike at Chelsea where Kalou's early goal destroyed Holloway's gameplan, Liverpool allowed the Seasiders to settle down very quickly, which must have given the team the confidence to go on and put in the performance they managed on the day. In fact, the Blackpool manager may ultimately have been disappointed that the early domination didn't result in a more convincing half-time lead.

I'll let it slide this time though, I guess.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Away Day Memories - Brentford 2004/05


Listening to the latest Seasiders Podcast (which I thoroughly recommend), I particularly enjoyed the segment of the show where they took a walk down memory lane to discuss their all-time best and worst games as a Blackpool fan. Having somewhat neglected this blog over the last week or so, it has spurred me on to write about one of my favourite away trips, which I hope will be a regular feature.

For this post, I've decided to reminisce about the Seasiders' visit to Griffin Park a little under six years ago. The reason for recalling this game so fondly is down to a close friendship with a Brentford fan. In September of 2004 I had just begun my four year stint at university. On the first weekend in my new digs, I wore a retro 70s BFC shirt when I first encountered said Brentford fan, Will. He was quick to offend me by enquiring if it was a Barnet shirt, although being a Blackpool fan at this point was only a small step up from the side from Underhill.

Yes, it was the Colin Hendry 'era' and the big Scot had made an inauspicious start to his 'Pool tenure. The opening day defeat at Doncaster set the tone for his time in charge and marks a period I'd sooner forget. When the Brentford game eventually rolled around on 23rd October, the two sides lay at opposite ends of the league table. Under Martin Allen, the Bees were flying high in 2nd place, while Blackpool were struggling down in 21st.  Despite this, in the build-up to the game there was a lot of bravado on my part. It was blind optimism, nothing more, but Will was easily wound up by my insistence that it would be an easy win for the Seasiders.

We travelled down together from Sheffield on the Megabus, although nearly missed out on the trip altogether. In our student house Will was renowned for being rather lazy and failed to get up at the agreed time, resulting in a manic dash across Sheffield to reach the departure point. Upon arrival at Griffin Park, we sought refuge from the terrible conditions in one of Brentford's famous four pubs, one on each corner of the ground. Griffin Park is the sort of ground that it is easy to miss when attending the soulless new stadia we have visited since promotion out of League One. However, that day was not the sort of day to be stood on an open terrace. In the driving rain, the hardy 'Pool support (which I think numbered around 300) were hoping the team could provide them with something to lift their spirits.

The side that took to the field that day was largely still the one put together by Steve McMahon, with only a few of those players signed by Hendry himself. Rob Clare was one of those players who had been signed with a great deal of fanfare, but failed to impress, even he was perhaps cast aside a little too quickly in my view. The spine of the side was relatively strong though, with Lee Jones, Peter Clarke, Richie Wellens, John Murphy and Scott Taylor all being players who the tangerine faithful will remember positively, at least for their on-the-field performances.

The match itself was one of the few occasions where a Hendry-led 'Pool side clicked. Far from being a smash-and-grab, it was a game Blackpool fully deserved to win. The Seasiders took an early lead through Murphy and went in 1-0 up at the break. Some bizarre antics before the second half began saw the Brentford players warm-up in the 'Pool half, which bemused just about everyone in the crowd. Martin Allen was well known for his, shall we say, unique way of doing things in his time at Brentford, but this tactic to unsettle Blackpool failed miserably as Hendry's team secured all three points with further goals from Murphy and Taylor. The third goal was especially good with Wellens splitting the Bees' defence wide open to provide the assist for Taylor.

It was a sweet victory, and ultimately the wind and rain only served to elevate the game an 'I was there' status. No doubt there's probably thousands of 'Pool fans who now claim they were at the match. The enjoyment for me only increased given the bragging rights I was able to enjoy over my housemate. 'Pool went on to struggle around the lower reaches for the rest of the season, eventually finishing the season in 16th, 6 points above the relegation zone, while Brentford experienced another miserable play-off experience losing out to Sheffield Wednesday in the semis. 

Only one side have a worse play-off record than the Bees...I wonder who that could be!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Poles Apart


On Sunday there was no better place to observe the gulf between Blackpool and Chelsea than in the matchday programme. Where 'Pool fans would normally expect to see adverts for Pricebusters in the programme at Bloomfield Road, Chelsea's offering featured adverts for multi-millon pound mansions and Dolce & Gabbana.
 
The financial difference between the two sides unfortunately showed on the pitch too, as Chelsea blitzed the Seasiders in the first half. After the 6-0 defeat at Arsenal last month, many Blackpool supporters were hoping to put up a bit more of a fight than on the last visit to the capital. Any such hopes were killed off within the first two minutes, as 'Pool failed to deal with Didier Drogba's testing corner, which was converted at the back post by an unmarked Salomon Kalou.

Ian Holloway had sent the team out with Baptiste fulfilling an unusual sweeper role, but this gamble was nullified when the early goal went in. Holloway clearly planned to frustrate the opposition and had Chelsea not scored with just over a minute on the clock, his strategy may have been a shrewd one. After Kalou's goal however, the change in formation just seemed to cause more problems with players seemingly unsure of who they were supposed to be picking up. It's hard to criticise Holloway for this though. It's a game we couldn't expect to get anything from, and as such his gamble was a low-risk one.

When reverting to the more familiar 4-3-3 formation in the second half, 'Pool looked much improved and could well have had a couple of goals. Chelsea did certainly take their foot off the gas a little, but the performance after the break restored some pride and gave both the players and fans reasons to be optimistic going into a more important game next week at home to Blackburn Rovers.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Carried Away?


This is the sight most Blackpool fans have been treasuring for the last week. There we are in a Champions League spot after four games. Sitting pretty. Riding high. But are we as fans making too much of this? Are expectations being raised a little too high? Have we become too big for our boots?

Well, on the one hand 'Pool's start is a massive stick with which to beat the pundits. The very same pundits who wrote the Seasiders off at the start of the season, many of whom believed Blackpool could enter the record books as the worst Premier League team of all time. On a meagre budget, the team are performing beyond all belief and is allowing us to stick two fingers up at the establishment who seem loathed to even see Blackpool in this league.

Most of those pundits remain unconvinced in Blackpool's survival chance, in spite of the start that has been made. It is easy to scoff at this, labelling them ignorant and stubborn. After all, they had us relegated before the season had even started, yet there we are after four games in a top four spot. Maybe though, we should place a little more value in their opinions. The comparisons to Burnley and Hull might be lazy, but they could well be justified. Blackpool are something of an unknown quantity to most sides in the top flight, but this will surely not endure all season.

Another point worth considering is the teams encountered thus far. Arsenal aside, the other fixtures have been relatively kind by Premier League standards. The next four games seem much trickier, as 'Pool face the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City, with a home match against Blackburn the only realistic opportunity to put points on the board. Where Blackpool stand after these games may be a more accurate indication of how the season will pan out. Any more than four points from these matches may give some substance to the current euphoria surrounding Bloomfield Road.

So, am I being too downbeat? I should be enjoying the moment, right? Well, I would say that I am revelling in our momentary elevated status, but would also like to temper that with a sense of realism. Football can be a fickle game, and the danger of getting carried away now may result in a feeling of disappointment should a particularly tough run of results be right around the corner.

I'm all for rubbing our success in the doubters' noses, but only when Blackpool have achieved their goals for the season. We are only 1/10th of the way in, and to celebrate now would be premature. I'm delighted to see how the team have acquitted themselves so far, but it's important the fans stick with the club when things get tougher.

And it doesn't get any tougher than Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge - see you there.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Seaside Strategy - Newcastle United Away

In many ways the victory at St James' Park is the most satisfying result of the season so far. In the same fixture last season Blackpool were soundly beaten 4-1, overawed by the sheer size of the stadium. Barely five months on from that game, a more savvy team of Seasiders put in a sterling performance which thoroughly merited all three points. It was a disciplined effort, and whilst Holloway's men retained their attacking philosophy, it wasn't at the expense of their defensive duties.

The opening 45 minutes belonged largely to Blackpool. DJ Campbell should have opened his account early doors when put clean through by Charlie Adam, but Campbell took a poor touch allowing Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper to close him down, and Harper did well to block the follow-up shot from Ormerod. The Magpies did have their chances too, but they came against the run of play as Blackpool took the game to the home side. They were rewarded just before the break with Varney being brought down by a reckless challenge from Alan Smith. Adam went for his usual spot in the bottom left corner, sending Harper the wrong way.

1-0 down at the break, Newcastle were always going to come at Blackpool in the second half. However, what followed was a classic example of rearguard action. Gilks has since taken the majority of the plaudits, and rightly so, but his defence in front of him also held firm and put their bodies on the line time after time.


Blackpool blocked no fewer than eight shots during the match, with six of those taking place in the second period. Dekel Keinan made a solid contribution on his first start in a tangerine shirt, making three crucial blocks, including a clearance off the line.

Newcastle will perhaps count themselves unlucky that despite 22 shots, they couldn't hit the back of the net. What they found was a goalkeeper in the form of his life and a team that is made of sterner stuff than is often perceived. It's true that the 4-3-3 formation does somewhat throw caution to the wind, but it is a team crammed full of hard-working players who will defend from the front and give their all for their teammates. It is not a brittle side that will roll over in the Premier League. 

Well, the match away to Arsenal excepted...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Down Memory Lane - Grayson to Leeds

This post can now be found here: http://measuredprogress.co.uk/opinion/down-memory-lane-grayson-to-leeds/