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/

Thursday, 2 September 2010