src=”images/articles/blackpoolcrest.jpg” style=”float: left; height: 235px;”/>Blackpool’s season kicks off in nine days against Wigan and the Tangerines will be hoping that they can defy the odds and survive in their first season in the top flight of English football since 1971, when they came up under the stewardship of Les Shannon and went straight back down, finishing at the bottom of the table. The Seasiders’ current chief, Ian Holloway, will be hoping that 30 years down the line, he doesn’t imitate the last man to take Blackpool to the promised land.
It has been a rollercoaster ride of a summer for Blackpool. The epic high of the 22nd May, when Blackpool beat Cardiff City 3-2 in the Championship Playoff final, was quickly followed by the low of having to move their opening day home fixture against neighbours Wigan to the DW Stadium. Bloomfield Road’s ongoing renovation works are still incomplete and it is unsure when they will be up to Premier League standard.
Manager Ian Holloway is still on the hunt for new blood. After losing powerful centre forward Ben Burgess to League 1 side Notts County and the release of five players, Holloway’s squad is looking slightly threadbare and it is apparent that Holloway will not have a huge amount of transfer money, due to the work on Bloomfield Road. “Ollie” is looking into free transfers and loan moves, with the rumour mill swirling that Nicky Butt, Scott Sinclair, Jon Stead and others are on the manager’s summer shopping list.
Owner Owen Oyston will be looking to keep his side in the Premier League, but will have to dip into his pockets and produce decent money to Holloway, so that he has a realistic chance of keeping the Tangerines in the Premiership. The Championship is so competitive, were Blackpool to drop back down, it is far from certain that they would bounce straight back up.
The squad at present is not the best. Only three of the squad have Premiership experience, while the rest have flitted about the lower leagues for the majority of their careers. Blackpool do have one ace in the pack in the form of Charlie Adam. The ex-Rangers midfielder scored 17 goals in the league last season for the Seasiders and he was the main reason Ian Holloway’s men reached the playoffs. The 24-year-old captain will be the main man at Bloomfield Road and Holloway has to get some Premiership experience to his squad to help Adam’s attempts.
If Blackpool has any chance of staying up, they have to get off to a successful start. In the 2008-09 season, Hull got off to an electric start and even though their season tailed off towards the end, they had enough points on the board to survive. Blackpool’s start is tougher than Hull’s was. The newly promoted side have to face three of last season’s top four in their first 8 games and also have Liverpool and Fulham to contend with. If they don’t pick up any points in these games, the future of the season could be bleak and they could be down before Easter.
All in all, it’s going to be a dogfight for Blackpool this season. They are going to have to scrap for every point and work so hard against every single team. Last season, Blackpool loved playing attacking football and were exciting and thrilling to watch. If they do that in the Premier League and get caught out committing their midfield forward, the speed and enterprise at which Premier League teams strike on the counter attack will leave them stunned. They will have to make sure that they use the ball well and don’t commit cardinal defensive errors, because they will get punished. Blackpool’s defence is shaky as well: central defenders Alex-Jean Baptiste and Ian Evatt lack pace and two seasons ago Baptiste was playing for Mansfield in League Two. They lack experience defensively and if they could have maintained the services of young right back Seamus Coleman from Everton, they might have had a better chance.
However, Blackpool were tipped to go down last season and produced some miraculous performances to go up via the Playoffs. It is highly unlikely that they will stay up, but as football teaches people all the time, never write anybody off. The whole of Blackpool, from North Pier to South Pier, will hold their breath in expectation and hope that their Tangerines put them back on the football map.