Sometimes three points can make everything ok? Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those times, but the weekend’s victory against Wolves has made everything feel a little bit better.
Losing two managers in just a few months, coupled with a big dip in form, has started to leave the Blackpool manager’s job looking a little less appealing.
When Ian Holloway left for Palace, most people were saying that managers would be clamoring for this job. A nice big squad packed with quality, young stars like Ince and Matty Phillips mixed with the experience of Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips, a good fan-base, a decent ground and a chairman that, although frugal, wouldn’t think of sacking you unless things went really badly. Things looked good, despite us losing our best manager for many, many years.
3 months down the line, and the position doesn’t look so appealing. A squad struggling for confidence and looking as though it will lose its young stars, a crowd starting to turn against their own, a horrible football pitch and a chairman that, although loyal, has in just 10 weeks, managed to lose a manager that spent 12 months at trouble-struck Portsmouth.
With all this going on, the Seasiders had been without a win in 8 games which is, by all accounts, relegation form. But anybody suggesting we will get relegated is, in my opinion, a tad pessimistic. This overreaction to our loss of form had surprised me to be honest. I know there is a lot going on off the pitch, and very little of it is good, but I couldn’t understand why a large section of Blackpool fans had seemingly given up on their team.
But then it struck me. This is the first real loss of form we have seen for around 4 years. Yes, we went on a bad run in the Premier League, but that was what everyone was expecting. And even then, we were playing some great football and except for some foolish goalkeeping by… God, I can’t even let myself type his name… we would probably have survived.
So, for me, the negativity around Bloomfield road is the result of high expectations. Not unrealistically high expectations though. We have seen our team and our club grow over the last 5 years, and everyone had high hopes for this season, but now we are seemingly slipping back to where we would have loved to have been only 6 years ago. Mid-table mediocrity on the Championship.
I had been looking on with a quiet confidence that things would work out, but after 45 minutes on Saturday, I have to admit I was worried. Even with a comical equaliser, there was nothing to smile about really. The team looked deflated and their was no sign of fight. They weren’t fighting for each other, or for the manager, and they weren’t fighting for the fans. And you couldn’t really blame them. The atmosphere was poor, from all sides of the ground, and the only chants the children at the back of the away section could muster were aimed at players not on the pitch, or even the bench.
For the majority of the first half, which was a dull affair, you could forgive yourself wondering where we go next. Thommo is doing a great job of holding the players together whilst all this is going on, but is he the man to turn it around? The problem is that he is saying the same things the players have heard before.
To be honest, a new manager would say the same things too. “You’re a good side” or “You are all talented players”. But when the same person is saying it, these compliments seem forced. Like a husband telling his wife she looks good in that dress. If someone else’s husband happened to say it, however, she would perk right up. Much like the team would with a new manager telling them how good they can be.
I’m not going to say the second half changed all that. It’s not as if we came out and played with the same ease and grace of the Leeds and Ipswich games at the start of the season. But we did come out looking rejuvenated. There was more energy, more movement, and players stopped hiding away. Whatever Thommo said obviously worked, and although it still wasn’t the most captivating game, Blackpool finally looked like the better side.
As I said, the game itself was fairly sluggish, with the first half having very few chances. Blackpool started the better of the two struggling outfits and got their foot on the ball, without ever looking dangerous. Wolves barely strung two passes together and hadn’t had much of the ball until they were gifted it by some typically sloppy play by Taylor-Flecther. He chested it down well, had a look, and passed it straight to a Wolves shirt. One quick pass down the wing, a good cross into the box and a free header for Ebanks-Blake made it 1-0 to the home side.
Blackpool reacted badly to going behind and players became shy, not wanting to get on the ball. Ince ended up playing almost in his own half, Matt Phillips didn’t look quite sharp enough with his first touch letting him down, simple passes were missing the target and Broadfoot was chipping aimless balls up to an isolated Taylor-Fletcher.
It really needed something to happen, and thankfully Wolves were struggling for confidence as much as Blackpool. Just before half time, a total breakdown in communication between Roger Johnson and Carl Ikeme allowed Ince to shuffle between the two and poke home an equaliser. It was comical and lucky, but it was just what we needed. That bit of luck that seems to abandon you just when you need it, had finally fallen in our favour in the form of a gift-wrapped, defensive-clanger of a goal.
Maybe it was the goal, maybe it was the team-talk, but Blackpool came out for the second half with a sense of belief. Players were starting to get on the ball and others were making runs. The energy of Gomes was a key aspect as he covered so much ground, and always looked for the ball. Martinez was his usual dogged self, whilst being a calming influence on the ball. Taylor-Fletcher bagman to hold the ball up properly, and finally Ince started getting into the game, in areas that matter.
It was far from our fluent best, but out of nowhere we had turned our game around, and after Ince hit a thunderous shot that Ikeme couldn’t deal with, it seemed like plain sailing. For the last 15 minutes it was a keep-ball exercise that we managed to play with ease.
The Wolves fans had turned on their team and when Johnson got himself sent off for trying to behead Martinez, it was game over. The final whistle was met with boos from the home fans and sheer relief from the away fans. Like I said, a win doesn’t make everything better, but it sure helps.
A little mention for Matt Derbyshire came on for his first appearance, and made a good impression. He looked sharp, made some good movements and was more than happy to dig in and do the dirty work down the wings. He could be a good little acquisition.
Looking forward, I think there are only two options that will appease the fans. Either appoint Thommo until the end of the season and give him a chance to show what he can do. Or appoint Adkins or Coyle. After all this time, if we were to appoint another manager that isn’t one of these two, who isn’t a high class manager, then there will be outrage. If we appointed, say, Peter Houston, after weeks of looking around, then I suspect there may be a few prima-donnas throwing their season ticket on the pitch.
What needs to happen now is for the fans to stick together, the players to fight for each other, and the board to make a decision on the manager, so that everyone knows where they stand and can start getting on with things. Not to mention keeping our best players whilst trying to sign some others before the transfer deadline. And sorting the pitch out too. And, and, and…