For a team to go from so good to so bad in such a short space of time, something has gone seriously wrong.
Although they say you never want to head into a two week break on the back of a loss, Ian Holloway is probably thankful of a little respite so he can get his head down and figure out what he is going to do.
For a little while, it looked as though Blackpool would emerge from a bad spell of form relatively unscathed as they came from 2-1 down to snatch a win in Hull. Follow that with a win at home to Charlton and the international break could be enjoyed with the Seasiders sitting top of the league if results went the right way.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, the same habits crept into the game at Bloomfield road which saw Charlton ease to a win without ever having to see off a challenge once they were in front. And it is exactly that which convinced some fans to boo at the final whistle. Not the easy goals conceded from corners, but the lack of attacking threat. Chipping the ball forward and taking passing out of the equation.
There is no escaping the fact that this spell of bad results has had an effect on everything at Blackpool. The manager hasn’t seemed his upbeat self, the players seemed to have no fight or unity, on form players have lost their touch, and the fans who were so supportive at the start of the season have turned into a frightening, impatient and judgemental jury. Blackpool’s buzz has gone. That’s the fickle world of football for you.
If we are honest though, it is possibly the best time to have a dip in form in this league. Traditionally, it is teams that finish the season well that go up. Think Reading last season. Or Blackpool even, in 2010. A good point was made on Radio Lancashire (shocking I know) when they said that in the Championship, it is easy to simply write off a few games without worrying too much. In a frantic Premier League, a run like this could be catastrophic, as we found out, but there are so many games in a Championship season that a loss almost doesn’t matter. It has been a poor spell, but we sit just six points off the top and just one point outside the playoffs. If we can hit the ground running after the break and string some more wins together, I can see this horrible episode being put well behind us.
So what needs to happen for things to get back on track?
Well, needless to say, it all rests with the manager really. Ian Holloway needs to either wipe the slate clean, forget what has happened this season, and start afresh. Simply look at his squad, put loyalty aside, and ruthlessly decide who the best 11 players are to execute his gameplan.
Alternatively, and perhaps the simplest way to go, is to return to the team he had playing so well at the start of the season. It is amazing that the team that beat Ipswich 6-0 hasn’t played together since then.The defence had Cathcart in it, who although he has been injured, was left out on Saturday despite being fit. The midfield for that match, and against Leeds who left the seaside with a footballing lesson, was Osbourne, Gomes and Martinez. None of these players have been injured. Simply alternately dropped. That this trio haven’t appeared together since Ipswich is a travesty, and in my opinion, one of the main reasons for our poor form. The forward line, such are the options, is reasonably interchangeable. Ince is an obvious starter and Matty Phillips looked sharp again against Charlton. Those two firing together will be a potent mix. Then we have Taylor-Fletcher, Kevin Phillips, Dicko and Delfouneso as the other real options. So if Holloway can get back to a team that resembles the previous winning formula, it will be a step to recovery.
When it comes to the defending… well, it just needs a lot of hard work on the training ground. Holloway is friends with Tony Pulis, so I believe, why not give him a ring, ask to spend a day or two watching their training from set-pieces. Or just ask for advice. Or just sort it out yourself. However you want to do it, you need to do it. It is the ugly, billy-basics part of the game that nobody likes practicing or watching, but it needs to be fixed.
The fans have a part to play as well. As much as I hate the cliche, the fans can really lift the players. Obviously, it has to start on the pitch. There needs to be something with a remote bit of excitement that the crowd can get a hold of and turn it into momentum. But the Bloomfield crowd, whilst fantastic when things are going ok, can be a real menace when things aren’t. And for me, it is the unfairness of it all that stinks. On Saturday, Taylor-Flecther misplaced a pass and nothing was said beyond a few tuts. Eardley misplaced a pass and half the crowd nearly walked out. Similarly, Crainey played a nice ball into the middle and the crowd went wild. Eardley played a nice ball into the middle and you could hear a pin drop. Everyone has their scapegoat, I know I do, but when you watch the game you should try to be objective. Give the same abuse or praise based on the act, not player.
As for the boo at the end (from the handful of fans that were left) it wasn’t violent outrage, but a quiet grumble. Although I don’t condone booing, I thought it was maybe a timely reminder to the manager and players that they aren’t meeting the standards they have set themselves. Standards which, all being well, we will see return after yet another boring break from proper football.