At the start of the season you would have sniggered sarcastically at anybody who even suggested the “minnows” of Blackpool FC reaching anywhere near the top six of the Championship table. The bookies even made the Seasiders joint 7/4 favourites with Barnsley for the drop, with not even the most optimistic of fans dreaming of the dizzying heights we currently lie in. Blackpool fans haven’t had this good for 50 years (I’m just glad I wasn’t alive to witness the pain!)
Now, as we reach the season finale with a minute total of 4 games to play, Blackpool face two pivotal fixtures that will prove whether they do have the metal to land a play-off berth.
The Seasiders face Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday, potentially the most difficult fixture in the Championship calendar. The Magpies have only dropped four points at home all season (through four draws), with them being victorious in 17 of their 21 fixtures to date.
What we musn’t forget though is that Blackpool outplayed them on their travels to Bloomfield Road in September, wrapping up a comfortable 2-1 victory through Brett Ormerod and Jason Euell strikes. If there’s any team to condemn the Toon to their first defeat of the season in front of their army of fans, it is certainly a team in the mould of Blackpool. And on the form they currently in (a four streak winning run), you wouldn’t back against them.
The fact that Newcastle have already secured promotion back to the Premier League doesn’t necessarily mean they will be taking the foot off the gas in this encounter, as they will want to put the champagne on ice by being crowned League champions.
A week later, the Seasiders face the difficult prospect of a visit from Nottingham Forest to Bloomfield Road, who currently lie third in the league. I would assume West Brom to have already wrapped up their promotion trail by then though, so Forest will have their eyes firmly fixed on the play-offs. This could benefit Blackpool, as they could rest a number of key players such as Robert Earnshaw. And as you will remember, Blackpool also defeated Forest earlier in September at the City Ground courtesy of a Charlie Adam strike.
Blackpool have certainly made Bloomfield Road a fortress this season having only lost a total of four fixtures there, remarkable for a team of their stature. The big dogs of the league have certainly been found out here on many occasions, highlighted especially by the recent 5-1 trouncing of Swansea.
The opening of the brand new Jimmy Armfield stand has definitely added an extra dimension to the already impressive vocal support, with an even more intense atmosphere being cooked up by the tangerine barmy army. The ground will soon enough be Premiership standard once the fourth side is completed, and plans will definitely be put into process immediately if the club was to leave everybody gobsmacked and achieve promotion.
Going on past form in the play-offs, Blackpool have been victorious in their previous two campaigns that have seen them gain promotion from both League Two and One respectively. They could therefore enter the race with this winning mentality still intact, and make it three on the bounce.
Blackpool currently lie one point behind Leicester and two behind Swansea with a superior goal difference over these two sides in their race for an all elusive play-off spot. If they were to cement a place in the top six, who says momentum won’t swing their way once again and remarkably see “little Blackpool” thrust into the promised land?
We can all but dream of Blackpool hosting Chelski in August for the opening fixture of the 2010/11 Premiership campaign…
Written by Tommy Wilson