The Opposition View: Blackpool

As we prepare for yet another midweek trip to Lancashire, here’s Chris Riedel (@Piedel1986) – whose first Blackpool game was our 1-0 win at Bloomfield Road in 1994 – with a Tangerine-tinted take on our opponents.

A promising start seems to have tailed off in the last few weeks. What have you made of your season so far?

It has been an odd season so far. We started undefeated in five league games without really playing brilliantly. The first couple of games we actually looked like a half decent side.

But all that seemed to change when we played Oxford at home in our third league game. They had 70% of the possession and 24 shots to our four. In other words, they absolutely battered us, but we somehow escaped with a 2-1 win. That seemed to stunt our season a little bit as we haven’t recaptured our form from the opening couple of games.

We have only played one of the current top seven in Coventry ,where we threw away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2. And we played awfully against MK Dons and Bolton in recent week,s which has got the fans backs up because of the absolutely shocking standard of football on offer.

So to answer your question, it’s possibly a little early to make judgement on the season to date. But it’s not looking very promising so far. However, we have been unlucky with injuries to a few of our more attacking players, which may or may not have hindered us. But even before they were crocked we were hardly setting the world alight with blistering attacking football.

As a club, you’re more stable off the pitch than you’ve been in goodness knows how long. Are fans just grateful for that and happy to consolidate in League One, or was there an expectation pre-season that you’d challenge for the play-offs? You were very solid last season, after all.

This is a tricky one to answer as I believe the fans are split firmly down the middle. Personally I am just happy I can go back and watch my team after our boycott against the owner who shall not be mentioned.

However, once local lad and new owner Simon Saddler bought the club, I must admit it was difficult not to get swept up in the talk of promotion, especially after the first 3 or 4 games. He has openly stated he wants us to be promoted over the next couple of years and has started to invest in the club, and has started drawing up plans for a new East Stand to replace the semi-permanent one. He has also started on plans for a new training ground to replace the one we have had since before Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Armfield were playing for us.

He sacked Terry McPhillips – and, despite the good job he had done under shocking circumstances, most fans seemed to agree that for us to progress we needed to look for somebody else to come in and take us to the next level.

Unfortunately, the appointment of Simon Grayson divided the fans down the middle. Some were in the camp of “He knows how to get out of this division”; others were in the camp of “We have moved on”, “He is a Judas” and “His football is very negative”. I will be honest and admit I was positive about his appointment, but I am very much teetering on the other side of this opinion as his football for the most part of the season has been awful to watch.

However, it is amazing to be in the position to moan about the football again instead of protesting against the owners.

Just sum up your style of play and your strengths and weaknesses.

I don’t think I can answer that very well  as our manager and players don’t seem to know.

We started the season with a 3-5-2 system using wing-backs. At points we have played 4-4-1-1; at others we have played 4-1-2-2-1. However, it all seems a bit messy.

We have relied heavily on getting the ball out to our right wing-back Liam Feeney to ping a ball into our lone striker [- and top scorer with six goals -] Armand Gnanduillet. Apart from that, we huff and puff.

Weaknesses are scoring goals, which happens sometimes, but more shockingly our ability to pass a ball to feet is often non-existent. This is the most frustrating because it is basic for a professional footballer, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t seem to happen on the pitch for us. Our lack of depth seems to be a massive issue at the minute too. We have lost players such as [strikers] Nathan Delfouneso and Joe Nuttall and [winger] Sully Kaikai, which has left us short of options.

Strengths: we are not a million miles away from having a solid defence. We have some decent centre-halves and our wing/full-backs have been pretty good this season. If they had a bit more protection we would probably have ground out a few more results because they have stopped a lot of chances. We also have three capable goalkeepers, which I think is rare in League One.

Who have been your players of the season so far and why?

I will start from the back because, despite my negativity, there are one or two positive things to come out of the season so far.

Jak Alnwick is goalkeeper we signed on loan from Rangers. He came with a reputation of not being a great communicator. In my opinion he has been outstanding for us. He has made some superb saves, seems to command his box well and his distribution seems to be getting better.

Ben Heneghan is another one on loan. The Sheffield Utd centre-half played for us last season and got better and better each game. He has come back this season and continued to show development. He is quick, strong and good in the air. He compliments our other centre back Curtis Tilt really well and is just absolutely solid every game.

[The aforementioned] Liam Feeney is a bit of a revelation this season. He was hit an miss last season, but in fairness to the manager he seems to be getting the best of the 32-year-old. He’s the top provider of assists in the whole of the Football League [with seven]. The problem now is most teams seem to have figured out how to mark him out of the game or stop the ball getting to him full stop.

[Midfielder] Jordan Thompson is our other highlight of the season. This lad will make the step up to the Championship one day. Cool and calm on the ball, he finds space and sees things other players don’t. He scored an absolute beauty of a goal against Lincoln where he nutmegged his defender before bending it round the keeper. He represents Northern Ireland, so when he gets called up to them we really struggle.

Last of all, how do you see the game going and what’s your prediction?

Gareth Ainsworth has you playing some great football which from what I have seen is high tempo, high energy and quite an aggressive attacking style with emphasis on closing down the opposition quickly but also knocking it around nicely when on the ball.

This is bad news for us as we can’t pass a ball under pressure, so we will inevitably struggle to get out of our own half. This will probably result in the home fans getting on the players backs as they become more and more impatient with how things are developing on the pitch in recent weeks.

Hopefully we can get a couple of our attacking players back to give it a shot, but I envisage us sitting back and absorbing pressure hoping to counter, and subsequently watching another away team come and play more adventurous football in our own back yard.

My heart says a 2-0 Blackpool win, but unfortunately my head rules and it is saying a 2-0 Wycombe win.

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