Month: September 2010

Poles Apart

On Sunday there was no better place to observe the gulf between Blackpool and Chelsea than in the matchday programme. Where ‘Pool fans would normally expect to see adverts for Pricebusters in the programme at Bloomfield Road, Chelsea’s offering featured adverts for multi-millon pound mansions and Dolce & Gabbana.
 
The financial difference between the two sides unfortunately showed on the pitch too, as Chelsea blitzed the Seasiders in the first half. After the 6-0 defeat at Arsenal last month, many Blackpool supporters were hoping to put up a bit more of a fight than on the last visit to the capital. Any such hopes were killed off within the first two minutes, as ‘Pool failed to deal with Didier Drogba’s testing corner, which was converted at the back post by an unmarked Salomon Kalou.
Ian Holloway had sent the team out with Baptiste fulfilling an unusual sweeper role, but this gamble was nullified when the early goal went in. Holloway clearly planned to frustrate the opposition and had Chelsea not scored with just over a minute on the clock, his strategy may have been a shrewd one. After Kalou’s goal however, the change in formation just seemed to cause more problems with players seemingly unsure of who they were supposed to be picking up. It’s hard to criticise Holloway for this though. It’s a game we couldn’t expect to get anything from, and as such his gamble was a low-risk one.
When reverting to the more familiar 4-3-3 formation in the second half, ‘Pool looked much improved and could well have had a couple of goals. Chelsea did certainly take their foot off the gas a little, but the performance after the break restored some pride and gave both the players and fans reasons to be optimistic going into a more important game next week at home to Blackburn Rovers.
Advertisements

Seaside Strategy – Newcastle United Away

In many ways the victory at St James’ Park is the most satisfying result of the season so far. In the same fixture last season Blackpool were soundly beaten 4-1, overawed by the sheer size of the stadium. Barely five months on from that game, a more savvy team of Seasiders put in a sterling performance which thoroughly merited all three points. It was a disciplined effort, and whilst Holloway’s men retained their attacking philosophy, it wasn’t at the expense of their defensive duties.
The opening 45 minutes belonged largely to Blackpool. DJ Campbell should have opened his account early doors when put clean through by Charlie Adam, but Campbell took a poor touch allowing Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper to close him down, and Harper did well to block the follow-up shot from Ormerod. The Magpies did have their chances too, but they came against the run of play as Blackpool took the game to the home side. They were rewarded just before the break with Varney being brought down by a reckless challenge from Alan Smith. Adam went for his usual spot in the bottom left corner, sending Harper the wrong way.
1-0 down at the break, Newcastle were always going to come at Blackpool in the second half. However, what followed was a classic example of rearguard action. Gilks has since taken the majority of the plaudits, and rightly so, but his defence in front of him also held firm and put their bodies on the line time after time.
Blackpool blocked no fewer than eight shots during the match, with six of those taking place in the second period. Dekel Keinan made a solid contribution on his first start in a tangerine shirt, making three crucial blocks, including a clearance off the line.
Newcastle will perhaps count themselves unlucky that despite 22 shots, they couldn’t hit the back of the net. What they found was a goalkeeper in the form of his life and a team that is made of sterner stuff than is often perceived. It’s true that the 4-3-3 formation does somewhat throw caution to the wind, but it is a team crammed full of hard-working players who will defend from the front and give their all for their teammates. It is not a brittle side that will roll over in the Premier League. 
Well, the match away to Arsenal excepted…

Down Memory Lane – Grayson to Leeds

Today’s news surrounding Nigel Adkins’ proposed move to Southampton brings to mind the departure of Simon Grayson to Leeds United, albeit with a couple of key differences. Like the Adkins situation, Grayson was targeted by a club in a lower division, but a club with an arguably far greater potential. The common belief in Blackpool was that Grayson had worked wonders with a squad on a minimal budget. Not only had he taken ‘Pool back into the second tier of English football for the first time in almost 30 years, he had been able to keep us there in our first season in the Championship.
When Leeds said goodbye to Gary McAllister, ‘Larry’ quickly emerged as the leading candidate. Grayson had ties to the club, both professionally by coming through their youth system and emotionally through his boyhood support for the club. The lure of Leeds was undeniable. Not only would Leeds pay him more than Blackpool ever could, he had the opportunity to manage the club he loves. When you also consider the fanbase at Elland Road, Grayson obviously saw more long-term potential in the Yorkshire club. 
It was hard to argue with this at the time. Blackpool were already punching above their weight by retaining Championship status, and with little visible sign of either investment in the squad or stadium improvements, it’s fair to say Grayson had taken the Seasiders as far as he could. What left a bitter taste in the mouth, though, was how the move finally came about. An official statement released by the club at the time outlines the situation:
“Leeds United first approached us on Sunday afternoon requesting permission to speak to Simon Grayson regarding their vacant manager’s position, this approach was immediately rejected by the club. Following a meeting with Simon Grayson on Monday morning, we reiterated our position to both Simon and Leeds United and permission was once again not granted for Simon to discuss the vacancy at Elland Road. Permission was refused for a third time following a telephone conversation whereby Leeds United made the club a derisory offer of compensation. Leeds United reaffirmed their position via fax once again requesting permission to speak to Simon and gave the club a deadline of 8pm to reply to the fax. The club, via e-mail reaffirmed their position and wished Leeds every success in their search for a new manager.
 
On Tuesday morning, Simon Grayson, via a hand delivered letter, offered his resignation to the club which was immediately rejected by the board of directors. Less than an hour after the club had received Simon’s offer of resignation, the Leeds Chief Executive once again contacted chairman Karl Oyston and reaffirmed their derisory offer. The chairman once again informed Leeds that permission was not granted to speak to the manager.

At 12.15pm, the club were notified that Leeds United “had been made aware” that Simon Grayson had resigned from the club’s employment and that he had accepted their offer of employment as manager and that he had signed a contract with Leeds United.

In light of the above, the board of directors have reluctantly reported Leeds United to the Football League for breaches of Football League regulations 20.1 and 20.2. In addition, the club are currently seeking advice from the Football League and the club’s lawyers as to the breach of contract by Simon Grayson whose contract was not due to expire for at least another 18 months.

The board feel Leeds United have acted completely unprofessionally and underhandedly and have shown a total disregard for the rules and regulations that govern football.”
Quite clearly, the way things panned out upset Blackpool. Eventually, under the threat of court action, a settlement was agreed. This figure was never released, but was rumoured at the time to be somewhere in the region of £400,000. Tony Parkes, ever the reliable caretaker, took the reins and guided Blackpool to safety once more, greatly assisted by the loan signings of Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell. Surprisingly, Parkes was not given the job despite this success, which drew criticism from a large sections of the fans, myself included, with Ian Holloway taking over the top job. Whether this was a masterstroke by Karl Oyston or a large slice of luck is immaterial – it was the positive move the club required.

Nearly two years on from Grayson’s resignation, Blackpool are still one division higher than the club he joined. How much longer this lasts is debatable, of course. When Larry finally does return to Bloomfield Road as an opposing manager, it will be interesting to see what reception he garners. All Blackpool fans will always remember the contribution Grayson made in taking the club out of obscurity. His acrimonious departure clouds the issue however and he did tarnish his reputation. Rightly or wrongly, some fans will boo him when Blackpool come up against Leeds, or another team should he move on from there.

By refusing to sell his club out, Adkins will only have strengthened his reputation at Glanford Park. Southampton are something of an enigma at the moment, and moving from the safety of Scunthorpe to St Mary’s would be a huge gamble. Even if Scunny were to go down, which is by no means the certainty some pundits would have you believe, Adkins could still boost an impressive record at a club with minimal resources. Chances to progress his career will continue to present themselves to Adkins. In fact, if Holloway were to leave Blackpool, Adkins would be a worthy candidate to replace him.

Incoming

The transfer window slammed shut at 6pm last Tuesday..or so Sky Sports News would have you believe, anyway. The reality was that with deals still being finalised in the final frantic minutes, it wasn’t until two days later that the Seasiders announced their last transfer … Continue reading Incoming