Month: October 2010

Seaside Strategy – Manchester City Home

Deciding what to take a closer look at this week was no easy task. My first instinct was to analyse Charlie Adam’s masterful performance, which signalled his arrival as a player of true Premier League ability. Adam has rightly drawn plaudits from all quarters, with Sky’s Jamie Redknapp perhaps most vocal in his praise for the former Rangers man. The aim of this blog was always to try and view all things BFC from a different angle, so I’ll refrain from lavishing yet more attention on the ‘Pool skipper.
I was then tempted to pay tribute to the contribution of Adam’s partner in crime, David Vaughan. Vaughan has been exceptional this season and perhaps the stand out player to date. Adam was deservedly man of the match, but Vaughan ran him a close second. His workrate has been key to the way the Seasiders play, starting a large proportion of Blackpool’s attacking moves while also helping out the back four. Once again though, all ‘Pool fans know how well Vaughan is playing, even if the national media aren’t giving the Welshman the praise he deserves.
From a team perspective, the chalkboards show how ‘Pool dominated the game with 349 successful passes to Man City’s 262. Yet, in spite of all the positives Ian Holloway can take from an impressive performance, the cynic would say that there’s only one statistic that really matters. For all the problems the Seasiders caused City, it was a failure in front of goal that was ultimately the difference between the two sides.
Whereas Mancini’s side were ruthless with their chances, ‘Pool’s wastefulness in front of goal meant a third consecutive home game where the performance merited a better result. Of 16 shots only four were on target including the two goals. City also restricted ‘Pool to mainly long-distance shots – 10 of the 16 attempts occurring outside the box. By contrast eight of City’s 13 shots took place inside ‘Pool’s area, with the other five only just outside.
Just to be testing a Man City side assembled on a budget the Seasiders could only dream of is a feat more than anyone could have realistically expected. However, as a manager who is always seeking improvement from his side, it is the final third where Holloway will surely be focusing on in the weeks ahead.

Oyston In?

“A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” If this hadn’t been said about Russia in 1939 by Winston Churchill, that phrase could aptly sum up the reign of the Oyston family. Shrouded in secrecy, it’s fair to say nobody ever knows what’s truly going on behind the scenes at Bloomfield Road. My very own blog post two months ago when Karl Oyston announced he would be stepping down spectacularly missed the reason for his decision. Days after that post, it emerged that Oyston had a bankruptcy order against him, and with Premier League rules barring directors from being bankrupt, the situation seemed clearer.
Quite how Karl Oyston, an heir to a massive family fortune, had become bankrupt wasn’t so clear – the murmurs around the Fylde Coast suggested links to his personal life – but it at least explained why he could no longer continue as Chairman. The statement at the time said Oyston would stay on as Acting Chief Executive until a replacement was appointed. The weeks went by without any sense of urgency, a staple of the Oyston era, which appeared to draw the attention of the Premier League.
With no effective change in the stewardship of the club, the Premier League began investigating whether Oyston was operating as a shadow director, which goes against the league’s ownership rules. It would appear that this investigation may have triggered a reversal of the bankruptcy order announced today by the club. This would open the door for the return of Oyston to the role of Chairman, albeit in rather embarrassing circumstances given the increased level of media scrutiny in the top flight. The way this saga has unfolded is amateurish to say the least, a term frequently aimed at the way the club has been run under the Oyston family.
Of course, this assumption could be wide of the mark, and the annulment of the bankruptcy order may just allow Oyston to continue as a shadow director in the role of Acting Chief Executive while a successor is sought. Oyston may well have had enough and be looking to leave, but I’m now not quite so sure this is the case. The likeliest scenario is that he will return as Chairman, restoring the former boardroom set-up.
What does this mean for the future? Well, not an awful lot in all probability. The frugal marshalling of the club will continue, and while such positive results are being achieved on the pitch, it’s hard to make too much of a fuss. One thing’s for certain however, I know this will not be the last post I write about Karl Oyston this season.

The Great Premier League Away Ticket Swindle

By far the biggest difference about travelling away this season has been getting used to inflated ticket prices. Trips to Stamford Bridge (£46) and Anfield (£39) have hurt the wallet, although on the flip side, the games at Wigan and Newcastle were a reasonable £25. However, much has been said about ticket prices in the Premier League before, so I’m not going to re-tread old ground. We all know that the cost of attending football in this country has got out of hand and, unlike Germany, the fan culture here isn’t strong enough to campaign against this.
My major gripe currently lies with the way some home clubs are allocating ticket numbers for away fans. Premier League rules state that away fans should be given 3,000 seats, or 10% of the capacity where capacity is below 30,000. Bloomfield Road is one of the few grounds in the top flight with such a capacity, which should ensure that the Seaside faithful get a minimum allocation of 3,000 at the majority of away fixtures. 
‘Pool have always had a good away following, especially when you consider our home attendances have often fallen way short of our contemporaries, and the demand for tickets this season was always going to be increased for our first year in the big time. That said, the marquee games aside (Liverpool, Arsenal, Man Utd), 3,000 tickets would generally suffice. After all, the aforementioned cost will likely make it difficult for many to attend a high number of away games as well as financing a home season ticket. The problem we are beginning to discover is that some clubs are sneakily getting around the rules. The first such instance has occurred with the arrival of the tickets from Villa Park.
Aston Villa have issued Blackpool with an initial batch of just over 1,000 tickets. It is believed that further tickets are available (presumably upto 3,000 in line with the regulations), but that some or all of these will need to be bought by the club on a ‘no return’ basis. Therefore if ‘Pool failed to sell the extra tickets, the club would potentially be out of pocket to the tune of thousands of pounds. 1,000 tickets will never satisfy demand, while 3,000 would probably be too many. It’s certainly hard to fault Blackpool FC for not taking the risk of losing money.
Gerard Houllier’s new club aren’t the only team to take this stance on away tickets. Newcastle’s NUFC Blog identified this issue right at the start of the season, suffering similar treatment at the hands of Man Utd and Wolves. With a larger fanbase to call upon, the problem is arguably worse for the Geordies who would surely sell out 3,000 for every away fixture given their fanatical support. This has given Newcastle reason to look internally for a scapegoat however, with Mike Ashley in the line of fire once again. The risk of losing money for Newcastle is minimal compared to that of the Seasiders, so turning my fire at the hierarchy of Blackpool FC probably wouldn’t be fair.
This surreptitious ploy being used by some clubs is another sad indictment for a league that specialises in marginalising its core support for the sake of a quick buck. Before Blackpool reached ‘the promised land’ I found the inverse snobbery of our fans referring to the Premier League as the ‘Greed League’ irritating. Issues like this though only support that view though, and it is to be hoped this feeling doesn’t grow within me should ‘Pool have an extended stay at this level.

Seaside Strategy – Liverpool Away

In the immediate aftermath of the home defeat to Blackburn Rovers, Ian Holloway was quick to set out his plans for the following week’s game at Anfield – all-out attack. The Seasiders had been criticised in some quarters for the way they approached the away fixtures at Arsenal and Chelsea – Blackpool’s attacking policy was deemed naive rather than brave.
However, with Liverpool at an unprecedented low in recent years, it seemed like there would never be a better time to attack Roy Hodgson’s side. The chalkboard below shows how the opening 20 minutes panned out in terms of the number of passes.
The top chalkboard shows Blackpool’s data, with the lower displaying Liverpool’s passses in the opening 20 minutes.
Amazingly ‘Pool successfully completed more than double the amount of passes than their hosts. What is most evident is the amount of possession Blackpool were allowed in the middle of the pitch and at the back. This shows how Liverpool stood off the Seasiders, allowing Holloway’s men time on the ball and giving the Seasiders the chance to play their natural game.

By controlling the opening exchanges, ‘Pool were able to dictate the match and take the game to the under-pressure home side. Unlike at Chelsea where Kalou’s early goal destroyed Holloway’s gameplan, Liverpool allowed the Seasiders to settle down very quickly, which must have given the team the confidence to go on and put in the performance they managed on the day. In fact, the Blackpool manager may ultimately have been disappointed that the early domination didn’t result in a more convincing half-time lead.

I’ll let it slide this time though, I guess.

Away Day Memories – Brentford 2004/05

Listening to the latest Seasiders Podcast (which I thoroughly recommend), I particularly enjoyed the segment of the show where they took a walk down memory lane to discuss their all-time best and worst games as a Blackpool fan. Having somewhat neglected this blog over the last week or so, it has spurred me on to write about one of my favourite away trips, which I hope will be a regular feature.
For this post, I’ve decided to reminisce about the Seasiders’ visit to Griffin Park a little under six years ago. The reason for recalling this game so fondly is down to a close friendship with a Brentford fan. In September of 2004 I had just begun my four year stint at university. On the first weekend in my new digs, I wore a retro 70s BFC shirt when I first encountered said Brentford fan, Will. He was quick to offend me by enquiring if it was a Barnet shirt, although being a Blackpool fan at this point was only a small step up from the side from Underhill.
Yes, it was the Colin Hendry ‘era’ and the big Scot had made an inauspicious start to his ‘Pool tenure. The opening day defeat at Doncaster set the tone for his time in charge and marks a period I’d sooner forget. When the Brentford game eventually rolled around on 23rd October, the two sides lay at opposite ends of the league table. Under Martin Allen, the Bees were flying high in 2nd place, while Blackpool were struggling down in 21st.  Despite this, in the build-up to the game there was a lot of bravado on my part. It was blind optimism, nothing more, but Will was easily wound up by my insistence that it would be an easy win for the Seasiders.
We travelled down together from Sheffield on the Megabus, although nearly missed out on the trip altogether. In our student house Will was renowned for being rather lazy and failed to get up at the agreed time, resulting in a manic dash across Sheffield to reach the departure point. Upon arrival at Griffin Park, we sought refuge from the terrible conditions in one of Brentford’s famous four pubs, one on each corner of the ground. Griffin Park is the sort of ground that it is easy to miss when attending the soulless new stadia we have visited since promotion out of League One. However, that day was not the sort of day to be stood on an open terrace. In the driving rain, the hardy ‘Pool support (which I think numbered around 300) were hoping the team could provide them with something to lift their spirits.
The side that took to the field that day was largely still the one put together by Steve McMahon, with only a few of those players signed by Hendry himself. Rob Clare was one of those players who had been signed with a great deal of fanfare, but failed to impress, even he was perhaps cast aside a little too quickly in my view. The spine of the side was relatively strong though, with Lee Jones, Peter Clarke, Richie Wellens, John Murphy and Scott Taylor all being players who the tangerine faithful will remember positively, at least for their on-the-field performances.
The match itself was one of the few occasions where a Hendry-led ‘Pool side clicked. Far from being a smash-and-grab, it was a game Blackpool fully deserved to win. The Seasiders took an early lead through Murphy and went in 1-0 up at the break. Some bizarre antics before the second half began saw the Brentford players warm-up in the ‘Pool half, which bemused just about everyone in the crowd. Martin Allen was well known for his, shall we say, unique way of doing things in his time at Brentford, but this tactic to unsettle Blackpool failed miserably as Hendry’s team secured all three points with further goals from Murphy and Taylor. The third goal was especially good with Wellens splitting the Bees’ defence wide open to provide the assist for Taylor.
It was a sweet victory, and ultimately the wind and rain only served to elevate the game an ‘I was there’ status. No doubt there’s probably thousands of ‘Pool fans who now claim they were at the match. The enjoyment for me only increased given the bragging rights I was able to enjoy over my housemate. ‘Pool went on to struggle around the lower reaches for the rest of the season, eventually finishing the season in 16th, 6 points above the relegation zone, while Brentford experienced another miserable play-off experience losing out to Sheffield Wednesday in the semis. 
Only one side have a worse play-off record than the Bees…I wonder who that could be!