Category: Opinion

Just the 10 changes, then

When I wrote before the Aston Villa game that changes were afoot, even I wasn’t expecting quite so many of them. Ian Holloway opted to make no fewer than ten changes to the side that took to the field against Everton, and in doing so has drawn the full glare of the media spotlight. In the wake of this story, I think there are some key issues that should be looked at:

  • Was Holloway right to make so many changes?
  • Were the ‘Pool fans who travelled short-changed?
  • Did Holloway over-react in the post-match interview?
  • Should the Premier League be getting involved?
  • Is Holloway’s quit threat genuine?
  • What does this mean for Saturday?
  • What are the longer-term consequences? 
Let’s take a look at these questions one at a time, and try to provide some answers…
Was Holloway right to make so many changes?
This obviously depends on your definition of right. The reasons given by the manager for the overhaul were twofold – the first being to rest players who have played regularly. This season has no doubt been a step up in terms of the standard and pace of the game, so the view that players need to be kept fresh is a worthy one. The second reason given by Holloway was to let some of the fringe players have an opportunity. Fringe players, might I add, that have been selected among Blackpool’s 25 man squad submitted to the Premier League. 
By the letter of the law, surely fielding players part of this squad cannot possibly be construed as purposely sending out a weakened team? Then again, you have the ambiguous Premier League rule E.20 – “In every League Match each participating Club shall field a full strength team.” In whose opinion? With pre-selected squads of 25, who determines just which players are strong and weak? Some might suggest a rule of limiting changes from game to game, but where would this arbitrary limit be set? A maximum of six changes? Seven? What if injuries and suspensions mean a team has to make more changes than this pre-determined limit?
Holloway has a squad, and he is surely entitled to use it as he sees fit, without outside influence.
Were the ‘Pool fans who travelled short-changed?
This is a tricky one. Anyone who was at Villa Park last night cannot argue with the level of performance. First choice team or not, for long spells the men in tangerine matched their more illustrious counterparts, and but for a last minute goal from a set-piece, ‘Pool would have come away with a well-earned point. The team sent out did not roll over, and did not do the club a disservice. Fans were given a chance to see potential future starts, such as Matt Phillips and Ludovic Sylvestre, shine on the big stage.

Then again, had a more familiar XI started the match, Seasiders’ fans could have been rewarded with another away win. Villa, through a number of injuries, were also depleted, and arguably there for the taking. Last night cost me in excess of £50, and it will have cost many even more than that. Personally, I don’t regret going and I still feel it was value-for-money in entertainment terms (as much as Premier League football can be good value). However, for financial reasons I am having to miss my first away game of the season at Upton Park on Saturday. Would I have chosen West Ham over Villa if I’d known that Holloway would make 10 changes? Possibly, possibly not. Is it really for me though, to pick and choose my games depending on the chances of my team winning? Absolutely not. Following Blackpool through some truly horrendous times, it would be churlish to now cry off at the first sign of the Premier League dream turning sour.
What’s to say, though, that Blackpool would have played better with an unchanged team? In spells, ‘Pool played as well as they have done all season, and in Phillips had one of the outstanding performances of the season so far. If some fans feel aggrieved at Holloway’s decision, then that is their prerogative, but by and large, I believe most Blackpool supporters understand the reasons, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them.
Did Holloway over-react in the post-match interview?
For me, this is possibly the heart of the story. Would the media reaction today have been so pronounced had Holloway not have been so ‘wiggy’ in his post-match interviews? I doubt it. In some ways, Holloway’s reaction has become the story, rather than the changes themselves. Holloway may have felt his fringe players weren’t being treated with due respect by post-match interviews, but a little more civility towards them might not have gone amiss. A quiet post-match press conference would have, in all likelihood, kept the issue largely under the radar.
Should the Premier League be getting involved?
This is a no-brainer. With the new rules on 25 men squads, this should be the end of the debate on weakened teams. It is not for the suits to decide what constitutes a full-strength team. The confirmation that the Premier League are looking at this issue is disappointing. By handing Wolves a suspended £25,000 fine for making 10 changes at Old Trafford last season, the authorities put themselves in an awkward predicament.
The precedent set in that case leaves the Premier League with three choices
  1. Follow through on their original decision giving Blackpool a similar punishment
  2. Admit their original decision was a mistake
  3. Judge Blackpool’s transgression to be ‘less wrong’ than Wolves, perhaps giving Holloway a warning, or possibly take no action whatsoever
Going off past form, the second option is unlikely. I rather suspect the Premier League will take the easy way out, taking no action. Holloway has endeared himself to the country, and any sanctions would surely result in a public backlash Scudamore et al will be hoping to avoid. Following the first course of action could potentially have some very serious repercussions.

Is Holloway’s quit threat genuine? 
Initially, I thought it probably wasn’t. We all say things in the heat of the moment, and Holloway is certainly no different. In his press conference today, Holloway has stood firm on his threat to quit if the club are fined, claiming the team he picks should be down to him alone. It’s hard to argue with him on this, and nor would I dare, but it still looks like he is backing himself into a bit of a corner. I don’t imagine it’s likely the club will be fined, but it cannot be completely ruled out.
If the club are fined, would he keep to his word and resign? This would obviously be disastrous, and I find it hard to believe he would walk away just like that, but it only goes to show just how intense the pressure is on managers at this level. I can’t help but feel though that he has brought some of this on himself by being so outspoken post-match yesterday.
What does this mean for Saturday?
With 10 changes last night, there’s every chance that nearly all those who were left out could return to the starting line-up, which would surely only magnify the issue and increase the probability of a fine. Again, you have to wonder if Holloway has dug himself into a hole here. Does he ignore all the media scrutiny and just pick the team he wants, or to temper the reaction, does he try and retain some of those who featured last night? 
Realistically, it’s hard to imagine more than three or four players keeping their places. Phillips has done himself no harm in retaining his place, while Marlon Harewood might be given the chance to score against another of his former clubs. Injuries at the back to Craig Cathcart and Dekel Keinan could mean Rob Edwards stays at centre back, but beyond that I find it hard to see who else will keep their place. This would mean another eight changes, which is bound to cause another stir, deservedly or not.
What are the longer-term consequences? 
Looking forward to January, yesterday’s match will prove very useful in assessing who might be surplus to requirements, and where extra depth might be needed. There are one or two who played last night that could be moved on to make room in the 25 for new blood, and others who will have impressed the manager enough to feature on a more regular basis.
More significantly though, is wondering how costly dropped points tonight could be. As already mentioned, picking a more familiar starting XI might not have necessarily effected a more positive result, but if ‘Pool are relegated by a narrow margin at the end of the season, critics may well point to last night’s team selection and wonder ‘what if?’.

Conclusions

The outcome at Upton Park on Saturday will be instrumental to how last night’s decision will be viewed. Three points on Saturday with a rejuvenated and fresh group of players will look like inspired management, especially when one considers how close ‘Pool were to a draw last night. However, back-to-back defeats will inevitably lead to more searching questions about the decision to rest key players. Holloway has denied the changes were made with the trip to West Ham in mind, but from the outside looking in, a win over a team also battling against the drop is a more valuable one.
One point I must stress, and one that Holloway sought to achieve in his press conference today, is to note how well the replacements played. I’ve often thought more attention should be paid to the football itself, rather than the circus which surrounds it. That a Blackpool team with 10 changes was still able to compete at this level is a hugely encouraging sign for the rest of the season, when changes may be forced due to injuries and suspension, rather than fatigue.
I’ll be doing a full analysis of the Villa match in the next 24 hours or so, when the focus will be firmly on the pitch.

Changes Afoot

As ‘Pool prepare for their second of three games, in what our German friends would call an englische Woche, Ian Holloway has indicated that he may rest certain players for the trip to Villa Park, as he seeks to give some of his new players their first real chance to shine. But just how many changes can we expect?
The most obvious example of Holloway’s willingness to make major changes to his side came in last season’s home game against Sheffield United, where he made no fewer than seven. Ian Evatt, Charlie Adam, David Vaughan, Keith Southern, Hameur Bouazza and Billy Clarke all dropped to the bench, despite being automatic picks at the time. After a goalless opening 45 minutes, Adam and Vaughan were unleashed at half-time helping the Seasiders to a 3-0 victory.
Who, then, is vulnerable from the starting XI against Everton? Resting the goalkeeper would seem unnecessary, so I’d expect Matt Gilks to keep his place. Neal Eardley too looks hard to displace with Alex Baptiste still a couple of weeks away from fitness – it’s unlikely Danny Coid would be thrown in. An injury to Craig Cathcart looks set to rule him out, while at left back David Carney may finally get the nod over Stephen Crainey.
The rest of the team isn’t quite as easy to predict, the midfield especially. Holloway has shown in the past he’s not afraid to rest his star men, but leaving out Vaughan and Adam for the same game would surely be a high-risk strategy. A few injury niggles to Adam in recent weeks though may mean that he is the more likely of the two to be rested. With Keith Southern not yet fully match fit, it is doubtful he will add to the 62 minutes he managed against Everton.
Up front Taylor-Fletcher is the man I would expect to be most at risk. GTF has stepped up to Premier League level surprisingly well, although his form has tailed off in the past few games, with time out of the side possibly the best thing for him. Luke Varney nearly missed the match against the Toffees, while DJ Campbell’s goal drought could put his place in jeopardy.
With all this in mind, this is one potential team Holloway could send out to face Aston Villa.
Dekel Keinan is the obvious replacement for Cathcart, and with Carney featuring with more regularity from the bench, I suspect he may get his first start. Ludovic Sylvestre could come in if Adam is rested, with Elliot Grandin regaining his place behind the front three. Matt Phillips could not do any more to earn a place on the teamsheet and Marlon Harewood could be given the chance to score against his former employers. The remaining attacking place is anyone’s guess, but at the moment it seems like Campbell is somewhat undroppable.
I’m not for a minute suggesting this is the team I would pick. A severely weakened Villa side is seemingly there for the taking, but Holloway’s intentions to rotate his squad have been made quite explicit. It could be all mind games, but I’d expect the unexpected when the teams are announced tomorrow evening.

Beginning of the end for Adam at Blackpool?

As the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and the picture emerging this week is that Charlie Adam’s days at Bloomfield Road look to be numbered. In addition to press reports linking the ‘Pool skipper with a move away, the news this week of complex contract wranglings only serve to reinforce the feeling that Adam might not be wearing the tangerine shirt for much longer.
Barring his unusually poor performance at Birmingham last week, superbly analysed by BFC Blog, Adam has made the step up the Premier League level with ease. As the talisman of the side, Adam has won numerous supporters in the media, none more so than Jamie Redknapp. Concluding the Sky coverage of the 3-2 home defeat to Man City, Redknapp heaped praise on the Scottish midfielder, signalling Adam is set for a long Premier League career, even if the Seasiders are not.
This is not necessarily anything new, and most Blackpool fans would accept that failure to stay up this season would inevitably result in the loss of the captain. It now appears however that his departure could be hastened, with a move in January becoming ever more likely. The story emerging this week of a reported unpaid bonus is a damaging one for the club, especially as Adam’s is supposedly a test case, with other players ready to take action should the ruling go in Charlie’s favour. Who is right and who is wrong is not for me to decide – only the parties involved know all the facts. Quite simply though, things should never have been allowed to get to this stage, and it is another embarrassing PR failure for the club.
That the issue could not be solved internally by the club is a worry – it cannot be doing the relationship between player and employer any good whatsoever. Regardless of the outcome of the arbitration hearing on Thursday, no good can come of it. A ruling in favour of the club will surely the sour feeling among the whole squad, not just Adam. If the Premier League rule in favour of Adam, then the ramifications could be dire, with some quarters suggesting Adam’s contract could be deemed null and void, effectively enabling him to move on for nothing in the transfer window. Such a scenario seems far-fetched, but the contractual issues are not likely to persuade Adam to see out the season at Blackpool with a big money move on the cards in January.
Should Adam leave in January, he will do so with the thanks of every single Blackpool fan, who surely recognise that he was the major key in the last season’s promotion. It should not however be assumed that everything will go to pot without him. In recent years many influential players have moved on, only to be replaced with new heroes. A like-for-like replacement for Charlie is hard to imagine, but there are several players waiting in the wings, such as Ludovic Sylvestre and Chris Basham, who will be looking to prove their worth. 
If Adam stays, then it will be a massive boost for the rest of the campaign, but with the vultures circling, I rather suspect we might have to get used to playing without him. If injury keeps him out against West Brom tomorrow, it will be a good test of how the Seasiders will cope post-Adam.

Eight Down, 30 To Go

Just over a month ago, I wrote a post posing the question of whether Blackpool fans were getting carried away with the start to the season. At that point in time ‘Pool were occupying 4th place in the league, with two wins and a draw to their name following the opening four fixtures. The only defeat, while a heavy one, came away at Arsenal – hardly a disgrace. I suggested that the next four games would perhaps be more challenging, and that we could draw more accurate conclusions following these games. 
Featuring three of the big name clubs (whether Liverpool deserve that accolade is an argument for another time) I thought that if the Seasiders could rack up more than four points from these fixtures, the euphoria could be justified. As it happens, ‘Pool only picked up three points. It’s still a respectable haul and save for the late, late goal conceded against Blackburn, and some dubious refereeing decisions on Sunday, that tally could have been a few points higher.
Eight games in then, and 10 points on the board. Even the most optimistic of Blackpool fans would surely have settled for that at the start of the season, especially when you consider there have only been three home games, and the away games have included trips to Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. In fact, some of the so-called experts in the national media were of the opinion that ‘Pool would struggle to reach double figures all season. Derby County’s record looks set to remain for at least another year.
Looking forward, what do the next batch of games hold in store for the Seasiders? We are now going into a period of seven games that could be key to ‘Pool’s season. Away trips to Birmingham, Aston Villa, West Ham and Bolton aren’t the most daunting the Premier League has to offer, while Ian Holloway will be eager to start picking up points at Bloomfield Road with the visits of West Brom, Everton and Wolves next in line. Doubling the current points total after these games appears to be a realistic target, whereby 20 points from the opening 15 games would see Blackpool well on the way to survival.
After 15 games the home / away imbalance will remain in place, with the Seasiders still only having played 6 matches on the Fylde Coast. The number of points picked up at home so far has been the major disappointment, even if performances have warranted more. If ‘Pool can get to 20 points, or dare I say more, after playing 9 of the first 15 away from home, you’d have to start to believe that another miracle season is upon us.

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.

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!

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.

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.