David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Blackpool’

Hold on to your bowler hats, football’s back

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

PNE

Perspective is a rare commodity in football at the moment.

Less than a week ago, I suggested that Preston’s opening two fixtures would immediately shape fans’ attitudes towards the rest of the season.

Mouth-watering fixtures yes, and a great way to launch into what could be an exciting campaign – but in reality only fixtures one and two of a long, hard season with plenty of time for fortunes to change should early results not go our way.

As it happens, PNE have made a strong start. A point at home to Wolves hints at a bid to re-establish Deepdale as the difficult away trip it used to be for visiting teams.

But what has captured the headlines this week is the cracking victory over Blackpool in the Capital One Cup.

While the dust is still settling on the aggro and aftermath, my point about perspective is this.

I’m all for passion in football, especially games against big rivals. Too many games against Blackpool have slipped by in a stupor of midday kick-off mediocrity.

And with the Lancashire pecking order turned on its head in the last few seasons, Tom Clarke’s late winner felt very, very good indeed.

Throw in the evening game atmosphere generated by an impressive attendance and you’ve got the potential for a memorable tie.

But a pitch invasion? This was the first round of the League Cup. It feels small time to celebrate with the same gusto that should be reserved for real achievement.

Of course it wasn’t members of ‘The Gentry’ on the pitch – it was more ill-fitting shorts and trainers than bowler hats. Yet the consensus after the game seemed to place this result in company it hardly deserved.

In my opinion, to justify a mass swarm over the barriers you need a moment mentionable in the same breath as the Paul Raynor-inspired comeback against Torquay to book a place at Wembley in 1996.

I saw one fan compare the moment to Mark Rankine’s late goal in the 2001 Birmingham City play-off semi-final second leg which sent us to penalties, Cardiff, and the chance to win promotion to the Premier League. This was not even close. Trust me, I was there.

Was this, as another tweet said, revenge for the ‘We are superior’ plane stunt over Deepdale when we were relegated in 2011?

Hardly. That was one of the lowest points of my time watching North End and Blackpool had just enjoyed an unforgettable season in the Premier League. It’ll take a few more of these victories to wrestle the bragging rights back down the M55.

Even the official club twitter account got a bit giddy, @pnefc tweeting: ‘Tom Clarke – welcome to North End folklore!’

Maybe we will replace Super Micky Conroy’s name in the famous old Town End song about putting the ball in the Blackpool net – I doubt many of those on the pitch on Monday night were around in 1999 and perhaps the aging chant needs modernising.

The same point about over-reaction applies to the pitch invasion.

A combination of factors have culminated in negative attention on the club: the presence of Sky Sports cameras; the absence of any other real ‘football news’ as the Premier League has not yet started; and the image of steward being trampled by a police horse.

Paddy Power’s sharp-eyed marketing wizards have been quick to jump on the bandwagon – offering Seasiders a free £10 bet because of PNE’s ‘shameful’ actions and rolling out a tongue-in-cheek ‘Lets hope Preston don’t get to Wembley’ campaign.

Though I can see the point Paul Ince is making about player safety, in reality there was no violence and just plenty of vigorous goading by about 200 North Enders  towards the thousands of travelling Lashers supporters.

The Paddy Power blog called the celebrations “shameful, but not sinister” – and even that is probably taking it a step too far.

Pitch invasions happen often and sometimes players and managers will come face to face with one or two morons. God forbid that they have to mix with the general public.

There have only been six arrests so far, five of which appear to be Blackpool fans for less serious offences of criminal damage and using threatening language.

Strong words from Lancashire Police have condemned “completely unacceptable” behaviour before, during and after the game.

Some Preston fans are now boycotting the online bookies over the perceived slight.

The season’s not yet a week old and we’re already drowning in a wave of hyperbole.

Football’s back.

Written by Sam Chadderton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger

Sam tweets at @samchadderton

Thank you and goodbye Ollie

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Since my last blog post, ‘Positivity is key‘ on September 20th, Blackpool FC have won once – away at Hull City – and have only managed to pick up 5 points from a possible 24. Back on that September day Blackpool were second in the league, had a captain, had a manager and everything looked peachy.

A lot has changed around Bloomfield Road in the past six weeks. There has been a much publicised manager merry-go-round. Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Ipswich and Crystal Palace have all been looking for new managers in that time-frame and as of November  3rd all those teams have managed to fill their vacant hot seats. Yesterday Crystal Palace appointed their new man – Blackpool’s Ian Holloway – taking over as Dougie Freedman’s replacement and half-time at Selhurst Park, Holloway was unveiled to the home fans.

It has been a turbulent few weeks for Blackpool fans and their manager. Holloway was linked with every job in the Championship and when Henning Berg was appointed Blackburn Rovers boss on Thursday morning, it appeared that Holloway would stay put at Bloomfield Road until further notice. Blackpool fans breathed a huge sigh of relief.

What we weren’t to know is that on the Thursday evening Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston and Palace co-owner Steve Parish were thrashing out a compensation package for Holloway and first-team-coach Keith Millen. Two days later Holloway and Millen had left the Lancashire seaside for South London.

The manner in which Ian Holloway left Blackpool will irk many fans. We don’t blame him for going, but jumping ship on the morning of a crucial game away to Derby County is no way to endear oneself to the fans that hold you in such high regard. However Karl Oyston played the part of the super-villain in this saga. He constantly refused to back his manager financially and has openly stated that a new training ground will be built, but nothing has yet come to fruition.

Ian Holloway was tied to a twelve month rolling contract meaning that all the control was with Oyston. A club could come in and pay the £400,000 release clause and talk to Holloway, which is exactly what Crystal Palace did.

Nobody can blame Holloway for leaving behind a chairman that shows zero ambition to the football club that he owns and runs. What Holloway did in the summer of 2010 to get the club into the Premier League will be remembered by all Blackpool fans forever, it is woven into the club’s history. However when you look back on that achievement and realize the constraints that the manager was working with, it makes that promotion look like a miracle.

The rest is history, the club were relegated on the last day of the 2010-11 season after losing to Manchester United at Old Trafford, with a points total of 39, just one point off safety. Holloway stayed and persevered with his chairman, and despite losing a host of key players that summer, Holloway re-built his squad.

That squad then went all the way to the 2012 Championship play-off final which Blackpool lost to West Ham United. Anyone would think the chairman would back his manager, after the club stumbled at the last hurdle. Just a few million pounds would have shown ambition to get back into the Premier League but Oyston refused to budge on financing Holloway’s transfer targets. Blackpool spent £250,000 this summer on new recruits. Ambition = nil.

Holloway committed to Steve Parish and co. when he signed a deal to become Palace’s manager. Palace have a highly successful youth set-up and he will relish the opportunity  to get his claws into some of their prospects. Family too is an important part of his move down south. Three of Holloway’s four children now live in the nation’s capital so Holloway will be closer to his family, however he will have to sell the house he bought on the Fylde Coast only a few weeks ago.

Holloway is a Blackpool FC legend and I, like many others, thank him for the wonderful job he has done over the past three seasons. He has imprinted a style of football that is the most entertaining my club has ever played. Promotion, relegation and play-off final defeat – we’ve seen it all in the past three seasons and for that Ian Holloway leaves the club held in the highest regard. Thank you and all the best.

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder

Positivity is key

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

“If we finish one place below Blackpool I’ll be very happy, because that would mean we’ll be promoted” - Neil Warnock – 21/08/12.

Blackpool FC have started this season with a bang. After a disappointing play-off final defeat in May, The Seasiders have hit the ground running in their quest to get promotion into England’s top division. Reading achieved promotion in the 2010-11 season after a disappointing play-off final defeat to Swansea the previous year. Reading however started their campaign with a run of losses, the momentum picked up around the Christmas period and they gained promotion by winning the Championship. Ian Holloway will be trying to replicate Reading’s success this season. So far, so good.

Blackpool currently have around 35 professionals at the club. The first-team compete in The Championship and the development squad, headed by ex-Bristol City manager Keith Millen compete in behind-closed-doors friendlies.  There were twelve new arrivals at Bloomfield Road this summer. Some of these players have gone directly into the first team, Tiago Gomes, Isaiah Osbourne to name two, and others have been placed directly into the development squad, Brice Irie-Bi and James Caton for example. Ian Holloway is desperately trying to make this model work.It’s not a B-team, it’s not an under-23 team, it’s simply a development squad. It’s there to make the players develop. As far as I can see it has been a success.

Blackpool started the season with a 2-0 win away at Millwall, followed by a 2-1 victory at Bloomfield Road against Neil Warnock’s Leeds United. The Leeds performance stuck out for many fans as it was the best game of football seen on our shores for many years. The passing, the defending, the creativity was just wonderful and it has given the fans a certain sense of expectation. The players however are feeling no pressure.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher has urged the fans to get behind the team because this is only the beginning. Ian Holloway has also echoed these thoughts. He recently spoke to the local newspaper and was quoted as saying “I’m enjoying the favourites tag.” A 6-0 home win against a woeful Ipswich side heightened expectation. Ian Holloway came out after the game saying he’d got his tactics all wrong. He must have done something right.

13 points from a possible 18 is a good return for Blackpool on their quest for promotion. It’s actually our best start to a league campaign in 57 years which is pretty remarkable. We will draw games like we did against Barnsley and we will lose games like we did away to Leicester City just before the international break but as long as we can keep a run of good performances going then the only way is up at the moment.

It’s difficult not to have high expectations. I’m not usually one to jump on the bandwagon of expectation, thinking and knowing that we can beat any team that is put up against us but at the time of writing (still very early in the season!) it’s difficult not to jump on this bandwagon. All the signs coming out of the club are positive and in Ian Holloway we have one of the best managers in the league. I literally cannot wait for the season to end as that way I will know how we did, where we will be come next season and the like. It’s a great thing to be writing about your football club in such a positive manner, hopefully this bubble won’t burst anytime soon.

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder

 

Close, but no cigar

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

It all started on a Friday night in Hull. The game at the KC Stadium was the first of the season, it was also live on TV. The match was nothing to write home about until Gary Taylor Fletcher scored a goal from nowhere late in the second half to gift the Seasiders 3 points. It was a positive start, a nice away win on the first day of the season from a team that had just been relegated from the Premier League.

Ian Holloway did not hide his disappointment at relegation, these feelings were also expressed by a large number of the playing squad. Relegation hurts and Blackpool suffered a relegation hangover in the first few months of the season. Nevertheless we managed to pick up 11 points in our first 6 games and find ourselves sitting just outside the play-off places. From the middle of September we became ‘consistently inconsistent’, we would win a game in style then crumble to pieces to the next week, this went on for a couple of months but we still managed to get enough points to keep ourselves in check for a play-off place, once again we found ourselves on the fringes of the play-off places come the turn of the year.

An impressive FA Cup run potentially stopped the tangerines from successfully breaking into the play-off places but Everton put an end to the run in the middle February with a 2-0 defeat of Blackpool at Goodison Park. Blackpool could now focus on their league form which they did. A 4-1 loss at home to West Ham in which the Hammers goalkeeper Rob Green got sent off on 53 minutes when the score was 2-1 started a spell of games in which Blackpool gained only 6 points in 8 games. A televised game against leaders Southampton was just the kick up the backside Blackpool needed, Pool ran out 3-0 winners and gained a foothold in the play-off places.

After the 3-0 win against Saints Blackpool didn’t lose a game, they managed to pick up 9 points from 18 and qualify for the play-offs. Birmingham City were next up, in the previous two fixtures Blackpool had fallen foul to Nicola Zigic whose 87 minute equaliser deflated the Bloomfield Road crowd back in November.

The visit to St.Andrews on New Years Eve was a lesson in stopping your opponents from scoring. Chris Hughton lined his Blues team up to pin Blackpool back, Birmingham had plenty of chances in the game and ended up running out 3-0 winners. The play-offs are a different story though. Blackpool have a pretty good record in play-off games. Blackpool had won their previous 9 play-off games – a run that started on 13 May 2001 with a 2-0 victory over Hartlepool in the basement division at Bloomfield Road and Pool were to make it a magnificent 10 games without a loss. Blackpool ran out 1-0 winners but in reality it should have been more. Stephen Dobbie missed a host of chances and if it were not for Marlon King’s late effort hitting the outside of the post in the very last-minute of the game then Blackpool would have approached the 2nd leg at St. Andrews with a different style.

The 2nd leg was one of the most dramatic games of the season. Blackpool extended their 1-0 lead from the first leg when Stephen Dobbie shot from close range, Colin Doyle fumbled the ball into his own net. Blackpool led 1-0 on the night and 2-0 in the tie when half-time approached. Matty Phillips’ goal shortly after the break gave Blackpool a three-goal cushion, Blackpool fans were in dreamland, could we make it 2 play-off finals in 3 seasons? A spirited comeback was not enough for Birmingham to take the tie into extra-time and Blackpool booked their place at Wembley.

The Championship play-off final was one to behold, Blackpool bossed the game for large spells but thanks to missing a host of chances it was Carlton Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te who had the last say on Blackpool’s magical season. When all the smoke had gone, all the confetti cleared off the Wembley turf and all the fans had dispersed it was West Ham United who claimed the final spot in next seasons Premier League. It just wasn’t to be but boy did we have fun getting there, again.

The plaudits have to go to Ian Holloway and his assistant Steve Thompson for Blackpool’s second Championship play-off final in three seasons. After losing key players like DJ Campbell, David Vaughan and talisman Charlie Adam in the summer most Blackpool fans would have settled for a mid-table finish, that’s what makes our 5th place finish special.

Ian Holloway and his players were understandably deflated after the 2-1 loss against West Ham. Ollie has already lined up a meeting with chairman Karl Oyston to discuss next season’s budget and with a little financial backing I honestly think Blackpool can make a real go for automatic promotion. Club captain Barry Ferguson is already quoted as saying “Next season we are going straight up, it’s as simple as that” and Ian Holloway said via a phone message at the player of the year awards that “he’s sick of the play-offs and is going for automatic promotion next season. The intention is there so it’s now up to the chairman to back his manager.

Keeping hold of star players like Matty Phillips, subject of  £3m bids from Reading and Swansea, Tom Ince and manager Ian Holloway will be a key factor in our promotion bid next season. If we can keep hold of at least one of Phillips or Ince then the future is looking bright. Despite the season we’ve had, ending in heartache at Wembley I’m immensely proud of my team and I’m already looking forward to next season. Premier League football would have been nice but the Championship is a great league to play in. Here’s to next season.

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder

Flying under the radar? Think again….

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

“It is nice to draw a line under the last fortnight now and move on”

Those were the words of Ian Holloway in his post-match press conference after beating Brighton 3-1 at home on Saturday.

Holloway has every right to breathe a sigh of relief. Blackpool FC have been in the news for all the wrong reasons on not just one topic, not just two but three topics over the last fortnight.

The Mail on Sunday reported that owner Owen Oyston’s company Zabaxe Ltd  had been paid £11m from Blackpool FC in the year that they were relegated from the Premier League. His payment as a shareholder of the club works out at £211,538 a week. The club posted record profits of £20m and fan’s felt the money would have been better spent on a  new training ground. The fans have voiced their concerns to chairman Karl Oyston, son of owner Owen, to step down from his post.  Ian Holloway’s reaction to this was to criticise the fans and tell them to get behind their team.

False reports of the club checking into a hotel for the Seasiders away trip to Peterborough only to be told that the credit card used to pay for the stay was declined didn’t help the cause, Holloway and the club have frivolously denied that this was a major issue and that the media, local and national were out to derail the Seasiders bid for promotion back to the Premier League. The story wasn’t helped as Blackpool lost 3-1 at London Road.

Another story which was picked up on by the national newspapers was the trial spell of a certain Mr Robbie Fowler. Fowler impressed in his short spell with Blackpool despite spending the last few years plying his trade in the middle east with North Queensland Fury, Perth Glory and a short player-manager spell with Thailand based Muangthong United. Fowler surprised Holloway and his players with satisfactory fitness levels as well as an eye for a goal. Fowler was offered a basic pay package of £100 a week with a £5,000 a week bonus if he played 90 minutes. Fowler rejected the deal and was quaoted as saying,  ”If Ashley Cole nearly crashed his car when he was offered £50,000 a week [by Arsenal], I nearly self-combusted”.

The three reports along with Blackpool’s inconsitent form over the past couple of weeks had Holloway in a spin.

Blackpool find themselves in fifth place, behind in-form Reading, who they are yet to play at the Madjeski Stadium, promotion chasers West Ham and Southampton as well as Chris Hughton’s Birmingham City. Occupying the final play-off place is Middlesbrough. The Championship is getting harder to call every single week, literally any one could go on a good run and be in touching distance of the play-off places.

The highlight, or highlights  of the season for me have been youngsters Matty Phillips and Tom Ince. The pair have found the net 16 times between themselves this season and Blackpool fended off interest from Cardiff City in the January transfer window when they tried to sign Phillips for a paltry £800,000. Tom Ince has recently been linked with a move back to the Premier League with supposed interest from Newcastle and Everton respectively.

This season has been, I hate to use the cliché, a roller-coaster. Blackpool have been inconsistent this season despite staying in and around the play-off places. A late push like that which got the club promoted to the Championship back in 2007 is just what the Tangerines’s need, that and as little interest from the national media as possible.

Holloway has publicly come out this week and said that 8 wins out of 10 games will be needed to make the play-offs this season. A 3-1 home win against Gus Poyet’s Brighton can’t hurt and Ollie will be hoping to get one over on his former team Leicester come Wednesday evening to keep the Seasiders in with fight for the play-off places and a possible return to the Premier League.

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder

The second coming of James Beattie?

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

For as long as I can remember, each season at Sheffield United saw rumours of some former great player returning to the club. It used to be talk of Brian Deane returning, and that did actually come to pass once properly in 1997 and sort of again in 2006, brief though it was.

Unfortunately, those brief examples where the Deano rumours were true have been dwarfed by other instances where it’s turned out to be utter fantasy – laughable fabrications from fans claiming to be ‘in the know.’ Michael Brown’s rumoured return is the sort of transfer rumour that a journalist would dust off once in a while if there was nothing to write about, and this used to be coupled with the sort of additional flaky fan info that you’d expect more on a transfer deadline day than the middle of summer. “Browny was seen driving near the ground/at a reserve game/mowing the Bramall Lane turf/leaving the ground dressed in a Rob Kozluk costume as disguise” etc. Brown could barely have had any pre-season holiday the number of times he was supposed to be within Sheffield.

In the last few years, the rumour mill naturally switched over to the most recent big name sale, James Beattie. Beatts, signed for a club-record £4 million in 2007 by managerial black hole Bryan Robson, was an instant hit in an otherwise terrible season. He finished the campaign with 22 goals to his name, joint second highest in the league, his biggest haul since his Southampton days and the fans’ Player of the Year award was a mere formality.

Fast forward to the following January – as the financial repercussions of relegation and, more damagingly, Bryan Robson began to set in, Beattie was sold to Stoke for a rumoured £3.5 million. 34 goals in 57 games spoke for itself – he was going to take some replacing. In May that year at Wembley, instead of James Beattie, United played Craig Beattie. The loan striker as a lone striker in the club’s most important game since relegation. James Beattie was helping Stoke to retain their place in the Premier League; Craig Beattie was incapable of helping United to return there. That summer, the two Kyles were sold to Spurs, and the rest is history….

While the Blades struggled in 2009-10, Beattie’s initial success at Stoke started to evaporate into his 2nd season. Injuries and greater competition for places saw him in and out of the team, before a reported dressing-room bust-up with Tony Pulis led to him being dropped altogether, and so began the Beattie return rumours. “He never wanted to leave…he/his family/his dog love Sheffield…he’ll take a huge pay-cut to return” before the Brown-esque ‘sightings’ started. And so they continued, right up until he headed to Rangers to sign for them in the summer of 2010.

United’s plight worsened, through managers Kevin Blackwell, to Gary Speed, to Micky Adams. Beattie meanwhile was fairing little better at Rangers. Without a goal to his name, he approached the transfer window last January out of form and out of sorts. “He’s available for loan, Adams is trying to bring him in” became the talk. At the club’s hour of dire need, Beattie signed on loan – for Blackpool. Five appearances and no goals later, Blackpool were down, United were down, and Beattie was back up to Glasgow.

The rumours re-circulated again in the summer and supporters waited. Rangers paid up the rest of his contract to release him on transfer deadline day. At last the moment was upon United. In the dying moments of deadline day, the club announced the signing of two players from Rangers. Beattie’s return was surely complete. Only, it wasn’t – two loanees that ultimately didn’t have their paperwork sorted in time, were the players. Beattie, as it turned out, joined nobody.

This will-they-won’t-they farce failed to go away. Beattie, it appeared, was weeks away from any level of fitness – and even the powers-that-be at Bramall Lane aren’t stupid enough to sign someone they can’t play for a few months, particularly when the purse-strings are tight. Late last week however, the first piece of tangible, creditable evidence emerged as Beattie was photographed at United’s training ground. The cat out of the bag, the club had to confirm that he is in training – many say he has been for weeks. His signing appears to be imminent, and seems this time to have an ounce of truth to it. He was spotted in the Director’s Box at the Lane on Saturday. The fans seem excited – it didn’t take long for the Beattie chants to emerge on the Kop.

Assuming he signs, what does this mean? Brian Deane returned to United a better player than when he left – this is clearly not going to be the case with Beattie though. Since his sale nearly three years ago, he has scored nine goals – and no goals in any competition since October 2009. He was pretty dismal at Blackpool, and a Rangers supporting friend considers him one of their worst signings in years. He’s lacking fitness, he’s probably lacking confidence, he’s always lacked pace and he’s going to have huge expectations to deliver based on his previous spell.

Then again, it could work well. Beattie may not be capable of playing in the top league anymore, but could find a new lease of life in League One. At 33, he’s got a few years left in him surely and is a year younger than Richard Cresswell. Certain players also do seem to click at certain clubs, for whatever reason. Perhaps Beattie genuinely does like the environment around the club, and hasn’t been as happy at any of his clubs since – perhaps that’s contributed to his form.

In many ways, this unwanted out-of-form Beattie is reminiscent of when Sheffield United first signed him – he’d been pretty awful at Everton, coming off a season where he’d featured 35 times and scored twice, both penalties. He then proved to everyone during his spell at Bramall Lane that he could still do it. If he at last signs, he’ll need to prove himself once again and if he’s successful, he might make a huge difference to the season.

Written by Joe Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Joe tweets at @josephclift

Blackpool Boys leave big shoes for Blades to fill

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

On Tuesday night, just as I was considering how soon is too soon to roll out the “I never cared about the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy anyway” line, it struck me that two of Sheffield United’s best performers in a disappointing month were playing probably their final games for the club. The pacey Matty Phillips and the tricky Billy Clarke were returning to Blackpool after the Blades’ penalty shootout defeat to Bradford City.

It has been a bizarre month while they’ve been at the Lane – two wins, three draws and one loss does not sound like a particularly disappointing return, but it doesn’t tell the true story.  It could equally read as two reasonable games and four shocking performances.

With the exception of the surprise 4-2 humdinger away to Preston North End at Deepdale and a win over MK Dons, it’s been a period littered with defensive errors and lost points. Ten minutes of madness in the derby against Wednesday, defensive shambles against Exeter, injury time woe at Orient and an inept performance at Stevenage. Three points – yet had United held onto the the score at 85 minutes in each of those draws, it would have been 9 points accumulated instead. That would have put Danny Wilson’s men level with Huddersfield Town, rather than clinging to the play-offs.

United have not been playing well. There have been goalkeeping errors from first Steve Simonsen, then young George Long. In defence, Neill Collins is the only consistently reliable performer at present – a huge shock to anyone that saw him six months ago. The side have struggled to win any midfield battle and up front have been inconsistent. Chris Porter is still showing signs of a player coming back from a long injury, while Richard Cresswell’s early form has deserted him. Of late, the quality players have looked like average League One players – Stephen Quinn for example has started to look more like the Ginger Mess than the Ginger Messi.

The Tangerine loanee duo had therefore been a breath of fresh air. In Phillips, fans saw a goalscoring winger with blistering pace. In five league starts he scored five goals and finished with a superb effort in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Clarke, though leaving with only one goal to his name, gave the forward line a less predictable feel. The Porter-Cresswell-Evans permutations haven’t scared defences in this league. Clarke’s quickness of foot and mind really provided a different option, and though not prolific he leaves with probably as many assists as Phillips had goals. Holloway sent both players out to bring them up to fitness and form, and United have certainly been able to facilitate that – though frankly the fact Clarke has been behind former Blade Daniel Bogdanovic in the Blackpool squad is a mystery to me.

So a short but sweet loan spell for both players and some serious problems going forward for the Blades. Unitedites have been weary of the loan system following last campaign – the over-reliance on high-paid half-arsed disappointments wrote the story of the season. One of the few decent loans in that collection of rubbish was Andy Reid and it’s the memory of him that concerns me about the Phillips/Clarke exits. Reid in his short spell was a class above the rest of the squad and central to everything that worked – his exit left a gulf that was never filled. The team were over-reliant on him during his loan spell and couldn’t work out how to operate in the immediate aftermath. The concern now is that United been so reliant on Phillips and Clarke, there could be a repeat this time around. Lee Williamson isn’t quite fit enough (and arguably not a proper winger anyway) while Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is still injured and others, like Ryan Flynn, are yet to properly impress.

Manager Wilson has been able to show through the Phillips and Clarke loans that he can attract some quality to the club. His signings up to that point had been mixed at best. But while the club simply act as a fitness-building enterprise for teams from higher leagues they are not going to develop the type of consistency needed to rejoin those clubs.

Priority number one though should be to bring in the personnel necessary to offer some reliability and leadership through the spine of the team. Like last year, the Blades are missing Chris Morgan immensely – the chances of his return from injury any time soon look slim. In the middle of the park, Nick Montgomery and Michael Doyle may be experienced, but they aren’t people to depend on at the minute.

If Sheffield United are really get to grips with this division, they need to bring in the type of player that can help sort the basics out as a start. They can then sprinkle some quality onto those firmer foundations. If the club don’t – as with the two Tangerines – they will be wasting the benefits from any quality brought into the squad.

Written by Joe Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Joe tweets at @josephclift

 

Super Kev to the rescue….again

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

“He’ll probably be scoring them like that when he’s 104.”

Those were the words Ian Holloway used in his post match interview to describe Kevin Phillips after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff City.

It was the 38-year-old hitman’s fifth goal of the season, and what a strike it was. Phillips netted on 62 minutes to salvage a draw against a confident looking Cardiff outfit, Malky Mackay’s side should have had the game wrapped up in the first half but for a flurry of chances saved by Blackpool’s Matt Gilks and a host of other opportunities spurned.

City’s left winger Craig Conway was particularly impressive. It hasn’t taken long for the summer signing to find his feet in the Championship and with three goals in nine games to his name he’s looking like one of the best buys of the season. ‘Pool’s Alex Baptiste and substitute James Hurst struggled to mark the 26-year-old Scot for long periods of the game. He was my Man of the Match and a player that I was hoping Blackpool would sign during the summer.

Anyone reading the Blackpool message boards after the game would think that the club were in Plymouth’s current predicament. “We’ve lost our creativity”, “I’m not interested anymore”, “Ollie will start to get fed up with the lack of funds” were some of the comments posted from so-called fans.

I wasn’t best pleased with the performance over the weekend but I’m not starting to worry. Do I think Man Utd will go unbeaten all season? Probably not. Will Blackpool will draw all of their remaining games? No. Teams have off days and in ‘Pool’s case they didn’t even lose, instead drawing against a team that is always there or thereabouts when it comes to promotion at the end of the season. So stop worrying, do I hope we can get a creative attacking midfielder in on loan? Yes, every fan loves a new signing (as long as his wages don’t cripple the club) but you can’t start worrying about what could be when the season is only seven games old and Blackpool are currently sitting in seventh place!

Cardiff deserved to win the game without question. ‘Ollie’ said he felt like a burglar after watching the Welsh team dominate for large spells of the game only for Phillips to score a goal from nowhere and bag Blackpool a point.

The next test for Holloway’s side is Portsmouth away and a long trip to Fratton Park awaits. I will, however, be gutted at not being able to give Luke Varney a cheer and a clap at the game. Varney was sent off in Pompey’s 1-0 loss to Hull at the weekend and will miss the match against his former teammates, Varney was a popular figure at Bloomfield Road and most Seasiders were disappointed to see him not sign for the club permanently in the summer.

Hopefully Blackpool can collect all three points points and regain their creative spark when visiting the South Coast this weekend. Maybe that would get some of the ‘fans’ off the players backs, at least until the next draw anyway…..

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder

Disaster? What disaster?

Monday, September 12th, 2011

May 22nd 2011, Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool. Since that fateful day last summer Blackpool have lost players that notched 40 of our 55 Premier League goals, the goals came from DJ Campbell (13), Charlie Adam (12), Luke Varney (5), Marlon Harewood (5), Jason Puncheon (3) and David Vaughan (2). The sales of Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell put £8.5m into the transfer pot, Jason Puncheon and LukeVarney returned to their parent clubs, Southampton and Derby respectively, Marlon Harewood was released and David Vaughan ran his contract down and joined Sunderland on a free transfer. Let’s not forget the 10 players that were released by the club including Andy Reid, Richard Kingson and Malaury Martin to name a few, our squad was now wafer thin.

A rebuilding job was top of the agenda. Ian Holloway and his backroom staff brought in 11 players before the first game of the season. Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips were the pick of the bunch, not forgetting youngsters Tom Ince and Gerardo Bruna from Liverpool. One of my favourite signings of the summer was unproven striker Craig Sutherland on a free transfer from North Carolina State University Wolfpack of the US College leagues. It later emerged that Ian Holloway had signed the player only after watching a DVD of him in action, the recommendation coming from Holloway’s wife Kim who was given a pile of DVD’s to watch.

An up and down pre-season didn’t help the cause. The players weren’t gelling, there was no creativity and chances were few and far between, beating Hull City away from home on the first day of the season was looking impossible.

However Blackpool did beat Hull 1-0, the players looked sharp, they were gelling and we had plenty of chances. It was nothing short of a miracle and goes to show that pre-season form means diddly squat! It was a fine performance in front of the Sky Sports cameras and it was our squad hadn’t changed. A League Cup loss to Sheffield Wednesday didn’t do too much damage, the following Sunday the Tangerines recorded their first home win of the season against newly promoted Peterborough thanks to a brace from evergreen Kevin Phillips (a recent fans poll declared the 38-year-old Blackpool’s best signing of the summer) We were flying.

A smash and grab home loss to Derby County certainly took the wind out of the sales with Ian Holloway declaring that there was still plenty of work to do before considering themselves promotion contenders. Next up was Brighton at the newly built AMEX Stadium. 2-0 down after 50 minutes and the visitors looked down and out but step up Super Kevin Phillips, another brace from the former England international was enough to take a point back to Bloomfield Road (at the time of writing Blackpool are the only team to have taken points away from The Seagulls). A further point away from home against Crystal Palace was enough to take the team up to 7th before the international break, as fans we were happy.

I was also happy with our summer signings but the general consensus on our fans forum were not, they wanted bigger, expensive WOW signings as many put it. The club had a few days to bring players in on permanent deals before the transfer window slammed shut. There was talk of Adam Le Fondre (who went to Reading), Rob Hulse, Jason Puncheon (joined QPR on loan), Stephen Quinn, Jason Scotland and Nile Ranger. The list is endless. In the end James Hurst arrived on loan from WBA, followed by Daniel Bogdanovic from Sheff Utd for a fee of £250,000.

The fans were not happy and neither was Ian Holloway. Ollie came out in the press and said that on deadline day he had bid for 15 players and all bids were knocked back. He stated that the club were being held ransom because of their new bank balance (Premier League TV money, parachute payments etc.) and ended up signing an England U-19 and a League One reserve player. I for one am not passing judgement too early, let’s see these boys play and then make our minds up, not forgetting the added luxury of the loan transfer window. All Premier League clubs have now named their 25 man squads until January so it’ll be up to Ian Holloway and company to pick off the best players available. Rob Hulse, Danny Shittu, Tom Soares and Danny Collins are a few names that catch the eye and are all players who possess the quality to help a team on it’s way to promotion.

A 2-0 win against big spending Ipswich calmed the nerves for Blackpool, goals from Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Barry Ferguson were enough to see off Paul Jewell’s men. It was a game where you had to take your chances – the team did and now find themselves 8th in the Championship after six games. The real test will come next weekend against Cardiff City. Malky Mackay’s men have been playing some impressive football in the past couple of weeks and are just a place above in the standings.

Blackpool fans have been asking for more new faces, will they come before the Cardiff City game? Only time will tell.

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool Blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder