Best Blog or Account to Follow: The simply titled Blackpool FC Blog is actually an in-depth look at the club with a focus on attendances and how much they’ve plumetted in recent years.
Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League Two - 7th; W 18 / D 16 / L 12 / F 69 / A 46 / Pts 70 (Won in the play-off final)
The Tangerine Army had been in freefall in many more ways than one prior to Gary Bowyer’s arrival as manager at Bloomfield Road. With continuing problems off-the-pitch, the effects of which bleed profusely onto it, expectations were pretty low for their first jaunt in the fourth tier in 15 years. A mixed couple of early months in 2016/2017 gave way to a fine run leading up to Christmas, with the coastal club hovering just outside the play-off positions. A barren winter spell had threatened to undo a lot of the good work, but as the weather was beginning to warm up once more, the ‘Pool turned it on. The final day of the regular season had them occupying seventh place and despite an almighty scramble beneath them, they held onto it.
What followed were two thrilling, topsy-turvy encounters with Luton Town, the aggregate score of 6-5 being an accurate reflection of both the excitement and the openness of the contests. With many of the Seasiders fanbase understandably continuing to boycott, the final at Wembley against Exeter City was played out in front of a very poor crowd. However, Blackpool maintained their excellent play-off record, winning the competition for an unprecedented fifth time in total.
Top Goalscorer: Mark Cullen (13 goals in 20 starts/1,773 minutes)
Top Creator: Brad Potts (7 assists in 45 starts/3,865 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Gary Bowyer; one look at his CV tells you that he isn’t exactly a person to take on easy roles, having been Blackburn Rovers boss three times in one form or another. Arguably, life on the Fylde coast is even harder than further east in Lancashire. Anyone who can work under the Venky’s and the Oyston régimes and make a decent fist of it is to be applauded. His arrival at Blackpool massively helped a disparate looking playing staff mesh into a cohesive unit with no shortage of endeavour and team spirit on display, especially when the pressure increased in the League Two run-in. He has been candid about wage demands pricing his side out of a lot of signings but how much of that is also affected by the justified reluctance to play under the current ownership is up for debate.
Ins: Christoffer Mafoumbi (Free State Stars), Sean Longstaff (Newcastle United U23s on loan), Jimmy Ryan (Fleetwood Town), Callum Cooke (Middlesbrough U23s on loan), Curtis Tilt (Wrexham), Max Clayton (Bolton Wanderers), Ryan Allsop (Bournemouth on loan), Ollie Turton (Crewe Alexandra), Peter Hartley (Bristol Rovers), Nick Anderton (Barrow) & Ben Williams (Bury).
Outs: Tom Aldred (Bury), Henry Cameron (Limerick), Jack Redshaw (Salford), Sam Slocombe (Bristol Rovers), Luke Higham (Fleetwood Town), Jack Payne (Ebbsfleet United), Eddie Nolan (Crewe Alexandra), Macauley Wilson (free agent), Dean Lyness (free agent), John Herron (free agent), Ian Black (free agent) & Raúl Correira (Guiseley on loan).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: Ben Williams operates best when he has a consistent back four ahead of him but whether that will occur is questionable; on the face of it, the defence could easily switch to a central three, with captain Andy Taylor and Kelvin Mellor pushed up the pitch a little. The duo is relatively conservative and a lot of the emphasis whilst the opposition have possession will be closing off the gaps in between the centre backs and down the flanks, regardless of formation.
Jimmy Ryan is more of a deep-lying playmaker than anchor man but should still be an effective pivot to distribute the ball to Brad Potts or look for an advancing full back overlapping his own position. If Bowyer decides to deploy wingers for the majority of matches in League One, it could afford Bright Osayi-Samuel more starts. The promising Nigerian has electric pace and a willingness to take the ball forward at any given opportunity. On the other flank, Nathan Delfouneso tends to be a little bit more narrow, so his runs should be more directly supportive of the striking partnership.
Max Clayton is adept with both feet and his link-up abilities will be key to keeping Cullen in the game as much as possible. His compatriot is deceptively good in the air and a real ‘nuisance player’ who requires constant close attention.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Circling the relegation drain. Bowyer himself has admitted that it could take ‘half a season’ for his charges to adjust to life in the third tier. The churn of personnel already is very high and it makes it that much more difficult to get off to a good start. I don’t think the ‘Pool will be short of goals and I expect quite an even distribution amongst their litany of strikers. In defence, losing the leadership skills of someone like Tom Aldred is a blow and the remaining centre backs must step up to the plate. The Tangerine Army cannot expect to take as many games by the scruff of the neck as they did in League Two and whilst the coaching staff and players still enjoy the fans’ support, whether they’re present at games or not, it’s hard to foresee a campaign free from strife on or off the field. Bowyer will do the best with the lot he has been given but it’s not out of the realms of probability that a swift return to the basement division could be on the cards.