There’s a strange feeling in the air at the moment and I believe that we, the fans, are part of the problem. We’ve become spoilt and now that things aren’t going our way, we are beginning to pollute media channels with our negativity. Yes, this blog will be opinionated (aren’t they all?). Yes, you might not agree with me, but hear me out and then make up your mind.
We’re a proud club. We have a beautiful history. We have had success and our fair share of failures too.
So why does a League One club, after four games, suddenly have such high expectations and a demand for instant results?
We got them out. We got rid of a cancerous tumour that was adamant on staying and this has made a world of difference. In the past, we had little-to-no expectations. Making next-to-no signings or a few ‘has beens’ last minute, having poor training facilities and having someone at the helm who did not care about the football club. Now that they’re gone, it’s had an exponential impact on our expectations. We’re now run like a proper football club, we have a transfer policy, an owner that cares and invests, so are we getting carried away with all the positivity?
One of our own
Simon Sadler has continuosly backed our club, first Simon Grayson and now Neil Critchley. The board has changed from an interim basis to a permanent one with CEO Ben Mansford at the helm too. Sadler has taken steps to better our club, facilities, youth setup and first team. We know that as a Seasider himself, he wants promotion. But didn’t he say it was a three-year plan? So far, we have had 39 league games following the curtailing of last season, though of course we were more than happy to wave goodbye to last season early. So even though we know the Championship is the target, it may not be this year and for most fans – me included – that’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Mistakes with Grayson
We hired a manager that was extremely successful at this level. Even though he had initial success, we were found out quickly and went on a long winless/losing streak. We called for the axe and it was made. We were one dimensional, played unattractive football and lacked chemistry. We didn’t even seem to have a plan. We certainly didn’t have a defence and this was strengthened in the loan market with Ben Heneghan and the impressive Taylor Moore. There was huge negativity around Bloomfield Road for a club that should have been bouncing with positivity, with an ambitious owner with new plans.
Fast-forward to the recent pre-season, that positivity was back along with the excitement and optimism. We were 3-0 up against table-topping Everton within 15 minutes and 2-0 up at Liverpool in the first halves of both games. We looked great going forward and the defence, at this point, were holding their own against Premier League players.
A lot of comparisons have been made to Premier League Champions Liverpool. The only real reason why this should be allowed is because Critchley came from there and he wants to implement a similar style of football at Blackpool.
If we’re going to compare ourselves to the Champions of England then at least do it fairly and give us a fighting chance. Liverpool had four years to gel, understand each other’s game and build a team. At the start of Klopp’s reign, they had a mishmash of players, lacked leadership and a perceived shaky back line and goalkeeper.
Liverpool position finishes since Klopp took charge: 4th, 4th, 2nd, 1st.
We have made 13 signings so far this summer, the majority of whom have gone straight into the starting line-up, so we definitely need to give a new manager time to build his ethos and way of playing. We no longer have players like Ryan Hardie (who, for the record, is yet to score in League One for Plymouth), no Joe Nuttall (who is on loan at Northampton and currently injured) and no Calum MacDonald (who can’t get a game at Tranmere). Each of those players split opinion, but we surely have better in each position now. The only player that I would say we still miss is Armand Gnanduillet.
So what’s happened?
We lost to a well-drilled Plymouth side on the opening day, a side which has been built by Ryan Lowe over 12 months and won promotion from League Two. The goal came from a small defensive lapse but we dominated the game with possession and chances. The display of the young keeper Michael Cooper earned the home side three points, it’s fair to say.
We then beat an attacking footballing team in Swindon Town and stopped them scoring goals, although we were a little shaky in the early stages again. An impressive result and performance. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction.
Then, we were out thought, physically beaten and bullied at Gillingham – from an experienced manager at this level in Steve Evans. This was the worst we’ve seen our new team play and it was clearly unacceptable.
Most recently, we controlled large parts of the game against Lincoln City, another well-drilled team under former Pool boss Michael Appleton, and should really have seen the game out. There were plenty of positives from the likes of Jerry Yates, CJ Hamilton and Chris Maxwell. Our undoing was purely from mistakes at crucial times to allow them to somehow take all three points. A crushing defeat that has prompted many to call for us to abort Plan A and question the players, tactics and manager.
In my eyes, we have made steady improvements with each performance, Gillingham aside. Individual errors lost us this game. We gave away two penalities – something you cannot do at any level of football – and expect to win. That is simply not Critchley’s fault. Yes, questions can be raised about his recruitment, but is it just him who has control over that? As far as I was aware, there is a team of people consulting over which players to bring in.
Some of the players that have been brought in haven’t been given time either. Yes, I agree time is precious and the players need to start performing, however, I am more realistic and forgiving about the odd mistake at League One level football. The mistakes have come from a number of positions not just defence. For me the biggest things that need to improve are the players’ decision making and their game management especially from the young back line.
We have only won one game. But, the performances/effort bar one game, have been encouraging. It is about reducing the individual mistakes and making the right decisions. All teams make mistakes, especially at League One level. You only have to look at how CJ got his third goal of the season to know that even the better teams in this league have a mistake or two in them.
Critchley has been guilty of making a lot of changes to his team throughout pre-season and still now. There is no concrete centre back partnership yet and even if we do bring another in, it will still take time to get a solid partnership in defence.
Some players have started a lot of the games and I would argue that they are starting to now show signs of building some chemistry. CJ and Jerry’s link up play for his shot against the post was wonderful example of this.
We need to be aware of where we are (reality). We pressed the reset button on last season’s disappointment for a fresh start. Now we have a blank slate, the negativity won’t help this team, even more so now as our only interaction with the players is through social media. We can’t be the 12th man at games anymore, so please, give the manager time, judge him after twelve games instead of four and actually give him the opportunity to make an impact before calling for his head.
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