Everyone is hurting after yesterday’s performance. The players, the manager, the board, and most of all, the fans. It’s bad enough having to watch that dross, but at home without your mates and watching a second rate stream on a phone or laptop, it doesn’t make for pleasant reading. Social media platforms show fellow fans’ raw emotion and everything is magnified. But are we right to question Neil Critchley after eight games, or is it too soon to start calling for the manager’s head? Now that we’ve all had time to calm down – including myself – it’s time to consider both sides and try and unpick some of this mess.
I’ll start with the concerns.
You play someone in every preseason game, then one substandard 45 minutes leads to him being hooked off and seemingly sold. Nottingham got a three-year deal at a League One rival in Accrington Stanley so is clearly deemed good enough for this level, so where is the logic here?
Surely, that sale can not be based of a single 45 minutes. There’s being cut throat and then there’s being petulant. I’m not sure this was the best decision as it happened so quickly. It suggests that a bust up of some sort must’ve happened to desert a player that you have been continuously backing. What happens if he was a well-liked member of the dressing room? Already the alarm bells are ringing based on this one in what seems to be a knee-jerk decision and could have a massive impact on squad harmony.
Abandoning the philosophy
I don’t mind losing if we see improvements in performances. But, in some cases, it is very much one step forwards and two back. In yesterday’s case it was ten steps back. Route one football at times from Turton to Madine, completely bypassing the midfield and everything that the ‘philosophy’ stands for was abandoned. No longer did we look the slick passing side of pre-season and we were easily conceding possession. It seemed at times that the players didn’t believe in themselves and didn’t trust one another. Keshi on many occasions coming far too deep to receive a pass instead of letting Robson find another in tangerine, and we lost the intensity of Yates and Hamilton’s pressing which was previously a constant threat on the opposition.
It is still early days and Critchley is not solely responsible for this, but there are question marks over some of the players we’ve brought in, as well as the significant changeover in personnel. We also need to be aware of the time it will take the players to gel, especially when there is a new face or two every game. But some questions are fair to be asked because at the moment a large number of players coming in haven’t necessarily been an improvement on what we had last season. If you are signing players on one-year deals it suggests that you aren’t confident in their ability or that they potentially aren’t committed to the cause. Both don’t bode well, and in one player’s case I’m glad it isn’t any longer than a one-year deal. This, coupled with the cryptic Curtis Tilt tweet yesterday (below) doesn’t help and for the record if that tweet was aimed at Blackpool FC then I don’t want him anywhere near that dressing room.
Some of the decisions and substitutions yesterday deserve questioning too. All managers’ decisions – especially subs – get questioned. But he’s the manager and he’s paid to make the big decisions, which haven’t quite come off yet. Plenty of times I have quietly questioned decisions and then been eating my words moments later, and once these start paying off then maybe we will question them less.
I felt that Turton played okay in that centre back role – he didn’t make any mistakes. None of the goals were his fault, he kept it basic and was solid enough so that decision can’t be scrutinised just because we all know he’s traditionally a right back. Thorniley for whatever reason wasn’t fancied, maybe he was tired from the midweek game or had a knock, or simply isn’t rated by Critch. We are less informed than the manger and we have to start trusting him to make the right decisions.
He doesn’t know his starting eleven
In many cases the players are letting the manager down and now he is having to take the brunt of it. You can have a new centre-back pairing every week, but if your forwards aren’t pressing, you don’t have cover from your midfield and the wingbacks don’t do their defensive duties, then you are going to be punished. We keep talk about needing a leader and yesterday showed that may be lacking again. They don’t seem to know their individual roles and this is the problem – the midfield were the worst I’ve seen them yesterday. No desire, no physicality and again we were out-muscled across the pitch. Welcome to League One boys.
Fans are listened to
I almost put this down as a negative – it is that scary. We the fans are listened to by the club now more than ever, and we really should be careful on how we voice our opinions sometimes. We demanded two centre backs and in they came – yes these would have been ongoing deals but you’d be naive to think that pressure from the fans didn’t speed that process up. It seems that every bad result calls for another 2-3 players in and we’ve already had 15 new faces already this summer. That’s surely not the answer every time.
We have to stick together, support the team and hope we can see a way through this. I love Blackpool fans but we are so proud and entitled sometimes that when things aren’t working we expect a new signing or a new manager. It’s not sustainable and it’s important that we give a manager and group of players time to show what they’re made of.
Critch is a thinker, and a hard worker
Sometimes managers seem to give up. Critchley won’t. He may be desperate for three points right now and some of you might say it’s because his job is on the line – I personally don’t think we’re at that stage yet. You can see in his interviews that he is bitterly disappointed and it didn’t help that he quoted an ex-manager’s words of promised improvements, but I believe we will come good. The same cannot be said of previous managers’ tenures.
We’ve got Simon Sadler
When things weren’t working for Grayson, he brought in David Dunn to give some added experience and know-how. Many have mentioned that the same could be done for Critchley, who could maybe benefit from the additional support, someone of the ilk of Tony Parkes. I think this would help, and that Critch might need someone to boost that teams morale. I stumbled across an old picture of the ex-Blackpool team having drinks together and wondered if that would happen with this current team. I can’t say I imagine so.
Tough times will bring the squad together though. They will become stronger from this. A big result is needed against Crewe to take some of the pressure of them, however I’d be happy with an improved performance and some desire on the pitch. One thing’s for sure, if Critch is wanting something, he will get it from Sadler and the board and won’t be left with unanswered promises. He will be, as he has been so far, significantly backed to get it right.
We still have time. Time to improve, time to bond with the players and time to pick up points. I long for a connection like we had with the 2007 and 2010 teams because if they had some hardships they were facing we’d be a lot more forgiving and be right behind them. Andy Morrell and Trevor Sinclair both talked about that positive team spirit when they featured in our 1-2 Podcast, but that starts with getting results on the pitch.
But again, this is what being an armchair supporter does to you, you start to focus on the negatives rather than cheering and getting right behind them when you’re live at a match. So perhaps it feels worse when you’re sat at home. Let’s hope we get into the stands soon because these lads need to know we’re still backing them and the manager to get it right.
If you want to hear more positive thoughts on Critchley then tune into our podcast on Tuesday where we’re joined by a fan of our next opposition, Crewe Alexandra. We will find out more background about the man who once played at Gresty Road, and how he may deal with a tough point early on in his managerial career. I still back him to take this team forward and I’ll happily question him, but I’m not calling for his head after five games of the season.
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