Given our recent run of form, we were crying out for a little bit of positivity and it duly came earlier this week as Matty Virtue signed a 12-month extension to his deal which was due to expire next summer. Virtue has been a real miss for us in midfield so far this season and may even go on to captain our side under Neil Critchley, who he worked with previously in Liverpool’s youth setup. Given our 17 new signings and culture shift we underwent in the summer, it’s important that we are as patient as possible with the new squad, and that’s certainly the case when we are waiting for someone as pivotal as Virtue to return.
Heart of Midfield
When times got hard last season, Matty never stopped working. He is known more for his defensive work and hard tackling, however the versatile midfielder actually has a nice blend of both attacking and defensive attributes – which is something Blackpool are really missing at the moment.
When he collects the ball he is direct and looks to make things happen, a number of times he will run with the ball at the opposition when there’s not an option on and I hope that Critch’s style doesn’t coach this out of him. He’s not afraid to have a shot either, especially around the box and the goal against Sunderland last year was a personal highlight of mine.
A large number of Blackpool fans have voiced there disappointment at Maxwell being captain. As a goalkeeper, he is limited on where he can go on the field and he isn’t well heard when he is between the sticks. This was something seen in Tuesday’s game against Charlton when he wanted to speak to the referee but was ushered back into his goal whereas an outfielder may have been able to liaise directly with the official more openly.
However, I’m not sure if we switched to an outfield player it will vastly improve results if I’m honest. It needs to be the right man off the field and clearly Maxwell is that character – he has the experience at this level and is the first to come out and address the media after a poor result – something we have become too accustomed to recently.
That said, if we are looking for other candidates, a captain needs to be carefully selected, a vocal leader and one that brings the team together as well as doing the right stuff on the pitch week in and out and I believe Matty is ideal and his displays in midfield back that up. I could see him wearing the armband in future – and very much suiting it!
Critchley is aware of his attributes, mentality and knows what he is capable of, having captained his Liverpool U23 side. Virtue’s absence to the side is hurting us at the moment as, in my opinion, the Scouser is a banker for the starting eleven each week. With Virtue you know what you’re getting and we have missed his spirited performances in midfield.
A Swindon fan mentioned to us in the 1-2 Podcast that when the chips are down you don’t want Keshi Anderson in the trenches with you – he only thrives when you’re doing well… Well the chips are certainly down at the moment and we need someone inspirational to pull us out those trenches. Step up Virtue.
These are strange times we live in both on and off the field, to say the least. Our transfer business was out of the norm, with Simon Sadler significantly backing Critchley and the board to give us a squad capable of competing at this level in the here and now. That has been shown further with the signature of one of our main men long before his deal is due to run out next summer – how many players have we lost in the last number of years on a free transfer? Even last season we lost Tilt early and Gnanduillet in the summer – two of our key men. So it’s good to see the tide is turning on this issue which needs to be addressed moving forwards.
Virtue highlighted he wanted the security from a personal level in his interview with the club and has no interest in running down his contract and leaving for a free. Again, testament to his personality, he also focuses on wanting to achieve promotion with this Blackpool team as his goal.
Virtue is seriously missed and in my eyes is an underrated member of our squad. Hopefully, he will be back and firing again soon because boy do we need him. He brings something different to a physically weaker midfield and we can’t wait to see him back on the pitch and in tangerine again.
What are your thoughts on Virtue signing a new deal? Let us know in the comments below.
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