“With a club like Blackpool, you might as well go permanently. – especially the way the club is going. It’s on the up and has ambition, so why not?” Those are the words of new defender Olly Casey, who was brimming with excitement when we caught up with him on Sunday morning.
Olly travels to Blackpool on Wednesday ahead of linking up with his new teammates on 1st July for preseason. The 20-year-old recently joined from his boyhoood club Leeds United and will be leaving home comforts for the Fylde Coast as he starts the first of the three years on his new contract this week.
“I was definitely looking to play first-team football this season, but maybe on loan”, he explains.” One day, my agent rang me and said Blackpool were interested but wanted me permanently rather than a loan. At first, it was a bit of a surprise as I had two years left at Leeds, but the more I thought about it and got advice off people, the more it just made sense for me to move. It’s one thing to go out and play, games (on loan) but at a club like Blackpool you might as well go permanently – especially the way the club is going. It’s on the up and has ambition, so why not?”
Casey has revealed that his move to Bloomfield Road came with the blessing of senior pros Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling, who encouraged him to make the move and carve himself a pathway back to the top with us.
“They’ve been there themselves and been on that journey, and they said ‘It’s going to be a way up for you’ so it was a no-brainer really.”
Out of his comfort zone
For a 20-year-old who signed a three-year deal with his boyhood club last summer, training with Premier League talent every week including England star Kalvin Phillips, it’s fair to say that Casey has shown tremendous courage to leave that behind and relocate on the Fylde Coast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Casey hasn’t seen Squires Gate. He also hasn’t met any of his teammates yet but isn’t daunted by the prospect and is excited to get going.
“I don’t really know anyone so I’ll be meeting everyone on Thursday which I’m looking forward to because they look like a really good group… I haven’t seen the training ground yet but I went to the stadium – I actually played at the stadium for Leeds u21 against Blackpool in the cup, I think we got a bit of a battering that game!”
Leeds have nurtured Casey’s talent since he was eight years old, and Casey admits he owes a lot to Marcelo Biela and Mark Jackson, the u23 manager at Leeds, who spent the time to help him learn his craft. So how did the club take the news that Casey wanted to move permanently, and were they willing to let one of their own depart?
“I spoke to Victor (Orta) who’s the director at Leeds and is in charge of transfers and they all said ‘we’re not going to get in your way’ so I think everyone knew it was my time to go and play now. I’m grateful to Leeds for that because they didn’t stand in my way and appreciated what I wanted to do.”
“I’ve worked with Jacko, who’s the manager of the u23, since I was about 15 so I’ve had a lot of time with him and he’s developed me massively as a player. We used to joke because when I was 15 I couldn’t head the ball properly. Because he’s a centre half as well, he did a lot of work with me and got me to places I never thought I could get – I just love heading the ball now! He’s made me such a better player from the player I was then to who I am now – the difference is massive.
“I’ve trained with them (the senior squad) quite regularly for two years now, and I’ve done a load of murderball sessions and it’s been crazy. It’s so hard, so intense, and it takes a lot of getting used to at the start, but when you get used to it, you just do it because you see the benefits of it. You can really see the massive differences he’s made to every player that has stayed and played and trained with him regularly.”
Style of play
So what kind of player are Blackpool getting? Casey describes what we can expect.
“I’d say I’m a bit of a modern centre half. I like playing out from the back, stepping into play, but I do like the defending side of it as well – I like tackling, putting my body on the line, heading, so I have a mix of everything.
“I’d say typically I’ve been in a back four, but I can play right and left, and I have played in the middle of a back three as well so I don’t mind that either. I went through a little stage where Marcelo was making me play centre defensive midfield for a bit, so that was interesting.
“One of my strengths has probably always been my passing – I’ve always practiced that – but it’s weird because heading is just natural now. I love heading so it’s heading and passing for me!”
The Blackpool Ben White?
It’s easy to draw comparisons between Casey and former Leeds loanee Ben White, who played on loan in the Championship for them in 2019-20 and is now in the England squad – a comparison former Leeds and England defender Danny Mills made back in 2019. So how does Casey take those comparisons and does he agree?
“When I made my Leeds debut, that’s what a lot of Leeds fans were saying. Obviously it’s not a bad player to be compared to – he’s in the England squad now – but when he was at Leeds, I was quite close with him and I learnt a lot off him and we were very similar, and he’s a good lad as well.”
While he’s been on holiday and had a break since the end of last season, Casey is confident he can indeed hit the ground running, due to the training regime he’s been on at Leeds which is renowned for being one of the toughest in the country.
“The regime at Leeds is crazy, even in the off-season it’s running every day – hard runs – and you have to record them and send them in to someone to make sure you’re doing them so yes I’m definitely feeling fit. I’d say working with Bielsa has definitely made me the fittest I’ve been in my life. I’m looking forward to getting into something new now at Blackpool, meeting everyone and getting down to business.”
Power of the fans
Olly even treated his girlfriend to some tangerine play-off action as he knew a move could be on the cards, and was impressed by the atmosphere at Bloomfield Road, feeling the fans can give the players an extra motivation.
“I sat the Mrs down and we watched the play-offs – I really enjoyed watching it to be fair. Especially the second leg when the Blackpool fans were in, they seemed really good so I’m looking forward to meeting them. I thought the team played good football and it was enjoyable to watch… I want to be involved as much as I can, hit the ground running and get into the team and play as regularly as I can.”
“I’ve heard about the Blackpool-Preston derby and the Blackburn games so I had a look out for them when the fixtures were released. I’m looking forward to those and hopefully we’ll have fans back in and a full capacity, so that will be really good.
“Football is nothing without fans and the difference between having fans vs no fans is mad. I remember, the first time I experienced fans was the last game of last season for Leeds when I was on the bench and they had 10,000 in there but it makes you feel so much better. I’ve heard so much about these Blackpool fans so I can’t wait to experience it!
“The pressure of getting three points every week is something I’m going to have to get used to quickly but I’m definitely looking forward to the fans as they’ll be an extra boost I think, from the things I’ve heard.”
Casey is clearly keen to play as high as possible, and by the sounds of his conversations with the club, Blackpool are keen to match his ambitions too and not just make up the numbers in the Championship.
“We spoke about the aims for me and the way the club is going, and they were all positive. It just suited me as a player and as a person, that I can really kick on in these next couple of years. That’s why I made the move – if I didn’t see myself being able to progress and the way the club was going then I wouldn’t have come so it’s about kicking on and progressing.”
From our chat with him, it was clear that Casey is a good young lad who is ready to knuckle down and work hard for his place in the side. He’ll certainly get opportunities in the side, and has all of the raw attributes to make a success of the move. He’ll only get better with the more experience he can get, and I’m sure the North Stand will get right behind him to have a successful career in tangerine.
You can listen to our full chat with Olly Casey in Episode #40 of the 1-2 Podcast either below or via Spotify, Apple Music or our Podcast page.
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