Things are likely to come to a head on Elliot Embleton and Jordan Gabriel in the next couple of weeks according to reputable journalist Alan Nixon. Blackpool have been rumoured to be chasing the two former loanees, who helped fire the Pool to the Championship last season, all summer but both have returned to parent clubs Sunderland and Nottingham Forest.
The Pool have already signed Josh Bowler, Callum Connolly, Daniel Grimshaw, Reece James, Shayne Lavery and Richard Keogh on free transfers this summer, while Oliver Carey (Leeds United) and Sonny Carey (King’s Lynn) have joined on undisclosed transfers. But clearly there is still business to be done in the four remaining weeks of the window, with the season opener against Bristol City coming up on 7th August.
“The fact they’ve not signed anyone in those positions tells me you’ve still got a hope, but it will take some money to get it done. You maybe have to pay a bit more than you want to in some cases but that’s football.” Nixon said in our recent podcast.
Protecting our core
It’s fair to say that we have lost four of our regular performers from last season this summer, given Oliver Turton has gone to Huddersfield and Sullay Kaikai was released, while there were four loanees who played key roles in Daniel Ballard (Arsenal), Ellis Simms (Everton), Jordan Gabriel (Nottingham Forest) and Elliot Embleton (Sunderland). The below graphic from Twitter shows how only Luton, Nottm Forest and Fulham have lost more players in terms of the minutes they played last season.
While that’s not necessarily a direct indicator of the strength of your squad, Nixon has warned that this can be a key risk when using the loan market, especially when they do well.
“It’s a double-edged sword in every one of these cases because, you get the player on loan, if he does well and you get promoted – which is what happened I mean you played a blinder with your loan signings last year. If you get promoted that’s just a part of the story because the player now has a bigger value.
“Nottingham Forest are saying ‘Wait a minute, he’s helped you, you’re in the Championship and therefore you’re a rival club – we want a Championship price. And other clubs are saying ‘We might do that, he looks ok'”.
“Embleton, when he joined you’d have thought Sunderland were going up and they didn’t, and they’re in League One, he’s back there, and they’re saying ‘Wait a minute, you’re in the Championship, you’ve got more money come in than we’ve got coming, so you can pay for him. I know he’s got a year left but we’re not going to cut the price, so you’ve got to give us some money.
“I was quite surprised Ballard didn’t come back – I’d have thought you’d have had a fighting chance and Millwall have nicked him. There might be more reasons for that, frankly I don’t know – maybe he just wants to stay in London, who knows.
“You’ve also got Simms at Everton who you might get back to at some point – maybe that will be a loan because that suits Everton, you’re playing at a higher level, he gets a bit more value on him etc.
“It’s great to do loans and you did it superbly, but the downside is that suddenly you’re in a different world and the players go up in value if they do well. I think what they’ve done so far – they’re building for the future – but in terms of the star quality, the ones that are going to cost, that’s still to be decided and that will decide your season. If you can get 3-4 players at reasonable prices or good Championship loans, you’re going to go alright. If you don’t, I would say you look a little bit short.
“But we’re still early, and obviously you needed to buff the squad out – it wasn’t quite as big as it should be. You’ve gone for younger players who aren’t going to cost and wages won’t be silly so you’ve got your group, but you will always need 3-4 slightly better players who are going to win you games at the level and they’re still to be delivered for me. It’s not a criticism, it’s just the market that we’re in just now.”
Blackpool kick off their Championship season on 7th August meaning they have just over two weeks to finalise their squad ahead of that, though the transfer window will run until 31st August meaning they have more than a month to finish their transfer activity.
“(The opening day) is only two weeks or so away and everyone’s thinking ‘Where are they?’ but you can’t be forced to make rash overbidding for players at the moment, you’ve got to be sensible and say ‘Right okay, how much do we want Embleton? How much do we want Gabriel? Will we get them on loan? So there are still some big, big decisions still to come here and I have to say what you did last season and so far this summer, there’s obviously a fair amount of football intelligence in the club and a reasonable amount of common sense so you should be alright. But it will come down to and the season will hinge on the next three or four signings.
“I think if you look at the Championship as a whole, every summer I look at the table and try to work out who’s going to do best and who I can waste a couple of bob on them to get promoted. I cannot see one club who I would say has signed anybody that’s going to make a vast amount of difference.
“If I was in your position, I would be thinking ‘Do we really go for it here? We might have an outside chance of getting into the top six. How much is that going to cost?’ That’s going to be the question for a lot of clubs, some may not have the money but others for example Stoke City who have got more money than they know what to do with, but they can’t spend it and never spend it wisely either. So, I would not have a clue who’s going to win the Championship simply because it’s so level and it’s been a quiet market.”
The pandemic impact
The financial impact of COVID-19 looks to have had an impact on most clubs’ transfer windows in the second tier this summer as clubs have been forced to take a reign check on their wage bills and transfer fees, as well as abide by strict squad restrictions where they can only name 25 senior pros. But according to Nixon, Blackpool are well-positioned to make some strong moves in the final weeks of the summer transfer window compared to most.
“I don’t think the payroll is anything scary at the moment and I don’t think the guys you’re after are on silly money either, it’s sensible, rebuild spending. The ones you’ve got in so far at the younger end so you’re hoping they’ll come good this season, maybe next season, and that is the better and measured approach. I think that’s probably for the best just now rather than getting carried away and chasing dreams, we all know they turn into nightmares if you’re not ready for it.
“Promoted sides tend to start quite well, so if you start well with what you’ve got and the enthusiasm then you’ll do well, but I think everyone attached to it knows you need a bit more. So if you can get busy and particularly if you’re bringing people back who know the club then they’re not going to have to adapt and they won’t need to get to know their teammates so if you’re bringing in people who are aware of the circumstances, surroundings and the manager, they know their roles, they’re great transfers. Normally with players it takes some time to settle in. So if you go and get Gabriel, Embleton and Simms, they know the place, their mates are there and that makes life so much easier. So these are the ones I think you have to concentrate on.
“I think you have to make a decision on those in the next week or two because if you’re not getting them, you’re going to have to get somebody else. So the fact you’ve not signed anyone in those positions tells me you’ve still got a hope on those three but it will take some money to get it done. You’ll know that you maybe have to pay a bit more than you want to in some cases but that’s football. If you don’t, it might be a longer struggle and then you’ll come to January and you will have to spend which is something you don’t want to do.”
Missing pieces of the jigsaw
Despite having made eight signings already this summer, being one of the most active sides in the division, manager Neil Critchley recently admitted to the Blackpool Gazette that the club still has some work to do ahead of the season start.
“The loans have taken a chunk out of your side – a big part of the team has gone so you have to fill that to be as strong as you were when you came up. It’s a jump up – it’s not a great league but it is a jump up so you need those guys. The fellas you’ve brought in look good but the big, big part of this is what’s still to come and it’s those guys who gave you a real turn last year.”
If Blackpool do indeed intend to lure back two of their previous loanees on permanent deals, as has widely been reported, then it will simply be a case of stumping up the cash required according to Nixon – though other clubs are circling.
“They’re not silly fees as far as I’m aware, business can be done so let’s get cracking, let’s get them in, and if you hit the ground running, makes all the difference in the world.
“You’ll have to get the price down on Gabriel just now because there are other clubs trying – I don’t think that’s a loan anymore I think that’s a buy. In the next fortnight, a chance.
“Embleton’s more straightforward – if you want to buy him, Sunderland will sell. They want some money, his contract’s up in the summer, they’re talking about £500,000 – offer them £350,000 plus extras – he’ll be wearing a tangerine shirt.
“I don’t know so much about Everton’s preseason. They’ve got a new manager so he may take a shine to the lad (Simms) for all we know, he might say ‘Well what can we get for him? Can we sell him anywhere?’ That’s more unknown.
“Embleton is the most straightforward if you want to buy him, Gabriel might come to a head as somebody else is trying to buy him at the moment – I think the lad would rather come to yourselves, we’ll see what happens with that and what the price is going to be and then you’ve got a decision. You could do with a decision either way, even if it’s him going elsewhere so that you can move on.”
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