Following the surprise departure of Colin Calderwood last month, Blackpool appointed former Bradford and Motherwell manager Stuart McCall last week. Our new writer Isaac Selley has reviewed this appointment and the departure of the man who many fans felt was pivotal in last season’s success.
The Colin Calderwood-shaped hole has now been filled by Stuart McCall, who will help Neil Critchley and Mike Garrity to navigate through Blackpool’s first Championship campaign since 2015. In McCall, the son of ex Blackpool player Andy McCall the late 1940’s and early 50’s, we have secured a highly experienced former player and manager. Having made over 395 league appearances in two spells at Bradford City as well as over 100 at Everton and just shy of 200 at Rangers, the Scotsman has gone on to manage Bradford three times, as well as having four years at Motherwell and one season with Scunthorpe United.
This is an impressive CV, and while it’s fair to say his achievements as a player have probably surpassed what he has so far achieved as a coach and manager, he brings in a wealth of experience. Despite never having managed at the Championship level, he has been in senior management for 14 years. He’s played at the highest level too, representing Everton and Bradford in the Premier League and Rangers in the SPL, so clearly knows what players can use and thrive on at this level.
For me, this is a clever appointment from the Seasiders, who have obviously taken time to decide on who is the right man to replace Calderwood. I believe that he is exactly what is needed, and he will provide similar qualities to Calderwood, however will also have some different styles and beliefs. The Calderwood style will have stuck with the players that have been retained as well as with the coaching staff, so by getting a slightly different approach to things with McCall, is a good option from Blackpool.
The departure of Calderwood will certainly come as a blow to Blackpool’s preparations for the upcoming season, with many fans crediting Calderwood as a big reason for the turn around in our form. When Calderwood joined Blackpool the Tangerines sat 18th in the table, having only collected two wins and one draw from the opening nine games. Neil Critchley was new to the job and new to the Football League, having only previously coached at youth team level, therefore Calderwood added a much-needed steel and experience to the coaching staff. Some even saw Calderwood as a potential successor to Critchley who’d had a tricky start to his reign, though of course things turned around from that point.
Calderwood undoubtedly deserves credit for helping to change Blackpool’s fortunes, but perhaps at the time got too much credit among supporters in my view. After Colin came in, ‘Pool won our next five games in all competitions and lost only once in the first nine league games. Blackpool looked a meaner side in both boxes, becoming a much more professional outfit which would do anything to get the points over the line. Before this, Critchley had tried the expansive, high–pressing football that he had taught to such great effect in the youth setup at Liverpool, but seemingly needed a little tweaking in order to work at League One level. Calderwood appeared to bring stability to the side that cut those mistakes out and led to more efficiency going forward. It coincided with a switch in formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 and also the introduction of Kenny Dougall to the side which allowed us to start to control possession more comfortably against the opposition.
However, it would be harsh to give all the credit to Calderwood and to take it away from Neil Critchley, Mike Garrity and the rest of the staff. The writing was on the wall for the results to turn around. Off the back of a really impressive pre-season, expectation was high amongst supporters. But Blackpool got no luck at the start. Mistakes and not taking opportunities left the side scraping at the lower regions of the table. Yet, at board level, positivity remained and they stayed patient. Critchley was a young coach in charge, who was learning on the job, and he would get more experience as he went.
He’d been backed in the summer with 17 new faces, so clearly there would be a period of time where players would need to gel and get onto the same wavelength. And thirdly, underlying stats like xG (Expected Goals) and xPts (Expected Points) suggested that Blackpool should be higher up the table than they actually were which indicated that their luck would turn. The two games before Calderwood’s arrival were a pivotal win against MK Dons at home and a narrow defeat away to AFC Wimbledon where we finished with nine men, showing great character to come back and dominate the second half but just fall short.
Calderwood isn’t the only staff member to depart this summer as Head of Recruitment Tommy Johnson has been allowed to leave, but it’s unlikely that either of these came massively out of the blue and were not adequately planned for by the board. While we could potentially see a replacement in quickly, I feel the club will take their time to get the right man. Calderwood was a big figure on the training ground and heavily involved in the squad’s structure, however I think the biggest role he played was passing on his experience onto Critchley and Garrity so that they can learn things that you usually wouldn’t learn without coaching in the EFL for years. The former Liverpool duo are 12 months older and wiser than they were at the start of last season, so aren’t as reliant on an older head being alongside them.
As fans we can only wish Calderwood all the best. He helped get back to where we belong – the Championship. He helped bring experience to the coaching staff and looking at photos after Wembley, looked like a major figure in the dressing room. He deserves credit for helping turn the form round, and while an equal amount of credit must go to the rest of the coaching staff and the players for the role they played, Colin’s role cannot be underestimated. It is, after all, a move that made sense for him, given he’s going back to the area where his family live in Northamptonshire. It is definitely a loss, but one which we can deal with and I’m excited to see the new structure that Critchley builds for us in the Championship.
A pleasant factor to see from the appointment of McCall is that he genuinely seems enthusiastic to have arrived at Blackpool, with the way he spoke about ‘the project’ but also Blackpool in general, given his family roots in the town. He will have the same desire to build a team that really reflects the supporters and the people of the town that Critchley has. Only time will show how much of an impact he has, and it could be hard to see without seeing all the conversations behind the scenes, but one thing that is for sure is, Critch and the rest of the staff will have made a decision that is the right one for them, that will help them grow and learn further. I do believe that this will also, however, show itself on the pitch and prove a successful development for the team.
You can follow Isaac who is an aspiring journalist on Twitter @iselley10
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