Do Blackpool have two top flight championships in their trophy cabinet? No. Do Blackpool have 30,000 expectant fans at their home games? No. And has Blackpool’s manager had the money Billy Davies had at Derby to take them up and watch them flop? No, but you know why I’m going to compare these two teams…
As Derby County did in 2007, Blackpool are the latest team promoted to the Premier League via the playoffs, in a match touted as the richest in football. And just like Derby County did in 2007, Blackpool done it as the underdogs. To make another comparison between the two sides, both were widely expected to finish bottom of the Premier League the following season. Derby County more than lived up to those expectations, finishing the season with a number of Premier League records and in a mess.
When Derby County gained surprise promotion to the Premier League, they came up with a history that included two First Division Championships in the 70’s, 6 seasons in the Premier League between 1996 and 2002, a 33,000 capacity stadium and a bit of spending money for the manager. While Billy Davies blew a lot of that money on the likes of Robert Earnshaw, Claude Davis and Kenny Miller, fromwhom they saw no positive return. Ian Holloway hasn’t had that luxury. Blackpool are experiencing Premier League football for the first time, only have a small stadium and the manager hasn’t been given a cheque book to improve his small squad.
This week has seen Blackpool finally make their first signings of the summer transfer window. They’ve come in numbers too. A few youngsters and the free signing of Marlon Harewood. It’s nothing to send anyone’s pulses racing with excitement. It’s not enough to convince any doubters that Blackpool will stay up at the first attempt. As with Derby, Blackpool are heading into this season under-prepared.
In goal they’re going to need Matthew Gilks to pull off some heroics in order to pick up a few unexpected points during their stay in the Premier League. Arguably the most important position for any team, I’ll wait until the season gets going before I decide to rate Gilks.
Defensively they look vulnerable. They were in the Championship too. They finished outside the top 6 in terms of goals allowed last season, and it only gets tougher now. The pace of the Premier League attackers will hurt this team. Ian Holloway transformed the likes of Alex Baptiste last season and Blackpool will almost be depending on him to be a rock last season. Ian Evatt and Rob Edwards have minor Premier League experience between them, but for most defenders in this squad I expect the pace and skill of the Premier League front men to come as a big shock to them.
Tagged as lazy and a waste of space by a number of Glasgow Rangers fans, Charlie Adam turned out to be one of the signings of the season last term. He’s got good ability and technique and this season is a chance for him to shine and improve on the few international caps he has for Scotland. I would expect Blackpool’s creativity to come through Adam. I don’t expect him to get stage fight, but I wonder if he frustration will kick in if things don’t go his way. Captain Jason Euell adds the experience in midfield. Something this team lacks.
Marlon Harewood comes across as a desperate late signing to me. And not a quality one. One good season at West Ham back in 2006, Harewood has struggled since then, just as he did in the Premier League with Nottingham Forest way back when. He’s a target man, but as all newly-promoted teams are looking for a regular goalscorer, Harewood is anything but that at this level. Blackpool need goals and I don’t see where they are going to come from with their current batch of players. Even if it is their most experienced part of the squad, with both Harewood and Brett Ormerod having previously played a number of seasons in the Premier League.
And the manager himself, Ian Holloway. A good character in front of the camera, even if he toned down last season. While he has Premier League experience as a player, many a year ago, the lack of managerial experience in this league is going to hurt him also. I don’t rate the team he has and he’s seemingly struggling to bring in talent. Loan signings are a must at this stage, but ultimately I see him fighting a losing cause.
While Derby County’s 11 point record appears to be near-impossible to break, finishing in the bottom 3 means the same thing at the end of the day, and that is where I expect Blackpool to be. I’ll be happy to see them prove me wrong, but ultimately I expect these to be solid bets for the season: