May 22nd 2011, Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool. Since that fateful day last summer Blackpool have lost players that notched 40 of our 55 Premier League goals, the goals came from DJ Campbell (13), Charlie Adam (12), Luke Varney (5), Marlon Harewood (5), Jason Puncheon (3) and David Vaughan (2). The sales of Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell put £8.5m into the transfer pot, Jason Puncheon and LukeVarney returned to their parent clubs, Southampton and Derby respectively, Marlon Harewood was released and David Vaughan ran his contract down and joined Sunderland on a free transfer. Let’s not forget the ten players that were released by the club including Andy Reid, Richard Kingston and Malaury Martin to name a few, our squad was now wafer thin.
A rebuilding job was top of the agenda. Ian Holloway and his backroom staff brought in 11 players before the first game of the season. Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips were the pick of the bunch, not forgetting youngsters Tom Ince and Gerardo Bruna from Liverpool. One of my favourite signings of the summer was unproven striker Craig Sutherland on a free transfer from North Carolina State University Wolfpack of the US College leagues. It later emerged that Ian Holloway had signed the player only after watching a DVD of him in action, the recommendation coming from Holloway’s wife Kim who was given a pile of DVD’s to watch.
An up and down pre-season didn’t help the cause. The players weren’t gelling, there was no creativity and chances were few and far between, beating Hull City away from home on the first day of the season was looking impossible.
However Blackpool did beat Hull 1-0, the players looked sharp, they were gelling and we had plenty of chances. It was nothing short of a miracle and goes to show that pre-season form means diddly squat! It was a fine performance in front of the Sky Sports cameras and it was our squad hadn’t changed. A League Cup loss to Sheffield Wednesday didn’t do too much damage, the following Sunday the Tangerines recorded their first home win of the season against newly promoted Peterborough thanks to a brace from evergreen Kevin Phillips (a recent fans poll declared the 38-year-old Blackpool’s best signing of the summer) We were flying.
A smash and grab home loss to Derby County certainly took the wind out of the sales with Ian Holloway declaring that there was still plenty of work to do before considering themselves promotion contenders. Next up was Brighton at the newly built AMEX Stadium. 2-0 down after 50 minutes and the visitors looked down and out but step up Super Kevin Phillips, another brace from the former England international was enough to take a point back to Bloomfield Road (at the time of writing Blackpool are the only team to have taken points away from The Seagulls). A further point away from home against Crystal Palace was enough to take the team up to 7th before the international break, as fans we were happy.
I was also happy with our summer signings but the general consensus on our fans forum were not, they wanted bigger, expensive WOW signings as many put it. The club had a few days to bring players in on permanent deals before the transfer window slammed shut. There was talk of Adam Le Fondre (who went to Reading), Rob Hulse, Jason Puncheon (joined QPR on loan), Stephen Quinn, Jason Scotland and Nile Ranger. The list is endless. In the end James Hurst arrived on loan from WBA, followed by Daniel Bogdanovic from Sheff Utd for a fee of £250,000.
The fans were not happy and neither was Ian Holloway. Ollie came out in the press and said that on deadline day he had bid for 15 players and all bids were knocked back. He stated that the club were being held ransom because of their new bank balance (Premier League TV money, parachute payments etc.) and ended up signing an England U-19 and a League One reserve player. I for one am not passing judgement too early, let’s see these boys play and then make our minds up, not forgetting the added luxury of the loan transfer window. All Premier League clubs have now named their 25 man squads until January so it’ll be up to Ian Holloway and company to pick off the best players available. Rob Hulse, Danny Shittu, Tom Soares and Danny Collins are a few names that catch the eye and are all players who possess the quality to help a team on it’s way to promotion.
A 2-0 win against big spending Ipswich calmed the nerves for Blackpool, goals from Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Barry Ferguson were enough to see off Paul Jewell’s men. It was a game where you had to take your chances – the team did and now find themselves eighth in the Championship after six games. The real test will come next weekend against Cardiff City. Malky Mackay’s men have been playing some impressive football in the past couple of weeks and are just a place above in the standings.
Blackpool fans have been asking for more new faces, will they come before the Cardiff City game? Only time will tell.
Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool Blogger
Adam tweets at @adam_kinder