Some of us expected it, some of us didn’t and some of us saw it as an unfortunate inevitability. But with March now upon us the moment has come – Blackpool are in trouble.
Of course, having a weary new competitor enter the already crowded boxing ring will be a welcome addition for the battle-hardened teams who have been slogging it out at the bottom since November, but for the neutral fan in the crowd it is greatly discouraging.
Blackpool started the season like a plucky prize-fighter causing upsets with their aggressive mentality and boyish good looks, but are at the risk of finishing it like a washed-up heavyweight on the ropes desperate for the bell to ring.
If Blackpool’s win over Spurs saw Holloway and co tip-toe away from trouble, Saturday’s thrashing at Molineux was a lasso around their torso dragging them back towards the bottom.
What was most disappointing about the 4-0 mauling was that Blackpool went down without much of a fight. We could excuse the Tangerines for losing heavily to Chelsea and Arsenal earlier in the season because we knew they were giving it a go, and losing heavily at a top four team is nothing new for a newly promoted side. But on Saturday, Molineux’s record Premier League crowd saw a Blackpool team lacking ideas, attacking impetus and, unfortunately, desire. Of course having Charlie Adam absent for the 90 minutes, and DJ Campbell absent for 45 minutes, played a part, but the players left on the pitch simply lacked the heart that we have been associating with Holloway’s team since August.
It’s fair to say that Blackpool have captured the imagination of thousands of fans throughout the country, and if Burnley were a breath of fresh air at the start of last season then Blackpool have been an ice cold, gale-force wind blowing up your kilt this season. The delicious mixture of their no fear, attacking football, Ian Holloway’s charming, entertaining honesty and their unique tangerine (not orange!) kit has endeared neutrals to Blackpool’s campaign this season.
An Englishman (and American) always loves the underdog, so seeing odds of Blackpool staying up before the season started as large as 1/4 was all the encouragement needed to get the two countries behind them – their likeable, unorthodox style was a bonus.
I began rethinking my doomsday opinions of Blackpool when they won 0-2 at St James’ Park in September. Matthew Gilks was excellent and Newcastle missed a hat-full of chances, but Blackpool never gave up and kept making chance for themselves. After taking the lead through a penalty I was impressed by their seemingly never diminishing belief that they would score a second, which ultimately proved to be accurate.
But since their home win against Liverpool in January things have become looking rather negative. They’ve managed only one win in eight games, and despite being competitive in most, the losing bug seems to have turned into an epidemic within the Blackpool camp.
Ian Holloway said after last weekend’s match that it was one of the most disappointing performances his team had given since he took over at Blackpool, and with no shots on target and 40% possession against the team bottom of the league it would be hard to disagree with him. Unless things improve greatly they could find themselves in the bottom three for the first time this season at the worst possible moment.
This piece is not a Blackpool epitaph – all of the teams in the bottom half of the league are embroiled in this season’s relegation fight, but watching them on Saturday made me realise that the tangerine-tinted fairytale had faded and Blackpool are going to need to fight tooth and nail if they are going to stay up.
Editor’s note: Blackpool’s next match is Monday against Chelsea at Bloomfield Road (3pm ET kickoff).