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Blackpool’s Fight To Avoid The Relegation Danger Zone

Photo by friskierisky

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).

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  1. SoccerLimey

    March 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Blackpool have done well but have only themselves to blame. While their wins over Liverpool, twice and Tottenham cam out of the blue, they have “chucked” points away with sloppy defending which, I’m afraid, comes back to the coach.

    If you can’t defend a lead in The Premier League, you will be relegated sooner or later.

    That will be Blackpool’s challenge over the last 10 games. 2 wins and 3 draws , this year, will probably see them stay up.

  2. Nick

    March 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    They need some effective defenders more than anything, their centrebacks especially have have been terrible and they desperate need some brutes of centrebacks, someone imposing, but some decent wingbacks would serve them well in maintaining their style of play. It’s going to be tough, but you reckon if they survive another season maybe they could bring 1 or two in from the lower divisions.

  3. Jon Sharp

    March 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I have greatly enjoyed watching Blackpool this season and also hope they stay up. But the fact is they are letting in too many goals. On a day with too much time on my hands I ran a regression analysis of the last three seasons of the PL looking at the effect of goals for and goals against in predicting final league ranking. Goals against showed a significantly higher correlation ie. the number of goals a team concedes was a better predictor of where a team finished the season than goals for. This does not bode well for Blackpool, West Brom, Wigan and West Ham. It also emphasises the importance of building a team from the back. While exciting, attacking, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes football is great to watch, I think too little merit is awarded in the press to those teams who do a good job defensively. Of course the best teams do both!

  4. King Eric

    March 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    here’s hoping they can stay up and i think they will once adam is back from suspension. they definitely missed him at wolves and it’s just as well that he’ll serve his second match ban v. chelsea, an almost certain loss anyway. i think they’ll be like hull and barely survive, but will really struggle next season as holloway has mentioned. i hope that united make a push for adam in the summer, we could use the likes of him in mf to replace the likes of scholes and he’s much cheaper than other options out there for our in-debt club.

  5. Potters Tycoon

    March 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Another well written articulate piece by Karl Sears, any chance of seeing him on EPLpro?
    I hope that Blackpool stay up they have been a credit to the league but I think that they’ll struggle without Adam

    • steve brennan

      March 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      As a life long Blackpool fan now living in the U.S., I was brought up seeing them play long ball, kick and hope for the best “football” in England’s lower leagues. Standing at a rain sodden Bloomfield Road, still singing as they went down to the likes of a Barnet, Scunthorpe or Rochadale means that I bleed tangerine. So seeing them this season has been truely amazing. Their football has been sublime. However, that a club like Blackpool will only ever exsist as relegation fodder is endemic of the state of the EPL. There will never be another Notts Forest, Derby County or Ipswich Town as the big boys bicker over silveware. That former greats like Preston, Huddersfield or Blackpool will ever rise again to glory is simplay an impossibility. Shame.

      • SoccerLimey

        March 13, 2011 at 9:51 am

        It appears like you are truly “sand grown” !! I was a season ticket holder for three seasons back when they were in the old Division 1 and for a 12 yr old boy, that was a dream come true. This season has also given me almost as much pleasure, as I have tended to lose touch since moving to the US so long ago.

        I do fear for their survival though as Holloway has not done a great job in teaching them to be mean in defense. They have given up too many points late in games because of sheer naivety more than anything.

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