“Come on down to the sea, see the Blackpool FC, come on down to the shore, don’t wanna go home, don’t wanna go home, don’t wanna go hooooome, this is the best trip I’ve ever been on!”
It wasn’t so long ago the Blackpool fans were selling out their allotment of away tickets at Premier League grounds and celebrating every second of their arrival in England’s first division.
The 2009-10 season saw the Lancashire side promoted to the Premiership after the Seasiders stunned the footballing experts by beating Cardiff City in the Championship play-off final, 3-2. Blackpool came from behind twice in that match and earned promotion to the English top flight for the first time in almost 40 years.
The following year the club was relegated on the final day of the Premier League season. But along the way they created new fans all over the world by playing an entertaining, attacking style of football not seen by many newly promoted sides.
Although there were some catastrophic losses during the 2010-11 Premier League season (6-0 to Arsenal, 4-0 to Chelsea, 4-0 to Wolverhampton), Blackpool also had some landmark victories (beating Liverpool twice and downing Tottenham at Bloomfield Road).
Prior to their promotion, Blackpool had been one of England’s more downtrodden towns. But plans for regeneration really kicked into gear with the club’s promotion to the Premier League and life was breathed back into the seaside resort.
Although the club was now returning to the Championship, it benefitted from parachute payments from the Premier League.
But Charlie Adam was sold to Liverpool, while David Vaughn and DJ Campbell soon followed out the door. Instead of investing the money earned from transfers and parachute payments, the cash was not put back into the playing staff. Blackpool executives elected to fill roster spaces with free transfers and loanees.
Manager Ian Holloway nearly led Blackpool to another stunning Championship play-off run that season. But the Seasiders were stopped short of another storybook ending by West Ham United in the play-off final at Wembley.
During the 2012-13 season, Holloway bolted Blackpool for Crystal Palace and was replaced by Michael Appleton.
Holloway eventually steered Palace to Premier League promotion (with Wilfried Zaha doing the heavy lifting during their play-off run), but Appleton only lasted two months at Blackpool before he decided to move on to Blackburn.
Paul Ince was hired but was only able to direct the club to a 15th place finish in the Championship.
More player departures continued and Blackpool’s hierarchy kept looking for the simplest solutions. The club brought in twelve more loan players and weekly issues with manager Paul Ince culminated with his sacking.
Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston gave the caretaking role to their Scottish midfielder Barry Ferguson.
Prior to his hiring, Ferguson had no previous managerial experience. What followed Blackpool nearly being relegated to League One after only winning three of its final 20 games under Ferguson’s leadership.
The sunny times on the shore which had been witnessed by millions just a few years ago have turned dark and ugly in recent times.
Earlier this week, Blackpool had to cancel their preseason tour to La Manga in Spain. A club statement said that the priority now was on “player recruitment” with just three weeks to go before the start of a new season.
Yesterday, the Seasiders played a friendly against non-league Penrith and won 4-0.
But the story behind the match was that Blackpool’s teamsheet was made up of only eight players who are currently under contract.
Five players were listed as “trailists” on the squad list for the friendly.
Anger amongst Blackpool fans is at it’s highest level.
Blackpool supporters are furious with the club’s board because of a perceived lack of investment in the squad since their relegation from the Premier League three years ago.
The next few weeks will be of major importance to the club’s long term future; not only their survival this season in the Championship.
This isn’t the “trip” Blackpool supporters were singing about a few years ago.
Here’s hoping things can turn around for the seaside club.
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