Blackpool Inch Forwards
We haven’t heard from friend of the two unfortunates Liz Broughton since April when Blackpool were on the cusp of a play-off spot. Three months and a few weeks later, she’s been in touch again to give us an insight into how things are looking for the Seasiders three days ahead of their Premiership debut.
I don’t think I’m alone on the Fylde Coast in saying that I’ll be glad to see the back of this close season. For a while, the feel-good factor of Blackpool’s epic play-off win seemed to have been lost, caught up in transfer wrangles, quitting rumours and downright discontentment.
Bizarre things happen at Blackpool on a regular basis, but these last few weeks have been up there with the best.
Sky Sports News encapsulated the mood perfectly on Monday when, within hours of each other, they managed to both create and rebuff a rumour that manager Ian Holloway had walked out on the club. The ground shenanigans have been well-documented, with the Seasiders forced to play away at Wigan this Saturday instead of at home because of stadium hold-ups (we need somewhere to feed the press. I say, what’s wrong with a pie and Bovril?).
And last week saw a half-hearted offer by Karl Oyston to resign as chairman if someone else thought they could do a better job.
Oyston’s comments — made in an interview with the BBC — followed on from discussions about the prolonged transfer saga that had plagued Bloomfield Road this summer.
Surprisingly to some, Oyston’s insistence that the club will not break their wage structure to pander to players has been met with support from fans. Despite disquiet about the total lack of signings — after all the squad as it stood on Monday night was arguably weaker than that predicted for Championship relegation last time out — there was support for the chairman’s stance of not bowing to the demands of journeymen mercenaries.
So Rob Hulse and transfer-listed and Premiership-has-been Jon Stead refused to sign on the dotted line because of our £10,000 per week salary limit. Likewise, club-less Marlon Harewood only signed on today after the cap was (presumably) breached following a short battle with Huddersfield for his services.
Bids for DJ Campbell — rumoured to have exceeded £1m — were rejected by Leicester, who, under Paulo Sousa, seem to have finally realised his talent, while there’s still no sign of Angel Rangel at the seaside despite him being pulled out of Swansea’s weekend line-up.
“Do they think I don’t want to sign anyone?” quipped manager Ian Holloway. To be honest, I was beginning to wonder.
But today five — yes, five — signings were paraded at Bloomfield Road. For a lot of fans, the names lack the wow factor they’d been hoping for. But nevertheless, they’re a young bunch with some pedigree.
Besides Harewood, former Plymouth loanee Craig Cathcart has arrived from Manchester Utd for a rumoured half a million — which, if true, would match the record amount shelled out for club hero Charlie Adam — and at just 21 appears a decent prospect to bolster a (slightly) suspect backline.
He’s joined by three Frenchmen: former Barcelona midfielder Ludovic Sylvestre — who could start Saturday given the troubling injury to Keith Southern; 22-year-old winger Elliot Grandin, who arrives from CSKA Sofia (and, good man as he is, has already noted that we have an “Eiffel Tower re-make”); and Malaury Martin who has been offered a contract following a successful trial spell during the ‘victorious’ Joma South West Challenge Cup win in Devon.
Many — including myself — would however still argue that more is needed before we take on Wigan at the DW on Saturday. Preferably another striker.
The pundits might be right; it might be a long season. But I’ll be there on Saturday, and again at Arsenal in a week’s time. And whatever happens, we’re in the Premier League. After the antics of this summer, I now intend to sit back and enjoy the experience.