The Thursday Preview: Newcastle Vs Blackpool
Lanterne Rouge and myself have, at times, pondered the morality of holding court on teams or players that we’ve seen play once or twice (if we’re lucky). A case in point for me would be Saturday’s relishable match between Newcastle and Blackpool, two teams that I’ve failed to see in the flesh this season, at St James’ Park. So, this week I’ve asked Liz, a Seasiders diehard and friend, to give us the lowdown on all things Tangerine ahead of their trip Eastwards, which most fans would have probably anticipated as nothing more than a good day out sightseeing until recently.
I didn’t think anything would top the 2006/2007 season when – with impeccable timing as I spent the play-off period grappling with my finals – Blackpool FC made it to the Championship.
A ten game unbeaten streak – which included a scintillating 6-3 drubbing of Swansea on the final day of the season – catapulted the Seasiders back into the second tier after a 29 year absence.
But fast forward three years and, somewhat unbelievably, this story seems to be getting even better.
Written off at the start of the season, the Tangerines now sit just one point outside the top six, with a goal difference far superior to their rivals and having won the last four games on the bounce.
Suddenly it’s a four game mini season to see if we can take our hopes and dreams three games further come May 2.
And I’ll admit that while I thought everyone was foolish to write us off back in August, I wasn’t expecting this.
Ian Holloway has come in and transferred an average (ok, possibly slightly below average) Championship team. And he’s not just done it with signings, he’s done it by changing the way we play.
I could sing the praises of Charlie Adam all day long, and there’s no doubting the free scoring midfielder had caught the eye this season. 15 goals from the centre of the park is a phenomenal achievement and it’ll be a nervous summer to see if we can keep hold of him, even with a £4million price tag on his head.
But – despite what the media may have you believe – we’re not a one-man team.
For me, the revelation this season has been Keith Southern. “Gnashers” has gone from being a decent League One midfielder to excelling in the Championship, and I truly believe he’s now one of the division’s best defensive midfielders.
David Vaughan has also made strides and he was the difference against Scunthorpe on Good Friday, coming off the bench to pull the strings in midfield and to see us score three goals in the last 15 minutes.
Ian Evatt, Alex Baptiste and Stephen Crainey have been solid at the back all season – and it shows in the fact that, for the first time in the Championship, we have a very healthy goal difference.
A lot of that is down to our prowess in front of goal and, in recent weeks, we’ve been known to play six strikers in a game.
Holloway has persisted with the 4-3-3 formation and though it looked for a time that we’d been figured out it’s now paying dividends.
Up front Brett Ormerod – back at the seaside after stints at Southampton and Preston – was in fine form during the 5-1 demolition of Swansea, while Leicester loanee DJ Campbell gets better with each game he plays.
Stephen Dobbie, on loan from Swansea, has also been a useful acquisition, while Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Billy Clarke, Hameur Bouazza and the much-maligned Ben Burgess are also worth a mention.
The question is, can we take our season go further?
In my heart of hearts, I can’t imagine us in the Premiership next season.
But with four games to go we’ve given ourselves a cracking shot at the prize.
It’s so close it’s scary, and there’s a definite sense among Blackpool fans that if we all believe hard enough we just might do it.