A few weeks ago Blackpool only had a squad of eight players and looked to be in complete turmoil. Now with a first XI to play Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday, Chris Walker from the Measured Progress blog tells us what to expect from the away side
Have you got enough players for Saturday?
Yes, and no. For a long time it looked like we’d struggle to recruit enough players to field 11 professionals, let alone a matchday squad of 18, but we do now finally have in excess of that number. A flurry of signings in the past week have bolstered the numbers, albeit very late in the day. However, in terms of how many of those are available, it might still be a case of relying on some youth players to fill in on the bench. A number of the players we do have seem to have injuries, either genuine ones or ‘undisclosed’ injuries which is essentially code for those players not being in the manager’s plans and the club looking to move them on. We’ll have a team, but what it will look like is anybody’s guess.
How many of them do you know anything about?
It’s a real mixed bag, but there are some familiar faces. Seven players remain from last season, and on top of that two former players have signed permanent deals in Peter Clarke and Nathan Delfouneso. We’ve also added a clutch of players well-versed in the toil of a Championship relegation battle such as Jacob Mellis and Tomasz Cywka, both relegated with Barnsley, and also Ishmael Miller, who you might know a little about, and featured for Yeovil last season. On top of that there’s two young players loaned from Premier League sides in John Lundstram and Donervon Daniels, plus a number of signings from overseas who we know little about.
Quite how we’ve attracted the likes of Jose Miguel Cubero, who played in the World Cup for Costa Rica, and former Villareal full-back Joan Oriol is anyone’s guess but, assuming they can settle and adapt to life in the Championship, they could be shrewd signings. Another strange one is Estonian forward Sergei Zenjov who mainly has experience of playing in the Ukrainian Premier League, which is an interesting change coming to English football.
Has Jose Riga been there long enough for anyone to have an opinion? In summary, what’s actually going on at Blackpool?
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Well, not only has he not been here very long but he’s also been virtually mute since being appointed. He did some media commitments on the day of his unveiling, but after that has enforced a media blackout so we don’t really know what his feelings are in terms of what’s gone on this summer, or how he envisions us playing in terms of style, formation, tactics, etc. He did finally break his silence in an interview on Sky Sports 1 on Thursday evening saying he was up for the challenge, but that at the same time he hasn’t been able to secure his preferred targets.
He also alluded to a fractious relationship with the chairman and the common theory is that a stand-off between the pair over said transfer targets meant that we were so late signing players and having to cancel pre-season tours and friendlies. There’s also the background of a boardroom battle between the majority owners the Oyston family and Latvian minority shareholder Valeri Belokon who has accused Karl and Owen Oyston of taking money out of the football club to serve their own businesses’ interests. Indeed, vast sums have left the club while the football team has suffered chronic underinvestment.
What’s your expectations for the season?
Not high. All logic points to a very tough season given we have a small budget, a manager who has been on the brink of walking out and virtually non-existent pre-season preparation. A few of the more recent signings are respectable but not exactly world-beaters and I think the teams at the bottom will be tougher than they were last season. If we start sluggishly, as is likely, then it’s hard to see us turning it around, however much faith some people have in Riga. We’ll probably go down, but then again the extent to which we’ve been written off has probably also gone a bit overboard and it might foster a siege mentality in the group of players and management team and they could surprise us all.
What do you think will happen on Saturday?
I dread to think! There’s every possibility that the excitement of Pearce taking over at the City Ground will result in an atmosphere that is too much for our players to bear. I also worry that our lack of fitness will tell as the game wears on and if Forest grab an early goal, it could honestly be a cricket score. I think we’ll lose, and it could be a heavy defeat sadly.