Will Blackpool sink or swim?
Rather appropriately, given the alarming extent of widespread flooding across the UK this week, we ask whether Championship side Blackpool can salvage anything from their unprecedented sink in form since November and reignite any genuine late threat in the race for promotion into the Barclays Premier League.
Blackpool began the season in a promising, if not entirely convincing, manner. Early victories against promotion hopefuls Reading, Watford, Nottingham Forest and FA cup holders Wigan all suggested a serious degree of intent in their 2013/14 campaign, particularly given the excitement around the evident talent of England U21s starlet Tom Ince.
Yet a prolonged series of poor results in the mid-season amidst a number of dramatic club controversies has seen Blackpool languish miserably at the bottom of the Championship form guide having taken a meagre 2 points from their previous 6 fixtures. But perhaps the biggest indicator as to the depth of Blackpool’s unrest comes from their poor home form at Bloomfield Road, a stadium in which they have not won since beating Sheffield Wednesday on 30 November last year.
So why do a team with undeniable quality struggle for consistency to such extent? Indeed there are obvious off-field disruptions still haunting club, most notably the sacking of the ill-disciplined and often combustible manager Paul Ince in January. His apparent sacking via text message and indignant farewell at the hands of ex-Tangerine Ian Evatt (who delicately labelled Ince an ‘arrogant bozz eyed joke of a manager’) undoubtedly reveals the divisive nature of his tenure at Blackpool, and similarly exposes a certain instability within the hidden politics of the club.
Inevitably, Paul Ince was unceremoniously and swiftly followed from the gates of Bloomfield Road by son and Blackpool top scorer Tom Ince. The club has since struggle to adapt to a system without the creative young England attacker, who was unquestionably centralised as chief playmaker by Paul Ince throughout his year at the club.
New player-manager Barry Ferguson is faced with the difficultly of replacing of such an enigmatic force in the squad, and without a replacement will struggle to escape or even maintain mid-table mediocrity. A brief glance at the scoring records of Blackpool reveals a severe lack of goals and a worrying reliance on 34 year-old Jamaican international Ricardo Fuller.
This lack of attacking creativity and goals is mirrored in the defensive uncertainty of a team with a goal difference of -14 that has conceded 42 goals so far in the Championship, including 8 in the last 3 games thanks to a 5-1 dismantling at the hands of a prolific Reading.
Whilst Blackpool have seemed to regained a sense of stability under the more restrained management of Ferguson, they may need to endure yet more disappointment as new ideas gradually displace the stubborn ideas of a former stubborn manager. Even with cautious optimism a place in the top six is unlikely, and without the necessary introduction of a goal scorer Blackpool may struggle to better the 15th position they secured in the 2012/13 season.
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