The following is written without much expectation that any of it will come to pass but for what it is worth, this is what I would like to see take place at Blackpool FC as I enter my fortieth year of watching the often not-so-mighty tangerines:

Some humility from the club’s owner Simon Sadler, the board, and even manager Michael Appleton. It is blatantly obvious that the appointment of Appleton was a mistake, and that the summer transfer window an unmitigated disaster. If a manager being appointed who is ‘only’ really a backroom coach wasn’t bad enough, not to mention without pedigree in the Championship or much in the way of stellar success as a number one, the fact he has been at the club before, has significant history at the other end of the M55, and has not got the personality nor respect to connect with the fans has seen the bond between supporters-players-management-owner/board completely severed. Is Appleton to blame for poor recruitment? Perhaps, but we’ll never know. Previous incumbent Neil Critchley has a lot to answer for as his abrupt departure undoubtedly set back any recruitment plans which were in place, but to lose Dujon Sterling, Richard Keogh, Kevin Stewart, Josh Bowler, and Keshi Anderson from last season’s strongest line up only to be replaced with young loanees – Charlie Patino, Lewis Fiorini, Rhys Williams, Theo Corbeanu, and Ian Poveda – the permanently injured – Grant Ward and Liam Bridcutt – and only two permanent signings – Dominic Thompson and Callum Wright – is itself an admission of failure, and grounds for accusations of penny-pinching. The board need to offer a mea culpa, and Appleton, should he stay at the club, must stop uttering sentences such as ‘we need to remember who we are’ and cease verbally throwing players under the bus.

Concentrate on what goes on on the pitch, and not get distracted by what could happen off it. A theory that Critchley’s decision to leave for Aston Villa was made all the more easy by a paltry transfer budget has inevitably done the rounds, especially after the summer window’s slim pickings. When Blackpool announce plans to spend around £30-40 million on a new east stand and adjacent community pitches along with a training ground within an neighbouring borough, it does make one think that these projects are at the expense of pushing forward on the pitch. The current east stand is predominantly used by away fans, something which is far from ideal but is financially expedient. An improved and slightly larger east stand will be used far less should Blackpool be relegated to League One, and does not seem to be an appropriate project to be given priority status. Furthermore, the still theoretical new training ground which to date has not been formally applied for would be sited on green belt land within a neighbouring municipality, Wyre Borough. To not actually be within the curtilage of Blackpool is one thing, but to desecrate an area acting as a buffer between Poulton le Fylde and Blackpool is quite another. Although Blackpool is a very built up borough with little space left undeveloped, I cannot believe that the chosen site is the most appropriate, although it might well be the cheapest. Undeveloped land, in this case agricultural, is far less expensive to acquire and much easier to build upon than previously developed sites. Aside from the moral question of building on green belt land, quite frankly what goes on on the pitch has to be more important. Such projects could look to be embarrassingly out of step with what is actually needed should Blackpool be relegated to League One. I don’t deny that the club needs a new training ground, but staying in the Championship must be the club’s main priority. The squad currently at the club’s disposal, at least with the Appleton at the helm, will struggle to keep the club in the second tier.

A change of manager. As already mentioned it has become obvious to the overwhelming majority of supporters that Michael Appleton is not the man for the job. Thanks to a crazy decision to grant the former Lincoln City manager a four-year contract by friend and former agent Ben Mansford CEO, removing Appleton could be an expensive and chastening experience for Simon Sadler. Nevertheless, this is one example where a heavy dose of humility is needed. Admitting one is wrong is difficult for anyone, but for a vastly wealthy and highly successful businessman it must be almost unthinkable. Nevertheless, cutting the club’s losses and giving it the best chance of staying within the division will involve some large slices of humble pie. If I am to choose a new man at the helm instead of just promulgating an ‘Appleton Out’ stance I would opt for Chris Wilder. Let’s think big; why not?

New players up to the task, and who can play in whatever system the manager uses. This sounds like an exercise in stating the bleeding obvious, but Appleton has tried and failed to shoehorn Neil Critchley’s squad reared on a 4-4-2 into a vastly different and detrimental 4-3-3 system. If Appleton stays then he has to go against his principles to play C J Hamilton and Ian Poveda on the wings, with Gary Madine and one of Jerry Yates, Shayne Lavery, or Jake Beesley up top. Callum Connolly could be brought in as a midfield destroyer and free up Charlie Patino, whilst the incoming Andy Lyons can make the right back position his own. Perhaps rather simplistic and not accounting for any of the aforementioned not being consistently good enough at this level, but without any serious upgrades in the January window and not relying on returning injured players to make a significant difference, this is what the club is left with.

The next few weeks are huge in the life of Blackpool Football Club. Staring down the barrel of relegation to a a division with several big(ger) clubs, many of the squad be they on loan elsewhere or at the seaside and in the matchday reckoning likely to be moving on at the end of the season, a manager rapidly becoming as unpopular as previous incumbents Neil McDonald and Lee Clark, and an owner and board who need to recognise that they aren’t always right are the main issues within Simon Sadler’s in tray and must take priority over being distracted by a replacement east stand, and a controversially sited future training facility.


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