Blackpool’s turmoil looks unlikely to end anytime soon
The view from the top of Blackpool Tower is exactly as it appears. It isn’t a sign for its town’s football club to see the bigger picture. It’s not even a sign that the situation will improve. However, it is one analogy worth throwing in, to remind Seasiders fans that although the state of their football affairs isn’t currently anything to be proud of, the town at least has character, seemingly non-existent in club owners Owen and Karl Oyston.
There seems to have been a bit of a theme with coastal clubs this summer. A lot of the attention has been focused on Southampton’s mass exodus of players, however lower down in the Championship; Blackpool, who are odds-on at 4/6 to be relegated next term appear to be in much more trouble.
A whole squad has left the club this summer, 27 in total, with some out of contract, notably star turn Thomas Ince and others sold, however the problem seems to go much deeper. A rift has materialised between the owners and the president Valeri Belokon, with the latter writing the duo a letter accusing them of squirrelling away £24m and not investing in the team. The response from Karl was that the bulk of this amount was paid to companies affiliated to the club that had given them interest free loans to help build the stadium.
While the feud rumbles on, Blackpool had at one point this summer been left with just eight first-team players and no goalkeeper, however Joe Lewis has now been brought in on loan from Cardiff City. It has been suggested their fall from grace goes back to 2010/11, when the club were relegated from the Premier League. Their main protagonist Charlie Adam was subsequently sold to Liverpool for £7m, and attackers DJ Campbell and David Vaughan also followed out of the door.
Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips were recruited, though both were unable to prevent a defeat to West Ham United in the play-off final. When manager Ian Holloway went to Crystal Palace a year later, his successor Michael Appleton lasted just two months before heading to Blackburn Rovers and, then after much searching, Paul Ince was brought in, with son Tom already in the squad. Ince senior steered the Tangerines to a 15th-place finish in the 2011/12 campaign, however Alex Baptiste and Stephen Crainey left that summer, which left the club to re-build with no less than 12 loan players over the course of a season.
Such instability and lack of investment led to the team not being able to string results together, and Ince was subsequently sacked. Oyston’s cheapest answer was to offer midfielder Ferguson a caretaker role, and Blackpool survived a relegation battle by the skin of their teeth.
New boss Jose Riga has come in, though situated on the coast will be assured that life-jackets at least, won’t be in short supply. Having just brought in Estonian striker Sergei Zenjov permanently, he is certainly swimming with sharks in what can be a viciously competitive Championship, unless funds can be sunk in soon to steady the ship. That view all of a sudden looks more appealing than the new boss’s task.