Lee Clark must find player positives at beleaguered Blackpool
Who would want the manager’s job at Blackpool? They sit rock bottom of the Championship on six points, are massive odds-on 1/6 favourites with Coral to be relegated and have a hastily-assembled squad still getting to know each other.
The Tangerines look like the latest example of a side that enjoyed Premier League boom and subsequent bust when they fell short in trying to get back there quickly. Couple all this with a reticence on chairman Karl Oyston’s part to invest further in the squad, and it really does not make for an attractive prospect.
Lee Clark, sacked some 10 days ago by Birmingham City, who sit just one place above Blackpool, must be desperate to prove his managerial credentials by taking this job, vacated by the axing of Belgian boss Jose Riga, so swiftly.
His stock may have fallen since, but Clark is the same man that steered Huddersfield Town to a Football League record of 43 matches unbeaten, though ultimately failed to get them promoted from League One.
That job of getting the Terriers over the line fell to Simon Grayson, although the foundations were clearly laid by Clark. Working under similar financial constraints at Birmingham, he did save them from the drop last term, but to do so again with the Seasiders would rank as a greater escape.
Just nine senior players were eligible on the morning of Blackpool’s season opener away at Nottingham Forest, even though a dozen names came in as many days preceding. There is, however, a solid spine in place for Clark to work with.
Starting in goal with former Peterborough United keeper Joe Lewis, who came through the ranks at Norwich City which has been something of a hotbed for stoppers. On loan from Cardiff City, he was once handed a senior call-up by England.
In front of Lewis, a centre back pairing of Peter Clarke, who near-namesake Clark worked with at Huddersfield, and former MK Dons captain Gary MacKenzie should be stronger at this level. The latter is yet to figure for the Tangerines this term, but should be involved when fit.
On the flanks of defence, first is former Middlesbrough and Sheffield United right back Tony McMahon, who has been skippering Blackpool, and is handy with dead ball deliveries. Down the other side, Spaniard Joan Oriol played 50 league games for Villarreal, both enduring relegation from and enjoying promotion to La Liga.
Clark can count on former Barnsley pair Jacob Mellis and David Perkins for knowledge of how to handle a relegation battle in the engine room. Jose Miguel Cubero, who featured for Costa Rica in their successful run to the World Cup quarter-finals this summer, offers interesting backup in central midfield.
This core is supplemented with wide players like Estonia international Sergei Zenjov and experienced English campaigners Andrea Orlandi and Tomasz Cywka, so the only real problems for Clark to address are strength in depth and the Seasiders’ strikeforce.
Nathan Delfouneso and Ishmael Miller failed to live up to the promise of their early careers at Aston Villa and Manchester City respectively. Both forwards have struggled with injuries and that has hampered their development.
Miller netted 10 times for Yeovil Town last term, but could not stop the Somerset side from slipping out of the division, with Blackpool already in danger of following suit. Delfouneso is in his third stint at the seaside, but has scored just eight in almost 70 league appearances in total for this team.
Alternatives are hardly any more prolific either. Steve Davies, who counts Bristol City and Derby County among his former clubs, averages about a goal every five games in the Championship. Nile Ranger, meanwhile, courts controversy and Ivorian attacker Francois Zoko is playing at this level for the first time.
Clark’s first game in charge of the Tangerines will be a home match with Ipswich Town. Blackpool are 5/2 chances to start closing that seven-point gap to safety with victory on November 1st.