Blackpool. I’ve always liked Blackpool. If you ignore the weather, the tourists, the litter, the smell and the locals, it’s just your run of the mill, almost passable seaside town. The illuminated eye candy of that smudged area above Greater Manchester and Merseyside where all the towns seem to merge into one.
But beneath the deck chairs, the donkeys, the ice cream and the sun burnt beach-dwelling folk lies a beating heart. An organisation for the people, the jewell most coveted by these good, honest, working class folk.
Blackpool Football Club. Affectionately known as the Seasiders. I immediately feel upon arriving that I have returned home. I have found family.
Naturally within 12 hours of my appointment as Manager, my rebellious teenage “Son” Bright Osayi-Samuel (Who will henceforth be referred to as Sam Osayi-Brightual) tells me he’s running away from home. I set Danny Pugh, my inherited captain, on him with a strict brief to “Talk him down”, but he is frankly underwhelming in conversation with the youngster and accomplishes nothing. So after not very much deliberation and some fairly dishonest haggling, we agree that he’ll leave should his price tag be met by a “Bigger Team”.
The bigger team as it turns out are Aston Villa, a proud football club with a noble history, who I fleece horrendously by demanding £700k + 50% of the next sale. Sam Osayi-Brightual won’t be missed. There’s plenty more fish in the sea. And there’s even more in the pool. The Blackpool.
Our owners, the Oystons, have really shat the bed on this one. Unbeknownst to me the club are haemorrhaging money, and there is no plan to stop it. Unbeknownst to me, Blackpool FC are in crisis. I have however heard rumblings about the Oyston family so I make a point of refusing their offer of a glass of Brandy and a chat about my plans for the team, preferring to get to work sacking quite a few of the staff to make room for my own people.
I quickly bring in Brede Hangeland to be my assistant, to tower over and intimidate my enemies and to subtly spread the message that “If you want me you’ll have to get through Brede”. There’ll be no mutiny in this dressing room.
After also filling all of the less glamourous non-playing roles, I have some time to look over my squad. It quickly becomes apparent that serious surgery is required, and I leap into the transfer window with all the wild abandon of a man who does not yet realise the financial ruin that his new employers have inflicted upon his new club.
I can’t do my transfer dealings sat at home. Too many distractions. I wander down the seafront looking for a haven, a quiet place to do my deals. I stumble upon a cosy greasy spoon just off the pier that does bacon butties with crispy bacon and just enough grease. Weirdly they seem to have a classical guitar version of “Girl from Ipanema” on a perpetual loop, but it’s fine. It’ll become soothing theme music to my summer dealings.
I move first for free agent and former Seasider Stephen Crainey, setting aside the fact that he moves around the pitch with the same grace, elegance and speed of a Relient Robin with no tyres or engine, because of his footballing mind. He will be my inside man. The one who keeps order in the ranks, spreads wisdom, and treats us all to stories about what Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher were like in real life.
I smirk as I pull the captain’s armband from Danny Pugh’s grasp and hand it to Crainey. “First impressions matter Danny and you just seem soft.” I tell him coolly, purely to pour salt in the wound. He looks angry. I cower behind Brede.
Next up: A Goalkeeper. Both of the ones I have inherited seem much more suited to dodgeball than football so I stick them on the transfer list. Enter Bobby Olejnik, or Bobdrick to his friends. We snap him up for quite a hefty fee from Exeter but he’ll be worth it.
More new friends arrive in the form of:
Dwight Tiendalli: an experienced and versatile fullback snapped up on a free
Josh Tymon: a hungry and potentially brilliant young left back on a season long loan from Hull City
Owain Jones: a left footed, right sided inside forward on a season long loan from Swansea City
The inherited players that are in my thoughts for a starting place are:
Tom Aldred: a no-nonsense centre back and my newly appointed vice-captain
Clark Robertson: a some-nonsense centre back who may be able to help play the ball out of defence. Maybe.
Michael Cain: A dynamic box to box midfielder that my predecessor had signed on a season-long loan from Leicester City before I arrived
Jack Payne: a quality playmaker and another decent all rounder in the centre of midfield
Brad Potts: an enigmatic and versatile midfielder who I can’t really decide on. A ball winner, a shadow striker or an inside forward?
Mark Yeates: a quality and versatile attacking midfielder who I hold high hopes for despite the signs of age showing through. And the fact that we won’t see him for a while.
Mark Cullen: I believe my exact words upon seeing him were: “Sort of a weird Paul Scholes/ Tony Hibbert hybrid made in some lab in the North/West”. Harsh? Maybe. There are plenty of options to fill in for the injured Yeates, but Cullen’s my pick.
Danny Philliskirk: a modern, team-first striker, a hard worker and a good athlete
So at this point an image is burned into my mind: Blackpool can play beautiful attacking football in a fluid 4231 formation. We’ll have fast fullbacks bombing down the wings past a dynamic central midfield pair, and an exciting, creative, and clinical front 4.
And we burst onto the scene! In our first match, admittedly against an Exeter side who had not adequately replaced Bobdrick, Owain Jones makes an immediate impact, scoring in the 5th minute. He’s joined on the scoresheet by Tom Aldred, Brad Potts and Danny Philliskirk and we’re 4-0 up in just over 12 minutes. That’s how it stays for the remaining 78 minutes but that’s already plenty. Josh Tymon bags 2 assists, Dwight Tiendalli is both solid and threatening, Michael Cain runs the midfield, and the team I inherited is full of good options to try in the coming months.
A triumphant first game in management, with a pinch of new-signing-vindication. I reckon we’ve just laid down a marker for a massively successful first season in League Two. I reckon we’ve got a good quality squad and a great chance of Promotion. And I reckon we can do it playing Swashbuckling Football.
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