Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Next... Blackpool away

The last time we played Blackpool in the league we drew and the failure to win relegated us to the third division of English football. That game was at The Valley, but we had lost away to them 2-0 earlier in the season.

The previous season we lost 5-3 at Bloomfield Road at a time that we were still in the hunt for promotion back to the Premier League. The month before we had beaten them 4-1 at The Valley.

Interestingly Blackpool finished two points above the relegation zone that season, so that win against us late in February 2008 could be viewed as significant in their survival just two seasons before a very unlikely promotion to the Premier League themselves.

Now, despite the relative sizes of our stadia and fan base Blackpool are a much 'bigger' team than us in terms of financial strength - and let's face it that's all that seems to matter these days.

A season of Premier League football, followed by the parachute payments, that are more than twice most teams playing budget in the Championship, for a couple of seasons makes them significantly more likely to go up this campaign than us.

The strongest a team that is relegated can be tends to be if they have just one season in the top flight, followed by selling a player or two for big money. That is exactly what Blackpool have done. They, like Burnley the season before, we so much weaker when they went up that they didn't go straight back, but they are certainly in the running this season.

What that means to us is that this is what Curbishley used to call a 'bonus ball'. It's a game that we don't expect to win; it's a game against a team that we are, probably, not really competing with this season; and it's a game that we don't, actually, need to win.

That should take some of the pressure off, and the longer the game goes without us conceding the more we will grow into the it, and the more anxious Blackpool, and their fans, will get. I am, of course, assuming that we will not concede a goal in the first ten minutes like we did at Derby, but our defence has been very strong this season (as they were last).

I am not completely sure what the answer is for the middle of the park. Last season Hollands was the third choice for Captain. This season that seems to be Morrison. The initial indications, from that, are that Hollands place in the side is not as assured as it was last season. Tuesday night's game probably did nothing to dispel that idea. I like Danny Hollands, he is the sort of player that it is easy to support (as my friend in Bermuda has done) but he does, sadly, look like he is going to struggle to impose himself on this division in quite the same way.

I feel for Powell, and many of the players, as decisions are going to need to me made soon that are going to be difficult and seem disloyal. I've always thought that there are players in a team that wins promotion that find that their success means that they are, potentially, playing themselves out of a first team place - and in some cases out of a club.

Clearly one can never know which players are going to make the step up, but I think it is fair to say that if a 26 year old player cannot cope with the division he is in it is likely that he is not going to make it at that level.

For the record I'm not saying that I don't think Danny is going to be good enough for the Championship, but it does look like we are not going to want to play him and Stephens together in the middle in a 4-4-2, and Stephens is the more likely to make something special happen - like he did for our goal on Tuesday evening.

I think I would prefer to see us play 4-5-1, particularly away from home to teams that we expect to finish way above us in the league come May. In a midfield five I thought that both Hollands and Stephens looked ok, but either way we have been desperately short of quality in the middle of the park all season, and Powell must have recognised this as he has tried all sorts of different systems and formations to make us tick.

I'm not looking to single out Hollands, and I would be delighted if he did raise his game and become as influential this season as last, but if we accept that something has to change, he may well be the fall guy.

Powell needs to be strong and he needs to pick the players, and the system, that is most likely to get a result - obviously. It's ok going with the players you know and can trust, but sometimes you have to gamble. You have to risk losing to win, and all that.

It might be time to give Razak a game, and maybe play 4-5-1 with Fuller up front on his own. Bradley Wright-Phillips is a great option to bring on if we are chasing the game late on, or if we want to rest Fuller - he is not completely match fit and has looked jaded towards the end of games.

Blackpool are the leading goal scorers in the Championship averaging more than two goals per game, but they have also conceded an average of 1.33 goals per game, so a 0-0 looks unlikely.

As I've said we can view this as a game we would expect to lose, so there is little pressure on us, but the same could be said of Leeds and Wolves away, but I don't really want to lose all three. I hope I'm wrong but I think we will lose this game, I just hope we give a good performance, and don't get thumped before the International Break.

Up the Addicks!

1 comment:

ChicagoAddick said...

Sadly I think you are right about Hollands. I am very happy and proud to sponsor him but I agree there is a reason why at 26 you have never played beyond the 3rd tier before. Rarely are gems from the lower division missed for 8 years. Jackson could also fall into this category.

Time for Powell to be less loyal to some of his players, I agree.