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Home Blog MJW Writes Let's Talk About...Blackpool

Let’s Talk About…Blackpool

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After Wales secured a home tie in the World Cup Play-Off Semi-finals over the international break, the Swans are back in action this weekend. They were comprehensively beaten by Bournemouth last time out, losing 4-0 away from home. This weekend sees a return to the Swansea.com Stadium, as Swansea welcome newly-promoted Blackpool to South Wales.

Following their promotion via the play-offs, Blackpool were understandably one of the favourites for relegation. However, they have exceeded expectations so far, finding themselves in 10th place after 17 games. They kicked off their season with a draw at Bristol City, before back-to-back home losses to Cardiff and Coventry. An impressive 2-2 draw at Bournemouth followed, before a 2-1 loss at Millwall closed out August. However, September proved to be a better month for The Seasiders. They won three of their next four games, beating Fulham, Middlesbrough and Barnsley and losing to Huddersfield. September ended with a 1-1 draw at Hull, before a home win over Blackburn Rovers. Since then, Blackpool have picked up 10 points from six games, beating Reading, Preston and Sheffield United, drawing with QPR and losing to Nottingham Forest and Stoke.

Their transfer window

First team arrivals

Blackpool opened their transfer window with the signing of Josh Bowler, after the 22-year-old winger departed Everton. Bowler has featured in all 17 of their games so far, scoring once and assisting once.

He was joined by Callum Connolly, who also made the switch from the Merseyside club. The 24-year-old defensive midfielder was a regular starter in August until he was shown a red card in their 2-1 defeat to Millwall. He has played just seven minutes since then.

After waiting patiently for a starting role, goalkeeper Daniel Grimshaw has played in each of Blackpool’s last six games. He arrived from Manchester City on a free transfer in July as the backup to Chris Maxwell. However, Grimshaw became the starter following an injury to Maxwell.

Not to be confused with the Chelsea and England defender, Reece James arrived from Doncaster on a free transfer in July. The 28-year-old left-back started his career at Manchester United but has played most of his football in League One. His appearances for Blackpool have been limited thus far.

Another former Everton youth player made their move to Blackpool, with Northern Irish forward Shayne Lavery arriving from Linfield. The 22-year-old scored five goals in 11 games for the club before suffering a hamstring injury which has ruled him out since October.

After bringing in a string of young players, Blackpool opted for a bit more experience in Mid-July, signing 35-year-old Richard Keogh. The Republic of Ireland international played under Russell Martin at MK Dons last season, before joining Huddersfield in January. He was released at the end of last season. He has enjoyed plenty of football this season, starting in 15 games.

Their final permanent signing of the window saw Jordan Gabriel arrive from Nottingham Forest for an undisclosed fee. The 23-year-old right-back has made 12 Championship starts, including each of their last six league outings.

Blackpool also made several loan signings, first picking up Tyreece John-Jules from Arsenal. The 20-year-old striker has featured in 11 Championship games but is yet to score for the club.

Despite only joining Cardiff in the summer, Ryan Wintle was almost immediately loaned out to Blackpool in August. The midfielder has started all 12 Championship games since his arrival.

On Transfer Deadline Day, they completed their third loan signing. Dujon Sterling arrived from Chelsea. The 22-year-old right-back featured regularly during his first month at Blackpool but has failed to make the bench in four of their last six games.

Their final signing of the window saw Owen Dale make the step-up from Crewe Alexandra. After missing out on the squad for several weeks, Dale enjoyed an excellent debut in October. He came off the bench against Reading, picking up a goal and assist in a 3-2 away win. He returned to the bench for three games before making his first start in their last outing.

Notable First-team departures

The first to depart was Liam Feeney, who made 69 league appearances for the club after arriving in 2018. He spent last season on loan at Tranmere Rovers before returning to the club on a permanent deal in July.

Winger Sullay Kaikai also departed on a free transfer, moving to Wycombe Wanderers. The Sierra Leone international scored 11 in 58 games for Blackpool between 2019-2021.

Between 2017-2021, Ollie Turton made 140 league appearances for Blackpool. The 28-year-old’s final appearance for the club started off in the worst possible fashion, scoring an own-goal in the first minute of the League One play-off final. Fortunately for Turton, The Tangerines went on to win 2-1. He joined fellow Championship side Huddersfield Town after his contract expired. He started in Swansea’s 1-0 win over Huddersfield.

Blackpool also loaned out multiple first-team players, with Ethan Robson joining MK Dons for the 2021-22 season. The midfielder played in 28 League One games during The Tangerines’ promotion season.

Joining him in League One was Jordan Thorniley who joined Oxford United for the season. He has been a regular since his arrival.

Their captain

Blackpool will be without their captain once again this weekend, with goalkeeper Chris Maxwell continuing his recovery from injury.

The 31-year-old keeper was born in St Asaph in North Wales. He started his career at Wrexham, where he made 76 league appearances over a four year spell in the first team. He also enjoyed a short spell on loan at Connah’s Quay Nomads.

In 2012, Maxwell left Wales to join Fleetwood Town who had just been promoted to League Two as champions. In their previous season, Jamie Vardy scored 31 National League goals in his final season at Fleetwood. Maxwell struggled for game-time and was loaned back to Wrexham in January 2013, where he made 17 appearances. Wrexham reached the play-off final with Maxwell in goal but lost to fellow Welsh side Newport County.

He went on to join Cambridge United on loan in 2013 but was recalled in January. From then, he became the regular starting keeper for Fleetwood, until his departure in 2016.

Maxwell joined Championship side Preston North End, starting in 38 games in his debut season. He made a further 38 league appearances but was replaced by Declan Rudd as the first-choice keeper. He was loaned to Charlton, however he failed to make a single appearance for the London club.

The failed loan spell was followed by a more successful spell at Hibernian in 2019. He played 12 Scottish Premiership games before joining Blackpool midway through the 2019-20 campaign. He has since become the first-choice in goal for The Tangerines but is currently out with a quadricep injury.

Maxwell has made 33 total appearances at youth level for Wales but is yet to make his senior debut. He has, however, been called up on several occasions.

Their manager

43-year-old Neil Critchley may not boast a long playing career, but his coaching credentials made him an exciting appointment for Blackpool in 2020.

He began his playing career at Crewe in 1999 but made just one appearance for the club. He joined Leigh RMI, an amateur club in Lancashire, but retired soon after.

He turned his attention to coaching as a teenager, becoming a coach at Crewe shortly after retiring. He went on to become the club’s Academy Director. His successes attracted the attention of Liverpool who appointed him as their Under-18s manager in 2013.

Critchley coached the Under-18s for four years before becoming the Under-23s manager in 2017. He remained in charge of the youth side for three years, working with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Rhian Brewster.

In 2019, he served as the stand-in manager for Liverpool while Jurgen Klopp and most of the senior squad were in Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup. Critchley was forced to field an inexperienced team in their EFL Cup quarter-final clash with Aston Villa, which saw them lose 5-0. He managed one more game for the senior side in a 1-0 win over Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup.

On 2nd March 2020, he was appointed as Blackpool manager, signing a three-and-a-half-year deal. He managed just two games that season as Covid ended the season prematurely. They drew 0-0 at Fleetwood Town before a 2-1 home loss to Tranmere Rovers.

His first full season was far more successful. After leading Blackpool to a third-place finish with 80 points, they knocked out Oxford United in the semi-finals. After a horror start to the play-off final with Turton’s own goal, a double from Kenneth Dougall secured Blackpool’s return to the second tier.

Blackpool have exceeded expectations so far this season, finding themselves in 10th place, just one point off the play-offs.

Previous meetings with Blackpool

It has been more than a decade since Swansea met Blackpool in any competition. This weekend’s visitors were promoted to the Premier League in 2010 and relegated the following season, while Swansea achieved promotion in 2011 and remained in the top tier until 2018. By that time, Blackpool were in League One.

Saturday 24th October 2009 (H)

In 2009, Blackpool travelled to midtable Swansea looking to move into the play-off places. The Swans fielded a team that included Ashley Williams, Alan Tate, Angel Rangel and Leon Britton, while Nathan Dyer and Lee Trundle made appearances off the bench.

Then managed by Paulo Sousa, Swansea controlled much of the game, finishing with 57% possession and 18 attempts to Blackpool’s seven. However, neither side were able to find a breakthrough, sharing the points.

Final score – Swansea City 0-0 Blackpool

Tuesday 23rd March 2010

When the two sides met again in March, Swansea found themselves in the play-offs while Blackpool were seven points off sixth-placed Cardiff.

However, this proved to be a dreadful night for the Swans. Brett Ormerod opened the scoring after 13 minutes, before Ian Evatt doubled Blackpool’s lead shortly before half-time. Ben Burgess, Ormerod and Gary Taylor-Fletcher rounded off the scoring for the hosts.

Cedric van der Gun grabbed a late consolation goal for Swansea in a highly disappointing outing for Sousa’s side. This saw Blackpool move to within four points of Cardiff, albeit having played two more games. Swansea remained in fifth, seven points clear of the chasing pack with seven games to go. The Swans would miss out on the play-offs on the final day, while Blackpool achieved promotion by beating Cardiff City in the play-off final.

Final score – Blackpool 5-1 Swansea City

Match Preview

The Swans will be without Ryan Bennett for this weekend’s clash, as the experienced centre-back misses out through suspension. This could see Ben Cabango start, although the Welshman withdrew from the Wales squad for personal reasons.

Rhys Williams could also feature in Bennett’s absence. The Liverpool loanee and his parent club have grown frustrated with his lack of playing time, with talks of a recall in January on the cards.

Michael Obafemi missed out on the squad last time out, with Russell Martin leaving him out over issues with his professionalism. The young striker scored his first goal for the club in the 2-1 defeat to Birmingham.

The hosts will likely still be without Shayne Lavery and Chris Maxwell, although both have returned to training this week. Richard Keogh limped off in their last game, and while his injury is not too severe, he is unlikely to be involved this weekend.

Oliver Casey and Luke Garbutt are also both set to miss the game, while Kevin Stewart and CJ Hamilton are both doubtful.

This is another must-win game for the Swans as they look to move closer to the play-offs. After the Blackpool game, Swansea travel to Barnsley on Wednesday night.

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Phil Sumblerhttp://www.planetswans.co.uk
Been watching the Swans since the very late 1970s and running the Planet Swans website (in all its current and previous guises since the summer of 2001 As it stood JackArmy.net was right at the forefront of some of the activity against Tony Petty back in 2001, breaking many of the stories of the day as fans stood against the actions where the local media failed. Was involved with the Swans Supporters Trust from 2005, for the large part as Chairman before standing down in the summer of 2020.

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