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Blackpool FC: No wins, no sponsor and hollow letters

The Boot Room



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The last two weeks for any other club would have been two of the worst in their recent history, but for Blackpool fans, it’s water off a Duck’s back.  Here I dive further into the twisted world of Blackpool FC.

As soon as I begin to draft an article, some ‘only at Blackpool’ style event will take place a shortly after and I even write this immediately after Owen Oyston has published a second response to this on-going transcript between the club and the Blackpool Supporters Trust.  But anyway, here we go.

I’m desperately trying to rack my brain for events which have occurred at Blackpool these last two weeks, given I went to the game on Saturday, I’ll start with the on-the-field stuff.  Blackpool, as many suspected, have hit the basement of League One after a 2-0 defeat to Sheffield United which flattered the Tangerines a fair bit given how wasteful United or specifically, Connor Sammon, were.  If you’re in touch with social media, you may have viewed a brief clip of Sammon missing a glorious chance that was harder to miss than score.  Still, I personally enjoyed the game majorly on part of the 600+ fans who accompanied me in the top tier of the Bramall Lane end with humorous chants aplenty and plenty of passion , in spite of all that’s going on.  Saturday’s loss further adds to a record of just 7 wins in 81 league and cup fixtures.  ‘Pool’s last home win came in January in the form of a scrappy 1-0 win against Millwall and their last away win was at the conclusion of the 2013/14 season, where they simply delayed an inevitable relegation by winning 2-0 at local rivals Wigan.  It’s a good job Seasiders have a sense of humour that can withstand such a horrific streak, I’ll say that much.

In addition to on-the-field issues, manager Neil McDonald recently spoke to the Blackpool Gazette saying he was “concerned” with the club’s position and after promising at one stage seven players to come through the revolving door, only for that anticipated number to reduce to just two, he revealed that the club’s ongoing issues was making recruitment difficult.  In all fairness, he should have been well aware of this likely scenario after former manager Lee Clark was promised he would be backed by the Oystons, but was insufficiently not, as proven on the pitch and consequently resigned from his role.

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In other news, Blackpool’s new shirt sponsors, ‘Village Hotels’ announced they are pulling out of their deal with the club after backlash from ‘Pool supporters.  The resort company said it had been hit with complaints and many local fans threatened to boycott the resort in Blackpool, one of 28 nationwide.  This announcement came after the company’s chief Gary Davis met with representatives of both the Blackpool Supporters Trust and the Tangerine Knights.  Quoted from the Gazette:

“Blackpool is one of many teams we have supported and in hindsight maybe it’s something that we should have avoided, but the shirt deal is done and we will honour the contract this season,” said Davis.

The mere fact that Blackpool’s supporters can have such a swift and effective influence on the club’s shirt sponsors and their connection with Blackpool FC goes to show how much fan power, when all are pulling in the same direction, can really have over the supposed powerful authorities in the shape of businessmen and owners in football.  In the end, they’re nothing more than soulless individuals with an arsenal of cash, aside from a select few.

Village Hotels further cemented their new and positive relationship with BST and Blackpool fans by promising they’d sign a “long-term deal” with the club should it fall under new owners, especially with the fans involved in its running.

The scorelines on the field aren’t exactly uplifting, but on Thursday, it was Blackpool fans 1-0 Oystons.

On to the even bigger talking point of Thursday alone, Owen Oyston and/or his financial representatives published a second response to BST’s original bid for the club.  Oyston’s first response, which like this one, was published on the Blackpool FC official website, notoriously inquired for a “five-point plan” for the Supporters Trust to supply, as he originally felt BST’s first letter containing the original details of the bid back in July were unsatisfactory.

This second response however, felt less like constructive dialogue and more like a shooting gallery of cheap shots.  His second paragraph is quoted as follows:

“Thank you also for your kind and supportive words which have helped to remove some of the pain caused by the false allegations that I was an asset stripper, rather than a true Blackpool fan.  I am pleased that you accept now that I am a fan of the football club.”

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There are numerous elements of this brief and tongue-in-cheek paragraph alone that make little to no sense but the one that gave me breathing difficulties was Mr Oyston trying to proclaim himself as a “true fan”.  There is no “true fan” in the world who, if they were ever fortunate enough to find themselves in such a prominent and powerful position at the club, would happily preside over the worst couple of seasons in this club’s history and allow it to continue further.  If Owen Oyston is a true fan of Blackpool FC and “bleeds tangerine”, then a chocolate teapot is the best invention, ever.

Following on are claims that in the 24 years he has been a custodian of the club, prior to the Premier League era, he was not aware of any complaints or question raised concerning the union between himself, the club and his respective companies.  Neutrals who engage in discussion about Blackpool FC’s situation will occasionally claim of not being able to recall of such animosity between the Oystons and fans during the Premier League era and the many years prior.  True, not in the public eye perhaps but relations had been fragile for some time yet only on the periphery.  Below is a quote by ‘Pool shareholder Valeri Belekon from the Daily Mail, October 2014:

“When I came it was a very similar situation to now. It’s symbolic – the first time I arrived there were fans carrying an ‘Oyston out’ banner.” Belokon added “Owen joked that I shouldn’t pay attention. He said ‘out’ was his last name.”

Belekon bought a 20% stake in the club in 2006 and remains the club’s president despite the over-hanging feud between himself and the Oystons which was ignited last year.  Belekon, even by Owen Oyston himself, was praised for funding the development of Bloomfield Road’s south stand which was opened in 2010 and also for the financial backing of players such as Charlie Adam, who subsequently helped Blackpool reach the promised land.  In spite of these applaudable actions, Belekon is no where to be seen in Owen’s trip down memory lane.

The response seems to play the role of bragging the Oyston’s accomplishments rather than further opening the playing field.  You can’t help but get a sense that Owen believes ‘he’ is the victim in all this, perhaps putting this point across is a knee-jerk reaction to the sharp descent his so-called beloved Blackpool have succumbed to.  Thursday’s other news concerning Village Hotels will have certainly rubbed additional salt in to the wounds.

The remnants of the response generically belittles the efforts of an obviously intelligent and determined group of fans.  There’s also an unnecessarily consistent need to question their credentials, or specifically, their CVs.  Owen and his advisors appeared to get the impression that BST’s representatives and spokespersons, Steve Rowland, Christine Seddon and Kevin Boroduwicz will be the only trio running the club should it fall under fan ownership.  With thousands of ‘Pool fans ready to engage, as the saying goes, “an extra pair of eyes can’t hurt”.  Just multiply that by 10,000+.

The foul irony in questioning BST’s credentials is his eyebrow-raising move to give Karl the chairman role back in 1999.  Karl himself had no experience of running a club as much as BST have now.  One thing you can guarantee with the Trust is they wouldn’t have pound signs in their eyes the second they spot an opportunity to cash in on local talent rising through the youth ranks, take Harrison McGahey, Mark Waddington and Dom Telford who moved to Sheffield United and Stoke City respectively, for example.  A spine of a new generation that wasn’t to be, all in the name of greed.

To conclude, the response stank of cynicism and immaturity and as optimistic as any Blackpool should be in these dark times, unless it’s just Owen and his reps who genuinely cannot compose a response with any empathy or sensitivity, his letter suggests a successful takeover looks, in the short-term, unlikely.  Oyston has obvious dissent for his recipients, offers little credit for their responses and closes more doors than he opens.  Sometimes, you cannot engage with someone who cannot see their own faults.

I fear I may have grey hairs by the time I type up an article with any element being remotely positive but I continuously keep my fingers crossed along with all other Blackpool supporters.

You can see details of BST’s bid here: Blackpool Supporters Trust Bid Details

Featured image provided by Ian Johnson.

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What will Bright Osayi-Samuel bring to Queens Park Rangers?

The Boot Room



Bright Osayi-Samuel

Queens Park Rangers finally announced the arrival Bright Osayi-Samuel from Blackpool, almost 24-hours after the transfer window closed.

Hoops’ manager Ian Holloway had tracked the talented winger’s progress at his former club and was impressed enough to make a bid. However, as reported by West London Sport, it was believed that the move had failed.

On ‘deadline day’ both clubs were curiously quiet on the subject, whilst the player himself took to Snapchat to vent frustration at the proposed deal falling through.

What happened in between remains unclear, but the young Nigerian is now a QPR player – despite interest from Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, and, as reported by the Birmingham Mail, Aston Villa.

Osayi-Samuel certainly has potential, but QPR fans should not expect him to make an instant impact in the Championship. Last campaign, in League Two, he made 31 appearances, scoring four, assisting three and picked up one ‘EFL young player of the month award’.

His most impressive moment was a goal in which he effectively assisted himself. The clip received national attention at the time and can be seen below.

The above video highlights the winger’s pace, undoubtedly his most impressive attribute, and something he regularly combines with skill and control to leave defenders on their knees. Of course, Championship defenders will show greater resistance, but Osayi-Samuel’s confidence in taking people on will see supporters rise to their feet at Loftus Road.

Only three years ago, the attacker had never played within a professional setup and was scouted whilst playing in a London park. His remarkable story has been covered by BBC Sport.

Understandably for a young player still new to the game, his talents remain raw. Blackpool fans have seen him frequently squander excellent scoring opportunities and suffer from questionable decision-making.

However, both of those aspects can be improved upon in training. In Ian Holloway, QPR arguably have the ideal attack-minded coach to get the best out of Bright. The Bristolian manager favors a famously gung-ho approach, which will suit a player who offers little in the way of defensive support.

Osayi-Samuel was yet to score on Blackpool’s return to League One, but only four games had been played. Of those, the Tangerines won both which the Winger started. Although his profligacy in front of goal appears to have continued, he has looked stronger on the ball with increased physicality.

QPR fans should be excited by Bright’s arrival, but patience will be key for all parties. The 19-year-old has plenty of time to fulfill his considerable potential and is likely to prove frustrating in the meantime.

His capture, ahead of interest from other big clubs, is a good sign of positive changes at Loftus Road. Those in charge have promised long-term planning and ambition without reckless spending, Osayi-Samuel fits the bill perfectly.

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AFC Wimbledon

“Longstaff is too good for League One” – Three things learnt from Blackpool 1-0 Wimbledon

The Boot Room



Whilst World Cup qualifiers have given English football’s top two tiers the week off, the lower leagues continued with almost full sets of fixtures.

One of League One’s ten matches over the weekend saw AFC Wimbledon lose to one of the division’s newly promoted sides Blackpool.

The Seasiders have made a good start to the season, having won three and lost one of their opening five games, exceeding expectations as one of the favourites for relegation. Interestingly, they have so far out performed all three of Doncaster Rovers, Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth, who were promoted ahead of them from League Two.

Wimbledon have now lost three of their league games and are one of four clubs currently sat just a single point above relegation at this early stage.

Here are three things that The Boot Room learnt from the game:

Sean Longstaff is too good for League One

Signed on loan from Newcastle United, Sean Longstaff has hit the ground running in Tangerine. The 19-year-old netted the winner on Saturday and now has four goals from as many starts in the league, proving instrumental in all three of Blackpool’s home victories.

The scoring record, despite being over a short period, is remarkable for a midfielder, particularly one so young. Not only has he been finding the net, but he has done so in style and Saturday was no different.

Following a long-ball from goalkeeper Ryan Allsopp and a flick-on, Longstaff collected the ball and charged into Wimbledon’s penalty area, holding off three defenders and swivelling to find the bottom corner.

Seeing Longstaff on the score sheet was no surprise and the effort was a worthy follow-up to his successive League One goal of the week’s – both thunderous strikes from range.

Blackpool are solid at home

Blackpool have now played three times at home this season, securing a maximum nine points and conceding just once in the process. Although two of the wins, including Saturday’s, have been 1-0 score lines, they showed against Wimbledon an ability to dominate a game.

Aside from a brilliant Allsopp save to deny Cody McDonald at the end of the first-half, the Dons rarely threatened and found themselves restricted to few opportunities.

On the other hand, Blackpool were unfortunate not to score at least a second and were denied by the post a couple of times in the second-half. In failing to double their lead the Tangerines highlighted an inability to kill games off, which could prove detrimental in the future.

Wimbledon can execute a plan

Despite the home side’s wasteful dominance in the second half, the first 45 minutes offered little entertainment from either side, partly due to Wimbledon’s effective closing down.

It was clear that they had prepared to have less possession, but knew how to stifle a Blackpool midfield which struggles from a lack of creativity –  something made worse by the departures of Brad Potts and Bright Osayi-Samuel.

The Tangerines were frequently forced into careless misplaced passes, confined into the middle third of the pitch and found themselves out numbered during efforts to advance on the wings.

In fact, the best chance of the half (by some distance) fell to Wimbledon, who could have led at the break from a well-disciplined performance.

It was only after conceding that the side imploded. Nadjim Abdou received a straight red-card for an unnecessary two-footed challenge just minutes after going behind. His departure marked the end of Wimbledon’s competitiveness in the match.

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League Two play-off semi-finals: Controversy, goals, and more to come?

The Boot Room



The League Two playoffs finally kicked off on Sunday evening, the last of the English league’s to get the season reignited after a dramatic ‘final-day’.

Undoubtedly, more neutrals will have tuned in for the Championship equivalent earlier in the day, only to see Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday fight out a tense 0-0 draw, amassing just two shots on target between them.

Those who showed an interest in the rarely televised League Two were rewarded with a goal fest regardless of the fixture they chose, with Blackpool beating Luton Town 3-2 and Carlisle United and Exeter City drawing 3-3.

Both matches were set up to be close affairs, Luton had twice got the better of Blackpool this season, claiming six points from the Seasiders with 1-0 and 2-0 victories. Meanwhile, Carlisle and Exeter has become a tie guaranteed to provide goals, with the Cumbrians having won 3-2 on both occasions prior to the playoffs. There have been 20 goals in their last four meetings.

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Of the four sides, Luton finished closest to automatic promotion in 4th but could only secure a trip to Bloomfield Road and an opportunity to overcome an abysmal playoff record. Over the last 20 years, The Hatters have failed in all four of their playoff campaigns, a statistic made even bleaker The Seasiders’ positive record of being the only to side to have been promoted from each division through the system.

Some calamitous goalkeeping saw Blackpool take the lead on 19-minutes, amidst calls for a possible handball. However, just 9-minutes later the home side were 2-1 down, having been torn apart all too easily by Luton’s attack. Within that period, The Tangerines wasted a great opportunity to go 2-0 up and striker Kyle Vassell hit the crossbar at 1-1.

Despite those chances, Luton deserved their half-time lead and could easily have extended it before the break, the home side looked vulnerable for a long period.

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Further north at Brunton Park, Carlisle once more found themselves behind to Exeter after Joel Grant headed his side in front. Fortunately for The Cumbrians, The Grecians’ defender Jordan Moore-Taylor turned a cross into his own net on 32 minutes, levelling the tie.

Exeter regained the lead just before half-time and were able to extend it shortly after the interval through David Wheeler, with Grant providing his second assist of the evening.

Carlisle had already won twice when being 2-1 down to Exeter this campaign, including in the regular season’s final day. Yet suddenly they were two behind when it mattered most. After making use of all three substitutions, the home side scored twice in two minutes to level the match which ended 3-3.

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The Devon club had two goals disallowed for close off-side calls and rattled the woodwork at the game’s death. Despite those chances and earlier lead, Exeter are still yet to beat any of their playoff rivals this season, something they will need to overturn to progress on Thursday night.

Blackpool began their second half perfectly, with ex-Luton man Mark Cullen scoring his second of the night with an impressive strike from distance on 47-minutes. From then on, The Seasiders looked on top of proceedings, testing goalkeeper Stuart Moore throughout and looking to capitalise on his uncertain handling.

With just over twenty minutes to go the home side’s constant pressure earnt them a penalty. Luton captain Scott Cuthbert had been pulling the shirt of Tom Aldred during previous set-pieces, which this was brought to the attention of the officials by Blackpool’s players and coaches. Despite this opportunity to then stop, the centre-back hauled his counterpart to the ground in the area, giving Cullen the opportunity for a hat trick against his old side which he took from the spot.

Later in the match, the home side rode their luck as they played more defensively and looked certain to concede when four defenders were unable to clear from their own penalty area. Having survived that scare and what seemed like an eternity of injury-time, Blackpool go into Thursday’s second-leg with a slight advantage.

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If those first matches are anything to go by, this season’s league 2 playoffs will go down as classics, and both ties will surely see more goals. Exeter and Carlisle appear to know no other way of playing each other than going all-out, whilst it remains to be seen whether The Grecians can defend a lead. The same can be said about Blackpool, who despite their single goal advantage, have just as hard a test in their second match.

Gary Bowyer’s men held the lead twice on Sunday evening, firstly they capitulated and were behind less than 10 minutes later, and although they held on at the end, it is clear that a defensive game plan will not work for them over 90 minutes.

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