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League One

Blackpool – The Good, The Bad And The Downright Hilarious



I’m kidding, there’s no good at Blackpool at the moment.

I’ll level with you here, until about two years ago, I had no idea how much we all can take watching our favourite team with few cares in the world for granted.  However, I haven’t attended a Blackpool home game in those two years and I’m surprised myself at how much I miss it.  Away games are certainly appealing as it means visiting new grounds, but I haven’t watched Blackpool win a game of football since a 1-0 home win against Wigan back in September 2013.  I had very little anticipation of the chaos that was to ensue.

Since then, Blackpool has been nothing short of the biggest laughing stock in British football.  We’re fortunate if nothing cringe-worthy occurs in a seven-day period and are bottom of the list of fans wishing the football season’s imminent return next month.

A lot has changed since Ian Holloway used to patrol the touchline.

Chairman Karl Oyston has been quoted on countless occasions, for sheer irony, saying, “we are the envy of the football league.”  This was October 2013 and the timing almost strikes a coincidental chord to the quick descent of a football club, that is still on-going, that was once called “a breath of fresh air” when making its Premier League debut in 2010.  It’s almost as if he knew.

It’s summer, it’s pre-season.  Surely, surely nothing chaotic will occur?  Even at Blackpool?  Oh, you couldn’t be more wrong.  The last week alone would have put most other clubs to shame.  Imagine how the last year, let-alone a week, has been.  Let’s get this misery over with and jump right in.

The top story that became more of a national topic than a regional one, was the abandonment of a pre-season fixture at Lancaster City the Saturday before last.  It was the first game played since the wide-spread topic of hundreds of Blackpool fans running on the pitch at Bloomfield Road in their final home game versus Huddersfield in May.  Overall, it gained plenty of the proverbial ‘thumbs up’ and the Blackpool faithful supplied themselves with lots of neutral backing.  I can’t speak for Huddersfield fans of course.  However, despite this incident wasn’t met with much negativity, there was more skepticism than most would have liked, from myself included.  Thinking about it though, it was twenty or so fans who were just incredibly fed up yet passionate about, what was, their club.

Among some, Blackpool isn’t even known as Blackpool these days, more ‘Oyston FC’.  I have to agree.  The life, soul and common decency has been drawn out of both the club and the town like an inoculation.   Fans feel alienated and unable to relate to a club that had once provided them with so much joy not long back.  Those days seem long gone as before a ball has even been kicked, serious talk of relegation to League Two is on the tip of some tongues.

Simply put, that built-up sense of frustration has just been too much to bear and although many Blackpool fans will disagree on how to go about venting out that annoyance, all would agree that one course of action must be taken and that’s for the Oystons to go.  Karl Oyston himself said he would step-down from his role as chairman if he felt the way he handled business at Blackpool was not to the expectation of the supporters.  If he had been genuine enough to keep to his word, he would have stepped down a long time ago.  Now, there is this undeniable sense that he loves the cynicism and negative attention.

Speaking of loving the cynicism, Blackpool released an official statement on the club’s website concerning the verdict on the Oyston’s court case with Blackpool fan, David Ragozzino.  Now, the initial aspect of the statement that baffles me is the fact it’s on the club website in the first place.  Surely the statement has nothing to do with the football element of the club and should be kept on the sidelines instead?  Although I may be wrong, the whole farce strikes as a scare tactic to plant a seed of doubt in to any other fan or neutral alike who dares say a bad word about the owners.  Truth is, if they took every critic to court, they might as well camp outside the courthouses for the next decade.  On top of endless paragraphs of the club trying to inflict their bias views on the on-going matter, there was also irony littered every where.

One paragraph explains how a legal representative of the Oystons told the court that they had never sought to “stifle” criticism from fans of how they run the club and have in fact “defended the right of the fans to express their views”.  Suing not only Mr Ragozzino but also numerous fans beforehand is a peculiar way of showing you welcome the liberty of Blackpool fans expressing their views of how their beloved club is run.  The one element of the statement, withheld in this part in particular, that was picked up on frequently reads as follows:

“The Oystons have always admired the passion of the Blackpool fans and it was through their massive support and the substantial investment of the Oystons that achieved the ultimate dream of reaching the Premier League.”

It seems okay from a neutral perspective, right?

One Blackpool fan dug-up a video not long after of the South Stand at Bloomfield Road being unveiled in the name of club legend Sir Jimmy Armfield in 2010.  Owen Oyston, along with Karl, were there to offer their appreciation to Sir Jimmy.  Also in attendance, was Latvian share-holder Valeri Belekon, who since has entered numerous feuds with the Oystons that have been made public.  Owen Oyston himself praised Belekon for his financial input, saying the South Stand “wouldn’t have happened” without Belekon and also that Charlie Adam, one of the most fondly remembered players to don a Tangerine shirt in recent years, would also not have joined had it not been for Belekon.  Alright, word-for-word, Owen didn’t claim the Premier League achievement was outright down to the Latvian, but if you ask any Blackpool fan which player pushed the Seasiders over the line in the season of 2009/10, they’d all say Charlie Adam.

Key man: Adam plays an instrumental figure in Blackpool’s most recent Premier League adventure. Later, he joined Liverpool and is now at Stoke City.

As well as the statement claiming an achievement which, when you break it down, didn’t really fall on the shoulders of the Oystons per-say, it also felt like a proverbial ‘middle-finger’ to all Blackpool fans in general.  There really is no other way to put it.  The statement was poorly-timed, unnecessary, off-topic to football and purely in bad taste.

To cap off a hectic yet fairly normal week on the Fylde Coast, Morecambe cancelled their pre-season with Blackpool in anticipation that an abandonment could re-occur.  It’s not a course of action I disagree with from Morecambe’s perspective, why should they have to pay for the policing of a friendly match?  They shouldn’t.  Blackpool should foot the bill, given their actions have provoked such behaviour from fans.

Blackpool are due to go ahead in their final, scheduled pre-season friendly at Accrington on Friday.  Any infringements from fans on to the pitch aren’t expected and to honest, forcing league games to be abandoned is far more influential, effective and could lead to a whole series of affairs than calling off friendlies, but that’s a topic for a later date.

Tuesday is also the deadline that BST (Blackpool Supporters Trust) have given the Oystons to at the very least acknowledge their bid for the club, its assets and its outstanding loans.  Life for both parties would be ridiculously easy if the Oystons accept the bid, the figure being £16M.  If they had any shred of common sense left, they’d have bitten BST’s hand off days ago.  No more relentless stress on the owners and happy fans who can take the club in the right direction once again.  Sounds too good to be true.  One part is true, the fans would certainly take the club forwards, even if that meant taking one step back first, but the Oystons?  Either they still believe they’re suitable for the club or they simply enjoy the spotlight.

Speaking as a football fan in general, neither scenario is healthy for Blackpool and its local community.

There’s so much water under the bridge that the bridge has been carried off down-river.  We can only hope things can be resolved soon.

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Self-proclaimed lunatic with plenty of extreme views, though taking plenty of medication to regulate them. A lover of football in general in consequence of being so dis-associated with a club I used to love, Blackpool FC. (Attempting) to play my part in the good fight to get it back. Not proud enough of my 'around the 92' record to confess how many I've ticked-off

Swindon Town

Derby defeat to Cheltenham highlights wider issues for Swindon Town

The misery at the County Ground looks set to continue.



Photo: Getty Images

Swindon Town were humiliated on home turf on Saturday afternoon as local rivals Cheltenham Town succumbed the Robins to a 3-0 defeat. This match represented the start to life at the County Ground post-David Flitcroft, with player-manager Matty Taylor in interim control.

A stunning Jake Andrews’ free-kick and a brace from Mohamed Eisa earned Cheltenham victory and condemned Taylor to a losing start as Swindon temporary boss.

Many would have expected the 36-year-old to see out the game from the touchline, but his inclusion in the starting line-up suggests he is still a long way from hanging up his boots and reluctant to fulfill a management position on a full-time basis.

As Power’s comments to BBC Wiltshire in midweek alluded, this is likely to be the former Burnley man’s only match in caretaker control, but the weekend’s performance further emphasized the underlying issues that plague the Wiltshire outfit.

The first ten minutes looked promising, with Town full of intent, putting together some promising passing moves. The football being played in the very early stages looked a far cry from the receive-panic-hoof that the County Ground faithful were subject to under David Flitcroft.

However, what followed can only be described as a capitulation. The next 80 minutes comprised of a lack of passion, bravery and a sense of cluelessness in possession. Whenever the Robins were able to recycle play, the first instinct was to pump the ball forward for Luke Norris and Marc Richards to chase.

In the end, it was just another bump in the road of a miserable season. An abject home performance that displayed little fight or spirit. Interim boss Taylor is by no means to blame – he was one of the better performers on the day, after all – but it is a sign of things to come between now and May.

The supporters remain disillusioned.

Taylor’s appointment – albeit temporary – was seen as a breath of fresh air. The articulate Football League veteran has quickly become a crowd favourite at the County Ground and there was a sense of optimism that he could be the man to turn the club’s fortunes. But Saturday’s performance saw no change.

Former Southend boss, Phil Brown, remains the leading contender for the vacant managerial role. Like Flitcroft, he is the type who will come into the club and look to dictate from the top down, embedding his style both on and off the pitch. However, his win percentage of 35.5% will concern Town fans.

The club still remains in the mix for promotion, just two points off the play-off places, with 30 points to play for. Nonetheless, early season murmurings of a return to Sky Bet League One remain nothing but a fantasy.

Dave Flitcroft’s sudden departure has left the club in a troubling position, no doubt, but the state of play on the pitch has not been impacted by the former head coach’s exit to Mansfield.

The current squad is abject, with too many expecting to be carried by their teammates, and the state of competition at the top of the table is too great.

This lack of passion on the pitch is synonymous with a failure on behalf of the club hierarchy. Just 90 minutes away from promotion to the Sky Bet Championship three seasons ago, Swindon has suffered from a chronic lack of investment and a negligence of transparency, which has served to ostracise those who pay the gates.

Chairman Lee Power continues to fail in his duty of care, seemingly content in overseeing the club’s plight down the Football League.

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FA Cup

How Wigan Athletic have helped to rekindle the magic of the FA Cup

Wigan Athletic’s dramatic FA Cup fifth round victory over Premier League leaders Manchester City has helped to rekindle the magic of the competition, writes Rob Meech.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

FA Cup shocks don’t come much bigger than Wigan Athletic’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City.

The League One club produced a sensational performance to knock out the Premier League champions-elect, whose hopes of winning an unprecedented Quadruple were left in tatters.

Will Grigg was the unexpected hero for the hosts, as his 79th-minute strike sent the 2013 winners into the quarter-finals and the club’s supporters into dreamland.

Wigan’s adventure has been beset with obstacles.

But, one by one, these have been overcome and a trip to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final is now a realistic proposition.

City are the third successive top-flight team to have been eliminated by the Latics, following Bournemouth and West Ham United who exited in rounds three and four, respectively.

Now, it is struggling Southampton that stand between Paul Cook’s men and the last four.

Arguably, City are the form team in Europe and one of the favourites to lift the Champions League.

But when it comes to the FA Cup, the form-book goes out of the window.

Despite being the runaway Premier League leaders, City succumbed to only their third defeat in all competitions this season.

Although the inevitable DW Stadium pitch invasion that greeted the final whistle sparked some unsavoury scenes, the result will be remembered as one of the greatest ever upsets.

There has been much talk about how the FA Cup has become devalued in recent years.

On top of an evening kick-off for the final, many clubs – not exclusive to the Premier League – field weakened teams and view the competition as an unwelcome distraction.

This has led to some pundits calling for it to be refreshed. Potential ideas include the scrapping of replays.

However, a by-product of big clubs treating the competition with disrespect is that the number of upsets has increased.

It’s not just Wigan who have sprung a surprise or two this season.

Coventry City belied their League Two status to dump out Stoke City in round three, while Newport County of the fourth division took Tottenham Hotspur to a money-spinning replay at Wembley Stadium.

League One’s Rochdale have done likewise in the fifth round, thanks to a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser at Spotland.

Despite what television companies might think, there is little appetite for watching two Premier League teams playing each other in the FA Cup.

Football enthusiasts want a chance to see the underdog have its day.

Wigan’s story has captured the imagination of supporters of all clubs, up and down the land.

Their stunning victory over a City side that, although not at full strength was nonetheless full of internationals, reinforced the legend of the FA Cup.

The romanticism of the competition has been rekindled this season, something for which Wigan deserve enormous credit.

Another factor is at play, though.

It may sound like a paradox, but if the FA Cup is to remain relevant then it needs the elite clubs to continue to treat it as an afterthought.

That way, shocks like Wigan’s will be repeated in seasons to come and interest in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition will remain high.

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FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman




Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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