Blackpool could easily have been expected to implode following relegation to League Two, given the incredible instability off the pitch.
But they showed tremendous resolve to bounce back and look to be on course to a comfortable finish in League One.
We spoke to Blackpool writer Matt Scrafton of the The Gazette in the seaside town to get the lowdown on Gary Bowyer’s side.
Q: How do you assess the season so far for Blackpool?
MS: If Blackpool stay up, this season will be deemed a success. It started superbly for them, as they managed to build on the momentum they gained from last season’s play-off triumph and were in and around the play-off spots in the early stages of the campaign. They soon dropped off and a 10-game winless run at home over the winter months saw them drop to just two points above the bottom four. But since then, Blackpool have turned it around and look to be heading for a safe mid-table finish. You’d like to think another win or two would be enough to guarantee their League One status.
Q: What had been the expectations after promotion from League Two?
MS: Having finished in seventh place in League Two last season, it wasn’t a massive surprise to see Blackpool named among the bookies’ favourites for relegation. So survival was always the main aim and while I don’t want to tempt fate, it looks like that will be achieved. At no point this season have they been in the bottom four which is testament to Gary Bowyer and his players.
Q: How is Gary Bowyer viewed?
MS: Bowyer deserves a lot of respect for the job he has done at Blackpool in what has been extremely difficult circumstances. He had a tricky time dealing with the Venkys while at Blackburn Rovers, where he also had to deal with a transfer embargo, but took them to the cusp of the Championship play-offs. At Blackpool, he has put all the off-the-field problems to one side to get the club promoted from League Two and now looks odds on to keep them in League One. He refuses to use the Oyston-saga as an excuse and solely concentrates on what he can control, i.e. the football.
Q: What system and style of play does Bowyer favour?
MS: Last season he often went with a 4-4-2 formation as he made it clear he likes to operate with two up front. But things changed during the course of the season and in League One, it’s either been a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 that he’s gone with. I’d expect Blackpool to line up with a 4-2-3-1 for Friday’s game as it has worked well in recent weeks. The system allows Jay Spearing and Jimmy Ryan to sit deep and protect the back four while Sean Longstaff roams further forward, which suits him as he’s a goalscoring midfielder.
Q: Who are the danger men?
MS: Despite enduring an injury interrupted season, Kyle Vassell remains the club’s top scorer with nine goals. His game is more than just goals though, he’s integral to the way Blackpool like to play as he presses from the front, never giving opposition defences a moment’s rest. Viv Solomon-Otabor is also a massive threat on the left wing as he possesses bags of pace. He still has plenty of work to do on his end product but the potential is definitely there.
Q: Match prediction?
MS: 2-1 Blackpool